- - Tuesday, August 9, 2011

CALIFORNIA

Police: $800 million worth of pot seized in raids

UKIAH An estimated $800 million worth of marijuana has been seized in a massive raid on public lands deep in Northern California’s pot country, authorities said Tuesday.

The three-week effort, known as Operation Full Court Press, to purge the Mendocino National Forest of illegal gardens, led to the seizure of more than 632,000 marijuana plants. The operation resulted in 132 arrests with 118 people booked on federal and state charges and 14 detained on immigration violations.

Several Mexican-based drug trafficking organizations were behind the illegal grows, Department of Justice spokeswoman Michelle Gregory said.

In previous years, officials have blamed Mexican drug cartels for some of the state’s largest growing operations, but Ms. Gregory stopped short of making that claim.

The $800 million tally for the seized plants is a conservative estimate, said John Heil, a regional spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service. The amount is based on a street value of marijuana being worth about $2,500 per pound, he said.

COLORADO

Lawmaker wants burro racing as state’s official summer sport

DENVERThere’s a move afoot to make burro racing Colorado’s official summer sport.

State Rep. Tom Massey, a Republican, says skiing has been declared the official winter sport, so he plans to sponsor a resolution next year declaring pack burro racing as the official summer sport of Colorado.

Western Pack Burro Association spokesman Brad Wann told KDVR-TV that donkey races are a tribute to the miners who would race back to the office with their donkeys after they struck gold to claim it.

Today’s competitions are five to 29 miles long. Competitors run alongside the donkeys, which are required to carry 33-pound packs and mining tools.

FLORIDA

One killed, two wounded in check-cashing store shooting

MIAMI A clerk at a South Florida check-cashing store died after being shot along with two other people during what was reported as a robbery.

A SWAT team stormed the store in Broward County near Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday morning.

The Broward County Sheriff’s Department said the female clerk died later Tuesday at a hospital. A male suspect was found wounded outside, and another wounded man was across the street. It is unclear whether the second man was involved or just a bystander.

Officials initially thought the clerk was a hostage. They waited until it was safe before going in.

A spokeswoman said she has heard of no connection between the shootings and the fugitive siblings on the run since a crime spree in Florida and Georgia.

KANSAS

Witness: Soldiers cried out when hit by gunfire in Baghdad

FORT LEAVENWORTH Soldiers cried out “oh God, oh God” as they were hit by gunfire when a fellow service member stormed a U.S. combat stress clinic near Baghdad, according to testimony Tuesday during a hearing that will determine whether the accused gunman stands trial.

Sgt. John Russell is facing charges including five counts of premeditated murder in the Mary 2009 attack at Camp Liberty, which was the deadliest act of soldier-on-soldier violence during the war in Iraq. The case cast a spotlight on the issues of combat stress and morale as troops increasingly served multiple combat tours.

Sgt. Dominic Morales testified Tuesday that he and two other soldiers took cover in an office as Sgt. Russell walked through the clinic shooting. Sgt. Morales said he heard soldiers who were hit yelling out, “oh God, oh God.”

The father of one victim, Army Sgt. Christian E. Bueno-Galdos, 25, of Paterson, N.J., was overcome during the testimony and left the courtroom.

A military judge is hearing the case at Fort Leavenworth, where Sgt. Russell is being held. Tuesday’s proceedings are similar to a civilian grand jury.

MISSOURI

United Arab Emirates gives Joplin monetary relief

COLUMBIA The United Arab Emirates has pledged to give up to $1 million to help equip high school students in tornado-ravaged Joplin, Mo., with laptop computers for the coming school year.

Some high school students will attend classes in a converted big-box store when the new school year begins later this month, but they will have new Apple iPads to aid their studies.

The Persian Gulf state pledged to donate $500,000 to the Joplin School District’s laptop initiative and to match up to $500,000 in similar donations.

Joplin High School was among the many buildings destroyed by the May 22 tornado that killed 160 people. Juniors and seniors will attend classes this fall in a converted store, while freshman and sophomore classes will be held in another school building.

PENNSYLVANIA

Workers cutting a fallen oak find Civil War bullets

GETTYSBURG Workers cutting up a fallen tree at Gettysburg National Military Park came across some Civil War artifacts when their chain saw struck bullets buried in the tree trunk.

The bullets were discovered last week while a crew was cutting through the oak tree on Culp’s Hill, the site of intense fighting on July 2 and 3, 1863, Park Superintendent Bob Kirby said Tuesday.

It was common to find bullets there 100 years ago, but such discoveries are a rarity these days, Mr. Kirby said.

Two sections of the tree’s trunk were removed and will be treated to clean out insects and mold before they are be added to the park’s museum collection, officials said.

The tree was estimated to have been about a century old at the time of the battle, meaning it was about 250 years old when it fell recently, park spokeswoman Katie Lawhon said.

She said there are at least two visible bullets. One appears to be a Minie ball, a type of ammunition used extensively during the Civil War.

VIRGINIA

U.S. filing reveals details about accused pirate’s actions

RICHMOND A man accused of negotiating ransoms on behalf of Somali pirates used his cellphone to search for information about four Americans days before they were killed on their yacht off the coast of Africa in February, the U.S. government revealed in court filings.

The details about Mohammad Saaili Shibin’s arrest in Somalia and interrogation by U.S. officials were contained in the government’s response to a defense claim that he was unlawfully questioned aboard a government plane.

The government responded Monday that the FBI “studiously followed the law of interrogation” and that Mr. Shibin was “fully capable of understanding his rights and making an informed and voluntary decision regarding whether to speak to the agents without an attorney present.”

Mr. Shibin is charged with piracy, kidnapping and weapons charges in the February hijacking of the yacht Quest. He has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors have said Mr. Shibin never boarded the Quest, but operated from Somalia to determine how much ransom the hostages could fetch. He is considered the highest-ranking suspected pirate the United States has prosecuted.