Son Denies Gadhafi Cornered By Rebels

TRIPOLI, Libya, Sept. 1 (UPI) — An official with Libya’s transitional government said rebel fighters have cornered fugitive leader Moammar Gadhafi, a statement one of Gadhafi’s sons denies.

The transitional government official said Gadhafi was boxed in at a desert stronghold about 150 miles from Tripoli and that he was being urged to surrender, The New York Times reported Thursday.

However, Saif Gadhafi goaded rebels in an audio statement, vowing that Gadhafi loyalists would never surrender and insisting “victory will be near.”

“Our leadership is fine,” he said in the statement aired by several Arab broadcasters. “We are drinking tea and coffee.”

The younger Gadhafi gave no indication in the statement about his location except that he was in a Tripoli suburb. It also wasn’t clear if his remarks were pre-recorded, the Times said.

Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, deputy chairman of the rebel Transitional National Council, told the Times earlier Thursday fighters believed they had found the elder Gadhafi in Bani Walid, a desert town southeast of the Libyan capital.

The transition government has given Gadhafi family members, relatives and loyalists until Saturday to cease fighting without conditions.

Ghoga confirmed reports another son, Saadi Gadhafi, offered to negotiate a coalition government with the rebels, but rebels rejected the offer .

A third Gadhafi son, Khamis, was reported killed near Bani Walid, but his death has been not verified independently.

Gadhafi’s wife, two other sons, a daughter and other relatives fled to Algeria, but the Algerian foreign minister Thursday squelched comments that the fugitive Libyan leader himself is in the country, CNN reported.

“Of course not,” Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci told French radio when asked whether Gadhafi was in Algeria. “The hypothesis that Mr. Gadhafi could come knocking on our door was never considered.”

Medelci said the Algerian government received members of Gadhafi’s family for “mainly humanitarian reasons.”

Kuwaiti news service KUNA, citing an Algerian newspaper, reported Gadhafi sought sanctuary in Algeria but Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika refused to grant him an entry permit.

When Gadhafi arrived at a border region and tried to contact Bouteflika, the Algerian president did not respond and gave orders to border guards to bar Gadhafi from entering, the Algerian newspaper reported.

Officials said 31 members of the ousted leader’s family were in Algeria.

Katia Could Become A Major Hurricane

MIAMI, Sept. 1 (UPI) — Hurricane Katia showed little change in strength Thursday but could become a major hurricane in the next few days, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Katia, a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, was about 1,065 miles east of the Leeward Islands, moving westerly at 20 mph, the center said in its 5 a.m. EDT advisory.

No coastal watches or warnings were posted. No hazards to land were noted.

The storm was forecast to shift toward the west-northwest and decrease its forward speed during the next couple of days, the center said. Katia was expected to strengthen during the next 48 hours and could become a major hurricane by the weekend.

Former Speaker Of Pa. House Pleads Guilty

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 1 (UPI) — The former speaker of the Pennsylvania House pleaded guilty Wednesday to using state money for political expenses.

John M. Perzel, who represented a district in Northeast Philadelphia for many years, appeared before a state judge in Harrisburg, the state capital, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. He acknowledged his role in a scandal dubbed “Computergate,” in which prosecutors charge $10 million in taxpayer money was used for a computer program to help Republicans win elections.

Perzel, who could receive a sentence of 18 months or as much as 24 years, said nothing to reporters and little during the hearing. He released a statement apologizing to his former constituents and to Pennsylvania citizens.

“You had a right to expect better from me, and I am sorry that I let you down,” he said.

Perzel has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. His former chief of staff and a former Republican representative still face charges, while his brother-in-law pleaded guilty last month and his nephew on Wednesday.

Perzel, a Republican, served as speaker from 2003 to 2007. He lost his seat to a Democrat in 2010, a year after he was charged.

“He was one of the most powerful speakers in modern Pennsylvania history,” G. Terry Madonna, head of a polling institute at Franklin and Marshall College, said. “Under his leadership, the Republican caucus perfected a political arm that extensively recruited candidates, organized fund-raisers for them, and provided them with policy platforms. Under him, it reached its zenith.”

Protester Allowed To Sue Airport Screeners

RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia college student who stripped to a pair of running shorts to protest intrusive search procedures will be allowed to sue two airport screeners.

A Federal judge in Richmond, Va., ruled Tuesday that the portion of Aaron Tobey’s lawsuit dealing with free speech rights can go forward, The Christian Science Monitor reported.

Tobey was arrested at Richmond International Airport in December 2010 after stripping down to reveal a portion of the 4th Amendment written in black marker on his chest.

It read: “The right of the people to be secure … against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated.”

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson opens the way for further investigation by Tobey’s lawyers into why security screeners called the police when Tobey removed most of his clothing.

The lawsuit charges security officials had Tobey arrested in response to his protest and not because he failed to follow instructions.

