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|July 31-August 6, 2008
D.A. seeks indictment in Taser death
HOUSTON — Seeking to defuse growing racial tensions in the small Louisiana town of Winnfield, the local district attorney announced Monday, July 28, that he will seek an indictment against a white police officer for the death of a black man who was shocked nine times with a Taser device while handcuffed in police custody.
Winn Parish District Atty. Chris Nevils said he would convene a grand jury Aug. 12 to consider possible charges against the officer, Scott Nugent, 21, who was fired from the Winnfield Police Department following the death of Baron “Scooter” Pikes. The grand jury will also examine the conduct of two other officers who were present during the incident, Nevils said.
Pikes, 21, died Jan. 17 within 39 minutes of being arrested on a drug possession warrant. Winnfield police claimed Pikes told them he suffered from asthma and was high on crack cocaine and PCP, but the local coroner found that Pikes had been healthy and had no drugs in his system. He ruled the death a homicide.
5 arrested in polygamist sect case
AUSTIN, Texas — Five men from a West Texas polygamist sect wanted on charges ranging from sexual assault of a child to bigamy turned themselves in Monday, July 28, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced.
The men are being held at the Schleicher County jail. Those charged with felonies are being held in lieu of $100,000 bail each. Those men face sentences ranging from five years to life in prison.
Three of the men — Merril “Leroy” Jessop, 33; Raymond Jessop, 36; and Allan Keate, 56 — face charges of sexual assault of a child and are purported to be “spiritual husbands” of young women who testified before the Schleicher County grand jury. A fourth man, Michael Emack, 57, also faces charges of sexual assault of a child. The fifth man, Dr. Lloyd Barlow, 38, faces three misdemeanor counts of failing to report child abuse. He’s purported to be the chief physician at the sect’s compound and is thought to have had information about young mothers there.
Gay marriage measure challenged
Proponents of a ballot measure to ban same-sex marriages in California appeared in court Tuesday, July 29, to challenge state Attorney General Jerry Brown’s rewording of the measure’s ballot summary.
On the petitions that signature gatherers circulated last year to qualify the measure for the Nov. 4 ballot, it was described as a “Limit on Marriage.”
But Brown’s new title and summary of Proposition 8, posted on the Secretary of State’s website on July 22, states the proposed constitutional amendment “Eliminates right of same-sex couples to marry.”
The summary still states Proposition 8 provides that “only marriage between a man a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
The titles and summaries of ballot measures are typically scrutinized by both sides in a campaign and often challenged in court if one side feels the wording could sway voters against them.
Firearms sights smuggled to Japan
TACOMA, Wash. — An Army captain from Fort Lewis in Washington state pleaded guilty Monday, July 28, to a federal charge that he purposely mislabeled customs forms to illegally ship firearms sights to Japan.
Capt. Tomoaki Iishiba, 34, of DuPont, Wash., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle to a single count of conspiracy to smuggle goods from the United States.
Federal prosecutors and Iishiba’s attorney agreed that “the defendant did not intend to threaten a security or foreign policy interest of the United States and that defendant’s conduct did not constitute such a threat,” according to a press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.
In exchange for his plea, prosecutors will ask U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman to sentence Iishiba to three years of probation.
The maximum penalty is five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.
The sentencing hearing is set for Nov. 7.
Iishiba, a naturalized U.S. citizen who served a combat tour in Afghanistan, admitted that between 2006 and last February, he shipped 60 holographic firearms sights, some compatible for use with night-vision equipment, “to individuals and business contacts in Japan,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
He also shipped firearm parts modified for Airsoft — weaponry used by participants in a simulated-combat game similar to paintball — and various scopes.
The sights and other firearms accessories are available for sale on the Internet.
Stricter safety standards for toys
WASHINGTON — Congressional negotiators settled months of debate over product safety on Monday, July 28, and in nearly every detail — including lead levels in toys, safety information for consumers and fines for violating the new rules — stricter standards won out.
Proponents called the agreement the most aggressive overhaul in decades of America’s consumer-safety system. It was announced by a bipartisan conference committee and could pass the House and Senate as soon as this week. President George W. Bush is expected to sign it.
