Afghan Teens Face Death For Illicit Love

HERAT, Afghanistan, July 31 (UPI) — A teenage couple are in an Afghan jail and facing death threats from their own families for trying to marry across ethnic lines.

The girl, Halima Mohammedi, and the boy, Rafi Mohammed, both 17, met last year at an ice cream factory where she worked in the western city of Herat, The New York Times reports.

After a year of secret courtship, the boy, an ethnic Tajik, went to the Hazara girl’s village to take her to a courthouse to wed and was set upon by a mob of 300 people accusing the pair of fornication, and nearly killed.

“We knew they would kill us,” Mohammedi said.

When police tried to intervene, witnesses said, the crowd attacked them, burned their cars and stormed their police station.

The provincial council has decreed the young lovers deserve protection because neither was engaged to anyone else, and both say they want to wed.

The pair are now in separate wings of Herat’s juvenile prison, but face a worse fate if they get out.

Mohammedi’s uncle visited her to tell her she had disgraced the family and would be killed once she was released. Her father cried during two visits, but said, “What we would ask is that the government should kill both of them.”

“I feel so bad,” Mohammedi said. “I just pray that God gives this girl back to me. I’m ready to lose my life. I just want her safe release.”

Philly Priest Ordered To Stand Trial

PHILADELPHIA, July 31 (UPI) — Defense attorneys under a gag order could not comment on a ruling that allows a Roman Catholic priest to face trial in a Philadelphia sexual abuse case.

A gag order prevents comment on the case of Monsignor William Lynn, a former ranking official at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who is accused of using his office to keep a lid on allegations against various priests, the Philadelphia Inquirer said Sunday.

It was not known if an appeal would be filed.

Lynn faces trial at a later date after a judge ruled Friday that he should stand trial with four defendants charged with sexually assaulting young boys in the 1990s. Lynn faces a charge of conspiracy to endanger the welfare of children.

Prosecutors say Lynn, who ran the archdiocese clergy office, quietly reassigned priests accused of misconduct in order to keep the allegations secret.

Common Pleas Court Judge Lillian Ransom Friday rejected Lynn’s contention that he should not be charged under a law passed in 2007 because the alleged incidents took place before the law was passed. The judge said she found that prosecutors had sufficient evidence that applicable laws were violated, the Inquirer said.

Psychology Colors Debt Management

ST. LOUIS, July 31 (UPI) — The best way to end debt is to make minimum payments except for one loan with the highest interest rate, but most tend not to do this, U.S. researchers say.

Cynthia Cryder, a consumer behavior expert at Olin Business School, Washington University in St. Louis, and co-authors Shahar Ayal, Moty Amar and Dan Ariely of Duke University and Scott Rick of the University of Michigan, designed several studies to examine how consumers manage debt portfolios.

The article, “Winning the Battle But Losing the War: The Psychology of Debt Management,” published in the Journal of Marketing Research, found from a series of debt-management experiments, participants consistently paid off small debts first, even though the larger debts in the study had higher interest rates.

In fact, no participant in their sample consistently used their cash to pay off the loan with the highest interest rate, Cryder says.

Because small losses impose a disproportionately heavy psychological burden, the authors say, eliminating a small debt may offer greater relief than making an equivalent reduction to a larger debt.

However, while it is attractive to close an account, that’s not necessarily the best approach to minimizing your debt burden,” Cryder says.

‘Slutwalk’ Movement Hits Streets Of India

NEW DELHI, July 31 (UPI) — A “Slutwalk” to assert women’s rights be free of sexual harassment in India drew hundreds in New Delhi, Sunday.

Organizers of the march, which began and ended at the Jantar Mantar observatory, estimated the turnout at 700 to 800 and claimed a success, the Hindustan Times reported.

Umang Sabarwal, 19, a Delhi University student and organizer, said: “I’m very happy with the response. The event was energetic and clean. … This is just the beginning. Our aim is to keep this going and create awareness about women’s issues.”

