Lake Erie Watersnake Off Protected List

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15 (UPI) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday it has removed the Lake Erie watersnake from the federal list of endangered and threatened wildlife.

The harmless species, found on offshore islands in western Lake Erie in Ohio and Ontario, is the 23rd species to be de-listed after recovery and conservation efforts, a U.S. Department of the Interior release said.

“Today the Lake Erie watersnake joins species such as the bald eagle, the American alligator, and the peregrine falcon that have rebounded from the threat of extinction and no longer require the protection of the Endangered Species Act,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said.

“These species — and the hundreds of others whose extinction has been prevented by the Act — are living testimonies to its ability to bring species back from the brink by protecting them and conserving and restoring their habitat,” he said.

The Lake Erie watersnake was listed as a threatened species in 1999 because of intentional killing and loss of its Lake Erie shoreline habitat to development.

About 300 acres of inland habitat and 11 miles of shoreline have been protected for the snake since it was listed, the release said.

Study Says U.S. First Home Of Sunflowers

BLOOMINGTON, Ind., Aug. 15 (UPI) — U.S. biologists say they’ve proven the modern sunflower was domesticated in the Unites States, not in Mexico as some scientists had believed.

“Our results affirm that the eastern United States was an independent center of plant domestication and that all known living cultivated sunflowers shared a common origin there,” Indiana University biology doctoral graduate Benjamin Blackman said.

Recently identified early domestication genes of the sunflower, Helianthus annuus, show no DNA evidence to support suggestions based on archaeological evidence that a second, independent domestication event had occurred in Mexico, an IU release said Monday.

Controversy began when sunflower seeds were found at pre-Columbian archaeological sites and it was proposed that, along with being domesticated in eastern North America, an independent sunflower domestication occurred in Mexico.

The Indiana study looked at 60 sunflower populations from the United States and Canada and 31 from Mexico.

“Even though we made extensive new collections of wild and cultivated sunflowers native to Mexico that for the first time provided us with a powerful sample to test for a second origin, our results from multiple types of genetic data found strong evidence for just a single origin,” Blackman said.

New Al-Qaida Leader Urges Attacks On U.S.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15 (UPI) — Al-Qaida’s new leader is urging followers to keep targeting the United States.

A video by Ayman al-Zawahiri surfaced Monday on a Web site that often posts al-Qaida videos, ABC News reported.

“America today is staggering,” said Zawahiri. “Hunt her down wherever you may encounter her. Hunt her down to cut what is left of her corruption’s tail.”

In the 12-minute video, Zawahiri, who took over al-Qaida after Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan in May, calls for “Muslim brothers everywhere” to seek vengeance against the United States.

“Pursue America, which killed the ‘Imam of the Mujahedeen’ and threw his body into the sea, and then captured his women and sons,” Zawahiri said. “Hunt her down until history says that a murderous country spread corruption in the earth so God sent his faithful to her to make an example out of her.”

It is not clear as to when the video was made, though references to bin Laden’s death means it was made relatively recently.

U.S. officials had yet to comment on the video, but have warned new attacks targeting the United States are probable near the Sept. 11 anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks, particularly in the wake of bin Laden’s death.

3 Charged In Mini-golf Slaying

BARRIE, Ontario, Aug. 15 (UPI) — A weekend outing at a mini-golf course with his daughter and girlfriend left a Canadian man dead and three alleged young assailants facing murder charges.

Bradley Hubbard, 42, of Collingwood, Ontario, was killed about 9:30 p.m. Saturday at Putting Edge in Barrie, an indoor glow-in-the-dark, mini-golf facility north of Toronto, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

Justin Spring, 18, Mathew Spring, 19, and Jake Workman, 18, all of Innisfil, were charged with second-degree murder.

A Barrie police spokesman said there was a dispute between Hubbard and the three young men but could not confirm Hubbard was stabbed in the neck with a broken putter in front of his daughter and girlfriend. The victim didn’t know his assailants, the police spokesman said.

“The reports are out there about the weapon being a golf club,” Barrie police Constable Toni Dufour told the CBC. “Right now our major crime investigators are not making any official statement on any weapon or weapons used until after the post-mortem is conducted.”

The three suspects were being held at the Central North Correctional Center in Penetanguishene, Ontario. Investigators were awaiting the results of an autopsy.

Release Urged For Men Accused Of Being Gay

YAOUNDE, Cameroon, Aug. 15 (UPI) — Amnesty International called Monday for the immediate release of two young men to be tried Thursday in Cameroon on charges of homosexuality.

The human rights group also urged repeal of the “draconian” law used to imprison them.

The two men, identified only by first names — Jonas, 19, and Francky, 20 — were arrested in a car outside a nightclub July 25 in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon.

Both have been charged under the country’s penal code, which makes same-sex sexual acts a crime. If convicted, they could face up to five years in prison.

“Given the high level of officially sanctioned homophobia in Cameroon, those arrested under this law are at risk of attack or other forms of ill-treatment by fellow prisoners or by prison authorities because of their alleged sexual orientation,” Erwin Van Der Borght, Amnesty International’s Africa program director, said in a news release.

“By arresting people purely because of their alleged sexual orientation, the Cameroonian government is flagrantly violating international human rights treaties which it has signed or ratified.”