The deal would require manufacturers and importers to subject toys and other nursery products to strict safety tests before they hit store shelves. Some companies with sophisticated labs could conduct the tests themselves, a provision consumer groups opposed.
No new fast-food restaurants for L.A.
LOS ANGELES — City Councilwoman Jan Perry has no stomach for more fast-food restaurants in the largely African-American and Latino community of South Los Angeles, Calif.
On Tuesday, July 29, the City Council debated her measure to impose a one-year moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in a 32-square-mile section of the 468-square-mile city, with options for two 6-month extensions. It’s the first such proposal in the nation based on health concerns and would affect more than 700,000 residents, Perry asserted.
Perry, 53, has received scathing e-mails from around the country condemning her idea, which she defends as an effort to promote more sit-down restaurants, supermarkets and fresh foods in her district.
“I’ve been called a Nazi and a Fascist,” Perry said. “I’ve been appalled by these e-mails...The problem is that we don’t have a diversity of choice.”
Many fast foods contribute to diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease, Perry charged. In fact, 30 percent of south Los Angeles residents are obese, compared with 20.9 percent of adults countywide. Of Los Angeles’ 8,200 restaurants, south Los Angeles has the highest concentration of fast-food chains or restaurants with minimal seating, accounting for 45 percent of all eateries in that area, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis.
Ransom demanded for hostages
MOSCOW — Four Russians and one Pole are being held hostage in southern Nigeria by militants who seized their vessel at Port Harcourt, a Russian shipping news website said.
Maritime Sovfracht Bulletin said the Hercules tugboat is owned by Sweden’s Marine Carrier AB and was working for Italian oil services company Saipem SpA, a subsidiary of oil and gas multinational Eni SpA.
The militants, who belong to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which has been linked to several attacks on foreign oil workers, are demanding that Saipem pay a ransom for the crew’s release, the site said.
The Russian Embassy in Nigeria’s capital Lagos has tightened security for staffers following the incident, the embassy press secretary said.
“In view of this situation, embassy staff are forbidden from independently traveling to the coast,” Igor Popov said.
Russian embassy advisor Viktor Goncharov told the radio station Vesti-FM that according to preliminary information, there may be only two Russians among the hostages. The embassy is working closely with Nigerian law enforcers, who have established contact with the hostage-takers, he said.
Boy bites pit bull in self-defense
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — An 11-year-old boy in southeast Brazil bit the family pit bull when fighting for his life after the dog attacked him, local media reported.
The accident occurred near a construction site in the state of Minas Gerais. The 6-year-old dog named Titan, who the family says is usually calm and loving, pounced on the boy.
“I grabbed him by the neck and bit in,” said the child, who escaped with only an arm injury and a broken tooth.
Nearby construction workers who heard screams, and ran over to pull the dog off, said the boy probably saved his own life.
Investigation into week of gunfire
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish police have opened an investigation into almost a week of celebratory gunfire at a wedding in the southeast Turkish province of Sirnak, national media said.
Some 15,000 people took part in celebrations to mark what was the first wedding in the almost deserted village in 12 years. The majority of the villagers left the area, which borders Iraq, in the mid-1990s.
The guests at the wedding fired an estimated 60,000 times into the air during the celebrations, using handguns, rifles, AK-47s, M16 automatic rifles, and shotguns, the Turkish NTV channel reported. The guests later left for Germany, Belgium and Istanbul.
Condom ads to be removed
SEOUL, South Korea — The Seoul subway has taken down advertisements for Japanese condoms amid outrage in South Korea over Japan’s renewed claim to a disputed group of islands.
The Korea Times quoted a Seoul Metro official as saying the adverts inside the carriages, calling Okamoto condoms ‘Japan’s No. 1’, “could run counter to public sentiment following the eruption of a fresh row over Dokdo.”
The latest dispute over the Dokdo islets, controlled by South Korea and located halfway between the Korean mainland and Japan, flared up at the start of this week when the Japanese government announced that new teaching guidelines for schools would state that the islands are illegally occupied.
Japanese condoms, which have a history stretching back centuries, are known in Asia for their colorful and often humorous packaging.
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