Man Could Face Death Penalty in Ill. Student Death.
DEKALB, Ill. (Oct. 30) - An Illinois man may face the death penalty if convicted in the slaying of a college freshman who went missing earlier this month.
William Curl is jailed on $5 million bail in the death of Northern Illinois University freshman Antinette “Toni” Keller. The 34-year-old Curl of DeKalb appeared in court Saturday via closed-circuit TV.He has been charged with first-degree murder, criminal sexual assault and arson.
DeKalb County Judge James Donnelly told Curl about the death penalty possibility in court.
The 18-year-old Keller was last seen Oct. 14. Two days later, burned human remains were found in a park near the university in DeKalb, 65 miles west of Chicago.
Police haven’t positively identified the remains as Keller’s, but her case.
Mafia Turncoat Salvatore Vitale Sentenced to Time Served.
(Oct. 29) — UPDATED, 5:45 p.m. EDT — An epic New York mafia tale came to its climax today when a Brooklyn Federal Court judge sentenced Salvatore “Good Looking Sal” Vitale, an underboss of the Bonanno crime family who turned FBI informant in January 2003, to time already served. He has been in prison since he was arrested in 2003.
Vitale, 63, pleaded guilty to 11 murders, but prosecutors asked Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis for leniency because of the extraordinary number of mobster convictions and law enforcement leads his cooperation has engendered.
“Quite simply, Vitale has likely been the most important cooperator in the history of law enforcement efforts to prosecute the Mafia,” Garaufis said at his sentencing today, according to The New York Times.Over the past seven years, prosecutors say Vitale identified more than 500 members of organized crime and their associates in the United States and abroad, provided information leading to the convictions of 51 mobsters — including his brother-in-law and crime boss Joseph C. Massino — and helped investigators uncover the hidden graves of victims killed and buried decades ago.
Vitale’s cooperation effectively broke the back of the Bonanno crime family, which had been infiltrated in the 1970s by Donnie Brasco (immortalized in the film of the same name). His betrayal of Massino, an idol and family member who taught him to swim and to kill, led to an unprecedented event in the history of organized crime in the U.S.: Massino – known as “the Last Don” for his old-school mafioso mentality — turned informant for the FBI as well.”Mr. Vitale thus helped create such an embarrassment of riches for investigators that it prompted one FBI official to complain jokingly at the time that there were more insiders providing information on the crime family than agents on the squad assigned to investigate it,” the Times wrote.
Vitale grew up in Queens, N.Y., and served in the Army as a paratrooper for two years in Germany before returning home to work as a UPS driver and a corrections officer. He eventually began working for Massino’s catering business and was indoctrinated into the crime family by his brother-in-law.
Contract Employees: Should They Have to Pay for Their Own Thong?
Nine exotic dancers, employed as independent contractors, got a conditional okay from a federal judge to proceed with a class action lawsuit against the Penthouse Executive Club for alleged violations of federal and state labor laws.
That means that other women employed as contract workers by Penthouse Executive Club can join the lawsuit now that it’s been conditionally certified as class action. The defendant claims that since the women are independent contractors they are not protected by the traditional federal and state labor laws. Therefore, this case will be closely watched by other contract employees.
The grievances by the strippers, reports the New York Post, include:
Must pay for their own uniforms, that is, thongs
Employer didn’t pay minimum wage or overtime and confiscated part of tips
Employer charged dancers a house fee for dance shifts
Employer deducted a 20 percent premium when dancers exchange the house tokens, which some customers used for tips, for cash.
(Oct. 28) — Just in case you thought money doesn’t equal power …
More than half of the U.S. senators are millionaires and four more fall just 100 grand short of the million-dollar mark, according to a recent Roll Call analysis. The survey, based on a review of Senate financial disclosure forms filed in 2010, also indicated that the majority of senators saw their fortunes grow during the past year.
While many of the senators amassed their wealth through common means, Roll Call actually makes a point of highlighting the recent prevalence of increased wealth by inheritance in the Senate. For instance, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, recently received $96,000 in a retirement fund from his mother.
