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American Scene: Harvard alumni directory updates Unabomber entry

- - Wednesday, May 23, 2012

BOSTON — Harvard University alumni attending their 50th-anniversary class reunion this week are getting updates on classmates - including Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.

Kaczynski graduated in 1962 and is locked up in the federal Supermax prison in Colorado for killing three people and injuring 23 during a nationwide bombing spree between 1978 and 1995. In an alumni directory, he lists his occupation as "prisoner" and says his awards are "Eight life sentences, issued by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, 1998."

Harvard's alumni association said all class members, including Kaczynski, were invited to submit entries for the class report, distributed for reunion activities during commencement week. But it said it regrets including his references to his convictions.

"While all members of the class who submit entries are included, we regret publishing Kaczynski's references to his convictions and apologize for any distress that it may have caused others," the Harvard Alumni Association said in a statement Wednesday evening.

TEXAS

Tape of Muslim soldier cites Islam as motive for attack

WACO — A Muslim U.S. soldier accused of planning to bomb Fort Hood troops says he wasn't seeking vengeance but justice for his fellow Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a recording played at his federal trial Wednesday.

Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo is heard telling his mother during a recorded jail visit that "their suffering is my suffering."

Pfc. Abdo, 22, is accused of planning to detonate a bomb inside a Killeen restaurant frequented by troops from the nearby Army post in Texas and then shoot any survivors. He faces up to life in federal prison if convicted of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and five other charges.

Pfc. Abdo is heard telling his mother that "it's all true" and "the reason is religion. There is no other reason." He says what he did was selfless because he was trying to avenge wrongful U.S. treatment of people he considers his family, and that he used every resource he had "to make things as right as possible."

Consultants suggest reuses for Houston Astrodome

HOUSTON — A team of consultants is recommending that the Astrodome be turned into a multipurpose facility that could host sporting events and massive exhibitions, while also preserving the iconic structure's outer shell.

The $270 million option was one of four considered by consultants led by Dallas-based CSL. The other options included leaving the vacant stadium alone, demolishing it and building an outdoor plaza, or building a massive "renaissance" complex.

In a presentation to Harris County's sports and convention wing, the consultants said the multipurpose option could turn Houston into a popular destination for special events and national trade shows.

The recommendation now goes to the Harris County commissioners, who can take up the matter at their next capital-projects meeting on June 26.

Mom of deported runaway files federal lawsuit

HOUSTON — The mother of a teenage Dallas runaway who immigration authorities shipped to South America after she provided a false name has filed a civil rights suit against top federal officials, claiming her daughter was illegally detained and deported.

Johnisa Turner seeks unspecified damages in the federal lawsuit filed Tuesday in Houston.

In April last year, Ms. Turner's then-14-year-old daughter was arrested for shoplifting and identified herself to authorities as a 21-year-old Colombian national. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported the teen. She returned to the U.S. in January after her grandmother and Dallas police tracked her down.

Among defendants in the lawsuit are Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano.

Federal officials have said they followed procedures and that the girl did nothing to indicate she is a U.S. citizen.

Detective: Gun store purchases led cops to soldier

WACO — A soldier accused of planning to bomb a Texas restaurant frequented by troops was detained by police who were tracking a person based on suspicious gun store purchases but didn't know his name.

A Killeen police detective testified Wednesday at the federal trial of Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo, detained at a Fort Hood-area motel last July.

Police Sgt. Eric Bradley told jurors officers went to the motel after receiving tips about a man's suspicious activities the previous day including buying an Army uniform with a "Smith" name patch.

But during cross-examination, Sgt. Bradley said police chose not to do surveillance on the motel after receiving the initial tips.

Pfc. Abdo faces up to life in prison if convicted of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and other charges.

FLORIDA

2011 tape shows Zimmerman criticize cops in race case

ORLANDO — George Zimmerman accused the Sanford police department of corruption more than a year before he shot Trayvon Martin, saying at a public forum the agency covered up the beating of a black homeless man by the son of a white officer.

"I would just like to state that the law is written in black and white," Mr. Zimmerman said during a 90-second statement to city commissioners at a community forum. "It should not and cannot be enforced in the gray for those who are in the thin blue line."

The forum took place on Jan. 8, 2011, days after a video of the beating went viral on the Internet and then-Sanford Police Chief Brian Tooley was forced to retire. Then-Chief Tooley's department faced criticism for dragging its feet in arresting Justin Collison, the son of a police lieutenant.

"I'd like to know what action the commission is taking in order to repeal Mr. Tooley's pension," Mr. Zimmerman said to the commission. "I'm not asking you to repeal his pension; I believe he's already forfeited his pension by his illegal cover-up in corruption in what happened in his department."

Mr. Zimmerman's public comments could be important because prosecutors and the Martin family and supporters have accused the neighborhood-watch volunteer of "profiling" Martin and singling him out to kill because he was black.

