- - Sunday, October 9, 2011

CALIFORNIA

Brown inks bill to bar minors from tanning beds

SACRAMENTO — California girls who dream about the sun-kissed skin glorified in song by Katy Perry will have to wait until they turn 18 before they can get the effect from tanning beds.

Gov. Jerry Brown announced Sunday he had signed into law a bill that prevents children under 18 from using the popular tanning method. The law takes effect Jan. 1. Under current law, children 14 and under in California already cannot use the beds, but those ages 15 to 17 can do so with permission from their parents.

The ban will hurt businesses, many of them owned by women, said the Indoor Tanning Association. About 5 percent to 10 percent of its members’ customers are under 18, the industry group noted. The organization said tanning salons already are regulated by the state Department of Consumer Affairs and the federal Food and Drug Administration.

But state Sen. Ted Lieu and other ban supporters said the higher age limit is needed because skin damage caused by the type of radiation used in tanning beds often leads to skin cancer. Mr. Lieu said early tanning by children can increase the risk.

KANSAS

Missing girl’s aunt seeks help at NASCAR race

KANSAS CITY — The family of a missing Missouri baby reached out to tens of thousands of NASCAR fans Sunday, hoping to spur efforts to locate the child as investigators sifted through hundreds of tips that so far have led to dead ends.

Ten-month-old Lisa Irwin hasn’t been seen in nearly a week. Her parents reported her missing early Tuesday, saying she was snatched sometime overnight from their home in Kansas City, Mo.

Her aunt, Ashley Irwin, handed out thousands of fliers in a parking lot at Kansas Speedway during Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race. She has been trying to raise awareness about her niece’s disappearance, from prayer vigils to online social media, and said targeting the 80,000 fans attending the race would help.

Investigators have said they have no solid leads or suspects in the case despite an extensive search of the family’s quiet neighborhood, including the girl’s home and neighbors’ houses, along with nearby woods, sewers and a Kansas landfill.

NEVADA

Navy SEAL guilty in weapons case

LAS VEGAS — A federal jury on Friday found an active-duty Navy SEAL guilty on 13 of 15 charges alleging he smuggled machine guns and explosives from Iraq and Afghanistan and conspired with three convicted co-defendants to sell them in the United States.

The jury returned the verdict in U.S. District Court after about 10 hours considering the fate of Petty Officer Nicholas Bickle, 34.

Prosecutors say federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents bought weapons during an undercover operation that led to raids in November at Bickle’s apartment and a storage unit he leased near San Diego, in Las Vegas where two other convicted co-defendants live, and at the Durango, Colo., home of a man who pleaded guilty in the case.

Authorities say 72 weapons were seized, including more than two dozen AK-47 and M92 machine guns, a sniper rifle, and handguns.

Bickle’s lawyer, James Pokorny, maintained the government never proved a link between Bickle and the weapons. He told the jury the government case relied on flimsy circumstantial evidence and the testimony of drug dealers and convicts who pleaded guilty and tailored accounts of Bickle’s involvement in hopes they’ll be spared prison time.

NEW YORK

More than 100 arrested in massive identity-theft ring

NEW YORK — Bank tellers, restaurant workers and other service employees in New York lifted credit card data from residents and foreign tourists as part of an identity theft ring that stretched to China, Europe and the Middle East and victimized thousands, authorities said Friday.

In total, 111 people were charged and more than 85 are in custody; the others are still being sought. Five separate criminal enterprises operating out of Queens were dismantled.

OKLAHOMA

Challenger leads early in vote for Cherokee chief

TAHLEQUAH — The challenger has a lead in the hotly contested race for chief of one of the nation’s biggest American Indian tribes.

A Sunday count of votes cast in person put longtime Cherokee Nation councilman Bill John Baker ahead of former Principal Chief Chad Smith by 6,223 votes (61 percent) to 4,046 votes (39 percent).

However, up to 12,000 absentee ballots still must be counted, the tribe’s election commission says. A winner may not be confirmed until Wednesday.

The election that began Sept. 24 and ended Saturday was scheduled after the result of a June 25 election was invalidated. Mr. Smith and Mr. Baker were each twice declared the winner and questions were raised about how the ballots were handled and stored.

RHODE ISLAND

Prize-winning pumpkin weighs in at 1,661 pounds

WARREN — A boulder-sized pumpkin weighing 1,661 pounds has taken top honors at a New England regional contest, though it fell short of the world record.

Joe Jutras of Scituate sat on his prize-winning gourd Saturday and posed for photos after the annual Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Growers’ Annual Weigh-Off.

His pumpkin fell nearly 150 pounds shy of the world record of 1,810.5 pounds, set last year in Wisconsin. But that’s an honor Mr. Jutras has held before. His 2007 gourd tipped the scales at 1,689 pounds, setting a record that held up for two years.

He told the Providence Journal that this year’s pumpkin started as a seed May 1, and he tended it two or three hours nightly and 10 hours on weekends.

TENNESSEE

Prison frees former death-row inmate

NASHVILLE — A Memphis woman who spent a quarter-century on death row and came within two months of being executed for hiring a stranger to kill her husband in 1985 was freed Friday from a Tennessee prison.

Gaile Owens, 58, was greeted by a small group of supporters outside the Tennessee Prison for Women. She was all smiles as she pushed a yellow laundry cart containing her belongings past the prison’s razor-wire fence to freedom.

Owens was sentenced to die in 1986, but her death sentence was commuted to life in prison last year and she won parole last week.

WASHINGTON

Hertz suspends Muslim shuttle drivers

SEATAC — Rental car company Hertz indefinitely suspended 34 Somali Muslim shuttle drivers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for praying on company time, and the workers’ union is trying to put them back in the driver’s seat after what it calls a sudden policy change.

The drivers are required to clock out, under the terms of a settlement two years ago with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Hertz spokesman Rich Broome said.

“We felt it was reasonable for our Muslim employees who need to pray a couple times during the workday to clock in and clock out,” Mr. Broome said.

It’s not about pay — break time is paid time — but to ensure workers were staying within the 10-minute time slots, which has been a problem, he said. Muslim workers who clocked out were not suspended.

Drivers told the Seattle Times it was a change in policy that Hertz began enforcing last week.

From wire dispatches and staff reports