By Jonathan Allen NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fifty New York City building inspectors and construction industry workers were charged with corruption on Tuesday, accused of schemes in which building problems were overlooked in exchange for bribes, city investigators said. The schemes involved some of the most senior building officials charged with overseeing one of the world's most valuable construction markets, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. told a news conference. Rather than a "unifying conspiracy," investigators found at least 26 independent bribery schemes running through two city building agencies, Department of Investigations Commissioner Mark Peters told reporters. The expeditor, David Weiszer, gave the chief a list of addresses owned by his clients, Vance said.
Gay rights advocates in Alabama have asked a U.S. judge to force a local judge to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Tuesday, a day after officials in most of the state refused to grant the licenses in defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court. Lawyers for the couples filed suit against Mobile County Probate Court Judge Don Davis late on Monday and were working to add additional plaintiffs to the suit on Tuesday, said David Kennedy, an attorney for the plaintiffs. Mobile County, home to Mobile, the state's third-largest city, was the most populous of those refusing to provide marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, and Kennedy said Granade could apply her order to other counties. Advocates said they hoped U.S. District Court Judge Callie Granade, a President George W. Bush appointee who struck down the state's ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional in a ruling that took effect on Monday, would make a swift ruling in the latest lawsuit.
A hospital worker has been charged with the murder of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, whose disappearance shocked the campus and drew national headlines, authorities said on Tuesday. Jesse Matthew Jr., 33, of Charlottesville, Virginia, was indicted by an Albemarle County grand jury last week. He was the last person seen with Graham, an 18-year-old sophomore, who went missing in September. Matthew has been charged with first-degree murder and abduction with intent to defile, Albemarle County prosecutor Denise Lunsford said.
By Natasja Sheriff NEW YORK (Reuters) - The videotaped confession of a man accused of murdering Etan Patz was played for a jury on Tuesday during his trial in the disappearance of the 6-year-old boy in 1979 that sparked a national movement to find missing children. In the courtroom, Pedro Hernandez, 54, saw himself on a large screen near the jury tell law enforcement he lured the boy to the basement of the Soho deli where he worked, strangled him, placed him in a box and dumped the body in an alley. I felt like something just took over me, and I was choking him," Hernandez said on the videotape played at the murder and kidnapping trial in state court in Manhattan. "He was still gasping," Hernandez said on the videotape under questioning by Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Armand Durastanti.
The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee voted 25-0 on Tuesday to back Ashton Carter as President Barack Obama's next Secretary of Defense, paving the way for what is expected to be an easy confirmation in the full Senate as soon as Wednesday. Carter, 60, a former Pentagon No. 2 seen as a technocrat, was nominated to be Obama's fourth defense secretary after Chuck Hagel resigned under pressure last year. Although many Senate Republicans are sharply critical of Obama's defense policies, Carter's confirmation has gone far more smoothly than Hagel's two years ago.
Schools and most public transit systems remained closed around Boston on Tuesday as eastern Massachusetts dug out from its third major winter storm in two weeks. Officials warned that buildings with flat roofs were at risk of collapsing after a three-day storm dropped about two feet (60 cm) across the region and a suburban school district north of Boston canceled all classes for the rest of the week out of concern to allow crews to clear roofs. Boston's mayor, Marty Walsh, began talks with the city's teachers union on how to make up some of the eight school days canceled so far this year due to the repeated storms that have hit the region in the past two weeks. "We're now up to basically somewhere between six and seven feet of snow across most of eastern Massachusetts over the past 14 days," said Governor Charlie Baker, who ordered nonessential state personnel to stay home, in part because of the shut down of all rail service by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
By Bill Cotterell TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Reuters) - Republican Jeb Bush plans a high-profile visit to the Florida capital on Tuesday to raise money and showcase the education reforms that he started as the state's former governor, burnishing key credentials as he eyes a presidential bid. With a $1,000-per-plate luncheon scheduled at a hotel just blocks away from the Governor's Mansion, the trip highlights Bush's enduring strength in the largest U.S. swing state, crucial to GOP hopes of regaining the White House in 2016. Bush also plans to speak about education policy at a school reform conference, hosted by his Foundation for Florida Future. Other keynote speakers at the event, dubbed "Keeping the Promise: A Florida Education Summit," include the state's current Republican governor, Rick Scott, and top legislators, business leaders and schools experts.
BOSTON (AP) — A relentless storm that dumped more than two feet of snow on some parts of New England was finally expected to wind down on Tuesday but not before bringing the Boston-area public transit system to its knees and forcing some communities to consider dumping piles of snow into the ocean to help relieve clogged streets.