NEW JERSEY

Mother of laundromat boy identifies adults in video

CAMDEN — The mother of a toddler who briefly got stuck inside an active washing machine at a laundromat says she and his father aren't the people seen in a surveillance video that's received millions of hits online.

Sakia David said Wednesday she didn't even know about the May 11 incident until she saw the video on the news. She said her year-old son was treated at a hospital for scrapes and bruises and wasn't seriously injured.

Ms. David said the woman in the video is the girlfriend of the boy's father and was baby-sitting him. Ms. David said she doesn't know who the man in the video is.

Authorities say the man put the boy in the washing machine as a prank, unaware it would automatically start. They have said they don't expect to file criminal charges, but the matter remains under investigation.

CALIFORNIA

Health officials testing 35 babies for TB exposure

SACRAMENTO — Health officials are testing 35 babies for tuberculosis after a person with an active case of the life-threatening disease visited neonatal-intensive care units at two Northern California hospitals.

Few details have been released about the contagious individual, who has since been placed in isolation and is receiving treatment.

Officials said the Solano County resident visited Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento during the latter half of March and NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield in early and mid-April.

Sutter said the person was not a hospital staffer.

Parents of 20 babies in Sacramento County and 15 babies in Solano County are being notified about possible exposure to the sometimes fatal respiratory illness.

Solano County Chief Medical Officer Michael Stacey said he thinks the risk of infection in this case is low.

MONTANA

Marshals: 'Mountain man' didn't turn self in

HELENA — The U.S. Marshals Service said a former "mountain man" known for kidnapping a world-class athlete years ago didn't turn himself in on federal drug charges Tuesday as previously reported, but was captured as the result of "old-fashioned detective work."

Chief Deputy Marshal Rod Ostermiller said deputy marshals spent the last week tracking Dan Nichols' movements in southwestern Montana.

A break came Tuesday when deputies learned Mr. Nichols was on his way to a Butte Wal-Mart. He was arrested without incident.

Mr. Nichols has been on the run since March, when he failed to appear in court on state drug charges. In April, federal prosecutors issued their own warrant for his arrest.

Mr. Nichols is known as one of the so-called "mountain men" who kidnapped a biathlete in 1984 to make her his wife. He was released from prison in 1991.

FLORIDA

Police dogs from around nation compete for top honor

LAKELAND — With barely a woof and with many a sniff, police canines from around the country are gathered in Lakeland, Fla., to see who will be top dog.

Consider it the Westminster Dog Show of police dogs. The U.S. Police Canine Association is meeting this week at Florida Southern University and holding its national detector-dog trials.

About 80 teams from across the U.S. are competing. Dogs are required to sniff out drugs, explosives, arson materials, cadavers and wild game.

Handlers and organizers said tests such as these are important for the dogs because they become certified and because that certification is crucial when a case goes to court.

Most of the dogs competing are German shepherds or Belgian Malinois.

NEW YORK

Bride who faked cancer sentenced to time served

GOSHEN — An upstate New York woman who faked having cancer so donors would pay for her wedding and Caribbean honeymoon is being released after less than two months in jail.

Jessica Vega apologized Wednesday in Orange County Court for the scam. A prosecutor says she has paid back more than $13,000 to people she victimized.

The judge then sentenced her to time served. Vega was arrested April 3 and pleaded guilty to the scam three weeks later.

Her ex-husband says Vega will live with his family.

Vega claimed in 2010 that she was dying of leukemia and wanted a "dream wedding" to Michael O'Connell, the father of her baby.

IOWA

Man describes hours trapped in part of cave

DAVENPORT — An Illinois man says he was surprised by the number of people who worked to rescue him while he was trapped in an Iowa cave over the weekend.

Twenty-year-old Logan Eliasen, of Port Byron, Ill., got trapped in a narrow part of a cave at Maquoketa Caves State Park while exploring during a camping trip. He was freed Saturday after being stuck for 20 hours.

Mr. Eliasen told the Quad-City Times he was surprised by the size of the rescue effort because he only saw two or three rescuers at once.

About a dozen people took turns crawling through 300 feet of twists and turns during the rescue effort. They chipped away at rock and tried to slide Mr. Eliasen out on a piece of plastic before he yanked himself loose.

PENNSYLVANIA

6-year-olds wander from school to museum

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh public schools officials are investigating an impromptu field trip of sorts that occurred when two 6-year-old students wandered away from their school and walked to the city's Children's Museum a few blocks away.

D.C. spokeswoman Ebony Pugh says she can't specify what sort of discipline officials at Martin Luther King Elementary School will face for the incident Monday, because that's a personnel matter.

A museum spokesman tells WTAE-TV that the students showed up at the museum about 2 p.m. Monday and asked if admission was free. When they were told no, the students ran into the museum until they were caught by security guards.

The school was locked down after a teacher noticed the students were missing.

Ms. Pugh says the school is developing a plan to prevent future incidents.

From wire dispatches and staff reports