‘Spy’ who had affair with MP cleared

LONDON, Nov. 30 (UPI) — The Russian woman who was both researcher and lover to a member of the British Parliament won her appeal Tuesday to remain in Britain.

A Special Immigration Appeals Commission panel ruled that Ekaterina Zatuliveter, 26, was not using her special relationship with Liberal Democrat Mike Hancock to gather information for the Russian government, The Independent reported.

Zatuliveter met Hancock at a conference in 2006. She was arrested in 2010 on suspicion of espionage.

Tessa Gregory, Zatuliveter’s lawyer, said intelligence agencies are supposed to be protecting Britain from “serious threats.”

“It is therefore extremely worrying that they have chosen to waste their time, at great public expense, needlessly and unfairly pursuing an innocent young woman,” she said. “Their case was built entirely on speculation, prejudice and conjecture. It was amateur and poorly researched.”

Mo. woman pleads guilty in adoption scam

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Nov. 30 (UPI) — A Missouri woman admitted trying to swindle 14 couples seeking to adopt children by pretending to be pregnant with twins she wanted to give up for adoption.

Roxanne Janel Jones, 35, of Kansas City, could be sentenced to as much as 22 years in prison after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and aggravated identity theft, The Kansas City Star reported Tuesday.

Taj A. Isaiah — who posed as Jones’ spouse, boyfriend or landlord in the scheme — has pleaded guilty to a related charge. He and Jones are to be sentenced at a joint hearing March 12.

Those defrauded include couples in Kansas, Massachusetts and California. Some are expected to travel to Kansas City to testify at sentencing.

Jones admitted contacting adoption agencies, claiming to be pregnant and, after establishing relationships with couples looking to adopt, asking them for money for food, utilities, rent and other expenses. Some of the money was transferred by wire, leading to the fraud charge, the Star said.

Jones was charged with identity theft because she had used her son’s Social Security number.

Victims of the scam also spent money on plane tickets and hotels and for attorneys and adoption agencies.

U.S.: Bonn meeting in Pakistan’s interest

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 (UPI) — It is in Pakistan’s interest to attend a conference on Afghanistan in Germany, given Pakistan’s role in Afghan stability and security, a U.S. official said.

Commenting on Pakistan’s decision to stay away from the Bonn conference, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said it would be in Pakistan’s interest to attend the meeting, which would include U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The Pakistani decision came in protest of Saturday’s NATO border airstrike in which two dozen Pakistani soldiers died. The incident has further stoked anti-U.S. feelings in Pakistan and strained bilateral relations.

Some reports have said Pakistan’s decision would be a setback to Washington, which wants Islamabad to play a bigger role in bringing the Taliban to peace negotiations to end the 10-year Afghan conflict as most U.S. are withdrawn from Afghanistan by 2014.

Asked why it would be in Pakistan’s interest to attend the meeting, Toner said: “Well again, it’s — Pakistan has a crucial role to play in supporting a secure and stable and prosperous Afghanistan. In some ways, it goes without saying.

“But I mean, it’s absolutely critical that Afghanistan’s neighbors play a role in its future development. And certainly, Pakistan — (Afghanistan’s) relationship with Pakistan has been critical in that regard.”

Toner noted that Pakistan at the recent meeting in Istanbul had pledged support for a strong, prosperous Afghanistan within the region, which he said “was a very important statement.”

Toner said 85 nations and 15 international organizations will attend the Bonn conference.

“So while we would like to have Pakistan there, we still think it’ll be a valuable opportunity to talk about Afghanistan’s future,” he said.

He said The U.S. relationship with Pakistan is “vital to our national security interests, to the interests of Afghanistan, as well as to Pakistan’s own interests.”

Despite the latest developments, Toner said Washington’s strategy and approach to Afghanistan remains on track and the Bonn conference will not be delayed or postponed.

Bar owner accused of rape, serving minors

HURON, S.D., Nov. 30 (UPI) — A South Dakota bar owner arrested last week on charges of rape and serving alcohol to minors faces five new counts of supplying alcohol to underage drinkers.