The walk was followed by a street play staged by the Asmita Theater Group, whose director, Arvind Gaur, said, “We want to fight for an equal place for women in this society. We can’t change the law, but we can change the society.”

“Our administration is very weak,” he added. “Instead of doing something, they comment that the city is unsafe, girls shouldn’t wear short clothes, etc. Only 2 percent [of] people get justice in rape cases.”

Slutwalks have been staged around the world since a Toronto police officer enraged feminists in February by saying, “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

Don A Dud; Texas Heat, Drought Continue

FORT WORTH, Texas, July 31 (UPI) — Texas sizzled again Sunday after the remnants of Tropical Storm Don failed to ease an ongoing drought and 100-degree temperatures, forecasters said.

Fort Worth almost saw its century-mark streak end Saturday but the mercury crept into triple digits late in the afternoon, making it 29 consecutive days Dallas-Fort Worth has seen temps above 100.

“August is usually a very warm month. It doesn’t look like anything’s going to break the streak in the next seven to 10 days,” National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Mosier told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The record heat wave in the Lone Star State is 42 consecutive days above 100 set in 1980. Mosier said while it’s likely that record will be broken the odds are probably against breaking the mark of 69 total triple-digit days in one year — 69 set in 1980 — since the scalding temps would have to last well into September.

For Sunday, the heat continued unabated along with the serious drought. Many areas of Texas are at 20-30 percent of their normal rainfall totals for the year. said Don failed to produce much in the way of rain as it moved through this weekend. A weather system that could become Emily was being tracked in the Caribbean; however, the latest predictions indicate the storm was more likely to swing up the Atlantic Coast rather than head for Texas.

Ukraine Mourns 37 Mine Accident Victims

KIEV, Ukraine, July 31 (UPI) — Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych declared Sunday a national day of mourning, two days after 37 miners died in two accidents.

The Emergencies Ministry said an explosion 3,000 feet underground at the Sukhodilska-Vostochnaya mine in the east of the country killed 26 people and injured two Friday, CNN said.

On the same day, a building collapse at the Bazhanov mine in the southeast killed 11 miners and injured four, but more than 500 managed to escape.

Both incidents were unexplained and under investigation Sunday.

Regional authorities in Luhansk said preliminary findings on the Sukhodilska explosion will be released Monday, the Ukrainian News Agency reported. An air-methane reaction is suspected.

“The coal mine will not resume operation until the investigation into the reasons for the explosion is done,” Energy Minister Yurii Boiko said.

‘Mr. Rogers’ Series Set For New Generation

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., July 31 (UPI) — The classic U.S. children’s television “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” is getting a 21st Century overhaul, the Public Television System announced Sunday.

The “new animated multi-platform series” is called “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” and will debut in Autumn 2012 with a 4-year-old Daniel Tiger in the lead role.

“‘Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood’ is based on the next generation of the original ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ characters,” PBS said in a written statement issued at a TV critics conference in California. “All of the original characters have grown up and now have preschoolers of their own.”

The new series was developed by The Fred Rogers Co. and stays true to the original “Mr. Rogers” strategies of developing social skills for kids and getting them ready to start their school careers.

Angela Santemoro, a veteran of children’s TV and one of the executive producers of the new series, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the late Mr. Rogers won’t be forgotten in the new series. Daniel Tiger will be seen putting on a pair of sneaker, which was a trademark of the old series’ opening segment.

News Blackout Placed On China Train Wreck

BEIJING, July 31 (UPI) — China says it has implemented a blackout on news coverage of the deadly high-speed train wreck that has resulted in some critical newspaper articles.

The Chinese Communist Party fired off a directive this weekend limiting coverage of the disaster to positive stories.

The New York Times said Sunday the order forced a hurried remake of several Saturday editions with investigative stories and commentaries replaced by cartoons and features.

Forty people were killed and 192 were injured July 23 when two high-speed trains collided in Zhejiang Province. The incident sparked an unusual outburst of online criticism of Beijing over the government’s development policies and alleged soft-pedaling of its failure and shortcomings.