Although a senator’s annual salary is $174,000, according the TheCapitol.net, it’s no surprise that many lawmakers have amassed massive fortunes along their path to the Senate.
Even though they don’t quite break the Forbes 400 list, here are a few of the most impressive estates:
John Kerry (D-Mass.) — Always a familiar face among Congress’ most wealthy, Roll Call says the second husband of philanthropist Teresa Heinz remains the wealthiest lawmaker, with $188.37 million.
Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) — Sessions, who made some of the largest gains among any senator, reported 1,100 acres of timberland valued at between $1 million and $5 million.
Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) — Although Kohl ranked among the poorest members of Congress in 2009, Roll Call argues that he is likely among the wealthiest. They have every right to feel that way — Kohl is the owner of the NBA franchise the Milwaukee Bucks (no pun intended).
Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) — With an estimated net worth of $83.7 million, Rockefeller is still reaping the benefits of his great-grandfather, Standard Oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller.
Mark Warner (D-Va.) — Despite reporting a decline of more than $2 million in 2009, Warner still ranks among the Senate’s wealthiest with $70.2 million in assets.
Of course, the news isn’t likely to help with the anti-incumbent fever going into this year’s midterm elections, where voters are seeking to implement chump change of a very different sort.
Every Cop in Mexican Town Quits After Station Attack.
The police headquarters in Los Ramones, a rural town about 40 miles east of Monterrey, is pockmarked with bullet holes after gunmen drove up to the station and unleashed a torrent of automatic weapons fire that also included barrages from grenade launchers. More than 1,000 bullet casings littered a yard where local officials had held a ceremony to inaugurate the new station just three days earlier.
No one was injured, but six police vehicles were destroyed. “Fortunately, those who were inside the building threw themselves on the ground and nobody was hurt,” Mayor Santos Salinas Garza told the Mexican newspaper Noroeste. He also confirmed that all 14 officers have since fled out of terror. “They resigned because of this situation,” Garza told the Financial Times.
The incident comes after a wave of massacres in Mexican towns over the past week. On Wednesday, gunmen killed 15 people at a car wash that employed recovering addicts. In two other shooting sprees, 13 former drug addicts were gunned down at a rehab center, and 14 other people died at a birthday party in a border town.For now, Mexican soldiers and state police are heading to Los Ramones to cover the beat until new policemen can be hired. But with drug-related violence on the rise and police salaries still low, volunteers are scarce.
Several mayors have been killed in the surrounding state of Nuevo Leon, and nearly 30,000 people have died nationwide since Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared war on organized drug gangs in December 2006.
About 90 percent of Mexico’s police forces have fewer than 100 officers, and 61 percent of municipal police officers earn less than the equivalent of $322 a month, the Financial Times reported.
"To be a police officer in Mexico continues to mean having a very poorly paid, highly risky job with negative social stigma," Calderon was quoted as saying. His government has proposed legislation to reorganize the command structure of municipal police forces, putting them under the control of state governors.
Woman in Charlie Sheen's Hotel Room Identified As Porn Star Capri Anderson, Report Says.
The woman who was reportedly in Charlie Sheen’s hotel room on the night police allegedly found the actor drunk and naked has been identified as 22-year-old porn star Capri Anderson, TMZ reports. Anderson was extremely upset after media reports labeled her as a prostitute or escort, a source told the entertainment gossip website.
The young actress — who has starred in numerous adult films — told friends she met Sheen at a bar in The Plaza Hotel, but when she accompanied him to his hotel room she became very afraid of the actor and felt threatened by him.
Earlier Wednesday, Sheen broke his silence about the incident at the luxury hotel.
“Oh my man, I’m fine,” Sheen reportedly said in a text message to RadarOnline senior executive editor Dylan Howard.
“The story is totally overblown and overplayed as far as the reality of the scenario. I know what went down and that’s where it will stay … under wraps,” the actor added.
A drugged-up and naked Sheen — just two months out of rehab — trashed his room early Tuesday in a frantic bid to find his wallet and cellphone, the New York Post reported, citing authorities.
