Five Plead Not Guilty In Alleged Jihad Plot

NEW BERN, N.C., Aug. 15 (UPI) — Five North Carolina men Monday pleaded not guilty to being part of a local terrorism ring that planned jihad overseas.

Two other defendants have pleaded guilty, The (Raleigh) News & Observer reported.

Daniel Patrick Boyd, described as the ringleader of the group, pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons in a foreign country. His youngest son, Zakariya Boyd, 22, pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. Both are awaiting sentencing.

Pleading not guilty in federal court were Dylan Boyd, 23, Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, 23, Ziyad Yaghi, 22, Hysen Sherifi, 26, and Anes Subasic, 34. They are set to go on trial in New Bern in mid-September on multiple felony charges, the newspaper said.

Sherifi also is charged in an alleged planned attack on the Marine base at Quantico, Va.

Chief U.S. District Judge Louise Flanagan ruled earlier Subasic would be tried separately because he plans to represent himself, the newspaper said.

An eighth suspect is believed to be in Pakistan, but has never been arrested, The News & Observer said. A ninth was arrested in Kosovo, but the United States has no extradition agreement with that country.

Pakistan Gave China Peek At U.S. Copter

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Aug. 15 (UPI) — Pakistan gave Chinese military experts access to a top-secret U.S. stealth helicopter used in the Osama bin Laden raid, Financial Times reported Monday.

The British business newspaper said it learned Chinese military engineers were allowed to take photographs and remove pieces of the high-tech aircraft U.S. forces left behind during the May raid into Pakistan that resulted in the al-Qaida leader’s death.

“The U.S. now has information that Pakistan, particularly the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence], gave access to the Chinese military to the downed helicopter in Abbottabad,” a source identified only as being in intelligence circles told Financial Times, referring to the Pakistani spy agency.

The newspaper said people close to the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency said the Chinese were given access to the helicopter by Pakistan, which is displeased the American raid was pulled off without any advance notice.

“We had explicitly asked the Pakistanis in the immediate aftermath of the raid not to let anyone have access to the damaged remains of the helicopter,” one person close to the CIA said.

A senior Pakistani official denied to the Times access was provided to the Chinese. China, the White House and the CIA declined comment, the Times said.

The Chinese were allowed to take samples of the materials used on the helicopter’s skin that make the aircraft undetectable to radar.

Financial Times said U.S. President Barack Obama’s national security council conferred on the matter, with an unidentified senior official quoted as saying it “doesn’t make us happy,” but not much could be done about it.

The special Blackhawk helicopter crashed during the raid and Navy SEALs destroyed much of it to prevent classified technology from being revealed. However, the tail section was mostly intact.

Retailers Expect Flat Back-to-school Sales

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15 (UPI) — A national trade group said U.S. retailers could expect back-to-school sales on par with 2010 or just slightly under that.

The National Retail Federation predicted back-to-school shopping to average $604 per family, just $2 shy of what was predicted a year ago, The Detroit News reported Monday.

Many stores this year are attempting to lure customers in with items priced under $1, hoping the shoppers will extend their purchases to more expensive items.

“If it’s under a buck, it works,” said Micheal Bernacchi, professor of marketing at University of Detroit Mercy.

NRF spokeswoman Kathy Grannis said the fall shopping season would be dominated by the attitude of “spend where you need to, save where you can.”

“Parents may be swayed to purchase a laptop if it comes with a free one-year warranty or buy the lunchbox that comes with a matching thermos,” Grannis wrote in an online posting.

Still, “There is a constant need for retailers to keep prices down,” said Meijer Inc. spokesman Frank Guglielmi, where shipping for computers was priced at 99 cents, the newspaper said.

Obama Meets, Eats With Veterans

CANNON FALLS, Minn., Aug. 15 (UPI) — President Obama lunched with five recent military veterans while he was in Cannon Falls, Minn., on a bus tour to rural America.

Obama emerged from his bus, parked in front of the Old Market Deli, waving and smiling to onlookers, some chanting “Obama, Obama.”

The lunch provided Obama a chance to hear directly from veterans from rural areas about their experiences and discuss what his administration has done to ensure veterans have the support needed when the leave the military, the White House said.

A disproportionate share of veterans after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States are from rural America and make up about 39 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan vets enrolled into the VA healthcare system, the White House said.

One woman at the diner, Suzie Stachowski, 41, said she thought Obama was a “very personable and friendly man who understands the people of Cannon Falls. He has one of the toughest jobs in the world, and I wouldn’t want to be him.”

Stachowski said she didn’t vote for Obama in 2008 and hasn’t decided who she’ll support in 2012, saying it depends on how well the candidate does his or her job.

After dining, Obama greeted onlookers on the sidewalk, including a middle-aged woman who told the President her son had just returned from Afghanistan, The president embraced her, asking, “Is he okay?”

The woman said her son was fine and got emotional when Obama hugged her again, adding, “We are so grateful.”

Report: Canada Renaming Military Branches

OTTAWA, Aug. 15 (UPI) — Canadian officials have decided to go back to the country’s old names for its military branches, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Monday.

The CBC said it obtained a document revealing the Maritime Command and Air Command will revert to their old names of Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force, last used in 1968. The Land Force Command will be renamed the Canadian Army, the network said.

Defense Minister Peter MacKay is to announce the name changes Tuesday.

The document obtained by the CBC said returning to the old names will restore “an important and recognizable part of Canada’s military heritage.”

“These were the services that fought and emerged victorious from the Second World War and Korea and contributed to the defense of Europe and North America from the early days of the Cold War,” states a note the CBC said appears to have been sent to Canadian military personnel. “These were also the services that paved the way in terms of international peacekeeping missions.”

