Ex-chief, Officers Accused Of Taking Money

DETROIT, Sept. 28 (UPI) — A former Michigan police chief and five detectives allegedly spent forfeited drug money on trips, prostitutes, marijuana and alcohol, officials say.

Ex-chief Michael St. Andre and the detectives of the Romulus Police Department in suburban Detroit are accused of spending more than $100,000 from the forfeited drug money, The Detroit News reported Wednesday.

St. Andre, who announced his retirement as chief Sept. 14, is accused of spending $75,000 from the fund for the purchase and operation of a tanning salon run by his wife Sandra Vlaz-St. Andre. The couple, both 50, face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of misusing money.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy alleges the cash skimming began in January 2006 and continued through this month.

Worthy said officers falsified reports and put city funds into personal bank accounts.

St. Andre allegedly paid for airline tickets, rental cars and hotel stays for a female friend and her daughter, Worthy said.

Worthy said the investigation began in January 2009 after a “highly placed” police official asked Michigan State Police to investigate the department’s use of drug-forfeiture funds.

Worthy said the charges grew out of the investigation into a “culture of corruption and greed at its core.”

The five detectives, who worked in the department’s Special Investigation Unit, have been suspended without pay.

Detectives Richard Balzer, 50, Richard Landry, 39, and Donald Hopkins, 38, face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty on charges that include conducting a criminal enterprise and conspiracy to conduct a criminal enterprise. Detectives Jeremy Channells, 35, and Larry Droege, 32, face up to five years if convicted on charges of misconduct in office.

‘Baby Joseph,’ Center Of Right-to-life Debate, Dies

WINDSOR, Ontario, Sept. 28 (UPI) — A 20-month-old Canadian boy who sparked a right-to-life debate in Canada and the United States has died at home, his family said.

Joseph Maraachli was born with a degenerative brain disease in Windsor, Ontario, and died Tuesday afternoon with his parents and other family members at his side, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

The child made international headlines and became known as “Baby Joseph” after doctors at a hospital in London, Ontario, refused to perform a tracheotomy to allow the infant to breathe, saying it was futile. They also recommended removing a breathing tube.

His mother, Sana Nader, and father, Moe Maraachli, launched a legal battle that resulted in a U.S. Catholic group called Priests for Life funding flying the child to a hospital in St. Louis, Mo., where the tracheotomy was performed.

The infant returned home in April and drew international support from right-to-life groups opposed to doctors removing life-support measures.

A private funeral for the boy was scheduled Wednesday before burial beside his sister, who also died at an early age of a neurological disorder, the CBC said.

Toddler Shot In Melee At Philly House

PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 28 (UPI) — A 2-year-old girl was shot in Philadelphia when a mob of girls rushed a house and gunfire erupted in a dispute stemming from a high school fight, police said.

The toddler was in critical condition while three other people shot in the Tuesday evening incident were in stable condition, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wednesday.

A fight among girls at South Philadelphia High School led to the altercation and the shooting, Police spokesman Lt. Raymond Evers said.

Some of the girls from the high school fight showed up at the South Bucknell Street of another girl, he said.

“The girls were pushing into the house.”

Neighbors got involved, and one girl called an unidentified man, Evers said.

A group of men arrived at the house and the fighting escalated when two men pulled out guns and one began firing, he said.

The 2-year-old, shot in the stomach and hip areas and in a hand, was being treated at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Inquirer reported.

Border Fence Fails To End Drug Smuggling

NOGALES, Ariz., Sept. 28 (UPI) — A new border fence in Nogales, Ariz., is no barrier to drug smugglers who simply make narcotics hand-offs between the fence’s re-enforced bars, officials said.

The Santa Cruz County Metro Task Force says its investigators discovered a number of oddly shaped bundles of marijuana during a recent drug seizure, the Nogales International reported Tuesday.

Forty-eight pounds of marijuana had been wrapped in thin tubular packages investigators say they believe were slipped through the fence, which has interconnected, concrete-filled steel tubes with an approximately 4-inch open space between them.

