Kansas City restaurant explosion — A body was found Wednesday morning in the debris of JJ’s restaurant in Kansas City, where fire crews searched for a female server missing after a massive explosion rocked the area Tuesday night. In Springfield, Mo., the family of Megan Cramer told The Kansas City Star that it had been contacted by authorities in Kansas City. Cramer, 46, had been a server at JJ’s for several months. Kansas City Fire Chief Paul Berardi said the restaurant was reduced to rubble 3 or 4 feet deep, with debris too heavy for crews to lift manually, requiring heavy equipment for a careful search.
Jackson, wife plead guilty — Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., holding back tears, entered a guilty plea Wednesday in federal court to criminal charges that he engaged in a scheme to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items. He faces 46 to 57 months in prison and a fine of $10,000 to $100,000 under a plea deal with prosecutors. A few hours later, his wife, Sandra Jackson, pleaded guilty to filing false joint federal income tax returns that knowingly understated the income the couple received. She faces one to two years in prison and a fine of $3,000 to $40,000.
Terror suspect admits Hezbollah ties — A man being tried on allegations he planned attacks on Israeli tourists in Cyprus has admitted being a member of the militant group Hezbollah and staking out locations that such visitors frequent, his lawyer said Wednesday. Hossam Taleb Yaacoub’s admissions follow accusations that the Lebanon-based Hezbollah was behind a bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists. Authorities here have been reluctant to link the Cyprus case to the attack in Bulgaria, but both have fed concerns about militant activity in Europe.
Greek austerity protests — Tens of thousands of anti-austerity demonstrators took to the streets of Athens on Wednesday as unions staged a general strike to protest government spending cuts and tax hikes, which some predict will push unemployment to an alarming 30 percent. Police said up to 40,000 people were participating in two separate marches in central Athens. Limited clashes broke out when hooded youths threw fire bombs and stones at riot police, who responded with tear gas. No arrests or injuries were immediately reported.
Syrian conflict — Russia and the Arab League proposed Wednesday to broker talks between the Syrian opposition and President Bashar Assad’s regime to try to resolve the country’s civil war, while a government airstrike on a rebellious Damascus suburb killed at least 20 people. Wednesday’s offer from Moscow, one of Assad’s closest allies, suggested the regime could be warming to the idea of a settlement as it struggles to hold territory and claw back ground it has lost. The air raid Wednesday hit the Damascus suburb of Hamouriyeh, killing at least 20 people, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. More people were believed to be buried under the debris.
Pistorius murder trial —The prosecution case against Oscar Pistorius began to unravel Wednesday with revelations of a series of police blunders and the lead investigator’s admission that authorities have no evidence challenging the double-amputee Olympian’s claim he killed his girlfriend accidentally on Valentine’s Day at their home in Pretoria, South Africa. Detective Hilton Botha’s often confused testimony left prosecutors rubbing their heads in frustration as he misjudged distances and said testosterone — banned for professional athletes in some cases — was found at the scene, only to be later contradicted by the prosecutor’s office.
California gay marriage ban — The Obama administration is quietly considering urging the Supreme Court to overturn California’s ban on gay marriage, a step that would mark a political victory for advocates of same-sex unions and a deepening commitment by President Barack Obama to rights for gay couples. The administration has until Feb. 28 to intervene in the case by filing a “friend of the court" brief. The Proposition 8 ballot initiative was approved by California voters in 2008 and overturned a state Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage.
911 call for smokes leads to arrest — A Granbury, Texas, woman wanted to make sheriff’s deputies the butt of a joke, but she picked the wrong audience when she called 911 to have cigarettes delivered to her home. Hood County sheriff’s Lt. Kathy Jividen says the 48-year-old woman was “very intoxicated" when she requested the special delivery on Feb. 11. Jividen says the caller instead received a visit from two deputies and was arrested. She was charged with a misdemeanor count of abuse of 911. She was later released from the Hood County jail on a $1,000 bond. Granbury is about 65 miles southwest of Dallas.