The Times said the news blackout appeared to stir up even more bad blood. One anonymous editor said in an online commentary, “This country is being humiliated by numerous evil hands.”

Juarez Cartel Leader Under Arrest

JUAREZ, Mexico, July 31 (UPI) — Law enforcement officials in the United States said a reputed leader of a Juarez drug cartel was in the custody of Mexican authorities this weekend.

The El Paso (Texas) Times said U.S. officials did not provide any details on the arrest of Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez, a ranking leader of the La Linea drug ring who is under indictment for the slayings of three Americans from the U.S. Consulate in the border city.

Mexican authorities say Acosta has been a particularly ruthless player in the Juarez drug trade over the years. He is accused of ordering gunmen to shoot up a birthday party last year that left 15 young people dead.

Acosta was captured Friday after a shootout in Chihuahua City neighborhood. He is the highest-ranking member of the Juarez cartel to be arrested since 2008, the Times said.

The newspaper said La Linea has reputedly been getting more vocal and direct in its challenges to American narcotics agents working in Juarez. Graffiti has been popping up in the city warning the “gringos of the DEA” to back off.

NYPD Monitoring Domestic Rightist Threats

NEW YORK, July 31 (UPI) — New York police were on the lookout for right-wing domestic terrorists even before the Norway massacre, Commissioner Ray Kelly said Sunday.

Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Kelly said: “I can tell you, in New York City, we have a task force in our intelligence division that looks at white supremacist/anti-government groups and individuals.

“In fact, just a few days before the [July 22] Norway massacre, we had a teleconference with our century partners — this is 100 law enforcement agencies in the northeast quadrant of the country — and that was the specific subject.”

“It is an ongoing issue that law enforcement has to continue to focus on, and I believe we are,” Kelly added.

“We follow certain individuals on the Internet,” he said. “They put out their feelings quite clearly. A lot of them are careful about not advocating violence.

“For instance, the individual in Norway, although he had a lot of Internet activity, did not advocate violence. He put his manifesto on the Internet six hours before he started the attacks. They’re somewhat careful about advocating violence.”

Remains Of POW Return Home After 60 Years

NEW YORK, July 31 (UPI) — A U.S. Army private from New York who died in a Korean War POW camp 60 years ago has finally returned home, his family said.

The remains of Pvt. John Lavelle, of Brooklyn, New York, reached Kennedy Airport Saturday, the New York Daily News reported.

“It was unbelievable,” said Lavelle’s niece, Mary O’Brien. “There wasn’t a dry eye.”

Lavelle was 24 when he was captured in December 1950 by enemy forces near Kuni-ri, a town in what is now in North Korea. He died of what is believed to be malnutrition in a Chinese POW camp in 1951.

His remains were turned over to U.S. officials in 1954, but the Army couldn’t positively identify them. They were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii as unknown.

The remains were exhumed a year ago when Army researchers found evidence suggesting the remains were Lavelle’s. The identification was made possible by dental records.

The remains arrived in New York in a wooden casket draped by an American flag. A Port Authority fire truck sprayed water over the plane as it taxied down the runway before members of an Army honor guard removed the casket to a waiting hearse.

Gloria Webber, Lavelle’s sister, said the return of her brother’s remains have finally brought her family “closure.”

“We’re so happy to see that he’s back [home],” said Webber, 81. “We’re nice and relaxed. There’s no more worrying.”

Lavelle will be buried in Calverton National Cemetery in Long Island Monday.

Yemen Air Force Bombs Its Allies In Error

SANAA, Yemen, July 31 (UPI) — The Yemeni military admitted Sunday that its airstrikes have accidentally killed at least 11 allied tribesmen fighting Islamic extremists.

The bombing took place near Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province in the south, where al-Qaida-linked fighters took over in May and have been at war with the government.

“We give our condolences to the brave tribal fighters who were killed in the Abyan air attack,” an official who would not be named told CNN. “Coordination between the tribes and the government forces is limited, and that is why the raid missed its target.”