Some veterans have been advocating for the change but Jack Harris of the New Democratic Party calls it “unnecessary” and “divisive.”

Man Arrested In Oklahoma Pipe Bomb Attempt

OKEMAH, Okla., Aug. 15 (UPI) — An Oklahoma man has been arrested after authorities said he called 911 and reported he put a pipe bomb on a natural gas pipeline.

Daniel Wells Herriman, 40, of Konawa, was arrested Friday, the FBI said, The (Oklahoma City) Oklahoman reported.

Special Agent in Charge James Finch said the bomb could have done extensive damage had it exploded on the Enerfin Resources natural gas line near Okemah.

“Thank goodness Mr. Herriman is not the greatest bomb-maker,” Finch said.

The device, a 12-by-12-inch pipe bomb with gunpowder inside and a timing device, was discovered Wednesday by Enerfin employees on the pipeline, about 70 miles east of Oklahoma City, officials said.

Bomb technicians removed it and rendered it safe.

On Wednesday evening, Herriman called 911 and said he had placed the bomb on the pipeline, and a subsequent search of his house turned up bomb-making components similar to those found in the pipe bomb, Finch said.

Herriman, who has criminal record, was being held in Muskogee County jail and was to make his initial court appearance next week, The Oklahoman said.

He is not a current or former Enerfin Resources employee, FBI spokesman Clay Simmonds said.

Enogex, a subsidiary of Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co., operates the Enerfin Resources pipeline, and OG&E spokesman Brian Alford said the company had not received any threats.

Obama Quizzed About Choosing Cannon Falls, Minn.

CANNON FALLS, Minn., Aug. 15 (UPI) — The final questioner at President Obama’s town hall meeting in Cannon Falls, Minn., Monday didn’t ask about healthcare or taxes but about Cannon Falls.

Why come to Cannon Falls to discuss jobs, building the economy and rural America-related issues, the inquiring pre-teen girl wanted to know.

“Well, I had heard that Cannon Falls has some of the smartest, best-looking kids around,” Obama said. “And you have confirmed the rumor about the outstanding children of Cannon Falls.”

Cannon Falls, a city of about 4,000 along the Cannon River between St. Paul, the state’s capital, and the Rochester, the home of the Mayo Clinic, was the kickoff of Obama’s three-state, three-day bus tour of America’s heartland.

Jailed Mob Boss Suspected In Philly Ring

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 15 (UPI) — A jailed mob under-boss is suspected of financing part of a South Philadelphia drug-trafficking and loan-sharking ring, court documents show.

The Philadelphia Inquirer Monday identified the under-boss as Joseph “Mousie” Massimino, 61.

In a motion this month, authorities said a state investigation was focused on William “Billy” Andrews, a convicted South Philadelphia drug dealer named as a “close associate” of Massimino.

The motion alleges Andrews’ organization dealt in the illegal sale of prescription drugs and one of his associates lied to federal authorities to “protect” Massimino.

Massimino, the motion alleges, financed at least one major drug buy for the organization.

Authorities gathered evidence from recorded conversations using a wiretap of Andrews’ home and a recording device in his Mercedes-Benz, the Inquirer said.

Andrews served a 12-year federal sentence for drug dealing and is on supervised release, court records indicate.

Massimino was jailed in May with a dozen others on federal racketeering charges authorities said were connected to a mob-run gambling and loan-sharking ring.

Massimino has been convicted of racketeering, gambling and drug dealing.

The state investigation could be turned over to federal authorities, in which case any charges against Massimino would be added to a racketeering case against him and other mob figures, the Inquirer said, citing a law enforcement source.

Cherokee Nation Swears In Acting Chief

TAHLEQUAH, Okla., Aug. 15 (UPI) — The Cherokee Nation has sworn in an acting principal chief, who will hold the post until a winner is declared in the chief’s race, officials said.

S. Joe Crittenden of Stilwell was sworn in Sunday as deputy chief and will act as temporary principal chief until a winner is declared in the principal chief’s race between former principal Chief Chad Smith and Tribal Council member Bill John Baker, the Tulsa (Okla.) World reported.

Results from the June 25 general election were invalidated by the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court after multiple recounts, court hearings and claims of irregularities from both sides, the World said.

A new election is scheduled for Sept. 24.

“We’re all looking forward to the election on Sept. 24,” Crittenden said. “I hope a winner is clearly named. The Cherokee people want and deserve closure to this election cycle.”

During his brief tenure as principle chief, Crittenden said he hoped to increase funding for care of the elderly, salaries for medical workers at the tribe’s clinics and scholarship funds for students preparing for medical careers. He also said the tribe, which has a $579 million budget, must resume building houses.

Thirty-one Fish Killed, Mutlilated On School Campus

WOODLAND HILLS, Calif., Aug. 15 (UPI) — Police in California say they are searching for someone who killed and mutilated 31 catfish being raised at a high school as part of a student project.

A student working on a Future Farmers of America project arrived at the school in Woodland Sunday to find a gate into the agricultural area, made up of four cement tanks where several medium-sized catfish were kept, open, KTXL-TV, Sacramento, reported.

Police said liquid herbicide taken from an adjacent storage shed had been poured into the tanks and several fish had been removed from the tanks, killed and mutilated.

The fish remaining in the tanks were all dead from exposure to the chemical herbicide, they said.

Woodland High School is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible, while police said they were investigating the crime as a “felonious killing, torturing and/or mutilating of animals or fish.”