The Wire: Condi VP rumors; Syria massacre; $5.8 billion blunder; cannibal charges; Letterman on Batman

National editor’s pick of the top news stories in the nation and world at this hour:

Condi Rice for VP? let the speculation begin

The Drudge Report has set political junkies atwitter by claiming that Condoleezza Rice is the front-runner on Mitt Romney’s short list for a running mate — though Rice has repeatedly denied that she’s interested. No one in the Romney camp is confirming or denying the rumor, and the speculation is that it may be a trial balloon to gauge potential interest in Bush 43’s secretary of state as a vice-presidential candidate. Rice’s name has been mentioned in such speculation since she gave a rousing speech to Romney supporters in Park City, Utah, last month, but she attempted to squelch it by telling “CBS this Morning,” “There is no way I will do this because it’s really not me. I know my strengths.” Among the strengths she might bring to the Romney ticket, she is a woman, she is African-American and she has good conservative cred for her tenure as America’s top diplomat in George W. Bush’s second term. On the issue of abortion, she has described herself as pro-choice but opposes late-term abortion, favors parental notification and doesn’t want the government “forcing its views on one side or the other.” the Drudge Report attributed its claim to unnamed sources, but some observers found it credible because founder Matt Drudge is known to be close to Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades.

Major massacre reported in village in Syria

Syrian anti-government activists said Friday that the army shelled a poor farming village and then sent in armed thugs who killed scores of people in one of the country’s worst massacres. Claims about the number of casualties varied widely, with activists backing off reports that more than 200 people were killed, but one provided a list of 103 names and another said 74 were confirmed dead. a video posted online Friday showed about 30 bodies in a mass grave in what it called “the first group of martyrs from the Tremseh massacre.” the head of the U.N. mission in Syria blamed the government for attacking the village from the air and land in what he called “continuous violence.” It was unclear whether the victims were civilians, with one report saying dozens of the dead were rebel fighters. U.N. envoy Kofi Annan said he was “shocked and appalled” by reports of the attack, and Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, head of the U.N. monitoring mission, said observers confirmed the use of heavy weapons and attack helicopters.

JPMorgan reports $5.8 billion blunder

JPMorgan Chase said Friday that a bad trade cost the bank $5.8 billion this year and that it had fired two traders who tried to hide the blunder. “This has shaken our company to the core,” said CEO Jamie Dimon, who had originally estimated that the trade cost the company only one-third of the total. JPMorgan said the trade had cost the bank $4.4 billion from April through June, on top of $1.4 billion from January through March — and if financial markets deteriorate, it could lose an additional $1.7 billion. Dimon said the bank had closed the trading division responsible and planned to revoke two years’ worth of pay for executives it held accountable. Dimon originally dismissed concerns about the bank’s trading as a “tempest in a teapot,” but he has appeared before Congress twice to apologize and explain, and several government agencies have launched investigations.

Papua new Guinea cannibals: You don’t want to know what was in their soup

Police in Papua new Guinea have arrested 29 people accused of being in a cannibal cult that killed and ate seven suspected witch doctors, eating their brains raw and making soup from their penises. “They don’t think they’ve done anything wrong; they admit what they’ve done openly,” Madang Police Commander Anthony Wagambie said Friday, confirming a report in the National newspaper. He said the accused believed their victims were sorcerers who extorted money and demanded sex from poor villages in exchange for their supernatural services. According to the National, 28 men and women appeared in court Tuesday, charged with “willful murder,” which is punishable by death. Wagambie said four of the seven victims were killed last week, but no remains had been recovered. “They’re probably all eaten up,” he said.

Letterman on Batman: Mother of all spoilers?

Don’t read this if you don’t want to know how “The Dark Knight Rises” ends, at least according to David Letterman. Hosting Anne “Catwoman” Hathaway on Thursday night, Letterman said he saw the movie — “And in the end, Batman is dead.” Hathaway said, “Dave!” they both laughed and Letterman quickly added, “No, he’s not dead. just relax, will you?” Hathaway said he had invited all kinds of wrath on himself, and she said to the movie’s director, Christopher Nolan, “I had no part in it, I’m sorry.” Of course, the Bat has died in the comics before, and that never stopped him from rising again.

The Wire, a summary of top national and world news stories from the associated Press and other wire services, moves weekdays. Contact Karl Kahler at 408-920-5023, or follow him at twitter.com/karl_kahler.

The Wire: Condi VP rumors; Syria massacre; $5.8 billion blunder; cannibal charges; Letterman on Batman


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