American Scene

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Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

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ALABAMA

Teacher sorry for assassination lesson

BIRMINGHAM — An Alabama teacher who used a hypothetical assassination of President Obama as an example in a geometry lesson says he is sorry.

Jefferson County teacher Gregory Harrison said Thursday that his comments were inappropriate, and he called them a “very serious error.”

Mr. Harrison previously was suspended with pay; school officials say he’s giving up 10 days of salary but likely won’t have to miss more time in the classroom. He’s also getting a formal reprimand and must undergo diversity and sensitivity training.

Mr. Harrison was teaching a lesson on tangent lines and angles earlier this month when he discussed a possible gunshot assassination of Mr. Obama.

The Secret Service interviewed Mr. Harrison but determined there was no credible threat. No charges were filed.

CALIFORNIA

Oldest recipient of Medal of Honor dies

SAN DIEGO — Retired Navy Lt. John Finn, the oldest Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, has died at his Southern California home. He was 100.

Navy Lt. Aaron Kakiel said Lt. Finn died early Thursday on his ranch near Live Oak Springs, where he lived for more than 50 years.

Lt. Finn earned the nation’s highest military-valor award for his heroism during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He manned a machine gun during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack and began firing on Japanese aircraft from an exposed location, suffering serious wounds in the process.

He received the Medal of Honor on Sept. 15, 1942, from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Born July 23, 1909, in Los Angeles, Lt. Finn was the oldest of 97 Medal of Honor recipients still living.

CONNECTICUT

Smoker wins $8 million verdict

NEW HAVEN — A Connecticut smoker who developed larynx cancer has won $8 million in a lawsuit against a tobacco company, the first such jury verdict in New England, her attorney said Thursday.

David Golub, attorney for Barbara Izzarelli of Norwich, said Thursday a federal jury in Bridgeport made the award late Wednesday against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. after a two-week trial. He said a judge will decide additional punitive damages next month, which could bring the award to $24 million.

David Howard, spokesman for R.J. Reynolds, said the company was disappointed and plans to appeal.

Ms. Izzarelli, who is 49 and smoked Salem cigarettes for more than 25 years, underwent surgery at 36 that resulted in the removal of her larynx. She must breathe through a hole in her throat, has no sense of smell and can only eat soft foods, Mr. Golub said.

ILLINOIS

Three indicted in $100 million scam

CHICAGO — Three men have been indicted on federal charges of conning people into buying more than $100 million in bogus software by convincing the victims that their computers were infected by malicious programs.

A federal grand jury in Chicago returned indictments Wednesday against James Reno, 26, of Amelia, Ohio, and Bjorn Daniel Sundin, 31, and Shaileshkumar Jain, 40.

Mr. Sundin is a Swedish citizen thought to live in Sweden. Mr. Jain is an American who authorities think is in Ukraine.

The indictment says Mr. Jain and Mr. Sundin sold pieces of bogus software through their company, Innovative Marketing Inc. Mr. Reno is accused of running call centers for Innovative Marketing.

MICHIGAN

Two protesters arrested at mine site

BIG BAY — A small group of protesters stayed put Thursday after being ordered to leave the entrance of a planned nickel and copper mine in the Upper Peninsula, near what an American Indian tribe considers sacred ground. Two people were arrested.

Police said one person was sitting on top of Eagle Rock, a 60-foot-high outcrop where members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community conduct religious pilgrimages. She remained there past the 9:30 a.m. deadline and was arrested, state police Sgt. J.M. Bruno said. One other person also was arrested.

Both were charged with misdemeanor trespassing and released on personal-recognizance bonds, state police Lt. Robert Pernaski said.

Supporters identified those arrested as Charlotte Loonsfoot, 37, and Chris Chosa, 29, members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.

NEW YORK

Adviser to celebrities charged with fraud

NEW YORK — A financial adviser to celebrities including Wesley Snipes and Sylvester Stallone was arrested Thursday on charges that he carried out a $30 million fraud on his clients, using some of their money to purchase a lavish Manhattan apartment.

Kenneth Starr, 65, of Manhattan was charged with wire fraud, investment adviser fraud and money laundering.

Also arrested in the probe was former New York City Council President Andrew Stein, who was charged with making false statements in a filing with the Internal Revenue Service and making false statements to a federal officer.

Lawyers for Mr. Starr and Mr. Stein did not respond to telephone messages seeking comment.

Mr. Starr, a lawyer, is head of New York-based Starr and Co. and Starr Investment Advisors LLC, which federal regulators said has accounts exceeding $700 million.

TEXAS

Army changes enlistment procedure

DALLAS — The Army is instituting a new procedure for checking the backgrounds of enlistees who claim prior military service after a report that a reservist duped the military into thinking he had served as a Marine.

Army recruiting spokesman Douglas Smith told Associated Press on Thursday that recruiters can no longer simply accept discharge papers as proof of service. They now must also seek to verify the documents through a military database, he said.

The directive follows an AP story detailing how a Texas man apparently tricked the Army into allowing him to enter a reserve unit as a noncommissioned officer earlier this year.

UTAH

Petition of death-row inmate denied

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah judge has denied a request to vacate the death sentence of a man set to be executed by firing squad next month.

Defense attorneys wanted 3rd District Judge Robin Reese to order a new sentencing hearing Thursday for Ronnie Lee Gardner.

Prosecutors said it was too late for Gardner to be raising new issues, and Judge Reese agreed, saying arguments raised should have been part of a 2000 court filing.

Judge Reese last month signed the warrant that set Gardner’s June 18 execution date. Gardner, 49, chose firing squad over lethal injection.

He was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die in 1985 in the courthouse shooting death of a lawyer.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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