Plane bombing attempt suspect may plead guilty

A Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up an international flight near Detroit on Christmas fired his lawyers Monday and suggested he wants to plead guilty to some counts.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds advised Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab not to get rid of his attorneys, but he insisted. Edmunds then granted his request and asked if he had anything further to say.

“If I want to plead guilty to some counts basically, how would that go?” Abdulmutallab responded during his first court appearance since being arraigned in January on six charges, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

Edmunds told him she couldn’t advise on such matters and ordered that a standby attorney be named to assist Abdulmutallab with his defense. Standby attorneys – common in cases in which defendants represent themselves – may listen and give advice, but they don’t negotiate with the government or take an active role in a trial.

Passengers who saw flames pounced on Abdulmutallab, subdued him and forced him to the front of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as it approached Detroit Metropolitan Airport carrying nearly 300 people last Dec. 25. Authorities say he was trying to set off explosives hidden in his underwear.


Restroom research: We’re washing our hands more

Researchers who secretly spy on people using public restrooms say that Americans seem to be washing their hands more often.

Checks during August in Chicago, Atlanta, New York and San Francisco found 85 percent of people washed their hands, up from 77 percent in 2007.

It’s the best rate since these periodic surveys began in 1996.

One thing hasn’t changed: Men are still dirtier. About 23 percent of men failed to wash up compared to only 7 percent of women.

The results were reported Monday at an infectious diseases conference in Boston.

CARACAS, Venezuela

Plane from island crashes; at least 14 dead, 4 missing

A plane carrying 51 people from a Caribbean island crashed Monday in eastern Venezuela, and officials said 33 survived, while the rest were killed or missing.

At least 14 people were killed and four were missing in the crash about six miles from the eastern city of Puerto Ordaz, Bolivar state Gov. Francisco Rangel Gomez said.

The French-built ATR-42 from the state airline Conviasa slammed into a lot used by the state-run Sidor steel foundry, leaving its smashed fuselage among barrels and shipping containers.

The governor said 33 people survived and were being treated at hospitals.


Clash between Indian forces, Kashmiri protesters kills 15

Indian forces fought Kashmiri demonstrators in street battles Monday that killed 15 people — including a police officer – in the deadliest day in a summer of violence challenging Indian rule in the disputed territory.

Reports of a Quran desecration in the United States intensified the anger, with activists chanting “Down with America” and burning an effigy of President Obama in a rare anti-U.S. protest here.

The spasm of violence came even as Indian officials debated whether to make goodwill gestures to try to ease tensions in the war-wracked region, which is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both.

Since 1989, a violent, separatist insurgency and the ensuing crackdown by Indian forces have killed an estimated 68,000 people.