Sheen told police he had been “out partying” and had been drinking and snorting cocaine before flipping out, sources said. Anderson called hotel staff when she became afraid and police were alerted.
Sheen was accompanied to the hospital by his ex-wife, Denise Richards, who was staying at the midtown hotel in a separate bedroom at the Eloise Suite on the 18th floor, sources told the Post. Sheen was in town with Richards, 39, and their two daughters — Sam, 6, and Lola, 5 — for a family vacation.
The “Two and a Half Men” star was released from the hospital late Tuesday and returned immediately to Los Angeles via private jet to to resume filming for his CBS TV show.
A source close to the situation told the celebrity website that Sheen was planning to return to a Promises rehab facility in L.A. where the star recently sought treatment for drug addiction.
Sheen’s publicist Stan Rosenfield said in a statement Tuesday that the 45-year-old actor had reacted badly to an unspecified medication.
“What we are able to determine is that Charlie had an adverse allergic reaction to some medication and was taken to the hospital,” he said.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said no complaints were made and there was no arrest. Sheen was not expected to face any criminal charges.
Ex-Worker Wins $96M for Blowing Whistle on Drug Giant.
(Oct. 27) — Whistle-blower Cheryl Eckard has won $96 million as part of a $750 million penalty against GlaxoSmithKline over faulty drug manufacturing in a case she says was driven by worries about consumer safety.
"This is not something I ever wanted to do, but because of patient safety issues, it was necessary," she told reporters in Boston after the British drug giant’s settlement was announced Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.
Eckard, 51, was the company’s quality control manager. She discovered violations at the company’s plant in Puerto Rico in 2002 and reported them to her bosses, her lawyers said. She was fired in 2003 after repeatedly reporting problems to the company, and she later filed a lawsuit.
GlaxoSmithKline agreed to pay the millions in fines, penalties and settlements to resolve claims that it knowingly made and sold adulterated drugs, including Paxil, a popular antidepressant. Other problems include the failure to guarantee that Bactroban, an ointment, and an anti-nausea drug, Kytril, were not contaminated, according to reports. No patients seem to have been harmed by the problems at the plant, a prosecutor said.Eckard, who worked in North Carolina, is to receive $96 million as a whistle-blower under the federal False Claims Act. The law offers a cut of the money recovered as incentive for people with knowledge of false claims to come forward.
She said going ahead with the lawsuit wasn’t easy.
"I think it’s very, very difficult to survive this,” Eckard said, according to New England Cable News. "It’s difficult to survive this financially, emotionally, you lose all your friends, because all your friends are people you have at work.”
Still, she said, “You really do have to understand that it’s a very difficult process, but very well worth it.”
Her lawyers, Neil Getnick and Leslie Ann Skillen, believe her share is the single-biggest whistle-blower award in the U.S., NECN reported.
"This case will change the way drugmakers run their factories," Getnick said, according to The New York Times.Eckard was sent to the plant in Cidra, Puerto Rico, to fix problems the Food and Drug Administration had cited in a warning letter, according to the Times. She found that the company’s premier manufacturing facility had a contaminated water system, an air system that allowed products to be cross-contaminated and pills of different strengths mixed in the same bottles, among other problems, the newspaper said.
She complained to top company officials, but nothing was done, even after she threatened to call the FDA, the Times said. She filed her lawsuit, and the FDA began a criminal investigation. The plant was closed in 2009 because the company was unable to fix it, according to the newspaper.
Eckard hopes she’ll inspire others who see something wrong to speak up.
"You have to believe in your heart [that] this is the right thing," she said, according to NECN. "In my case, I was very, very concerned about patient safety.”
Man Arrested in Alleged Washington Metro Terror Plot.
(Oct. 27) — A Pakistani-born U.S. citizen was arrested today for allegedly plotting a series of bomb attacks on Metrorail stations in the Washington, D.C., area, federal officials said.
Farooque Ahmed, 34, of Ashburn, Va., is accused of providing material assistance to people he believed to be affiliated with al-Qaida, the Department of Justice said.
He believed they were planning a series of attacks on Metro stations in 2011, the Justice Department said.