Hundreds of tribal leaders met in the capital, Sanaa, Saturday to form an alliance against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is still recuperating in Saudi Arabia from an assassination attempt nearly two months ago.

They chose Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, leader of the major Hashed tribe, as their chairman. In a speech he vowed, “Saleh will not rule Yemen after today as long as I live.”

Gadhafi Seeks PR Help To Repair Image

NEW YORK, July 31 (UPI) — Moammar Gadhafi is looking for PR firms in New York and London as he battles rebels in Libya, his diplomats say.

Dia Abubaker Alhutmany of the Libyan Mission United Nations confirmed the pitches to The New York Post, saying “the government is trying to have the support of people outside the country.”

Ali Darwish of the Libyan Information Ministry has e-mailed leading public relations firms, asking them to “present our just and fair case to the world,” the Post reported Sunday.

“Libya has been under an unjustified media and PR attack which led to NATO’s military involvement,” he wrote.

But he also promised discretion, saying, “We can formalize any deal with your organization through a third party to help move things forward fast.”

There have been no takers yet.

“I highly doubt any PR firm will positively respond to this very unorthodox … request,” said Ronn Torossian of New York firm 5WPR.

Quake Recorded Off Vanuatu Islands

AUCKLAND, New Zealand, July 31 (UPI) — U.S. seismologists said a strong earthquake with a magnitude 6.1 struck Sunday near the remote South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu.

There were no immediate reports of damage on the islands and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue any tidal wave warnings.

The quake was centered a little more than 200 miles northeast of Vanuatu and nearly 1,400 from New Zealand. The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter was a relatively shallow 19 kilometers (11.8 miles).

Vanuatu is located in a seismically active area of the Pacific but generally gets through the sometimes-sizable shakers unscathed.

Plane Crashes In Grand Canyon, 2 Dead

PHOENIX, July 31 (UPI) — A small plane carrying two men from Rock Hill, S.C., to Henderson, Nev., was found crashed in the Grand Canyon, with both occupants dead, officials said.

The plane, a single-engine Cirrus SR20 registered to Delaware-based Anansi Aeronautics LLC, was found Saturday near DeMotte Park in Kaibab Nation Forest, Coconino County (Ariz.) Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Gerry Blair told The Arizona Republic.

Blair confirmed both men aboard the plane were killed. Earlier reports from the Federal Aviation Administration said only the pilot was aboard.

Investigators said one of the men sent his wife a text message at 8:23 p.m. Saturday, saying they would arrive in Henderson in about 90 minutes. The plane disappeared from radar about 9 p.m.

The plane was reported missing by the pilot’s family when it failed to land in Henderson as scheduled.

Officials said the cause of the crash is being investigated.

Admiral Confident On Afghan Withdrawal

KABUL, Afghanistan, July 31 (UPI) — The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, said Sunday in Kabul the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan wouldn’t hurt the country.

In his unannounced visit to the country, Mullen told reporters after consulting with U.S. commanders, the transition of responsibility to Afghan security and police officials was largely on track, The New York Times reported.

President Barack Obama announced earlier this year he wanted to bring 10,000 U.S. troops home by the end of this year and 23,000 more by the end of September 2012.

Mullen said he was satisfied that such a move wouldn’t derail Afghanistan’s progress.

“I am very confident that we can meet both the needs on the ground as well as the deadlines and the goals that have been laid out by the president,” he said.

The admiral said he was aware that Taliban and other extremist groups were targeting areas where U.S. and other NATO troops were vacating. He said the nature of small, targeted guerrilla operations suggested the Taliban had sustained heavy losses and weren’t able to mount major offensives any longer, the Times said.

Factions Battle In Benghazi After Killing

BENGHAZI, Libya, July 31 (UPI) — Libyan rebels said Sunday they have captured the camp of an enemy cell they blame for the assassination of their military chief.

Mustafa el-Sogezly, deputy interior minister of the Benghazi government, told The Financial Times four members of the group were killed and 12 wounded in a five-hour battle Sunday morning near the city, along with three rebel fighters killed and eight wounded.

