House of Cleveland kidnapper is razed

The Cleveland house where Ariel Castro sexually abused, beat and tortured three women for a decade was demolished Wednesday.

It took less than 90 minutes to turn Castro’s Seymour Avenue home into a heap of debris. Castro forfeited the house as part of a plea agreement that will keep him in prison for the rest of his life but spared him the death penalty.

As an excavator bit into the area known as the “pink room” on the house’s upper floor, church bells sounded through the
working-class neighborhood, and a crowd gathered to watch the demolition cheered.

One of the first blows was delivered by Peggy Arida, the aunt of one of the victims, Gina DeJesus. DeJesus, along with Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight, were kidnapped and held captive in the house where they were repeatedly raped, chained to poles in the basement and abused in other ways by Castro.

Knight appeared at the house just before the demolition began and handed out yellow balloons as a symbol of the women’s escape and return to freedom.

— Los Angeles Times

Ron Paul campaign accused of bribery

A well-known conservative state senator in Iowa who abruptly flipped his support in the 2012 presidential campaign from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) to then-Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) days before that state’s caucus allegedly sought payments from the Paul campaign in return for his endorsement, according to materials published Wednesday.

State Sen. Kent Sorenson (R) wanted to be paid $8,000 a month through the fall of 2012 and have a donation of $100,000 made to his leadership political action committee, according to an Oct. 29, 2011, e-mail written by one of his associates to John Tate, then Paul’s campaign manager. The e-mail was published by OpenSecrets.org, the Web site of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, and the conservative site TheIowaRepublican.com.

A few weeks later, a deputy campaign manager for Paul gave a check for $30,000 to Sorenson’s wife, according to Dennis Fusaro, a onetime Paul aide who went public with the allegations this week.

At the time of Sorenson’s defection, Bachmann alleged that the state senator was being paid to endorse Paul, a claim the Texas congressman and his campaign vigorously denied.

Sorenson and former Paul campaign officials did not return calls for comment.

— Matea Gold

Unwed gay couples may not get benefits

The Pentagon is poised to extend health care, housing and other benefits to the same-sex spouses of military members by the end of August but may reverse earlier plans to provide benefits to gay partners who are not married.

According to a draft memo obtained Wednesday by the Associated Press, the Pentagon instead may provide up to 10 days of leave to military personnel in same-sex relationships so they can travel to states where they can marry legally.

While no final decisions have been made, the memo from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to top defense leaders would reverse an earlier plan that would allow the same-sex partners of military members to sign a declaration form in order to receive limited benefits, such as access to military stores and some health and welfare programs.

The recent Supreme Court decision extending federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples eliminates the need for such a plan, Hagel said in the draft. According to a U.S. official, the memo is under review by the Justice Department, and the Pentagon will not be able to take action until the review is finished.

— Associated Press

High blood sugar linked to dementia

Higher blood sugar levels, even those well short of diabetes, seem to raise the risk of developing dementia, a major new study finds. Researchers say it suggests a novel way to try to prevent Alzheimer’s disease — by keeping glucose at a healthy level.

Alzheimer’s is by far the most common form of dementia, and it’s long been known that diabetes makes it more likely. The new study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, tracked blood sugar over time in people with and without diabetes to see how it affects risk for the mind-robbing disease.

The results challenge current thinking by showing that it’s not just the high glucose levels of diabetes that are a concern, said the study’s leader, Paul Crane of the University of Washington in Seattle.

“It’s a nice, clean pattern” — risk rises as blood sugar does, said Dallas Anderson, a scientist at the National Institute on Aging, the federal agency that paid for the study.

The study adds evidence that exercising and controlling blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol are viable ways to delay or prevent dementia, he said.

— Associated Press

State Department to study pipeline review

The State Department Inspector General’s Office has launched an inquiry into whether the department created a conflict of interest by hiring a consultant with ties to the oil industry to draft an environmental impact statement for the Keystone XL pipeline.

A spokesman for the inspector general described the inquiry as a fact-finding exercise to determine whether there were missteps in the department’s selection of the firm Environmental Resources Management. On its Web site, the company describes itself as a business “involved in some of the world’s most exciting and exacting oil and gas projects.”

The inspector general’s office confirmed that it had begun the inquiry in May and expected to complete it in September. The 1,179-mile northern leg of the pipeline would bring 830,000 barrels a day of diluted bitumen from oil sands in Alberta, Canada, to U.S. refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

— Darryl Fears

Flooding kills boy; woman missing

A 4-year-old boy has died and a woman believed to be his mother was missing after flash flooding in central Missouri that closed an interstate highway on Wednesday and triggered some evacuations.

The identities of the two, presumed to be mother and son, were not released. Authorities said they had been swept off a county road in their car Tuesday, and a search for them was underway near Waynesville.

Heavy periodic rain from late Monday through Wednesday morning caused major flooding in and near Waynesville, about 130 miles southwest of St. Louis, and evacuations of some homes and buildings.

Gov. Jay Nixon (D) declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, and on Wednesday he sent 50 military police from the Missouri National Guard to help residents in flooded areas.

— Associated Press