Task force Lt. Gerry Castillo dubbed the transfers “boom-boom” hand-offs in which someone on the Mexico side quickly pushes a package through to a person on the U.S. side before fleeing.

Passing contraband through the fence is nothing new and smugglers use “any method they can conceive of,” Border Patrol Agent Eric Cantu said.

The $11.6-million, 2.8-mile border fence was completed this summer following a groundbreaking in March.

Federal Agent Charged With Child Porn

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., Sept. 28 (UPI) — A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official in Florida pleaded not guilty Wednesday to federal child pornography charges, officials said.

The Justice Department said Anthony Mangione, 50, of Parkland, Fla., was arrested Tuesday by FBI agents and detectives from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. He was arraigned Wednesday in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Mangione was the regional chief of ICE in South Florida, until his suspension in April after four images of child pornography were allegedly found on his computer, The Miami Herald said.

A Justice Department statement said Mangione pleaded not guilty to child pornography offenses on the Internet, including transporting and receiving “visual depictions of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.”

Airport Sues Over Damage From Obama Visit

WORCESTER, Mass., Sept. 28 (UPI) — A Massachusetts airport filed a lawsuit seeking a $676,000 from the U.S. Secret Service for damage it says vehicles accompanying President Barack Obama caused.

Marlboro Airport says in the suit vehicles with the president’s entourage rode onto the airfield without permission, damaging the 1,682-foot runway and grass apron during the president’s April 1, 2010, visit, the Boston Herald reported Wednesday.

Marlborough Airport Properties Inc. filed the Unfair and Deceptive Trade lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Worcester.

“As of right now, the commander in chief is not welcome at this airport unless we have a written agreement before the fact,” said airport owner and manager Robert Stetson.

Obama landed in Marlboro in a helicopter for a visit to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency in Framingham after record flooding.

The helicopter did not cause damage, the suit says.

Stetson said the airfield is designed for airplanes, not vehicles, and it’s especially vulnerable to damage in early spring.

“I don’t put ground vehicles out there when the frost is coming out of the ground,” he said. “That runway pavement was floating on a giant mud puddle.”

Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan declined comment, saying the agency won’t talk about pending litigation.

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported Evans J. Carter, the airport’s lawyer, said the suit came after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security denied a claim by the airport.

Judge: Medical Pot Case Charges To Stand

LAS VEGAS, Sept. 28 (UPI) — A Nevada judge has ruled a criminal case against the owners of a Las Vegas medical marijuana dispensary can proceed.

Clark County District Court Judge Doug Smith allowed an indictment to stand against six people arrested in a police raid of a dispensary called Jolly Green Meds, saying the state’s medical marijuana laws aren’t too vague to allow charges to stand, the Las Vegas Sun reported Tuesday.

But the judge also noted Nevada’s laws fail to provide a way for patients with a doctor’s prescription to legally obtain marijuana.

Attorney Michael Cristalli, representing Jolly Green Meds owner Daniel Kinshella, said he would appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.

“How can someone be placed on notice that they’re committing a crime if the Constitution of the state authorizes what they’re doing?” Cristalli asked.

A state constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2000 allows medical cardholders to grow and possess small amounts of marijuana, but other state and federal laws make it illegal to buy or sell marijuana.

The six defendants arrested at Jolly Green Meds face charges of felony conspiracy, sale of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana.

Sixteen May Have Died From Tainted Cantaloupe

ATLANTA, Sept. 28 (UPI) — As many as 16 people may died after eating cantaloupes infected with Listeria and U.S. health officials say more deaths may occur.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said a total of 72 persons infected with the four outbreak-associated strains of Listeria have been reported to CDC from 18 states.

Collaborative investigations indicate the source of the outbreak is whole cantaloupe grown at Jensen Farms’ production fields in Granada, Colo.