Sogezly said the faction, calling itself the Shakir Brigade, was involved in killing Gen. Abdel Fattah Younis and freeing Gadhafi loyalists from prison during the ensuing turmoil Thursday night.

He said the group took orders from Tripoli via Gadhafi regime TV.

But Ali Tarhouni, the Transitional National Council’s oil minister, told the BBC that Younis was killed along with two other commanders by members of the Obaida ibn Jarrah Brigade, an Islamic extremist group allied with the rebels. The three bodies, shot and burned, were found outside Benghazi Friday.

And a Gadhafi regime spokesman blamed al-Qaida for the killing as speculation ran wild.

TNC Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jilil told Radio France Internationale that four judges acting on their own had summoned Younis — suspected as a double agent by some — to Benghazi for questioning before his murder.

Dad Sleeps, Lets Son, 8, Drive

HOLDEN, La., July 31 (UPI) — Louisiana State Police say they arrested a 28-year-old man who allegedly let his 8-year-old son drive his truck down the Interstate while the father slept.

Authorities said they received calls from motorists reporting a pickup truck driving erratically on I-12 near Holden, La. — and a child appeared to be driving. State Police were able to stop the truck and arrested Billy Joe Madden, of Hattiesburg, Miss.

Police said Madden’s son was driving the vehicle while he slept in the passenger’s seat. His 4-year-old daughter was riding in the back seat.

Police said after interviewing Madden, it was determined he was intoxicated. The children were turned over to Child Protective Services.

Madden was arrested and jailed on two counts of child desertion, parent allowing a minor to drive, open container of alcohol, two counts of no child restraint and no seat belt.

WVUE-TV, New Orleans, said the children would be turned over to family members.

Madden’s bond was set at $1,474.

CIA Pulls Second Chief From Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, July 31 (UPI) — For the second time in seven months, the CIA is replacing its station chief in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, ABC News reported Sunday.

The agency cited medical reasons for the chief’s removal, although ABC said Pakistan’s own ISI intelligence agency was displeased with the CIA chief over his handling of the raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in May.

Political and intelligence tensions between Pakistan and the United States have been mounting for more than a year. Both security agencies have accused the other of not fully sharing information, most recently with the shooting of bin Laden by U.S. Navy SEALs.

Pakistan also objects to the use of unmanned U.S. aircraft that fly anti-terror reconnaissance and bombing missions along the border with Afghanistan.

Seven months ago, Pakistani officials publicly named the CIA station chief, who left the country soon afterwards. Now, his replacement who oversaw the bin Laden raid is leaving too.

Five Pakistanis who reportedly helped the CIA track down bin Laden were arrested and CIA operatives report being increasingly targeted by police and other officials who threaten to expose them, the report said.

U.K. Wary Of Radicals Within Libyan Rebels

LONDON, July 31 (UPI) — Extremists within the Libyan rebels must be pushed aside if Moammar Gadhafi is overthrown, the British defense secretary said Sunday.

Liam Fox spoke to the BBC after the assassination of rebel military chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Younis, which the Benghazi authorities blame on members of the Obaida ibn Jarrah Brigade, an Islamic radical group. Younis, a right-hand man to Gadhafi for decades, defected in February.

“We’ve known from history that there have been radical elements there,” Fox said. “The aim will have to be as we move into the development phase and we go into the growing of the democracy in Libya, to ensure that these people are marginalized — but to pretend they’re not there would be unrealistic.”

Britain last week officially recognized the rebel government in the eastern city of Benghazi.

“There’s only one message we should be sending to the regime,” Fox said, “and that is that we have both the military capability and the resolve to continue pursuing and fulfilling United Nations resolution 1973 as long as is required.

“The key to the Libyan resolution will be whether or not the close circle around Col. Gadhafi recognize … that he will sooner or later have to leave power.”

