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American Scene: First permanent female president named at Alabama

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ALABAMA

TUSCALOOSA — The University of Alabama's board of trustees voted Thursday to appoint the first permanent female president in the school's 181-year history.

The board met in an executive session for about an hour before naming current Provost Judy L. Bonner, 65. She's the older sister of Rep. Jo Bonner, a Republican, and served as interim president before outgoing President Guy Bailey took over in early September.

A native of rural Wilcox County, Ms. Bonner has two degrees from Alabama and said she was honored to be its first female chief executive.

"I love the University of Alabama," said Ms. Bonner, who has advanced degrees from Alabama and Ohio State University.

Mr. Bailey announced Wednesday he was resigning after less than two months in the job, citing his wife's health.

MASSACHUSETTS

Man sentenced to 17 years in terror plot

BOSTON — A Massachusetts man was sentenced Thursday to 17 years in prison in a plot to fly remote-controlled model planes packed with explosives into the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol.

Rezwan Ferdaus, 27, of Ashland, pleaded guilty in July to attempting to provide material support to terrorists and attempting to damage and destroy federal buildings with an explosive. As part of a plea agreement between prosecutors and Ferdaus' attorney, both sides agreed to recommend the 17-year sentence.

Ferdaus, a Muslim-American who grew up in Massachusetts and has a physics degree from Northeastern University, delivered a long, soft-spoken statement in which he offered no apology for his actions but thanked his family and friends for supporting him. He said he has accepted his fate and "can dream of a brighter future."

TEXAS

County returning alleged shakedown cash

DALLAS — Authorities in a Texas county where a drug enforcement program was allegedly used to shake down black and Hispanic highway travelers are returning more than $100,000 taken during the traffic stops.

The stops in Tenaha, which often resulted in people being forced to hand over cash without any charges being filed, have led to multiple lawsuits and two federal criminal investigations.

District Attorney Kenneth Florence said Shelby County has dismissed all of its pending forfeiture cases, even those without a connection to Tenaha, in what he described as an effort to turn the page after an agreement was reached in August to settle a class-action lawsuit stemming from the stops.

"I just don't think you could get anything done with any of those cases," said Mr. Florence, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry in August and is running for the post in next week's election. "They are all tainted, so to speak."

IOWA

Attorneys: Detectives framed Nebraska men

DES MOINES — Two black men who served 25 years in prison in the 1977 killing of a retired, white Iowa police captain say they were framed by detectives and are asking a jury to award them more than $100 million.

Terry Harrington and Curtis McGhee were convicted in the slaying of John Schweer in Council Bluffs. They were freed in 2003 after the Iowa Supreme Court found prosecutors had committed misconduct.

The men's attorneys said during opening statements Thursday in Des Moines that they will show two former Council Bluff detectives coerced car theft suspects into implicating Mr. Harrington and Mr. McGhee in Schweer's death. The Nebraska men are suing the detectives and the city.

Their attorneys say they're seeking justice from a system that deprived them of freedom for much of their lives.

FLORIDA

Last shuttle's retirement move pains workers

CAPE CANAVERAL — Space shuttle Atlantis isn't going far to its retirement home at Kennedy Space Center's main tourist stop. But it might as well be a world away for the workers who spent decades doting on Atlantis and NASA's other shuttles.

Those who agreed to stay until the end – and help with the shuttles' transition from round-the-world flying marvels to museum showpieces – now face unemployment just like so many of their colleagues over the past few years.

NASA's 30-year shuttle program ended more than a year ago with Atlantis the last shuttle to orbit the Earth. Now, it's the last of three shuttles to leave the coop. Friday's one-way road trip over a mere 10 miles represents the closing chapter of what once was a passionate endeavor for so many.

The latest wave of layoff notices struck the same day last month that a small group of journalists toured Atlantis' stripped-down crew compartment. The hangar was hushed, compared with decades past. Despite pleas from management to put on smiles, many of the technicians and engineers were in no mood for happy talk as reporters bustled about.

COLORADO

Boy dies after 3 years without a brain

PUEBLO — A Colorado boy who survived three years without a brain has died.

Nickolas Coke surprised doctors after he born with only a brain stem. Most babies with that condition are stillborn or die shortly after birth.

According to KOAA-TV, the boy survived without medical equipment and was playing with pumpkins before he died earlier this week.

KOAA reports that Nickolas' condition is known as anencephaly. The Coke family lives in Pueblo.

NEVADA

Wife of longest-married couple fame dies

LAS VEGAS — Theresa Faiss' marriage to former state Sen. Wilbur Faiss lasted more than some lifetimes, and earned congratulations from the president. Just months after being recognized as being the longest married couple in America, the matriarch of the Faiss family has died in Las Vegas at the age of 97.

The couple were honored in January by the Worldwide Marriage Encounter as being the longest-married couple for 2012. They were married for 79 years.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Theresa Faiss died Sunday. Private services are planned.

Wilbur Faiss, who served in the Senate from 1976 to 1984, is the oldest living former Nevada state legislator.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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