News Briefs

Cyber Monday sales on record pace, to crack $3 billion

This Cyber Monday could be the largest online sales day ever, according to early numbers from Adobe Systems Inc.

As of Monday morning, online sales totaled $490 million, 14 percent higher than the same period last year. Adobe expects sales to reach a record $3 billion for the first time ever.

That number would be a 50 percent increase from Cyber Monday sales of $2 billion three years ago.

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The booming Cyber Monday sales come on the heels of a slower Thanksgiving and Black Friday for retailers. Combined sales for those two days totaled about $12.1 billion, according to preliminary data from Shoppertrak, down from $12.3 billion over the same period last year.

Black Friday numbers were hurt by early November retail sales, as well as earlier opening times on Thanksgiving.

Former NY Assembly speaker convicted on all counts in corruption trial

NEW YORK — Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been convicted on federal corruption charges, ending a legendary Albany power broker’s political career and giving a signal victory to Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s campaign to clean up the Capitol.

Manhattan federal court jurors on Monday afternoon found Silver guilty of all counts in the indictment — bribery, extortion and money laundering. Silver, a Democrat who resigned as speaker after his indictment, continued to represent Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood, but automatically lost that post after the conviction.

The verdict came on the third day of deliberations after a three-week trial.

“Today, Sheldon Silver got justice, and at long last, so did the people of New York,” said Bharara in a written statement after the verdict.

Silver, 71, was one of the state’s most powerful political figures during his two-decade run as speaker — one of the proverbial “three men in a room” in Albany who had a piece of every key decision and ruled the Assembly with seldom-questioned authority.

He was accused at trial of making $4 million in two separate schemes.

In one, he allegedly provided $500,000 in state research grants for mesothelioma research to Dr. Robert Taub, a prominent Columbia University asbestos-disease doctor, who in return referred cases to a Silver law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, which gave Silver a split.

In the other, Silver allegedly tilted real estate legislation on rent control and tax breaks toward two developers, Glenwood Management of New Hyde Park and Witkoff Group, which took tax cases to Manhattan lawyer Jay Goldberg, a Silver friend. Goldberg secretly shared fees with Silver.

He faces a maximum prison term of 130 years.

Suspected burglar stuck in chimney died of thermal burns, smoke inhalation

LOS ANGELES — A suspected burglar who sneaked into a home chimney Saturday died of thermal burns after the homeowner unwittingly lighted the fireplace, coroner’s officials said.

Cody Caldwell, 19, of Huron also died from smoke inhalation, according to Fresno County coroner’s officials.

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Department said Caldwell climbed into the chimney to burglarize the home and became stuck. When the homeowner returned home, he lighted a small blaze in the fireplace, deputies said.

The homeowner did not know Caldwell was inside the chimney before starting the fire, deputies said.

After lighting the fire, the homeowner heard Caldwell’s yells. As smoke filled the home, the homeowner tried to put out the fire.

Ten minutes later, Caldwell was still moving and breathing inside the chimney.

Firefighters were finally able to dismantle the chimney to get to Caldwell.

But by the time they reached Caldwell, he was dead, deputies said.

Pope Francis travels to mosque in heart of sectarian conflict

JOHANNESBURG — The final hours of Pope Francis’ African tour might well have been most dangerous moments of his papacy, as he visited a volatile Muslim neighborhood in the Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui, followed by an open air Mass at a stadium.

It was the most powerful symbolic moment of his Africa trip, as he became the first pope in modern history to travel to a war zone.

As crowds cheered, Francis brushed aside security warnings, traveling in the back of an open Pope-mobile — a converted SUV with no bulletproof glass — and wore no bulletproof vest.

It was a trip that the French Defense Ministry had urged against, saying forces from the former colonial power couldn’t guarantee the pontiff’s safety.

But it sent an inspiring message of hope and peace to Christians and Muslims in a nation that has been locked in a cycle of sectarian violence since December 2012.

Francis met Muslim leaders at the Koudoukou mosque in the Muslim enclave, PK5 — the only remaining Muslim residential neighborhood in the capital — which is blockaded by Christian militias, preventing residents from leaving.

During his visit to Koudoukou mosque, he said Christians and Muslims were brothers and denounced violence, particularly attacks committed in the name of religion.

“Christians and Muslims and members of traditional religions have lived peacefully for many years. Together, we say no to hatred, to vengeance and violence, especially that committed in the name of a religion or God,” The Associated Press quoted Francis as saying.

Israeli court convicts two teens in grisly 2014 killing of 16-year-old Palestinian

JERUSALEM — A Jerusalem court Monday found two Jewish teenagers guilty of murder and delayed its decision on a third defendant in the grisly slaying of a Palestinian teenager.

Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 16, was abducted in the early hours of July 2, 2014, while heading to the mosque for morning prayers in Shuafat, his village. The family alerted the police after witnesses saw him being taken. Several hours later, his charred body was found in a wooded area west of Jerusalem. He had been beaten and burned alive.

The three Jewish suspects were arrested several days later. Prosecutors said they confessed to involvement in the teen’s death to avenge the slaying of three Jewish teenagers who were abducted in the West Bank by Palestinians two weeks earlier.

In keeping with Israeli law, the two 18-year-olds convicted were not named because the crime took place and the trial began when they were minors. The court is expected to finalize their convictions in the near future after an additional procedural review required in the case of minors.

The court ruling held that all three of the accused committed the abduction, beating and murder of Abu Khdeir. However, the verdict in the case of Yossef Haim Ben-David, 31, described in court as the main instigator of the crime, was delayed after the defense submitted a last-minute psychiatric opinion arguing he was not fit to stand trial.