Judge: Girl Who Killed Family Now Low-risk

CALGARY, Alberta, Sept. 28 (UPI) — A Canadian judge says an Alberta girl convicted of helping kill her parents and brother when she was 12 in 2006 is ready for limited freedom soon.

The girl, who turns 18 next month, made a video appearance before a sentencing review hearing from Calgary to Justice Scott Brooker in Medicine Hat, the girl’s hometown in southeastern Alberta.

The teenager, who can’t be named because she is still a minor, was given the maximum youth sentence of 10 years for the triple homicide of her parents and 8-year-old brother. She was dating then 23-year-old Jeremy Steinke and her parents wanted the relationship to end, the court heard.

Steinke was also convicted of stabbing the family to death as they slept and is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years, the Calgary Herald said.

The judge said he was satisfied with case workers’ reports the girl has made progress and will be ready for reintegration into the community with monitoring and conditions.

“I’ve read the various reports and I think it’s fair to say the reports are very positive,” Brooker said. “It’s clear from the experts the young person present is a low risk for future violence, and has been cooperating fully in the treatment program.”

Among the restrictions on her freedom is a curfew, weekly parole visits, either working or going to school, avoiding alcohol and drugs and no weapons, the report said.

Her Internet usage and cellphone are also subject to scrutiny with a warrant, the judge ordered.

U.S. Watching North Korea’s Leadership

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Timing of any future provocative act by North Korea depends on the health of its leader, Kim Jong Il, the top U.S. military commander in the Pacific said.

Adm. Robert Willard, speaking at a briefing in Washington Tuesday, said the United States is monitoring North Korea for signs that the reclusive nation may be planning aggressive actions in light of its succession process, Stars and Stripes reported.

Western leaders said they believe Kim Jong Un, Kim’s son, has been designated the next ruler of the country.

“We try to determine the succession dynamics that are ongoing, especially as we approach 2012, which the North Koreans have declared as an auspicious year for themselves and what that may portend in terms of Kim Jong Un’s leadership position,” Willard said.

A North Korean torpedo sank the South Korean warship Cheonan in March 2010, killing 46 sailors and heightening tensions between the two countries. In November 2010, North Korea attacked a South Korean island, killing two South Korean marines and two civilians.

Recently, however, North Korean officials signaled an interest in resuming six-party international talks about the country’s nuclear program.

In the past, North Korea’s succession process has led to provocations as the possible new leader attempts to establish his credibility with the North Korean military, Willard said.

He noted Kim Jong Un’s presence during the 2010 attacks “was not lost on us.”

Willard said attitudes in South Korea toward its northern neighbor have “fundamentally changed.”

“There is very strong … intolerance at this point for any further provocations,” he said.

Father Says Egyptian Blogger Near Death

CAIRO, Sept. 28 (UPI) — An imprisoned Egyptian blogger on a hunger strike for more than a month must be freed immediately before he dies, his family told the military.

Nabil Sanad said his son Maikel Nabil has lost more than 33 pounds since he stopped eating prison food 35 days ago, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.

“I’m afraid my son is dying,” Sanad told a news conference Tuesday.

Maikel Nabil was arrested March 28 after denouncing in an online blog post the actions of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces during the January revolution.

He was subsequently sentenced to three years in prison for “insulting the military.”

At the news conference Nabil’s brother said Nabil is suffering from scabies, cardiac arrhythmia and kidney problems.

“We have medication for him but they (prison authorities) won’t give it to him,” said his brother Marc.

Prison authorities have told the family that hunger strikers rarely survive longer than 40 days.

Japanese Teen Dies During Exorcism

KUMAMOTO, Japan, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Police in Japan’s Kumamoto prefecture say they arrested a monk and a 50-year-old man for killing the man’s teenage daughter during an exorcism.

Police said 13-year-old Tomomi Maishigi suffocated to death after she was tied to a chair and doused with water to exorcise “an evil spirit,” The Yomiuri Shimbun reported Wednesday.

