Five days after being rescued from the clutches of Somali pirates, cargo ship captain Richard Phillips is headed home.The 53-year-old sea captain, who was held hostage for five days after the aborted hijacking of his ship, is expected to arrive in Vermont this afternoon. The crew members of Phillips’ ship, the Maersk Alabama, flew into Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, D.C., early Thursday. Phillips, who was originally supposed to fly with them, was delayed when the USS Bainbridge, which was carrying him after his rescue by Navy SEALs, diverted to help another pirated ship. CBS News
After backing Mexico’s ongoing battle against drug cartels, President Barack Obama is heading to a Western Hemisphere summit with a sudden spotlight on Cuba. The president was to fly Friday to the island of Trinidad for the 34-nation Summit of the Americas, a gathering to which Cuba, as the region’s only non-democracy, is not invited. Obama’s move this week to ease travel and some other restrictions for Cuban-Americans brought an unprecedented reply from Havana. Raul Castro, who took over from his ailing brother, Fidel, a year ago, offered to talk to the Obama administration about all outstanding grievances, declaring: “We have sent word to the U.S. government in private and in public that we are willing to discuss everything — human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners, everything.” FOX News
President Obama, after meeting Thursday with Mexico’s president, signaled he is backing away from his pledge to renew the U.S. ban on assault weapons but still wishes to stop the cross-border flow of guns that wind up in the arsenals of drug cartels. The military-style assault weapon ban expired in 2004, and Obama faced an uphill political battle in winning a renewal of the law, which is unpopular in key political states and among Republicans and some conservative Democrats. Obama said Thursday he preferred to focus on enforcing existing laws to keep assault weapons out of Mexico, rather than trying to renew the U.S. ban on the weapons. FOX News
With space in its aircraft cabins tight and passengers complaining about extra-large seatmates, United Airlines says it now will bump severely overweight passengers from sold-out flights. Passengers who are too large to fit comfortably in a single coach seat will be required to buy two tickets on the next flight or upgrade to business class, where seats are larger, if United’s flight attendants can’t find two open seats for them. United decided to adopt the tougher policy after receiving more than 700 complaints last year from passengers. ChicagoTribune.com
Celebrity Ashton Kutcher narrowly beat out CNN early Friday in an online popularity contest to see who could more quickly attract 1 million followers on the micro-blogging site Twitter. Kutcher reached 1 million about 30 minutes before CNN passed the mark.
Kutcher had challenged CNN to the Twitter race, saying he would donate 10,000 mosquito bed nets to charity for World Malaria Day in late April if he beat CNN, and 1,000 if he lost. CNN agreed to do the same. CNN