Bank robbers escape via bed sheets

Two convicted bank robbers escaped from the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago by tying bed sheets together and shimmying down at least 15 stories, a jail spokesman said. Joseph Banks and Kenneth Conley were somehow able to climb out of the small window in the cell they shared, the spokesman said. One blanket and one bed sheet are provided for each bed in the cell, the spokesman noted. "I would image that they saved them up."


Warnings sought on storm-damaged cars

A Long Island official has asked state lawmakers to draft legislation calling for thousands of storm-damaged cars from Hurricane Sandy to be scrapped for salvage lest they be resold to unsuspecting buyers, especially in other states. Smithtown Councilman Thomas McCarthy, a former auto dealer, said he fears the cars -- many of them compromised by wiring corroded by saltwater -- may wind up on out-of-state used-car lots. An estimated 230,000 vehicles were damaged or destroyed by Sandy.


Leahy sworn in as president pro tempore

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., formally assumed a position in the presidential line of succession, becoming the Senate pro tempore after the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii.


Zuma wins second term as president

President Jacob Zuma, who has faced frequent criticism as an ineffective leader, was re-elected for a second term as head of the ruling African National Congress. Zuma, a controversial figure who has faced frequent scandals, including the use of public money for renovations to his house and corruption charges that were inexplicably dropped in 2009, called for party unity after the vote and belted out a song. But despite a landslide win, some analysts raised doubts about how well the party would fare in the 2014 national elections if he remains its standard bearer.


Crash caused by pilot ignoring alarm

A Sukhoi SuperJet crash that killed 45 people happened after the pilot ignored an automatic warning that the plane was on course to hit a mountain, according to the official report. The pilot of the Russian-made aircraft may have been distracted as he was talking to a potential customer, said Tatang Kurniadi, head of Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee, which probed the May 9 accident. The pilot's lack of familiarity with the West Java region and poor planning also contributed, he told reporters in Jakarta. The 90-seat SuperJet, the spearhead of Russia's push to build a globally competitive aerospace industry, was carrying reporters and potential customers during the flight, part of a regional promotional tour.


Netanyahu vows more building in Jerusalem

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected international criticism of plans to build thousands more Jewish homes in east Jerusalem, insisting that construction will move forward. Netanyahu issued the tough response as European diplomats were discussing plans to condemn Israel in the U.N. Security Council. A U.N. resolution would be the latest in a wave of angry international reactions to Israeli plans to build in areas the Palestinians claim for a future state. "Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Israel, and we will continue to build there," Netanyahu said.


500-plus detained for doomsday rumors

Police have detained more than 500 people from a fringe Christian group for spreading rumors about the world's impending end, state media reported. In western China's Qinghai Province alone, police arrested more than 400 members from the cult group. Police seized leaflets, video discs, books and other apocalyptic materials in the recent arrests across eight provinces and regions. The detentions come ahead of Friday, Dec. 21 -- a date some say the Mayans prophesied would be the end of the world. Those detained are reported to be members of the group Almighty God, which is also called Eastern Lightning. NEWS SERVICES