Her father Atsushi Maishigi and Kazuaki Kinoshita, a 56-year-old monk, are being held on suspicion of causing bodily injury that resulted in death.

“My daughter was possessed,” Maishigi said. “So we performed the ritual on her to exorcise the demons so she could get well.”

During the ritual, performed under a concrete waterfall at a church in Nagasumachi, Maishigi held his daughter down while Kinoshita recited sutras, police said.

The girl reportedly suffered from mental and physical illness since she was in primary school.

Kumamoto prefecture is in south western Japan.

Eight Die In Attacks Across Iraq

BAGHDAD, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Eight people were killed and eight others, including a police officer, were injured in attacks across Iraq, security officials said Wednesday.

Five Iraqi citizens were killed and seven injured in an attack on a house of the pro-government al-Sahwa Force leader south of Fallujah, Aswat al-Iraq reported.

Security officials said the unnamed leader was not home when the attack occurred, a security official said.

“A group of armed men have attacked the house of a leader of al-Sahwa Force in Annaz village, southeast of Fallujah, killing five civilians, including two children, and wounding seven others,” the official said.

Separately, coalition and Iraqi forces killed two men during a clash Wednesday in Mariam Beg, a village south of Kirkuk, the city’s police director said.

Officials said the two men, who escaped, were trying to plant a bomb, Aswat al-Iraq said.

A security official told Aswat al-Iraq an Iraqi civilian was shot and killed and a police officer injured during an attack by a group of unknown gunmen Tuesday in Baghdad.

“A group of unknown gunmen have launched an attack, using silencer-equipped guns, on a car, carrying a police officer and a civilian in southern Baghdad’s Daura district late Tuesday, instantly killing the civilian and seriously wounding the officer,” the security official said.

Two Storms Meander In Tropical Atlantic

MIAMI, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Two storm systems swirled in the tropical Atlantic Ocean Wednesday, with neither posing a threat to land, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Neither Tropical Storm Philippe nor Tropical Depression Ophelia prompted any coastal watches or warnings, the center said in its 5 a.m. EDT advisory.

Philippe, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph, was about 930 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands, traveling west-northwest at 12 mph.

The tropical storm was expected to shift to a more northwesterly track and increase its forward speed during the next two days, the center said. It was expected to weaken and could become a tropical depression by Wednesday night or Thursday.

Tropical Depression Ophelia, with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph, was about 205 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands, traveling on a northwesterly path at 3 mph, the center said.

Ophelia is expected to turn more to the north-northwest with increase its forward speed over the next couple of days, the center said.

The center said the Ophelia was expected to re-strengthen to a tropical storm later Wednesday.

Ophelia could produce 1-3 inches over the northern Leeward Islands, the center said.

Shooter Not Among The Dead In Indiana

LAUREL, Ind., Sept. 28 (UPI) — Residents of Laurel, Ind. were told to keep their doors locked Wednesday while authorities search for suspects in the shooting deaths of five rural residents.

The Franklin County coroner identified the dead as 47-year-old Angela Napier, her former husband Roy Napier, 50, Melissa Napier, 23, and Jacob Napier, 18. The body of the fifth victim, Henry Smith, 43, was found across the street from the Napier home, WRTV, Indianapolis, reported.

State police said they have determined the shooter was not among the dead.

“We have officially started a murder investigation,” Sgt. Jerry Goodin told a news conference. “We are continuing to follow numerous tips and leads and we are encouraging the public to continue contacting us with those tips and leads.

The bodies of the five were discovered after a 4-year-old girl who escaped the crime scene was found walking down the road Sunday wearing only a pair of cotton pants, WKRC-TV, Cincinnati, reported.

A couple that spotted the little girl called police.

Palestinian Prisoners Stage Hunger Strike

JERUSALEM, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Palestinian inmates at four prisons in Israel have launched a hunger strike, Israel’s Prison Service confirmed Wednesday.