The Metro system transported more than 750,000 passengers on weekdays in August, according to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
"Today’s case underscores the need for continued vigilance against terrorist threats and demonstrates how the government can neutralize such threats before they come to fruition," said David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security.
"Farooque Ahmed is accused of plotting with individuals he believed were terrorists to bomb our transit system, but a coordinated law enforcement and intelligence effort was able to thwart his plans," Kris said.
At no stage was the public in any danger, he said.
Ahmed faces a maximum 50 years in prison if found guilty.
Authorities said Ahmed began scoping out train stations in the District of Columbia and Virginia in April. He was allegedly gathering information on their busiest periods and security operations.
In July, he passed a memory stick containing video images of stations to a person he believed to be affiliated with al-Qaida, authorities said.
In September, he passed on another USB key with images, as well as homemade diagrams of train stations, authorities said. He also allegedly provided suggestions on the best locations for explosives during an attack.
"It’s chilling that a man from Ashburn is accused of casing rail stations with the goal of killing as many Metro riders as possible through simultaneous bomb attacks," said U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride. "Today’s arrest highlights the terrorism threat that exists in Northern Virginia."
Earlier this month, Faisal Shahzad, 31, was given a life prison sentence for trying to blow up a car in New York City’s Times Square in May. A street vendor noticed smoke coming out of the car and alerted authorities. Two days later, Shahzad was apprehended on a plane that was about to take off for Dubai.
Like Ahmed, Shahzad is a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen. Authorities said he received money and training from the Pakistani Taliban before he carried out the bomb attempt.
Ahmed was caught in a sting operation by law enforcement authorities and appeared to have received no training from terrorist organizations, The Washington Post said.
Authorities began watching Ahmed after he tried to obtain unspecified materials, the Post said.
The Justice Department said authorities were aware of his alleged activities “from before the alleged attempt began.”
"Just as we ask the public to remain vigilant about possible terrorists among us, the FBI remains committed to rooting out and dismantling those groups and organizations who seek to cause harm to U.S. citizens," said Acting FBI Assistant Director in Charge John G. Perren.
FBI Links 2 Shootings at Northern Virginia Military Facilities.
(Oct. 27) — The same weapon was used to fire shots at the Pentagon and another Northern Virginia military location, and now investigators are trying to determine whether the gun was used in a third shooting, the FBI said today.
The first shooting occurred at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va., during the early-morning hours of Oct. 17. The second shooting occurred two days later at the Pentagon in Arlington. Officers heard shots being fired around 5 a.m. The shots are believe to have originated somewhere in the vicinity of the Pentagon’s south parking lot, which faces Interstate 395.
The most recent shooting, which investigators suspect may be connected to the two others, occurred at a Marine Corps Recruiting Station in Chantilly, Va. Marine Corps recruiters found two bullet holes in the office windows on Tuesday morning. The office has been closed for renovations; authorities say the shooting could have occurred on either Monday or early Tuesday.
No one was injured in any of the incidents.Authorities announced Tuesday that ballistics tests confirmed that the same weapon had been used in the first two shootings. Additional testing is under way on evidence retrieved from the recruiting station to determine whether the same individual or individuals targeted it.
The FBI has declined to disclose the type or caliber of weapon that was used in the shootings.
"No further information … will be released at this time to preserve the integrity of investigative efforts," a spokesperson from the FBI’s Washington field office said in a statement to AOL News.
According to a former FBI agent who has investigated similar shooting cases, he would not be surprised if a current or former member of the military is responsible for the shootings.
"My first reaction, and this is what I kept saying during the D.C. sniper shootings, is that it is going to be a military guy that has got a chip on his shoulder for something," Harold Copus, now head of Copus Security Consultants in Atlanta, told AOL News.
A series of sniper attacks in 2002 in the Washington metropolitan area left at least 10 people dead. John Allen Muhammad, a Gulf War veteran, and teenager Lee Boyd Malvo were arrested and later convicted in the spree. Malvo was executed in November 2009; Malvo is serving life in prison.