Werner Fajardo, 34, who owns the El Cuervo Bar in Huron, was arrested Saturday on the latest charges, KELO-TV, Sioux Falls, reported.

Huron Police said they found 11 minors inside the bar and five had consumed alcohol.

Fajardo had already faced charges from last week, including three counts of rape.

KELO said bond has been set at $150,000. He had paid $10,000 bond after his arrest last week.

“I was surprised to find that out that so soon after being arrested for a very serious offense that he’s in that kind of conduct,” Beadle County State’s Attorney Michael Moore said.

Fajardo’s next court appearance is set for Dec. 14.

Minister defends decision on Bonn meet

LAHORE, Pakistan, Nov. 30 (UPI) — The Pakistani Cabinet decision not to attend the Bonn conference on Afghanistan reflected the national sentiment, Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said.

Her comments to reporters in Lahore came after the Cabinet decided not to send Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to next week’s meeting in Bonn among representatives from about 90 countries to discuss the future of Afghanistan.

The decision was in protest of the NATO airstrike Saturday in Pakistan’s Mohmand Agency in which two dozen Pakistani soldiers died — further complicating the strained U.S.-Pakistan relations and stoking the anti-U.S sentiments among Pakistanis.

“It is futile to be part of a conference seeking Afghanistan’s sovereignty when your own sovereignty is breached,” Firdous said, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

Pakistan, in its reaction to the airstrike, has closed two of its supply routes to coalition forces in landlocked Afghanistan, and ordered the United States to vacate an air base in Balochistan Province.

Firdous said Pakistan had always supported the Afghan process of reconciliation and durable peace in the region, but now its own territorial integrity had been violated through unilateral action, the report said.

She said the government of Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani is considering a re-engagement strategy in line with the decision of the Defense Cabinet Committee by taking all political parties on board.

Firdous was quoted in a television interview as saying Pakistan wants harmonious relations with the international community based on equality and that no compromise would be made on national interest.

In its decision against attending the Bonn meeting, the Cabinet reaffirmed Pakistan’s support for stability and peace in Afghanistan and the importance of an Afghan led, Afghan owned process of reconciliation, the report said.

NATO has begun an investigation into the airstrike, which Pakistan says was unprovoked.

Suspect in Jersey toddler death captured

SAN DIEGO, Nov. 29 (UPI) — Authorities in San Diego said Tuesday they arrested a New Jersey man wanted for allegedly hurling his 2-year-old daughter to her death in a river.

Arthur Morgan III, 27, was arrested in San Diego Tuesday afternoon by a fugitive task force acting on information they received from New Jersey authorities.

U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Omar Castillo told KGTV-TV, San Diego, that New Jersey investigators learned Morgan had friends in San Diego’s City Heights area and was staying with them.

Morgan, who was apprehended without incident, is wanted in the death of Tierra Morgan-Glover, whose body was found strapped in a car seat in the Shark River in Monmouth County Nov. 22.

Morgan had picked the girl up from her mother the previous day for a court-approved visit. Her mom, Imani Benton, called police after Morgan and her daughter failed to return.

N.C. death penalty race bias bill revised

RALEIGH, N.C., Nov. 29 (UPI) — The North Carolina state Senate has approved changes in a law allowing inmates to use statistical evidence of racial bias to challenge their death sentences.

Democrats say the changes amount to a repeal of the 2009 Racial Justice Act but Republicans say the new legislation is just a modification. It was not certain whether Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat, would sign the measure if it reaches her desk, The (Raleigh, N.C.) News and Observer reported.

The No Discriminatory Purpose in the Death Penalty bill passed 27-17 Monday in the state Senate.

When she signed the Racial Justice Act into law, Perdue said it would ensure death sentences were “based on the facts and the law, not racial prejudice.”

Senate staff, responding to a question from Democratic state Sen. Josh Stein, said Monday the new measure negated the Racial Justice Act, returning the law to what it was before 2009.

“This is an utter and total repeal,” Stein said.

“This is not a repeal of the Racial Justice Act,” Republican Sen. Thom Goolsby said. “It’s a reform, a modification.”