Syrian Army Attacks Hama, Other Cities

DAMASCUS, Syria, July 31 (UPI) — The Syrian army moved into Hama and other rebellious cities Sunday, and at least 75 people are dead, witnesses and activists said.

“Massacres, massacres are taking place here. History is repeating itself. It is repeating itself,” opposition activist Obada Arwany told The New York Times from Hama, where President Bashar Assad’s father, Hafez, carried out a notorious slaughter in 1982.

“It is a last-minute attempt by the regime to reclaim cities that it lost control of, even by force,” before the holy month of Ramadan begins, said Omar Idlibi of the Local Coordination Committee, which helps organize and document the uprising.

Opposition sources reported at least 49 killed Sunday in Hama, 13 in Deir al-Zour and more elsewhere, but some estimates ranged much higher.

Hama residents told the BBC troops began entering the city at dawn and described unarmed civilians facing tanks at barricades.

“Hama will be very harsh to them … the whole city has decided to resist with stones, not weapons. The army will either join demonstrators or leave our city,” Omar al Habbai of the Local Coordination Committee told CNN.

Sham, a pro-opposition Web site, said some soldiers had deserted and embraced protesters in Hama, where the regime ceded control in June.

Since the mass protests against Assad began in March, some 1,500 civilians and 350 members of the security forces have been killed. More than 12,600 people have been arrested and 3,000 civilians are listed as missing.

Hikers Jailed In Iran Get Day In Court

TEHRAN, July 31 (UPI) — Two American hikers held in an Iranian prison for two years after straying across its border with Iraq have had a final court appearance, their attorney said.

The pair’s attorney, Masoud Shafiei, said he expects the Tehran Revolutionary Court to sentence the two hikers within a week, The Los Angeles Times reported.

The two spent four hours in court Sunday, and Shafiei said he hopes the two years Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer have spent in jail will satisfy Iranian authorities. Fattal, Bauer and Bauer’s fiancee, Sarah Shourd, crossed from Iraq into Iran while on a hike in 2009.

They are charged with espionage and trespassing. Shourd was released last year on a $500,000 bond after spending more than 400 days in solitary confinement.

“I believe that even if the court finds my clients guilty, the two years that they have already served in prison would be considered as their sentence and they would be released,” the group’s attorney, Masoud Shafiei, told CNN.

The hikers said they didn’t know they strayed across Iraq’s border into Iran.

“My clients should not be considered spies, because they lack the characteristics and backgrounds of spies,” Shafiei said.

Shafiei told Iran’s Fars News Agency he hopes the pair would be released based on “Islamic compassion,” with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan starting Monday.

“The hearing officially finished, so according to law, the judge has to issue a verdict within a week,” Shafiei told the Los Angeles Times. “I do hope the verdict will be a two-year sentence, and that means immediate release.”

A rally calling for the pair’s freedom was conducted Friday in front of the Iranian Mission in New York.

“The judiciary in Iran says it will be the final hearing,” Laura Fattal, mother of Josh Fattal, said Friday. “We hope and pray that this is true.”

Serbia Irked By Kosovo Again

BELGRADE, Serbia, July 31 (UPI) — The Serbian government issued a declaration Sunday in Belgrade denouncing the breakaway province of Kosovo for unilaterally imposing customs border controls.

Debate on the wording of the resolution began Saturday afternoon and continued into the early hours of Sunday, Radio B92 reported.

The government of President Boris Tadic is upset that Kosovo Albanian authorities announced this week they were going to open customs clearing offices at the Serbian border.

Tadic repeatedly stressed the dispute should be resolved without violence, the report said.

Kosovo is predominantly inhabited by ethnic Albanians, along with a minority of Serbs. Violence between the two sides led to the United Nations and European Union sending in military and diplomatic presences.

With Serbia aspiring to eventual membership in the European Union, it has had to make concessions to Kosovo’s status while still trying to represent the Serbs who live there.

The resolution passed Sunday called for a peaceful resolution to “the crisis caused by the unilateral act” and called for international support from the likes of the United Nations and European Union, the report said.