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MASSACHUSETTS

Man convicted of conspiring to aid al Qaeda

BOSTON — A Massachusetts man was convicted Tuesday of conspiring to help al Qaeda and plotting to kill U.S. troops in Iraq.

Tarek Mehanna, 29, of Sudbury, faced four terrorism-related charges and three charges of lying to authorities. A federal jury found him guilty of all counts after deliberating for about 10 hours.

Prosecutors said Mehanna and two friends conspired to travel to Yemen so they could receive training at a terrorism camp and eventually go on to Iraq to fight and kill U.S. troops there.

When the men were unable to find such a training camp, Mehanna returned home and began to see himself as part of the al Qaeda "media wing," translating materials promoting violent jihad and distributing them over the Internet, prosecutors said.

Mehanna, who was born in the U.S. and raised in the Boston suburbs, will be sentenced April 12 and could be sent to prison for the rest of his life.

NEW JERSEY

Parolee back in U.S. from Peru after 15 years

NEWARK — Lori Berenson, a New Yorker paroled from a Peruvian prison after 15 years behind bars for aiding a leftist revolutionary group, arrived in the U.S. on Tuesday for her first visit home since her arrest in 1995.

Miss Berenson, 42, did not speak to reporters after landing at the Newark airport with her 2-year-old son, Salvador. They were escorted by police to a waiting car as the boy looked with wonderment at the gaggle of reporters and flashing cameras.

Earlier, Miss Berenson's mother, Rhoda Berenson, clutched a Bloomingdale's bag containing a winter coat for her grandson as she awaited her daughter's arrival.

"We are looking forward to the first holiday at home in a long, long time, and many relatives who haven't met Salvador are excited to see him," she said. "This is not a political time. This is a time for family, friends and holidays."

Miss Berenson was arrested at 26 and accused of helping plot an armed takeover of Peru's Congress, where she had been working as a journalist. The attack never took place.

She admitted helping the Maoist Tupac Amaru rebel group rent a safe house where authorities seized a cache of weapons after a shootout. But she has insisted she didn't know guns were stored there and never joined the group.

NORTH CAROLINA

Man guilty in murder of UNC student leader

HILLSBOROUGH — A Durham man was convicted Tuesday and sentenced to life without parole in the slaying of a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student body president.

The jury on Tuesday found Laurence Lovette Jr. guilty of first-degree murder in the March 2008 slaying of Eve Carson. He was also convicted of first-degree kidnapping and robbery. He showed no emotion as the verdict was read.

Lovette, 20, was not eligible for the death penalty because he was a minor when the crime was committed.

For the kidnapping and robbery charges, Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour tacked on an additional 20 years to the end of Lovette's life sentence.

Prosecutors say Lovette, who was 17 at the time, had driven in his mother's car to nearby Chapel Hill with another man, Demario Atwater, to go find someone to rob.

In the early-morning darkness, they happened upon Miss Carson, a busy Morehead scholar and much-liked student leader from Athens, Ga., who friends said regularly stayed up all night studying. The pair shot her five times, prosecutors said, for her ATM card and because she had seen their faces.

Atwater pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to two life prison terms.

NEW YORK

Earth-size planets spotted around distant star

NEW YORK — Scientists have found two Earth-sized planets orbiting a star outside the solar system, an encouraging sign for prospects of finding life elsewhere.

The discovery shows that such planets exist and that they can be detected by the Kepler spacecraft, said Francois Fressin of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. They're the smallest planets found so far that orbit a star resembling our sun.

Scientists are seeking Earth-sized planets as potential homes for extraterrestrial life, said Mr. Fressin, who reports the new findings in a paper published online Tuesday by the journal Nature. One planet's diameter is only 3 percent larger than Earth's, while the other's diameter is about nine-tenths that of Earth. They appear to be rocky, like our planet.

But they are too hot to contain life as we know it, with calculated temperatures of about 1,400 degrees and 800 degrees Fahrenheit, he said.

Any life found on another planet may not be intelligent; it could be bacteria or mold or some completely unknown form.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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