Thirteen deaths have been reported — two in Colorado, one in Kansas, one in Maryland, one in Missouri, one in Nebraska, four in New Mexico, one in Oklahoma and two in Texas — but three additional deaths are believed linked to the cantaloupes as well, CDC officials say.

Jensen Farms issued a voluntary recall of its Rocky Ford brand cantaloupes and consumers who want to reduce their risk of Listeria infection should not eat Rocky Ford cantaloupes from Jensen Farms, CDC officials say.

“Even if some of the cantaloupe has been eaten without becoming ill, dispose of the rest of the cantaloupe immediately. Listeria bacteria can grow in the cantaloupe at room and refrigerator temperatures,” CDC officials say in a statement.

Listeriosis can be fatal, especially in certain high-risk groups including older adults, people with compromised immune systems and certain chronic medical conditions — such as cancer — and unborn babies and newborns. In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth and serious illness or death in newborn babies, though the mother herself rarely becomes seriously ill, officials at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration say.

The cantaloupes are packed in cartons labeled: Frontera Produce, www.fronteraproduce.com, or with Frontera Produce, Rocky Ford Cantaloupes. However, not all of the recalled cantaloupes are labeled with a sticker and consumers should consult the retailer if they have questions about the origin of a cantaloupe, FDA officials say.

Caroline Smith DeWaal, the food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, says the contaminated cantaloupe may have left behind the deadly pathogen in consumers’ homes and refrigerators, where it may live on for months.

“Wash and sanitize all surfaces touched by the cantaloupe to eliminate Listeria, such as counters, vegetable bins and shelves, sponges and dishcloths,” DeWaal said. “In addition, all food that might have touched the cantaloupe or a potentially contaminated surface should be discarded.”

‘Is My Son Gay?’ App Aims For Humor

NEW YORK, Sept. 28 (UPI) — A Google Android app aimed at mothers who think their son might be gay has some gay advocates cringing, a report said.

CBS New York says the “Is My Son Gay?” smartphone app asks 20 questions such as “Does your son dress well?” “Is his best friend a girl?” and “Are you divorced?”

Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Educational Network, said the questions are “horrendous stereotypes that would be completely laughable if they weren’t so dangerous.”

The developer of the app said it is meant to be a humorous approach towards helping moms accept their sons’ homosexuality, the report said.

Nevada Sued Over Motorcycle Helmet Law

LAS VEGAS, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Twelve motorcycle riders filed a class action lawsuit against Nevada’s Clark County over enforcement of the state’s helmet law, authorities said.

The suit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court against the county and five of its cities: Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson, Mesquite and Boulder City, the Las Vegas Sun reported.

“Defendants, through their agents, have an ongoing pattern and practice of issuing helmet tickets to the class members that are not supported by constitutionally sufficient probable cause, thereby violating the civil rights of the class members,” the suit, filed by Las Vegas attorney Travis Barrick, charges.

The helmet law is enforced “as a pretext for invading the liberties and civil rights” of the class members, the suit says.

A number of effort have been made to repeal Nevada’s 1972 law requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets as a safety measure but all have failed, the Sun said.

The suit, if certified as a class, could represent more than 40,000 motorcycle riders in Clark County.

Bear With Internet Following Believed Shot

MINNEAPOLIS, Sept. 28 (UPI) — A Minnesota black bear whose birth and life made her an Internet star was apparently shot and killed by a hunter this month, wildlife experts said.

Bear researcher Lynn Rogers said had been resigned to the possibility the bear, dubbed “Hope,” had been shot since she went missing Sept. 14.

Rogers said he got an e-mail Tuesday from a hunter friend who said he shot a yearling bear drawn to bait he set out, the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune reported.

The bear wasn’t wearing the radio collar that would have identified it as a research animal, the hunter told Rogers.

Rogers said Hope had been able to get out of the collar four times before.

Hope’s death set off a flood of Facebook messages from fans expressing sadness and some expressing anger over hunting.

Rogers tried to calm the outrage with posts on Facebook and on the North American Bear Center Web site.

