Army will seek death penalty

SEATTLE - The Army said Wednesday it would seek the death penalty against the soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers in a predawn rampage in March, a decision his attorney called "totally irresponsible."

The announcement followed a pretrial hearing last month for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 39, who faces premeditated murder and other charges in the attack on two villages in southern Afghanistan.

Prosecutors said Bales left his remote base early March 11, attacked one village and returned to the base, then slipped away to attack another compound. Of the 16 people killed, nine were children.

His attorney, John Henry Browne, argued his client should not face the possibility of the death penalty, given that Bales, originally from a suburb of Cincinnati, was serving his fourth deployment in a war zone. - AP

1 dead, 32 hurt in N.Y. pileup

SHIRLEY, N.Y. - A tractor-trailer crashed into several vehicles, setting off a chain-reaction of fiery crashes Wednesday on a major New York highway, killing one person and injuring 32, police said.

The accident on the Long Island Expressway, 70 miles east of New York City, left at least two dozen vehicles strewn across several hundred yards of the eastbound lanes of the road. At least three vehicles, including the tractor-trailer carrying mulch, caught fire and were smoldering into the early evening, a fire official said.

"Anybody rolling up on this scene, you would think there would be definitely more than just one fatality," said John Mirando, chief of the Ridge Fire Department. - AP

Sandy benefit raises $50M

NEW YORK - The benefit concert at Madison Square Garden last week has raised about $50 million for people affected by Hurricane Sandy, the producers announced.

They expect more money to flow in over the coming weeks from sales of albums and merchandise and from more donations. The first $50 million in aid will be distributed immediately.

David Saltzman, executive director of the Robin Hood Foundation, said money from last week's benefit would be distributed to about 140 groups that are providing aid to people whose homes and businesses were destroyed when Hurricane Sandy swept through the region in late October.

- N.Y. Times News Service

Elsewhere:

Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski will become the first woman to chair the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. Mikulski, 76, a five-term senator, will take over the post vacated with the death this week of Sen. Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii. Appropriations long has been one of the most powerful committees because of its control over annual spending.