The two men are the latest in a series imprisoned under the law, including Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, who was sentenced to 36 months in prison in March after sending text messages to a male acquaintance, Amnesty International said.

He is in Kondengui central prison, known for overcrowding, poor sanitation and inadequate food supplies, and is said to be in poor physical and mental health, and has been denied medical treatment, Amnesty International said.

The human rights group said it considers him a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned only because of his “real or perceived sexual orientation” and called on authorities to make sure he’s not a victim of poor treatment, harassment or violence.

New Maps Likely To Help Georgia GOP

ATLANTA, Aug. 15 (UPI) — New rules for the Georgia Senate likely will quicken passage of political maps favoring the Republican majority, observers say.

The rules, in effect only during the special session, expected to last at least a few weeks, won passage Monday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The rules do away with the required two-thirds vote to send a bill to the House the same day it’s approved in the Senate and allow two readings of a bill on the same day instead of having to wait 24 hours.

The changes also establish tighter requirements for introducing proposed changes to legislative and congressional districts, the Journal-Constitution said.

Proposed new maps for Georgia’s political districts will be the focus Tuesday when House and Senate redistricting committees meet for the first time since the release of draft maps last week.

It’s no small matter for lawmakers, given minor changes in political maps can decide the fate of their careers, the Journal-Constitution noted.

Also Monday, state lawmakers paid respects to Rep. Bobby Franklin, R-Marietta, who was found dead at his home July 26. He was 56.

Egg Cholesterol Depends On What Hen Eats

TEL AVIV, Israel, Aug. 15 (UPI) — How much cholesterol eggs give a person depend on what the hen laying the eggs eats, researchers in Israel say.

Dr. Niva Shapira of Tel Aviv University’s School of Health Professions and colleagues designed feeds that were high in antioxidants and lower in omega-6 fatty acids, based on wheat, barley and milo.

The specialized feed was given to young hens who had not yet accumulated omega-6 fatty acids in their tissues, and the composition of their eggs was then tested. Once the desired composition of low omega-6 and high antioxidant eggs was achieved they were given to study participants, who were instructed to eat two of these special eggs daily.

Another group ate daily two standard grocery store eggs and another group ate only two to four standard grocery store eggs.

The study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found daily consumption of two industry-standard eggs — high in omega-6 — caused a 40 percent increase in low density lipoprotein, the “bad” cholesterol oxidizability in participants.

However, eating two per day of the specially composed eggs, with both high antioxidant and low omega-6 levels, LDL oxidation levels were similar to the control group eating only two to four eggs a week, the study said.

Eggs high in omega-6 fatty acids heighten cholesterol’s tendency to oxidize, which forms dangerous plaque in arteries, Shapira said.

Man Sentenced In Iran Missile Plot

CHICAGO, Aug. 15 (UPI) — An Iranian national who pleaded guilty to attempting to export missile components and radio test sets to Iran was sentenced in Chicago to 51 months in prison.

Davoud Baniameri, 38, of Woodland Hills, Calif., was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayanin, the Justice Department said Monday.

“This defendant chose to be in the business of illegally exporting items to a state sponsor of terrorism. In doing so, he endangered the national security of the United States,” Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said in a news release.

Baniameri was indicted in December 2009 with co-defendant Andro Telemi, 40, of La Tuna Canyon, Calif., a naturalized U.S. citizen from Iran.

In July 2010, a superseding indictment charged a third defendant, Syed Majid Mousavi, an Iranian citizen living in Iran. 

Baniameri arranged to have three radio test sets sent from an Illinois company to him in California, where he shipped them to Dubai for shipment to Iran, at Mousavi’s request, the Justice Department said.

The department said also Baniameri attempted to purchase 10 connector adapters for TOW and TOW2 missile systems on behalf of Mousavi from an Illinois company that was actually controlled by law enforcement.

Telemi was released and is awaiting trial, and Mousavi is a fugitive believed to be in Iran, the Justice Department said.


Study: Pathogens In Produce Resist Washing

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Aug. 15 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say a study showing E. coli and salmonella can live inside plant tissues means washing the outside of produce may not be enough to remove them.

Scientists at Purdue University say E. collie was found in the tissues of mung bean sprouts and salmonella in peanut seedlings after the plants’ seeds were contaminated with the pathogens before planting.

“The pathogens were in every major tissue, including the tissue that transports nutrients in plants,” food science researcher Amanda Deering said in a Purdue release Monday.

Hundreds of bacteria were found in almost every type of tissue, she said.

Proper washing would eliminate Salmonella and E. coli from the surface of foods but not inner tissues, the researchers said, but cooking foods to temperatures known to kill the pathogens would eliminate them from inner tissues.

The scientists say they’ll conduct more research in their study, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to find possible ways to eliminate pathogens from inside plant tissue.

3 Wounded In Winnipeg Garage Shooting

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Aug. 15 (UPI) — Three men were wounded when a gunman opened fire as they stood in a garage in suburban Winnipeg, Manitoba, police said.

The victims of the 9 p.m. Sunday shooting had not been named but were listed as 26, 29 and 30 years old, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported. All were listed in stable condition Monday.

There were several people in the garage when the apparently lone gunman started shooting, the CBC said.

Neighbors said the man who occupied the home had just moved in this spring. One resident said he’d seen several young men coming and going from the home during early-morning hours on numerous occasions.