The 85 security inmates are demanding that Palestinian prisoners separated from the general inmate population be returned to regular wings of the four prisons, Ynetnews.com reported.

Issa Karaka, Palestinian minister for prisoner affairs, said the prisoners decided to hold a hunger strike every week on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays until their demands are met.

Karaka said if the government fails to respond the prisoners will go a step further and disobey prison rules.

Prisons involved in the protest are Nafha, Eshel, Ramon and Ketziot.

Security Tightened Along West Bank

JERUSALEM, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Israeli officials tightened security and closed access to the West Bank for Rosh Hashanah Wednesday.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the closure, which started at midnight Tuesday, will continue through the weekend. Exceptions will be made for medical emergencies and other humanitarian issues at the government’s discretion, Ynetnews.com reported.

The report said a massive police presence was expected in city centers and communities adjacent to the West Bank.Traffic jams and airport crowds were expected across Israel as the Jewish state celebrates the two-day Rosh Hashanah holiday.

Weather forecasters predicted a light rain in the north of the country and along the coast, Haaretz reported.

Police warned they would strictly enforce traffic laws despite the jams that are expected as Israelis hit the road to celebrate the Jewish New Year with family and friends.

Nearly 86,000 people are expected to fly out of Ben Gurion International Airport on 567 flights during the holiday.

The most popular holiday destinations are Greece, the United States, Germany, Italy, Russia and Ukraine.

Airport officials predict an estimated 1.16 million travelers will pass through the airport during the entire fall Jewish holiday season.

Jared Loughner Faces Competency Hearing

TUCSON, Sept. 28 (UPI) — The man charged in the Tucson shooting spree that killed six people and wounded 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, faces a competency hearing in Arizona.

Jared Loughner is expected to be at the hearing Wednesday in Tucson that is to decide whether he should remain jailed in Missouri or if he is competent enough to stand trial, CNN reported.

Loughner is charged in the Jan. 8 shooting rampage outside of a supermarket in Tucson that left six people dead, including a child and a federal judge. Thirteen others were wounded, including Giffords, D-Ariz.

He pleaded not guilty.

Last month, federal authorities asked for more time to try to restore his competency, saying he was unable to stand trial. He was diagnosed as schizophrenic and placed on suicide watch.

He has been incarcerated at a federal prison in Springfield, Mo., since May, after a federal appeals court said he could be forcibly medicated despite objections of Loughner and his lawyers.

Lawmaker Accused Of Selling His Office

BALTIMORE, Sept. 28 (UPI) — A Maryland lawmaker was accused of selling his office for $245,000 at the opening of his Baltimore trial on federal bribery and extortion charges.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen O. Gavin told jurors 74-year-old state Sen. Ulysses Currie conspired with two executives to provide government favors to Shoppers Food Warehouse, The Washington Post reported.

Gavin said the Prince Georges County Democrat failed to disclose payments he received.

“This is a case about a politician who took bribes,” Gavin said in her opening statement Tuesday. “He sold his office for almost a quarter of a million dollars.”

The prosecution charges Currie helped Shoppers transfer a liquor license, get a rent reduction for one store, win approval for a stop light at another store and secure a road improvement for a third location.

Attorneys for Currie and the two corporate executives said Currie’s work was not a secret since he had signed a consulting contract with the chain.

Currie appeared in public at store openings, the attorneys said.

“Their allegations simply do not make sense,” said Lucius T. Outlaw III, assistant federal public defender.

Yemen Says Rebels Downed Plane

SANAA, Yemen, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Yemeni government officials Wednesday blamed the opposition for shooting down a war plane that crashed north of the capital Sanaa.

State television blamed three members of the opposition for downing the plane, which occurred as anti-government protests attracted huge crowds, CNN reported.

The plane crashed near Arhab north of Sanaa.

An opposition fighter said the plane was used to attack people in the area. Anti-government protesters have been seeking the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who made a surprise return Friday from Saudi Arabia, where he had been recovering from injuries he sustained in a bombing of his residential palace during the summer.