"I would also suspect the shooter is connected to the Marine Corps since he appears to be targeting their buildings," Copus said.
He said the shooter is probably disgruntled with the military or suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder due to having served in Iraq or Afghanistan.”It is probably somebody that lives in the area and has just come out of the service,” Copus said. “This is his way of retaliating against them.”
Authorities have declined to comment on whether they suspect there will be additional shootings.
"I don’t think, at this point in time, we are prepared to say this is a serial of any kind. But the targets are all blatantly military," Lindsay Godwin, an FBI spokeswoman, told The Washington Post.
Copus says that if the person responsible for the shootings does have some sort of military training, he or she will be difficult to catch in the act.”Those guys have been trained for urban warfare, so they know how to jump in and come back out,” Copus said. “You probably would never even spot them. Catching this guy will probably take a lot of legwork and manpower.”
Another cause for concern is the possibility of copycats — something Copus says tends to occur when crimes like this make national headlines.
"Once it starts picking it up you’ll have some nut in another state do the same thing," Copus said. "Because you’re dealing with such a bureaucracy, it is going to be horrible to sort it all out."
The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force is handling the investigation into the case, with assistance from the Prince William County Police Department, Fairfax County Police Department and the Pentagon Force Protection Agency.
GlaxoSmithKline to Pay $750M Fine for Sale of Bad Drugs.
(Oct. 26) — Another day, another hard pill to swallow for GlaxoSmithKline.
On Tuesday, the pharmaceutical giant agreed to pay $750 million to settle a government lawsuit alleging that the company sold defective and potentially dangerous medication.
The U.S. Justice Department brought suit against GSK after finding that the company’s Cidra, Puerto Rico, factory produced drugs sold to consumers that were often mislabeled, of the wrong dosage and contaminated with micro-organisms.
"Today’s settlement reminds the pharmaceutical industry that they must observe those standards and reflects the commitment of Federal law enforcement organizations to pursue improper and illegal conduct that places health care consumers at risk," Patrick E. McFarland, inspector general of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, said in a statement. It’s a sharp turn south for the company from earlier this year, when the Food and Drug Administration initially ruled to keep the drug Avandia on the U.S. market and stop studying it before later withdrawing it from store shelves. GSK, which closed the Cidra factory in 2009, issued its own statement to as much affect about today’s settlement:
"We regret that we operated the Cidra facility in a manner that was inconsistent with current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) requirements and with GSK’s commitment to manufacturing quality," said PD Villarreal, GSK’s senior vice president and head of global litigation. "GSK worked hard to resolve fully the manufacturing issues at the Cidra facility prior to its closure in 2009 and we are committed to continuous improvement in our manufacturing processes."
According to the Justice Department, the drugs found to be adulterated included Bactroban, Kytril, Paxil CR and Avandamet. The federal government will receive $436,440,000, and GSK will pay $163,560,000 to states participating in the agreement, the Justice Department said.
In September, the FDA announced it was implementing new restrictions on rosiglitazone, the main ingredient in Avandia, Avandamet and Avandaryl, which are used to help control type 2 diabetes, and which earn GlaxoSmithKline billions in profit annually. The European Medicines Agency, meanwhile, recommended that Avandia be taken off the market altogether after studies indicated a sharp increase in heart attack risk associated with the drug.