“The hunter is known to us and has cooperated with us in the past,” he posted. “He would never shoot a collared bear and would not have deliberately shot Hope.”

Record Hispanic Vote In 2010 Elections

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Hispanic voters comprised a record 7 percent of ballots cast in the 2010 congressional elections, the U.S. Census Bureau said Wednesday.

The figure was the highest percentage of participation by Hispanics for a non-presidential election since the bureau began collecting such data in 1974. Hispanics made up 6 percent of the electorate in 2006.

African-American participation also increased from 11 percent in 2006 to 12 percent in 2010, matching the record high in 1998.

The full data are available in the Census Bureau’s “Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2010″ report.

“These statistics show that the nation’s electorate is becoming increasingly diverse,” said Tiffany Julian, of the Census Bureau’s Education and Social Stratification Branch. “The electorate looks much different than when we first started collecting these data 37 years ago.”

Asian-American participation remained constant at just over 2 percent, while the non-Hispanic white vote fell from 80.4 percent in 2006 to 77.5 percent in 2010, the bureau said.

Maine and Washington state had the highest voter turnout rates at more than 55 percent, while Texas was last at less than 40 percent.

Hog Rustling Has Minn. Farmers Worried

MINNEAPOLIS, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Farmers in southern Minnesota say they’ll be locking their barns after nearly 750 pigs worth $130,000 were stolen from two farms.

“Four years ago, when the hog industry was losing money, we’d joke about locking the barns and walking away,” Doug Wenner told the Minneapolis Tribune Tuesday from his hog farm west of St. Peter. “Now you lock the doors and wish somebody was there 24/7.”

Police said they are investigating the theft of 150 hogs from a farm in Lafayette this month and 594 hogs in Kandiyohi County the month before.

The thieves had to know the animals had reached market size — 250 to 275 pounds — and where to take them, said Tim Waibel, who raises 24,000 hogs a year.

“This is somebody who knows hogs and knows the area,” Waibel said. “It’s not somebody from 60 miles away.”

Reuben Bode, who has raised hogs in the area for 40 years, said he thinks there were two groups of thieves involved — those who stole the hogs, and dishonest farmers who are holding them, possibly for months, before sending them to market in another state.

Prosecutors Detail Alleged Terror Plot

BALTIMORE, Sept. 28 (UPI) — A man charged with trying to blow up a Baltimore-area military recruiting center believed at least six soldiers were in the building, federal prosecutors say.

The Baltimore Sun reported what prosecutors called a “full confession” by Antonio Martinez, aka Muhammad Hussein, is detailed in a 30-page document filed in U.S. District Court Tuesday.

Martinez, 22, allegedly tried to detonate with a remote-controlled device the inert vehicle bomb, supplied by agents in a sting, after parking it outside the Armed Forces Career Center in Catonsville.

Prosecutors said a man he knew as an “Afghani brother” — actually an FBI agent — had confirmed “at least six soldiers” were in the center before Martinez allegedly tried to detonate the fake bomb Dec. 8.

Martinez, who prosecutors said was a recent convert to Islam who viewed himself as a radical “holy warrior,” is charged with the attempted murder of a federal official and the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

A confidential informant had come across Martinez’s Facebook page with “extremist views” and informed the FBI on Oct. 8 about postings on the site, including one in which he wrote of “attacking Army recruiting centers,” obtaining guns and targeting military installations, prosecutors said.

An FBI agent posing as an “Afghani brother” introduced himself to Martinez and eventually supplied the phony explosive, the document said.

Martinez’s public defenders have argued investigators induced his participation and violated his constitutional rights because they had not recorded his confession and several early conversations with an unnamed informant posing as a conspirator, the Sun said.

Pakistan Questions U.S. Commitments

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Islamabad isn’t convinced that the United States is a true partner in the fight against regional terrorism, the Pakistani foreign minister said.

