- - Wednesday, February 23, 2011

ARIZONA

Large group of illegals arrested near border

PHOENIX | Border agents said Wednesday that they arrested an unusually large group of illegal immigrants crossing through the western Arizona desert in what authorities said is proof that increased border technology is working.

Border Patrol surveillance video operators Friday morning spotted a group of more than 100 people walking just north of the Mexico border about 15 miles west of Lukeville, Agent Eric Cantu said.

When agents responded, Mr. Cantu said, they were able to arrest 22 people but the rest of the group scattered.

A helicopter team found much of the group hiding in thick brush, and agents arrested 106 additional illegal immigrants. The smugglers and other suspected illegal immigrants may have escaped, Mr. Cantu said.

The 128 men who were apprehended have either been returned to Mexico or were jailed because of prior convictions.

COLORADO

Northern Command, NORAD to cut jobs

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE | Commanders at NORAD and the U.S. Northern Command say they’re reducing staffing by 79 positions amid Defense Department budget cuts.

The command said Wednesday that 40 of the positions will be military and 39 civilian. Offices affected most directly include chaplains, history, surgeon general and control systems.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command is a U.S.-Canada command responsible for defending both nations from air attack and for monitoring potential maritime threats.

Northern Command is responsible for the military defense of U.S. soil and supporting civilian agencies in natural or human-caused disasters.

GEORGIA

CDC reports bad year for whooping cough

ATLANTA | More than 21,000 people in the U.S., many of them children and teens, got whooping cough last year. That was the highest number since 2005 and among the worst years in more than a half-century, U.S. health officials said Wednesday.

They are puzzled by the sharp rise in cases. The vaccine against whooping cough is highly effective in children, and vaccination rates for children are good.

The disease is very contagious and in rare cases can be fatal, especially for babies too young to be vaccinated. Whooping cough starts like a cold but leads to severe coughing that can last for weeks.

California appeared to be the hardest-hit state last year. State health officials reported more than 8,300 cases, including the deaths of 10 babies.

At least 26 deaths were reported nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

NEW YORK

Report: U.S. lags on parental leave

NEW YORK | The United States is decades behind the rest of the world in parental leave policy and joins Swaziland and Papua New Guinea as the only countries with no guarantee of paid leave, a Human Rights Watch report said Wednesday.

Of the 190 countries studied in the report, 178 guaranteed paid leave for new mothers and nine were not clear about their maternity policies. Three countries — Papua New Guinea, Swaziland and the United States — clearly offer no legal guarantee of paid maternity leave.

The United States also lacks accommodations for breastfeeding mothers and has more than its share of workplace discrimination against new parents, the report said.

Roughly half of all Americans are covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows employees with newborn children to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 11 percent of American workers have the option of taking paid medical leave.

California and New Jersey have public paid leave insurance programs.

WEST VIRGINIA

Suspect in woman’s slaying captured

CHARLESTON | A man charged in the stabbing death of his girlfriend’s daughter and wanted for questioning in the disappearance of an Ohio couple was captured in southern West Virginia, state police said Wednesday, a day after the couple’s car was found nearby.

Samuel K. Littleton II was apprehended at 11:45 a.m. in the woods behind a Wal-Mart in Princeton. He was flushed out by a police helicopter and caught after a brief foot chase, Capt. J.L. Cahill said.

The car belonging to Richard Russell, 84, and his wife, Gladis, 85, was found abandoned Tuesday in Princeton. State police have said Mr. Littleton called a relative Tuesday from a Princeton-area pay phone but was gone by the time police arrived there.

At a brief news conference, Capt. Cahill didn’t mention the whereabouts of the couple whose car was found.

Mr. Littleton is charged with killing his girlfriend’s 26-year-old daughter. Her body was found last week in his basement in Bellefontaine, the Ohio community where the Russells live. Mr. Littleton had bought a home from the Russells in 2009.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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