CLEVELAND

Women held captive kept diaries detailing abuse

Three women held captive in a run-down home for a decade kept diaries documenting the physical and sexual abuse they suffered on a daily basis, prosecutors said Wednesday.

The women’s kidnapper, Ariel Castro, lured one of them into his Cleveland home with the promise of a puppy for her son and later locked all of them in a vehicle in his garage for three days when someone visited him, prosecutors said. Castro, a former school bus driver, claimed he didn’t have an exit strategy from his complicated double life and finally gave the women a chance to escape by leaving a door unlocked, they said in court documents.

One of the women broke free in May and called for help, frantically telling an emergency dispatcher, “I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years, and I’m, I’m here. I’m free now.”

Castro has pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including kidnapping, rape, assault and aggravated murder. He’s being sentenced Thursday.

Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty says in a sentencing memorandum filed Wednesday that Castro “remains remorseless for his actions.” The memorandum says many of the charges in Castro’s indictment reflect conduct documented by one of the women in her diary.

CHICAGO

Illinois will be 20th state to OK medical marijuana

After months of keeping his decision-making close to the vest, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is set to sign legislation Thursday that will make the state the 20th in the nation to legalize marijuana for medical use.

The Chicago Democrat will center his remarks on military veterans — something that’s been a focus in his governorship — and the chronically ill. He’ll also tout how the standards in the bill are some of the nation’s toughest, according to a copy of his plans obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

Quinn had been mum for months about what he was going to do with the legislation, saying only that he had heard compelling testimony from sick patients and was staying “open-minded.” That was even as Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon came forward in support.

Thursday’s bill signing will be held at the University of Chicago.

GRAND BLANC TOWNSHIP, Mich.

Man arrested at theater wearing armor, carrying gun

The FBI says a man was arrested at a Michigan movie theater wearing body armor and carrying a gun.

Cassidy Delavergne wasn’t charged with crimes related to the gun or 34 rounds of ammunition. But he was charged Wednesday with possessing a phony Central Intelligence Agency identification card.

FBI spokesman Simon Shaykhet says police were called to the Trillium Theater in Grand Blanc Township near Flint on Tuesday night after someone noticed the vest and gun. Delavergne was watching a movie when police arrived.

Shaykhet declined to say whether agents believe Delavergne planned to use his handgun.

A court filing says Delavergne told an agent he displayed the phony ID to minimize concerns about his gun. Delavergne claimed to have a concealed weapon permit.

He’s in custody.

BEiRUT

Syria’s Assad tries to burnish image with Instagram posts

Syria’s embattled president already has a Facebook page, Twitter account and a YouTube channel. Now Bashar Assad is turning to the popular photo-sharing service Instagram in the latest attempt at improving his image as his country burns, posting pictures of himself and his glamorous wife surrounded by idolizing crowds.

The photos show a smiling Assad among supporters, or grimly visiting wounded Syrians in the hospital. He is seen working in his office in Damascus, an Apple computer and iPad on his desk. His wife, Asma, who has stayed largely out of sight throughout the conflict, features heavily in the photos, casually dressed and surrounded by Syrian children and their mothers.

The sophisticated PR campaign is striking for an isolated leader who has earned near pariah status for his military’s bloody crackdown on dissent.

It is also in stark contrast to the machinations of other dictators at the center of Arab Spring revolts. While the ousted Egyptian and Libyan leaders relied on antiquated methods such as state-run media to transmit stilted propaganda, Assad has increasingly relied on social media to project an image of confidence to the world.

The result is an efficient, modern propaganda machine in keeping with the times — but one that appears completely removed from the reality on the ground.

More than 100,000 people have been killed since the uprising against the Assad family’s decades-old iron rule began in March 2011. The revolt has transformed into an insurgency and civil war that has seen the country break up into sectarian and ethnic fiefdoms, uprooting millions of people from their homes. 

— From news service reports