American Scene: New drug tunnel discovered on Mexican border

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Mukesh Gupta, Johnson Jung-Chien Lu and their companies pleaded guilty to illegal commercialization of wildlife, forfeited a combined total of more than $2 million in ivory and paid a total of $55,000 to aid the Wildlife Conservation Society’s efforts to help elephants.

The jewelers’ attorneys emphasized that the men admitted only to selling and offering ivory without a permit establishing it came from before the animals were protected in the 1970s.

But authorities and conservation experts said that much of the ivory was doubtless more recent and that stocking it in stores in Manhattan’s diamond district inherently contributes to a worrisome boom in the illegal ivory trade.

Despite international efforts to clamp down on ivory harvesting, it is still in demand for jewelry, carved art and other items, authorities said. While the estimates and calculations are complicated, a June report by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora said findings showed a rise in elephant poaching in the last decade.

New York state environmental law bans selling or offering to sell ivory without a special permit.

WISCONSIN

Father charged in daughters’ deaths

MADISON — A North Dakota man was charged Thursday with three counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the deaths of his three young daughters in northwestern Wisconsin.

Police discovered the bodies of 11-year-old Amara Schaffhausen, 8-year-old Sophie Schaffhausen and 5-year-old Cecilia Schaffhausen in the home they shared with their mother in River Falls on Tuesday.

Authorities have not said how the girls were killed, but when police entered the home they noted the first-floor gas fireplace was on and the basement smelled of a flammable liquid they have yet to identify.

Investigators said their father, Aaron Schaffhausen, 34, of Minot, unexpectedly contacted the girls’ mother - his ex-wife - on Tuesday and asked for an unplanned visit with the children. The mother, who wasn’t home, agreed, and when Mr. Schaffhausen showed up at the house, the girls’ baby sitter left.

Mr. Schaffhausen later called the mother, Jessica Schaffhausen, and told her he had hurt the girls. She called police en route to the house.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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