State district attorneys have lobbied against the 2009 law and all but three of 157 people on death row have sought hearings under the law. Some of the appeals have nothing to do with race, the newspaper said.

Darryl Hunt, who spent 19 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, told a Senate committee Monday he was one of seven death row inmates exonerated and five of them were, like him, African-American.

“I was one vote away from the death penalty,” Hunt said. “I had 11 whites and one black on my jury. If you think that race did not play a factor in my case, then you’re not living here in North Carolina.”

Lawyers oppose bill to ban street protests

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Nov. 29 (UPI) — Lawyers in Malaysia opposed to a bill passed by the lower house of parliament to ban street protests have asked that the measure be further amended.

The bill passed despite strong protests by lawyers and others prior to its approval. The protesters say the new provisions would be even more stringent than the previous ones.

The opposition had walked out during the proceedings.

Protesters against the Peaceful Assembly Bill, led by Bar Council President Lim Chee Wee, marched to Parliament House to hand over a memorandum offering their version for the measure, the Malaysian Star reported.

Others joining the protest included civil society activists.

Lim said the Malaysian attorney general had consulted the council prior to the drafting of the bill but “the version that was tabled was very different,” the report said.

The government of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak says the bill relaxes some rules.

The New York Times said the bill requires passage by the upper house before it becomes law, but quoted analysts as saying they expect easy passage.

Opponents say the prime minister has not kept his promise to make Malaysia a “modern, progressive nation.”

Aruba releases man in missing woman case

ORANJESTAD, Aruba, Nov. 29 (UPI) — A U.S. citizen was released in Aruba Tuesday after being detained for months in the disappearance of a Maryland woman, his lawyer said.

Gary Giordano had been held in an Oranjestad jail since the Aug. 5 disappearance of Robyn Gardner of Frederick County — but without a body, a murder weapon or a clear motive, prosecutors were unable to secure an additional 30 days in jail for Giordano while they continued to investigate, ABC News reported.

“We take this in stride,” Aruban Solicitor General Taco Stein told CNN.

He said if prosecutors “will seek extradition with the United States” if necessary.

No formal charges have been brought against Giordano, 50, of Gaithersburg, Md., who told investigators he and Gardner were snorkeling when she disappeared. He told investigators he signaled her to swim back to shore with him but when he reached the beach, she was nowhere to be seen.

“I only looked back when I hit a rock,” he said. “Before that, I did not look back. I was only busy saving my life.”

Giordano stands to collect $1.5 million for a travel insurance policy on Gardner and investigators have said there are inconsistencies in his account of what happened.

“All the investigation has turned up is either nothing or facts that are not relevant to the case,” Chris Lejuez, an attorney for Giordano, told The Washington Post.

Man who had sex with girl, 12, avoids jail

TASMANIA, Australia, Nov. 29 (UPI) — An Australian judge has suspended the jail sentence for a former Tasmanian Member of Parliament who was found guilty of having sex with a 12-year-old girl.

Terry Martin, 54, was sentenced to 10 months in jail for the offense but Justice David Porter said there was no likelihood of the man re-offending, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported Tuesday.

Porter said the offense was directly related to medication Martin was taking for Parkinson’s disease, which caused hypersexual desire. The justice said Martin would never have been involved in the prostitution of the girl had it not been for the medication.

In all, Martin sought out the services of 162 sex workers, ABC reported.

He is the third person to be sentenced for having sex with the girl, who was prostituted by her mother.

Medal of Honor recipient suing firm

SAN ANTONIO, Nov. 29 (UPI) — U.S. Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer is suing a defense firm he says hurt his chances for a job by labeling him mentally unstable, court papers show.

Meyer was awarded the nation’s highest honor for gallantry in battle two months ago by President Barack Obama for service in Afghanistan when he was a sergeant in the Marine Corps. He filed an amended complaint Monday to a suit he brought against BAE Systems in a state court in San Antonio in June, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Meyer, who left active duty in May 2010, alleges BAE Systems, where he worked for a time this year, ruined his opportunity to get a job with another defense contractor when a supervisor claimed he has mental issues and a drinking problem. He contends BAE painted him as having those problems after he raised objections to the British company’s alleged decision to sell high-tech sniper scopes to the Pakistani military.

