- - Monday, November 15, 2010

ALABAMA

Ex-trooper pleads in civil rights-era slaying

MARION — A former state trooper took a plea deal Monday in the 1965 slaying of a black man that prompted the “Bloody Sunday” march in Selma and helped galvanize America’s civil rights movement.

Indicted for murder more than four decades after the fatal shooting, James Bonard Fowler, 77, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to six months in jail.

It was a mixed victory for civil rights-era prosecutions. The prosecutor and Jackson family members did not get the murder conviction they sought, but the jail time and an apology from Fowler seemed to help close a painful chapter in U.S. history.

Bloody Sunday helped lead to passage of the Voting Rights Act, and the killing of Jimmie Lee Jackson was an integral part of that story.

The shooting resulted in no charges for more than 40 years until a new prosecutor — the first black elected district attorney in Perry County — resurrected the case.

CALIFORNIA

Woman charged with terrorist aid

SAN DIEGO — A woman has been charged in San Diego with providing money and personnel to a terrorist group in Somalia.

A federal prosecutor said Monday that Nima Ali Yusuf supported al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-linked militia trying to create an Islamic state in Somalia. She is the fourth person charged in the past month in San Diego with helping al-Shabab.

Federal prosecutor Sabrina Feve says Miss Yusuf was arrested Friday in San Diego and appeared in federal court on Monday.

The indictment says Miss Yusuf has been charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and lying to a government agency.

KANSAS

Safety of planned biodefense lab questioned

TOPEKA — A new report contends that federal officials have underestimated the risks associated with building a new lab in northeastern Kansas that will study dangerous animal diseases that can be passed to humans.

The National Research Council report criticizes placing the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, a college town in the heart of cattle country.

The Department of Homeland Security says the lab, which it refers to as the NBAF, will be safe.

But the research council notes in its report, released Monday, that the department itself estimates there is about a 2 percent chance each year that a pathogen could be released.

The research council calculates that based on Homeland Security figures, there is a 70 percent chance a leaked pathogen could cause an infection within the next 50 years.

Department spokesman Chris Ortman said the calculation “was based on a cumulative worst-case scenario.”

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Law allowing ‘God’ pledge in schools OK’ed

A federal appeals court has upheld a New Hampshire law requiring schools to authorize a time each day for students to voluntarily recite the Pledge of Allegiance, finding the oath’s reference to God doesn’t violate the students’ constitutional rights.

A three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston on Friday affirmed a ruling by a federal judge who found students can use the phrase “under God” when reciting the pledge.

Parents and the Freedom From Religion Foundation had sued the Hanover School District in New Hampshire and the Dresden School District in New Hampshire and Vermont in 2007. They said children’s constitutional rights were being violated.

The appeals court found the primary effect of the law is “not the advancement of religion, but the advancement of patriotism.”

NEW JERSEY

Tougher anti-bullying law approved by panel

TRENTON — A New Jersey Senate panel has approved anti-bullying legislation that proponents say is among the most comprehensive in the country.

The bill approved Monday requires school districts to establish anti-bullying programs. It also requires public school teachers and staff to receive training in suicide prevention and dealing with bullying.

The measure follows the recent suicide of an 18-year-old Rutgers University student whose roommate was accused of broadcasting his tryst with another man online.

NORTH CAROLINA

Documents: Disabled girl dismembered

HICKORY — A disabled North Carolina girl was dismembered and her remains were put at different sites, according to court papers filed Monday by lawyers representing her stepmother.

The court documents ask for a reduction in bail for Elisa Baker, saying she helped investigators by leading them to the remains of 10-year-old Zahra Baker.

Mrs. Baker has been jailed since last month, accused of trying to throw off investigators by writing a fake ransom note for another child.

Mrs. Baker told police on Oct. 24 that Zahra “was deceased, that her body had been dismembered and that it would be recovered at different sites,” according to the documents. She was allowed to accompany police the following two days to sites around Hickory, showing them where Zahra’s remains were.

TENNESSEE

Opryland Hotel reopens after flood damage

NASHVILLE — Decked out in more than 2 million Christmas lights, the sprawling Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center reopened Monday after historic Nashville flooding shuttered the cornerstone of the city’s tourism business for six months.

The hotel, known for its indoor waterfalls and garden-filled atriums, has 2,881 guest rooms and bills itself as the largest non-gaming hotel in the continental United States. In May, flooding from the nearby Cumberland River caused about $200 million in damage and left part of the resort in up to 10 feet of water. Ten people died in Nashville after it rained 13.5 inches over two days.

Four groups or conventions were meeting Monday at the hotel. Rooms are sold out this weekend, and conventions are being booked as far ahead as 2020. Room rates start at $149 on weeknights and $209 on weekends, according to the resort website.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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