His attorneys say he has a right to peacefully object to the government’s treatment of airline passengers provided his actions are not disruptive.

Suspect Admits Frankfurt Airport Shooting

FRANKFURT, Germany, Sept. 1 (UPI) — A Kosovo man admitted in court he killed two U.S. airmen in an attack at a Frankfurt, Germany, airport but said he doesn’t know why he did it.

Arid Uka, made the admission as his trial began in Frankfurt Wednesday. He told the court he had been radicalized by jihadist propaganda he had been exposed to on the Internet, the BBC reported.

“What I did was wrong, but I cannot undo what I did,” Uka told the court.

Prosecutors called Uka, 21, an Islamic “lone wolf” who had no contact with any known militant groups, and said he had been enraged by footage of U.S. servicemen raping a Muslim girl in Iraq. The footage in question turned out to be a scene from a movie by Hollywood director Brian De Palma, the BBC said.

“I thought what I saw in that video, these people would do in Afghanistan,” Uka said Wednesday.

Prosecutors alleged Uka wanted to kill the airmen because they were going to join coalition forces in Afghanistan. They said Uka confessed at the scene.

Two other U.S. airmen were seriously injured in the attack in March.

The indictment said Uka entered the airport terminal and then followed U.S. military personnel to their military bus. It said he asked one for a light and inquired where the bus was going, and then fatally shot him.

The indictment said Uka then boarded a military bus, shouting “Allah-u akbar” (God is great), and shot and killed a second victim.

Prosecutors said the gun jammed and Uka fled into the terminal where he was captured.

Police Officer Charged With Squad Car Rape

PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 1 (UPI) — A Philadelphia police officer was charged Wednesday with raping a woman after offering her a lift from the stop where she was waiting for a bus at 3:30 a.m.

Keith Corley II, 27, who has been with the police department for four years, was arrested and suspended, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. He was charged with rape and a number of related counts.

Corley was on duty at the time of the alleged rape, investigators said. A woman told police he offered to drive her home but instead sexually assaulted her in the back of his squad car and then dropped her at a mass transit station.

The woman reported the assault that morning.

Corley is the third Philadelphia police officer to be arrested in two weeks. The other two were charged with assaulting their girlfriends.

Double Trouble For Washington Monument

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 (UPI) — Hurricane Irene revealed new cracks in the Washington Monument, which was already closed following the Virginia earthquake, the National Parks Service said.

Spokeswoman Carol Johnson told CNN Wednesday Parks Service employees found standing water in the monument when they inspected it Monday. She said engineers tried to find holes following last week’s 5.8 magnitude earthquake and in advance of the hurricane.

“There were some leaks that we were not able to identify or able to plug,” Johnson said. “What happened was a lot of mortar popped out, so much so that you can see sunlight above 450 feet in the monument.”

The monument has been closed until all damage is repaired. Johnson said engineers determined the earthquake caused no structural damage.

The 555-foot memorial to George Washington, the first U.S. president, was built over several decades in the mid-19th century.

N.Korea, Russia Consider Naval Cooperation

PYONGYANG, North Korea, Sept. 1 (UPI) — North Korea and Russia plan to increase their naval cooperation, a Russian military spokesman said.

Senior commanders from the two nations have been considering such steps and the issue was discussed during the current North Korea visit of Adm. Konstantin Sidenko, commander of Russia’s Eastern Military District, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported, quoting Sidenko spokesman Lt. Col. Igor Muginov.

Sidenko and senior North Korean military commanders also discussed the possibilities of holding joint search and rescue exercises and humanitarian drills in the open sea, Muginov told reporters.

Among those Sidenko met was Ri Yong Ho, chief of the general staff of the Korean People’s Army, the spokesman said. Sidenko also visited a KPA unit.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il visited Russia for a week last month, and later visited China.

Nurse Pleads Guilty To Medicare Fraud

MIAMI, Sept. 1 (UPI) — A Miami-area nurse pleaded guilty Wednesday to billing Medicare $118,000 for home health services that were unneeded or never provided.

Farah Maria Perez, 40, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud before U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard.

Perez, who worked for Florida Home Health Care Providers Inc., and co-conspirators at the company billed Medicare for costly physical therapy and home health care services that were medically unnecessary or never provided from about January 2006 until about March 2009, plea documents indicate.

A U.S. Justice Department news release said Perez recruited Medicare beneficiaries who allowed Florida Home Health to bill Medicare for the services. In exchange, the release said, she solicited and received kickbacks and bribes from the owners and operators of Florida Home Health.

Court documents indicate Perez and co-defendants falsified patient files so it appeared they qualified for home health care and therapy services from Florida Home Health. Perez, the release said, admitted she knew the beneficiaries didn’t qualify or didn’t receive the services.

She and other nurse co-defendants listed symptoms including tremors, impaired vision, weak grip and inability to walk without assistance when the patients didn’t have the symptoms, the Justice Department said.

Perez is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 14.