“The government is attacking and killing our loved ones because they have the weapons. We have to fight back and we will do so,” Abdullah al-Shaleef told CNN.

Government officials said Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser Ahmed survived an assassination attempt Tuesday in the port city of Aden, where an attacker detonated a car bomb next to the minister’s convoy, The New York Times reported.

The government said in a statement several of the minister’s guards were wounded. Witnesses said the explosion occurred as the convoy left a hotel.

The government blamed “terrorists from al-Qaida.”

Chaplains Say They’ve Witnessed Jail Abuse

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Three volunteers at a Los Angeles County jail say they’ve witnessed sheriff’s deputies abusing inmates, a report said.

Two chaplains and a Hollywood producer who volunteered at Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles have submitted sworn statements expected to be filed in court by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

The volunteers allege they witnessed beatings of inmates by deputies in cases where the prisoner appeared not to be resisting. The volunteers said they found supervisors unresponsive to their complaints.

The Los Angeles Times said the FBI has is looking into at least two inmate allegations of abuse, as well as an incident in which an ACLU monitor saw deputies beat an unconscious inmate.

Iran To Deploy Ships Near U.S. Sea Borders

TEHRAN, Sept. 28 (UPI) — An Iranian naval official said the country’s navy plans to deploy ships in the Atlantic Ocean near U.S. maritime borders.

“Just like the global hegemony that is present near our marine borders, we … also plan to establish a strong presence near U.S. marine borders,” the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari as saying Tuesday.

U.S. Defense Department officials did not have an immediate comment, CNN said. The United States has deployed fleets to the Persian Gulf.

Iranian media quoted naval officials as saying the country would establish a presence in the Atlantic Ocean “the same way that the [world’s] arrogant power is present near our marine borders.”

Sayyari also said ships would be deployed in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea Aden to protect vessels from pirates who hijack ships for ransom.

Meanwhile, Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi kicked off the production line of the cruise missile called Qader (the Able) Wednesday, IRNA reported.

The inauguration occurred on the last day of Holy Defense Week, an annual commemoration of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

The cruise missile has a 125-mile range, Vahidi said.

Christie Skirts 2012 Presidential Bid

SIMI VALLEY, Calif., Sept. 28 (UPI) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie remained coy about whether he’d enter the Republican presidential race despite pleas from some quarters for him to run.

Speaking at the Ronald Reagan President Library in Simi Valley, Calif. Tuesday, Christie called for strong leadership but said nothing to indicate he might jump into the GOP race, The Washington Post reported.

Christie has said he wasn’t interested in trying to claim the party’s nomination for the 2012 election.

During a question-and-answer session, a woman stood up and pleaded, “I really implore you — I really do. This isn’t funny. I mean this with all my heart. Please, sir, reconsider. Go home and really think about it. Please. Do it for my daughter; do it for our grandchildren; do it for our sons. Please, sir, your country needs you to run for president.”

Christie said he felt the “passion” the woman conveyed and “it touches me.”

He said he was listening to people urging him to run and “feeling it too.” But, he said, “by the same token, that heartfelt message you gave me is also not a reason for me to do it. That reason has to reside inside me. That’s what I’ve said all along. … And so my answer to you is just this, I thank you for what you’re saying.”

During his remarks, Christie called on the nation’s leaders to act and lead through compromise.

“When there is a problem, you fix it,” he said. “That’s what you do. That’s what we did. That’s the job we’ve been sent to do. And you cannot wait for someone else to do it when you’re sitting in the Oval Office.”

Christie’s appearance at the library is part of a three-state fundraising trip for the New Jersey Republican Party.

Obama Reaffirms Commitment To Israel

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 (UPI) — U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States remains committed to Israel.

In a video address Tuesday before the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, Obama said his administration is working to promote prosperity at home and security and peace throughout the world.

“While we cannot know all that the New Year will bring, we do know this: the United States will continue to stand with Israel, because the bond between our two nations is unshakable,” he said.