BAE said it would defend itself in court.

“Although we strongly disagree with his claims, which we will address through the appropriate legal process, we wish him success and good fortune in his endeavors,” BAE spokesman Brian J. Roehrkasse said without amplification.

Meyer’s attorney said his client would have no comment on the suit, the Journal said.

The newspaper said it wasn’t clear what Meyer’s job with BAE entailed.

Meyer was wounded as he made five trips to and from a battle zone to save 36 lives and bring back the bodies of four men.

Oily substance threatening Colo. river

DENVER, Nov. 29 (UPI) — Officials are unsure about the source of an oily muck seeping into a Colorado creek as crews work to prevent the substance from reaching the South Platte River.

“The biggest thing right now is to stop the flow of the material into the South Platte,” Curtis Kimbel, an Environmental Protection Agency emergency response manager told The Denver Post Tuesday. “Once we find out what the material is, then that will lead us to what is the source.”

Officials were alerted Monday to an oily sheen on the surface of Sand Creek, which is located near a Suncor Energy refinery. Suncor crews worked through the night, setting up booms to to pool the material.

“It could be solvent. It could be from the cooling station. It could be anything. We will find out the source in time,” said John Gallagher, Suncor vice president for refining. “We are treating it as if it is ours. We don’t know if it is ours.”

Under the Oil Pollution Act, companies that assist in the cleanup of oil spills can be reimbursed for work if a third party is determined to be responsible, the newspaper said.

One clean-up worker told the Post it appeared the oily material had been contained.

“We got it,” he said.

Financiers fronting for lottery winner

GREENWICH, Conn., Nov. 29 (UPI) — A trio of Connecticut financiers accepted a check for a $254 million Powerball drawing on behalf of an anonymous client, a friend of one of the men said.

Brandon Lacoff, Greg Skidmore and Tim Davidson of Belpointe LLC, based in Greenwich, accepted an oversized check Monday for $108 million — the after-tax lump sum amount of the winnings. Tom Gladstone, a longtime friend of Lacoff, said the three men did not purchase the ticket and were accepting the check to keep the winner’s identity a secret, The Stamford (Conn.) Advocate reported Tuesday.

“I called him last night and said, `Brandon, I saw you on Friday and you did not tell me that you won the lottery.’ He said, `we are just representing the guy,'” Gladstone said.

Gladstone said he didn’t know if the real winner was a client of Belpointe when the winning ticket was purchased “but he sure is now.”

However, a public relations specialists issued a statement on behalf of the three denying the report.

“While there has been much speculation and quite a bit of misinformation over the last 24 hours, this Trust, with its three trustees, has been established to manage the winnings in the most practical and expedient way possible so that we can achieve our strategic goal of helping those who can best benefit from these funds,” Gay Lewi said in a statement reported by CNN. “And to be clear, there are a total of three trustees and there is no anonymous fourth participant.”

Lewi said the three partners — who have formed the Putnam Avenue Family Trust, with each serving as a trustee — will distribute $1 million with 10 days to a select group of military veterans’ relief organizations, CNN reported.

Students arrested on counterfeiting charge

DENTON, Texas, Nov. 29 (UPI) — Two University of North Texas students face a felony charge of forgery for allegedly running a counterfeiting operation from a dorm room, police said.

Brent Bakewell and Keeley Lynn Dunnam were arrested Nov. 7 after a clerk at a Denton convenience store reported receiving a questionable-looking $20 bill, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Monday.

The clerk said he received the bill from a man who regularly shops at the store. Police found Bakewell based on the clerk’s description and searched his dorm room.

“They found a scanner/printer and a computer used to print money,” Officer Ryan Grelle said. “Apparently there was money on top of it that they were still in the process of making money. … They were only making ones and 20s.”

Grelle said Bakewell and Dunnam allegedly used the fake bills at fast food restaurants and convenience stores. If convicted, the two freshmen face 180 days to two years in prison and a fine of as much as $10,000.