MENTAWAI ISLANDS, Indonesia -An official says the death toll from a tsunami off western Indonesia has risen to 343 as more bodies are found in a search of the remote islands that were hardest-hit.Ferry Faisal, of the West Sumatra provincial disaster management agency, raised the official toll Thursday to 343 from 311 earlier in the day. He says 338 people are still missing.Rescuers fear the numbers could climb higher, suspecting many of the missing may have been swept away to sea.THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.MENTAWAI ISLANDS, Indonesia (AP) — Rescuers searching islands ravaged by a tsunami off western Indonesia fear the death toll of more than 300 is likely to climb because hundreds of missing people may have been swept away, officials said Thursday.An island rescue official who survived the wave described villages flattened down to their foundations, while elsewhere in Indonesia, villagers held a mass burial for some of the 33 people killed when one the country’s most volatile volcanos erupted.President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was to meet Thursday with survivors of the twin catastrophes, which struck within 24 hours in different corners of the seismically charged region, severely testing his disaster-prone nation’s emergency response network.Officials say a multimillion dollar warning system installed after the monster 2004 quake and tsunami broke down one month ago because it was not being properly maintained.In the tsunami-ravaged Mentawai islands, search and rescue teams — kept away for days because of stormy seas and bad weather — found roads and beaches with swollen corpses lying on them, according to Harmensyah, head of the West Sumatra provincial disaster management center.Some wore face masks as they wrapped corpses in black body bags on Pagai Utara, one of the four main islands in the Mentawai chain located between Sumatra and the Indian Ocean. Huge swaths of land were underwater and houses lay crumpled with tires and slabs of concrete piled up on the surrounding sand.At least 311 people died as the tsunami washed away hundreds of wooden and bamboo homes in 20 villages, displacing more than 20,000 people, said Ade Edward, a government disaster official.Harmensyah said the teams were losing hope of finding the more than 370 people still missing since the wall of water, created by a 7.8-magnitute earthquake, crashed into the islands on Monday.”They believe many, many of the bodies were swept to sea,” he said.On Thursday, more than 100 survivors crowded into a makeshift medical center in the town of Sikakap on Pagai Utara. Some still wept for loved ones lost to the 10-foot (3-meter) wave as they lay on straw mats or sat on the floor Thursday, waiting for medics to treat injuries including broken limbs and cuts.Local rescue official Hermansyah, who survived the earthquake and wave that hit Sikakap because he was on higher ground socializing with friends, said he began traveling to other areas Tuesday and found several villages completely flattened.”Not even the foundations of houses are standing. All of them are gone,” said Hermansyah, who like many Indonesians uses a single name. “There must have been many people swept away to the Indian Ocean.”He added that the devastation he saw indicates the wave could have been higher than previously reported in some areas — estimated it could even have been more than 20 feet (6 meters) high.About 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) to the east in central Java, the Mount Merapi volcano was mostly quiet but still a threat after Tuesday’s eruption that sent searing ash clouds into the air, killing at least 33 people and injuring 17, said Agustinus, a doctor at the local health department who also goes by one name.Residents from the hardest-hit villages of Kinahrejo, Ngrangkah, and Kaliadem — which were complete decimated in Tuesday’s blast— crammed into refugee camps. Officials brought surviving cows, buffalo and goats down the mountain so that they wouldn’t try to go home to check on their livestock.Thousands attended a mass burial for 26 of the victims 6 miles (10) kilometers from the mountain’s base. They included family and friends, who wept and hugged one another as bodies were lowered into the grave in rows.Among the dead was a revered elder who had refused to leave his ceremonial post as caretaker of the mountain’s spirits. He was buried in a separate funeral Thursday.
Driver in Fatal Crash Sentenced to 15 Years ... of Writing.
(Oct. 26) — Unless he’d rather go to prison, Andrew Gaudioso will be doing a lot of thinking — and writing — in the next 15 years about the young soldier he killed in a car accident.
A Florida judge this month ordered Gaudioso to send a postcard to the family of Sgt. Thomas Towers Jr. once a week for 15 years as part of his probation agreement.
Thomas’ father said he approves of the unusual sentence.
"At first I thought I wanted prison," Thomas Towers Sr., 56, told The Orlando Sentinel. "Then I thought it would be better to force him some way to remember — at least once a week — what he did. I think this does that."
Lake County Circuit Judge G. Richard Singeltary said Gaudioso will have to show stamped postcards to his probation officer once a week, or risk jail.
Authorities say Gaudioso, 22, was high on drugs in 2008 when he veered onto the wrong side of a road in Eustis, Fla., at more than 80 mph, killing the 28-year-old Iraq war veteran.
Gaudioso would not discuss the sentence, the newspaper said.
(Oct. 25) — A Florida teenager who made headlines for her prolonged case of hiccups three years ago has been charged with murder in the fatal shooting and armed robbery of a man, authorities say.