Obama said the past year was full of struggle and hardship for people around the world and Israel faces the “uncertainties of an unpredictable age.”

“As Jewish tradition teaches us, we may not complete the work, but that must never keep us from trying,” he said.

Afghan Attack Kills Eight Police Officers

KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Militants struck the Lashkar Gah area in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province for the second straight day Wednesday, killing eight policemen, authorities said.

The attack also wounded three officers at a police post which was destroyed, CNN reported quoting provincial spokesman Daud Ahmadi.

Ahmadi said an investigation revealed it was an inside job.

“It is now clear that a policeman from the post had contacts with the Taliban who invited the Taliban to conduct the attack,” he said, adding the police officer fled with the Taliban.

Separately, China’s Xinhua news agency quoted Ahmadi as saying: “An unknown number of armed insurgents raided a police checkpoint in Nahri Sarraj district in northern part of provincial capital Lashkar Gah at about 2:00 a.m., triggering a gun battle (that) lasted for hours.

“As a result eight policemen were killed and three injured.”

On Tuesday, five people reportedly were killed and several more injured in a suicide bomb attack at a bakery near the Lashkar Gah police headquarters.

Lashkar Gah was one of seven places whose security had been transferred to Afghan forces by U.S. and NATO forces under their troop withdrawal program, set to be completed by 2014.

Also Tuesday, 16 people died when a bus carrying 20 wedding party members detonated a landmine in Afghanistan’s Herat Province.

Taliban militants were believed to have planted the mine, a police spokesman said.

Pakistanis Seen Connected To 2007 Ambush

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Sept. 28 (UPI) — A 2007 ambush in Pakistan, in which a U.S. major died, has remained under wraps but new findings suggest Pakistani involvement, a media report says.

In the May 14 incident, a group of American officers and Afghan officials who were holding talks with Pakistanis in the Teri Mangal area over a border dispute were ambushed. A U.S. major was killed and three other U.S. officers were wounded along with their Afghan interpreter, The New York Times reported.

The report said fresh accounts from Afghan and U.S. officers who were there reveal it was actually a calculated assault by Pakistanis. The U.S. soldiers returned fire before escaping in their Black Hawk helicopter.

During the attack, several gunmen opened fire without warning as the Americans and Afghans were getting ready to leave, the report said. The attackers also included Pakistani intelligence agents and military officers, the report said.

Washington apparently kept the incident quiet because of Pakistan’s strategic value, although U.S. officials reportedly aware of the double game Pakistan was playing.

The Times said reconstruction of the ambush, which officials think was revenge for Afghan or Pakistani deaths at U.S. hands, comes at a time when relations between the two countries continue to worsen.

U.S. officials and military leaders have been taking issue with Pakistan lately. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently told a Senate committee Pakistan’s intelligence service is undermining efforts in Afghanistan and has been supporting insurgents in recent attacks.

The Teri Mangal attack was first blamed by Pakistani officials on militants, and later on a rogue tribal paramilitary soldier.

Obama’s Schedule For Wednesday, Sept. 28

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 (UPI) — President Obama participates in a roundtable discussion and delivers his annual back-to-school address Wednesday, the White House said.

The daily schedule indicates Obama will:

— Participate in an “Open for Questions” roundtable, fielding questions from readers of Yahoo!, MSN Latino, and AOL Latino/Huffington Post Latino Voices.

— Meet with Vice President Joe Biden for lunch.

— Deliver a back-to-school speech at a Washington-area high school, in which he will encourage students to study hard so that they can reach their potential.

Amnesty Criticizes Thai Rebel Killings

BANGKOK, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Human rights group Amnesty International slammed rebels in southern Thailand for deliberately targeting civilians in what could be considered war crimes.

For the past 7 1/2 years armed and organized ethnic Malays — nearly all Muslims — have been fighting the officially and predominantly Buddhist Thai state. Around 5,000 people have been killed and thousands injured.

