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Nation Briefs: New York synagogue bomb plot suspect pleads guilty

NEW YORK — A man charged with plotting to blow up synagogues in New York City has pleaded guilty to state terrorism charges.

Ahmed Ferhani entered the plea Tuesday in the unusual state-level terror case.

Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus says he plans to sentence Ferhani to 10 years in prison. Sentencing is set for Jan. 30.

The Manhattan district attorney's office has said Ferhani wanted to attack a synagogue. Prosecutors say he bought three guns and a grenade to do so. The buy was a sting.

His lawyers previously said Ferhani was mentally unstable. They have said the prosecution was based on insufficient evidence and dubious tactics.

Ferhani and a co-defendant were arrested last year.

GEORGIA

World's oldest person, 116, dies in nursing home

MONROE — The woman who was listed as the world's oldest person died Tuesday in a Georgia nursing home at age 116.

Besse Cooper died peacefully Tuesday afternoon in Monroe, about 45 miles east of Atlanta.

She was declared the world's oldest person in January 2011. In May 2011, Guinness World Records learned that Maria Gomes Valentin of Brazil was 48 days older. Valentin died the next month.

The title of world's oldest person now belongs to 115-year-old Dina Manfredini, of Johnston, Iowa. 

ARIZONA

Sick girl sought after mom takes her from hospital

PHOENIX — Authorities in Arizona are looking for an 11-year-old girl with leukemia and a heart catheter who they say could die in a matter of days if she isn't brought back to a hospital after her parents inexplicably took her out of the facility last week.

The girl, Emily, had been receiving chemotherapy at Phoenix Children's Hospital for about a month, Phoenix police Sgt. Steve Martos said Monday.

An infection forced doctors to amputate her right arm and insert a catheter in her heart. The device was set to be taken out before her mother removed an IV from the girl, changed her clothes, and walked her out of the hospital Wednesday night.

Police said if the catheter is left in too long, it could lead to a deadly infection.

NEW YORK

Police question suspect in deadly subway push

NEW YORK — Police questioned a suspect Tuesday in the death of a New Yorker who was pushed onto the tracks and photographed just before a train hit him — an image that drew virulent criticism after it appeared on the front page of the New York Post.

Witnesses told investigators they saw the suspect talking to himself Monday afternoon before he approached Ki-suk Han at the Times Square station, got into an altercation with him and pushed him into the train's path.

Police took the man into custody Tuesday, but he hasn't been charged.

Mr. Han, 58, of Queens, died shortly after being struck.

ARIZONA

Border Patrol agent arrested in smuggling probe

PHOENIX — U.S. Border Patrol agent has been arrested after authorities say he used his patrol vehicle to smuggle drugs while on duty in southwest Arizona, according to a federal complaint.

Aaron Anaya was on patrol Sunday evening when he stopped along the international border, then loaded up several bundles of marijuana that had been dropped over the fence from Mexico, according to the complaint filed this week in federal court in Arizona.

Agents assigned to the Southwest Border Corruption Task Force had been conducting aerial surveillance in the area between Yuma and Wellton, about 185 miles southwest of Phoenix, when they spotted Mr. Anaya stop along the fence and retrieve the bundles, the complaint states. It does not say whether Mr. Anaya was the target of the initial surveillance or merely observed during the overall operation.

Authorities say the task force continued to track Mr. Anaya for several hours as he appeared to return to normal patrol duties.

PENNSYLVANIA

Nativity scene Jesus returned, replacement swiped

CHAMBERSBURG — A baby Jesus figure taken from a Pennsylvania church's Nativity scene last year was found cradled in the arms of a nearby statue, just hours before the replacement statue was swiped.

The vintage figurine was taken last year from outside Chambersburg's Central Presbyterian Church. It was found Sunday in the arms of a bronze Civil War soldier statue across the town square.

A local business had replaced the Jesus statue when the Nativity scene was set up a couple weeks ago. The Chambersburg Public Opinion reported that replacement statue was swiped sometime after services Sunday.

TEXAS

New Fort Hood judge to hear court-martial

FORT HOOD — The court martial against the Army psychiatrist charged in the Fort Hood shooting rampage will move forward with a replacement to the military judge who insisted that the suspect be forcibly shaved — the biggest hurdle to a long-delayed trial.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ruled Monday that Col. Gregory Gross should no longer preside over the military trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan due in part to what it called a "duel of wills" between judge and defendant. Maj. Hasan is charged with 13 counts of murder in the November 2009 shooting rampage.

While in custody, Maj. Hasan has grown a beard that he says is an expression of his Islamic faith. Col. Gross had sided with prosecutors who say the beard violates Army grooming standards and could confuse witnesses.

The court of appeals declined to rule on whether Maj. Hasan could keep the beard, but it also indicated that the next judge may not be the right authority to decide that issue, suggesting that the case will move forward.

PENNSYLVANIA

Ex-Penn State president seeks looser bail

HARRISBURG — Former Penn State President Graham Spanier wants looser bail rules so he can travel outside Pennsylvania and overseas for family and professional reasons.

Mr. Spanier's request filed last month said his domestic travel needs included visits to his second home in New York City and holidays with relatives in Iowa and his ill mother in Chicago.

Mr. Spanier, a tenured faculty member on leave, was charged last month in what prosecutors claimed was a "conspiracy of silence" that covered up complaints about former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky showering with boys in university athletics facilities. He is free on $125,000 unsecured bail and had to relinquish his passport. A judge also restricted his travel outside the state.

MASSACHUSETTS

Harvard recognizes group promoting kinky sex

CAMBRIDGE — Kinky sex has been admitted to Harvard.

The nation's oldest university has formally recognized Harvard College Munch, a group promoting discussions and safe practices of kinky and alternative sex. The school has no record of a similar group being recognized in its 376-year history.

The Committee on Student Life recognized Munch on Friday, making it one of 400 independent student organizations on campus. The decision occurred more than a year after members began meeting informally over meals.

"Applications for recognition are decided by a student-faculty committee following the review of a committee composed of students and administrators," Harvard spokesman Jeff Neal said Tuesday. "The college does not endorse the views or activities of any independent student organization."

Harvard is not the first school in the country to formally recognize kinky sex groups, and several active groups exist within the larger community in Cambridge and neighboring Boston.

Organizers of Harvard College Munch did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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