Ties between Washington and Islamabad are strained following the raid by U.S. Navy SEALs inside Pakistan that left al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden dead. The relationship is strained further following accusations the militant Haqqani network has ties to Pakistan’s intelligence agency.

U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers last week that Pakistan’s reputation as a “respected nation” was at stake because of suspected ties to militant groups like Haqqani.

Pakistani officials have countered that the CIA may have its own connections to terrorist organizations. Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said, in an interview with National Public Radio, that “any intelligence” agency likely has ties to terrorist groups but that doesn’t necessarily qualify as a collaborative relationship.

Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, told reporters during her regular press briefing that the Haqqani network remained a top bilateral concern.

“The United States and Pakistan, although it’s not always easy, have a vital interest in fighting counter-terrorism together,” she said.

Khar, in her statements to NPR, said she was “convinced” the issue was a common problem.

“I’m just not so convinced that your people are convinced we are in it together,” she said.

Hackers Impersonating ‘trusted’ Web Pages

MCLEAN, Va., Sept. 28 (UPI) — Three companies working with Web browsers to ensure the authenticity of Web pages where consumers enter sensitive information have been hacked, authorities say.

They are among more than 650 digital certificate authorities worldwide that certify that Web pages displayed by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome are authentic and not fakes trying to capture and steal information such as account logons and credit card numbers, USA Today reported Tuesday.

This summer a hacker gained access to Dutch digital certificate supplier DigiNotar and began issuing forged certificates for dozens of companies.

That led to faked pages impersonating online sites of Google, Microsoft, Skype, Equifax, Twitter, Facebook and the CIA, among others.

Two other digital certificate companies, one in the United States and one in Japan, were similarly hacked this summer, exposing weakness in Internet security.

“The infrastructure baked into the Internet, which is based on trust, is starting to fall apart,” Michael Sutton of security company Zscaler said.

The attacks demonstrated that scammers can “impersonate any site on the Internet,” Josh Shaul, chief technical officer at security company AppSec, said.

Alleged School Shooting Plot Trial Delayed

COVINGTON, La., Sept. 28 (UPI) — Missing evidence from a Facebook page has delayed the trial of three boys accused of plotting a shooting spree at a Louisiana high school, prosecutors say.

The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported Tuesday prosecutors said the mother of Todd Singleton, the group’s alleged ringleader, deleted the invite-only Facebook page “Day Zero,” on which the boys purportedly planned the attack at Lakeshore High School, then destroyed her son’s computer.

The trial of Singleton, Jacob Keller and Daniel Hopkins, all 15, was to begin next week. They are charged with conspiracy to commit terrorizing and solicitation for murder.

Judge Mary Devereux granted a delay requested by prosecutors.

The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, which has issued subpoenas to Facebook, is working with federal agencies and authorities in California to serve a search warrant to the social media site, based in Palo Alto, Calif., the Times-Picayune said.

The boys allegedly plotted to attack during the first day of school on the Facebook page, accessible only to people invited to join the group.

Prosecutors are relying on statements the boys gave to police, an exchange of text messages, online messages between the boys and the missing Facebook page.

Police said after their arrests the boys had a detailed plan to shoot at least one student, a staff member and anyone who tried to stop them, then commit suicide.

Detective Brian Beech testified at a hearing Friday Singleton had told him Aug. 1 the boys planned to steal guns from a safe, shoot one specific student, the school resources officer and as many others as they could. Beech said he took notes but did not record the interview.

Obama: Immigrants Need Path To Citizenship

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 (UPI) — U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday said “we are a nation of immigrants” and “we need a system that works for all of us.”

Speaking at an “Open for Questions” roundtable at the White House, Obama answered Yahoo!, MSN Latino and AOL Latino/Huffington Post Latino Voices readers’ questions on immigration, employment, education and healthcare.

“We are a nation of laws, but we’re also a nation of immigrants. Immigrants have … strengthened America’s economy,” Obama said, noting he was a co-sponsor of comprehensive immigration reform legislation as a U.S. senator.