Amnesty’s 64-page report “Unlawful Killings in Thailand’s Southern Insurgency,” based on extensive interviews with victims of violence in four southernmost provinces, heavily criticized the rebels for attacking what it called soft targets.

These targets include “farmers, house workers, teachers, students, religious leaders, monks, civil servants or persons with vague or tenuous affiliation with the security forces or counterinsurgency efforts.”

“Insurgents in southern Thailand are spreading terror among the civilian population by deliberately targeting people with no role in the conflict and no one is immune from attack,” said Donna Guest, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy director.

“The insurgents must publicly commit to stopping these unlawful killings immediately.”

The report is based on the testimony of 154 interviews with witnesses and survivors, relatives and friends of victims, conducted between October 2010 and last July.

The testimonies describe 66 insurgent attacks against civilians in three southern Thai districts: Rangae in Narathiwat province, Yarang in Pattani and Yaha in Yala. Killings also have been noted in parts of neighboring Songkhla province.

“Amnesty International calls on the insurgents to immediately cease attacks deliberately targeting civilians, indiscriminate attacks and other violations of international humanitarian law, many of which constitute war crimes,” the report said.

Amnesty also comes down heavily on the Thai security forces, accusing them of torturing suspected rebels and captured fighters.

“The region is still characterized by a culture of official impunity,” Guest said. “All unlawful killings, including those allegedly by security forces, must be independently investigated and acted upon.”

After an attack by insurgents on a military base in Narathiwat province in January, at least nine suspects detained by security forces reported they were tortured while in custody.

The report said no official has faced punishment for the tortures and other alleged human rights violations, including the October 2004 incident in Tak Bai district when 78 detainees died of suffocation while being transported by the military in tightly packed trucks.

A major issue against finding a solution to the protracted conflict is that the rebels’ demands aren’t clear.

Around 94 percent of population in the four provinces consider themselves Muslim but the ability to worship and carry out Islamic religious practices hasn’t been at issue, the report says.

There is reportedly a feeling by Malays of being discriminated against by other Thai nationals, despite their majority status.

Grievances have surrounded lack of recognition of educational degrees obtained at Islamic institutions abroad and the lack of ethnic Malays in local and national government.

The area remains economically poor and ethnic Malays believe the federal government in Bangkok is little interested in investing in the area.

New Israeli Housing; U.N. Mulls Palestine

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Israel revealed plans for 1,100 new housing units beyond its pre-1967 war border as the U.N. Security Council was to mull a Palestinian U.N. membership request.

The Palestinian National Authority condemned the Israeli housing plan, with a spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas accusing Israel of placing new obstacles in the way of the peace process.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the Obama administration was “deeply disappointed” by Israel’s announcement, which came a day before Wednesday’s Security Council meeting to refer the Palestinian Authority request for state recognition, a key step toward full U.N. membership, to a committee for review.

On Friday, after Abbas submitted his recognition request, the United States, United Nations, Russia and European Union — known collectively as the Quartet — urged the authority and Israel to return to direct negotiations within a month, with no preconditions.

The statement did not mention a settlement freeze, but called on both sides “to refrain from provocative actions” and cited the sides’ obligations under a 2003 U.S.-backed “road map” peace plan that included a call for an end of all Israeli settlement building.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the authority’s settlement-freeze demand was “a pretext” to avoid direct negotiations.

He told The Jerusalem Post that during Israel’s last 10-month moratorium, the Palestinians waited nine months before sitting down to negotiate — only to walk out a month later when the moratorium on settlement construction expired.

He called on the authority to begin immediate, direct talks with no preconditions.

An Israeli Interior Ministry spokeswoman told The New York Times the timing of Tuesday’s announcement about the new settlements was determined by a lengthy approval process, not by a political agenda.

Construction is not likely to begin before 2013, she said.

The construction is proposed for the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, along with East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel later annexed the settlement to Jerusalem, a step not recognized internationally because it goes beyond the so-called Green Line for Israel’s border set out in the 1949 armistice agreements between Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.