Cemetery sued for jumping on casket

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 29 (UPI) — A Pittsburgh family has filed a lawsuit alleging cemetery workers jumped up and down on the casket of a family member in an effort to fit it into a grave.

The family members of Agnes Zimmick, who was buried at St. Stanislaus Catholic Cemetery in Shaler in 2009, filed the lawsuit Monday against the Diocese of Pittsburgh and Catholic Cemeteries Association of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.

“Frankly, it’s shocking this happened at a Catholic cemetery,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Richard Sandow. “You’re not dealing with lumber. You’re dealing with the deceased. There were many jumps, shoves and stomps.”

The suit alleges several of Zimmick’s family members visited other family graves after her burial. A short time later, the family said they saw cemetery workers jump “up and down on the casket;” walk on top of the casket; and “repeatedly [strike] said casket with poles … to force the casket into place,” according to the lawsuit.

The family made their initial complaint to the cemetery just after the Dec. 1, 2009, funeral.

“The family filed a complaint and we investigated it thoroughly. We are confident after our investigation that the allegations are unfounded,” said Annabelle McGannon, executive director of the cemeteries association. “Beyond that, it’s our policy not to comment on issues in litigation.”

Gov. names Flint, Mich., emergency manager

FLINT, Mich., Nov. 29 (UPI) — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder Tuesday appointed Michael Brown to run the city of Flint until it gets its financial house in order.

“I know it’s a major challenge, there’s no glossing it over,” the newly appointed city emergency manager told the Flint Journal in a telephone interview. “I think there’s a long road ahead and we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

A state-appointed review panel had recommended this month that the state take over management of the city after finding a structural deficit and other serious financial problems, the newspaper said.

Brown, in effect, will be Flint’s czar, with the city’s elected leaders having to answer to him and abdicating authority over city contracts, personnel and other matters to him. He said he will start his new job Thursday.

“I’m ready to go to work,” he said. “I’m going in with my eyes open, that’s for sure.”

The Detroit News said Brown, who served as acting mayor of Flint for six months in 2009, is president of the Prima Civitas Foundation in Lansing and director of the Flint Area Reinvestment Office.

“Michael Brown has a strong track record of serving the Flint-area community,” the News quoted Snyder as saying. “Given his experience in public, private, and non-profit settings, I’m confident he is well equipped to take on this critical post.”

The Michigan Legislature this year passed legislation giving emergency managers wide-reaching powers to cancel union contracts and overrule elected boards and city officials, the News noted.

Reid scolds Gang of Six, seeks legislation

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 (UPI) — U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Tuesday chastised the Gang of Six for not producing a deficit-cutting agreement in writing.

“I’m stunned by the Gang of Six,” Reid said of the bipartisan group of senators, which has agreed to cut $4 trillion in spending but has not yet produced any legislation, The Hill reported.

“Put it in bill form, other than that, it’s happy talk,” Reid said.

The spotlight has turned to the Gang of Six after the supercommittee failed last week to reach an agreement on the deficit.

Alan Krueger, chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, said at a White House news briefing Tuesday the government needs to get a handle on public debt.

“I think it’s very important that we get on a sustainable fiscal path,” Krueger said.

“The president has proposed — in September gave a proposal to the supercommittee or joint committee of Congress to help put us on a fiscally sustainable path. And I think that as we strengthen the economy in the short run, we need to do two things at once: We need to strengthen the economy in the short run, and we need to return to a fiscally sustainable path.”

Senate rejects easing detainee policy

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 (UPI) — The U.S. Senate Tuesday rejected a defense spending bill amendment that would have eased the policy on detainees captured as terror suspects on the battlefield.

The Senate voted 61-37 to reject the amendment, which would have removed a section of the defense spending bill that authorizes the president to use “all necessary and appropriate force” and would have created a timeline for judicial hearings, The Hill reported.

The amendment’s author, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said law enforcement and military officials should have more say in the policy over detainees.

“We are ignoring the advice and the input of the director of the FBI, the director of the intelligence community, the attorney general of the United States, the secretary of defense and the White House,” Udall said.

