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American Scene

- - Thursday, December 8, 2011

WASHINGTON

Man pleads guilty in terrorism plot

SEATTLE | One of two men authorities say were inspired by the 2009 mass killing at a Texas military base pleaded guilty Thursday to planning an attack on a Seattle military-recruiting station with machine guns and grenades.

Walli Mujahidh faces up to 32 years in prison for the plea to federal charges of conspiracy to kill officers of the United States, conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and unlawful possession of a firearm.

His attorney, Michele Shaw, said Mujahidh, 32, has a long history of "chronic, relentless" mental illness, including 12 stays at psychiatric hospitals. He has been diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder with bipolar tendencies.

The Los Angeles man was arrested in June along with Khalid Abdul-Latif of Seattle in an FBI sting. Federal prosecutors say the men were taken into custody when they arrived at a warehouse garage to pick up machine guns to use in the attack. The purported target, the Military Entrance Processing Station on East Marginal Way in Seattle, was a recruiting station for all military branches.

MICHIGAN

Report: Reuse of closed auto plants on rise

DETROIT | About half of all U.S. automotive plants that have closed since 1979 are being reused, and much of that activity has come during the recent hard times for the industry and real estate market, according to a report released Thursday.

The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based nonprofit Center for Automotive Research's report found that of the 267 assembly and parts plants closed during that period, 128 have found or are finding new life. Forty percent of the sites surveyed were bought for a new use between 2008 and 2010, during which the companies now known as General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC went through restructuring and bankruptcy reorganization.

The period of rejuvenation also came during the end of a decade in which more than 42 percent of the plants closed. The report noted that few sites found a new owner or use before 2000.

INDIANA

Small towns fear losing holiday postmarks

BETHLEHEM | Tiny post offices that come to life each year as people seek special holiday postmarks could soon find the tradition a ghost of Christmas past if the U.S. Postal Service proceeds with plans to close thousands of facilities.

More than half a dozen post offices in places like Bethlehem, Ind., and Snow, Okla., are on a list of about 3,700 post offices targeted for closure as the Postal Service seeks ways to save money.

Mike King of Scottsburg, Ind., says his family would be crestfallen if a 20-year tradition of Bethlehem's special stamp featuring the three wise men following the star of Bethlehem ends.

Even if the closings happen, holiday mailers can still get special postmarks from places like North Pole, N.Y., and Santa Claus, Ind.

FLORIDA

Rabbi to become Army chaplain

WEST PALM BEACH | An Orthodox Jewish rabbi who was barred from serving as an Army chaplain because he refused to shave the beard required by his faith has won his legal fight against the military and will be sworn in Friday.

Rabbi Menachem Stern of Brooklyn will be officially admitted to the chaplaincy in a ceremony at the Shul Jewish Community Center in Surfside, Fla. Mr. Stern is a member of the Chabad Lubavitch movement of Judaism, whose rabbis are prohibited from shaving their beards.

"I felt this was my calling," Mr. Stern said of the chaplaincy.

The rabbi saw an advertisement in late 2008 for military chaplains and attended a recruiter's presentation. After consulting with his wife, he decided to apply in January 2009, making clear in his application he intended to keep his beard.

Some Orthodox Jews don't shave, believing a passage in Leviticus - "Do not clip your hair at the temples, nor trim the edges of your beard" - specifically outlaws it.

KANSAS

Diamond dropped into Salvation Army kettle

SHAWNEE | The Salvation Army is trying to put a price on an unusual item dropped into one of its red kettles; namely, a diamond.

Salvation Army business manager Richard Natividad told KCTV that the diamond turned up amid the cash donated outside a Wal-Mart in the Kansas City suburb of Shawnee.

Mr. Natividad says he and other workers were counting the cash when they came across a balled-up piece of paper. He almost threw it out, thinking it was trash, but opened the paper to discover the diamond inside.

Mr. Natividad estimates the diamond is nearly a carat, but he'd like to get it appraised. He says one appraiser wanted $75 for the service. The Salvation Army hopes that someone will offer to appraise it for free.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Signed Edison photo sells for $31,554

CONCORD | A 1911 photograph of Thomas Edison holding an alkaline battery with his penned declaration about the invention's importance in transportation has sold for more than $31,000, thought to be a record for a signed Edison photo.

RR Auction of Amherst, N.H., said the photograph was sold Wednesday night in an online auction for $31,554. Its estimated value was $5,000.

"I believe time will prove that the Alkaline Storage battery will produce important changes in our present transportation systems," Edison wrote underneath the photo.

Bobby Livingston, the company's vice president of sales and marketing, said the signature, the statement's content and the photo's excellent condition accounted for the high bid.

The photo was the property of Walter Holland, who worked with Edison on the battery and published his lab reports on the project. Holland was appointed chief electrical engineer of the Edison Storage Battery Co. in West Orange, N.J., in January 1911. The photo is dated May 4 of that year.