“We need a system that works for all of us. … For those persons are here, we have to … provide a legal pathway so they can get out of the shadows and contribute to society,” Obama said.

The president said increased border security is an important first step in controlling immigration. He said the increase in deportations under his administration is due to more apprehensions at the border and not the result of tracking down illegal immigrants who have “put down roots here and are part of the fabric of our community.”

The president lamented there are no more Republican supporters of the Dream Act, a bill that would grant permanent residency to some undocumented students who graduate from U.S. high schools. He said he wants to “push Republicans back to where they were” a few years ago, adding, “Our enforcement priority is not to chase down young people who are going to school.”

“We’ve tried to be as fair, humane and just as we can, recognizing the laws themselves need to be changed,” he said.

Addressing questions on the struggling economy and the 11.3 percent unemployment rate among Hispanics in America, Obama said the recession that has dominated much of his administration is a “worldwide phenomenon” and put some of the blame on Europe, which he said hasn’t put its best foot forward in trying to control its banking crisis. He also blamed turmoil in the Middle East and the ensuing increase in oil and gas prices for constraining U.S. economic growth.

Obama said he is introducing tax breaks that would boost construction and education, sectors of the economy many Hispanics rely on for employment.

The president also emphasized his efforts to reform underperforming schools to mitigate dropout rates and urged American youth to “turn off the TV, stop playing the video games, do your homework.”

Teens Charged With Making Bombs

SNELLVILLE, Ga., Sept. 28 (UPI) — Five Georgia teenagers are facing felony charges after they were found setting off homemade bombs in the back yard of a home in Snellville, police said.

Authorities were called by neighbors who reported hearing at least eight blasts they thought were gunshots. WSB-TV in Atlanta reported Wednesday.

Snellville Detective Jim McDonald said when police arrived at the scene they surrounded a home on Windmeyer Court and ordered everyone inside to come out.

“We saw at least half a dozen police officers swarm our cul-de-sac with guns drawn,” said neighbor Laura Mayske.

Police went into the back yard of the home where they found five teenagers ranging in age from 16 to 19 setting off homemade bombs made of water bottles filled with bathroom cleaning fluids.

The teens are facing felony charges for possessing and manufacturing destructive devices.

Two parents were charged with unruly conduct after they told police they thought what the teens were engaged in was just “harmless fun.”

U.S. Attitudes On Homosexuality Shifting

CHICAGO, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Public attitudes toward gays and lesbians are rapidly changing to reflect greater acceptance, particularly in younger generations, a U.S. report says.

The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago says in addition to growing numbers of Americans who now approve of same-sex marriage, there is overwhelming support for basic civil liberties and freedom of expression for gays and lesbians, a university release said Wednesday.

Support for same-sex marriage has risen over the last two decades, going from 11 percent approval in 1988 to 46 percent in 2010, the NORC General Social Survey indicates.

The survey results show a clear “trend toward greater tolerance regarding homosexuality,” said Tom W. Smith, director of the survey.

But different age groups weighed in differently on the question, he said.

“There is a large generation gap on the issue [of same-sex marriage],” Smith said.

While 64 percent of those under 30 back same-sex marriage, only 27 percent of those 70 and older support it, he said.

The report is based on findings of the latest survey conducted in 2010 with a cross sample of more than 2,000 people.

Russia: Muslim Holiday Ruling Reversed

MOSCOW, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Russia’s top court has reversed a decision that would have made two major Muslim holidays regular working days in the Muslim republic of Bashkiria.

The Russian Supreme Court had ruled last week that Eid al-Adha and Edi ul-Fitr, traditionally public holidays in Bashkiria, should be considered regular working days after a local resident filed a complaint that the public holidays violated his “constitutional right to work,” RIA Novosti reported Wednesday.

The decision was reversed after the government of Bashkiria, which adopted Eid al-Adha and Eid ul-Fitr as public holidays in 1992, sent an appeal to the Supreme Court, the report said.