Jennifer Mee, 19, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Shannon Griffin, who was found Saturday night with “several gunshot wounds to his upper body,” St. Petersburg, Fla., police said in a statement Sunday, according to media reports.Two men, Laron Raiford, 20, and Lamont Newton, 22, were also arrested and charged with murder, according to the St. Petersburg Times. All three were due in court this afternoon.
Police said Mee lured the victim to a home where the two other suspects robbed him at gunpoint and took “miscellaneous items” from him, the newspaper reported. Griffin, 22, was killed during a struggle.Mee is being held without bond today, and the two men admitted their involvement, St. Petersburg police Sgt. T.A. Skinner told The Associated Press.Mee appeared on NBC’s “Today” show several times in 2007 with her uncontrollable hiccups.
Known as “Hiccup Girl,” she had hiccups that came 50 times a minute, causing her to miss school. She tried remedies including medication, hypnosis and acupuncture — all without success — until the hiccups went away after five weeks.
After the hiccups stopped, Mee returned to the “Today” show for another interview. It ended with Ann Curry assuring her, “You’re still 16, so you’ve got everything … still ahead for you.”
Report: Robert Mugabe's Wife Cheated With Top Aide.
(Oct. 25) — He’s a brutal despot, known for murdering opponents and starving his country into submission. Yet despite his outrageous cruelty, it seems that Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is still a fool for love.
The 86-year-old president is said to be “devastated” after discovering that his wife Grace, 45 — known locally as Dis Grace, First Shopper and Grasping Grace for her love of lavish foreign shopping sprees — allegedly conducted a five-year affair with one of his closest friends, 50-year-old central bank boss Gideon Gono, reports South Africa’s Sunday Times.
Members of Zimbabwe’s security apparatus told the paper that Mugabe first heard about the relationship in July, when his sister Sabina revealed the scandal on her deathbed. His most trusted bodyguard, senior police commissioner Cain Chademana, then reportedly told Mugabe that he had also heard rumors of an affair but had decided not to worry his boss with the news.
That confession may have sealed Chademana’s fate: He died in late August after “‘a short illness” but is widely believed to have been poisoned. One anonymous security official — outraged by the alleged murder of his colleague — told the Times that Mugabe decided to kill Chademana to stop news of the affair spreading.
"Gono is his personal banker, knows Mugabe’s financial secrets and is trusted," the source said. "And there he is betraying the old man. It would be too humiliating and could not be allowed to stand."
It will be harder to dispatch Gono, the paper notes, as he manages Mugabe’s vast offshore fortune and is a powerful figure within the southern African nation.
TEHRAN, Iran -Iranian authorities have amputated the hand of a convicted thief in front of other prisoners, state radio reported Sunday, in a possible step toward restoring the punishment to common use and carrying it out in public.Cutting off the hands of thieves — allowed for by the Iranian judiciary’s strict reading of Islamic law — has been rare in Iran in recent years, but the amputation reported Sunday was the second this month. And a week ago, a judge ordered the same punishment for a man who stole from a candy shop, though that ruling can still be appealed.Sunday’s report said the 32-year-old convict, whose hand was cut off at a prison in the central city of Yazd, had committed four robberies and other crimes. It did not elaborate or identify the prisoner by name. Yazd is 400 miles, or 670 kilometers, southeast of the capital, Tehran.There were no details on how the punishment was carried out. There have been conflicting reports in the past, with some saying amputations were done in the early 1980s without any medical procedures. Other reports said they were carried out in the presence of a doctor. A recent news report said they would now be carried out with the prisoner receiving anesthesia.An audience of fellow inmates was assembled to witness the amputation, which could be a sign that such punishments will be done before the public in the future.The punishment has been part of Iran’s penal code since 1980, a year after the country’s clerical leaders came to power in the revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed shah.The reporting of the punishment on state-run radio indicated it had approval from senior Iranian leaders, though there has been no official government comment about any push to resume more frequent implementation of the punishment.Critics say amputations and public executions and floggings hurt Iran’s image and reflect badly on Islam.