“My amendment would take out these provisions, and give us in the Congress an opportunity to take a hard look at the needs of our counterterrorism professionals, and respond in a measured way that reflects the input of those who are actually fighting our enemies. The secretary of defense is warning us that we may be making mistakes that will hurt our capacity to fight terrorism at home and abroad,” Udall said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaking against the amendment, said, “The idea that an American citizen helping al-Qaida doesn’t get due process is just a lie.”

Accused salon shooter pleads innocent

SANTA ANA, Calif., Nov. 29 (UPI) — Scott Dekraai pleaded innocent Tuesday to charges he opened fire at a Seal Beach, Calif., hair salon and killed eight people, including his ex-wife.

The 42-year-old defendant faces eight counts of first-degree murder for the eight deaths and one count of attempted murder for allegedly wounding a ninth victim who survived the Oct. 12 massacre a Salon Meritage.

The Los Angeles Times reported Dekraai appeared alert and was responsive when Judge Erick Larsh addressed him in Orange County Superior Court

Friends and family of the victims attended the hearing and some wept afterward, the newspaper said.

Dekraai, who allegedly went on the shooting rampage following a bitter custody dispute with his ex-wife Michelle Fournier over their 8-year-old son, will have a preliminary hearing April 24, the Times said.

Arizona sheriff endorses Perry

AMHERST, N.H., Nov. 29 (UPI) — Rick Perry’s bid for the Republican U.S. presidential nomination Tuesday received the endorsement of well-known Arizona lawman Joe Arpaio.

Arpaio, the sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County who has built a reputation for his stance on border security and immigration issues, said in an announcement in Amherst, N.H., where Perry is campaigning ahead of New Hampshire’s Jan. 10 primary, that he likes the Texas governor’s efforts to tighten border security.

“The federal government has failed on border crime and border enforcement, and no candidate for president has done more to secure the border than Governor Rick Perry,” Arpaio said in a statement posted on Perry’s campaign Web site. “I’m endorsing Rick Perry because we need a tough-on-crime president who will champion and fund full-time border security operations from Brownsville [Texas] to San Diego. Governor Perry has a superior border security record and plan to make our border and our nation safer.”

The Perry Web site note the governor’s push to beef up border security and faulted President Barack Obama for not approving his January 2009 request for more National Guard troops and helicopters.

Perry said he is “honored” to have Arpaio’s backing.

“Sheriff Arpaio knows the struggle border states face as Washington politicians and bureaucrats fail time and again to properly secure our nation’s southern boundary with Mexico,” Perry said.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday Perry stumbled Tuesday on the nation’s voting age and the date of next year’s presidential election. Speaking at Saint Anselm’s College in Goffstown, N.H., Perry asked all of the college students on hand who will be 21 by Nov. 12 to support him.

“Those who won’t be, just work hard. Because you’re … counting on us,” Perry said.

The voting age is 18 and the election will be Nov. 6.

Afterward, Perry spokesman Mark Miner said “the governor misspoke.”

The Hill noted the governor’s gaffe follows one he made in a recent debate in which he couldn’t come up with the names of the three government agencies he wants to chop if elected president.

Turkey preparing sanctions on Syria

ISTANBUL, Turkey, Nov. 29 (UPI) — Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Tuesday Turkey will impose sanctions on Syria after discussions with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“It will not be very long” before the sanctions are announced, Davutoglu said at a news conference Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported.

He offered no details beyond saying the sanctions would differ in “nuance” from the sanctions imposed Sunday by the Arab League.

Earlier, Davutoglu told Turkey’s private Kanal 24 television station a military buffer zone along the border with Syria was possible if the refugee situation worsened, but he told the news conference such an action was “not on the agenda.”

He said Syria was “ready for all possible scenarios.”

Additional economic sanctions could help pry the business community’s support from President Bashar Assad. Turkey’s trade with Syria totaled $2.4 billion last year, the Journal said.

Turkish Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim told the state Anadolu Ajansi news agency border crossings with Iraq may be opened if the situation in Syria gets worse.