- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 15, 2001

Sentence reduced for retarded inmate

RALEIGH, N.C A death-row inmate who is said to have the mind of a first-grader became the first person to have his sentence reduced under a new North Carolina law barring execution of the mentally retarded.

Superior Court Judge B. Craig Ellis Wednesday declared Sherman Elwood Skipper to be retarded and reduced his sentence to two life terms.

Skipper, 59, was convicted in the 1990 murders of his girlfriend and her grandson.

He was the first death-row inmate to challenge his sentence under the new law, approved this year.

To be declared retarded under the law, a prisoner must have an IQ below 70 and show an inability to adapt to society before age 18. Both sides agreed Skipper's IQ tested at 69.

Freighter heads to Cuba with shipment of food

NEW ORLEANS A freighter loaded with food left for Cuba yesterdayFri, the first such commercial U.S. shipment to the communist nation since 1963.

The two-day voyage to Havana sparked fierce debate on the docks over the future of the decades-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.

Critics of Cuban leader Fidel Castro warned that the shipment may lead to the lifting of the embargo. Others, like Illinois Gov. George Ryan, welcomed the opportunity for increased trade between the two nations.

Last year, Congress passed a law allowing U.S. companies to sell products to Cuba on a humanitarian basis.

Archer Daniels Midland and other food processors have since signed contracts to supply more than $14 million worth of chicken, corn, wheat, soybean meal, rice and other foods.

Trade center piecess saved for memorial

NEW YORK A 50-foot-tall piece of the facade of the World Trade Center the last prominent piece of the twin towers still standing is about to be taken down and will be saved for possible use in a memorial, city officials said.

The lattice of steel, from the north tower, will be the second large piece from the twin towers the city has saved since two hijacked jetliners destroyed the trade center on September 11.

A piece of the facade of the south tower was removed several weeks ago; it also is being saved for possible use in a memorial.

Ironworkers have been laboring to bring down the hulking section of the north tower's facade for much of the past week.

U.S. mayors split' 02 meeting plan

NEW YORK The U.S. Conference of Mayors said yesterday it will hold part of its winter meeting in New York rather than entirely in Washington, its traditional venue.

"The nation's mayors will meet in New York to show our support for this remarkable city, its people and their new mayor," said New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, who serves as conference president.

New York's economy has been battered since the September 11 hijacked-plane attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center, killed more than 3,000 people and displaced hundreds of businesses and thousands of workers from the downtown financial district.

The conference, which strives to strengthen the relationship between the federal government and large U.S. cities, start its meeting in Washington on Jan. 22 with a discussion of security issues.

35 charged in scheme to smuggle drugs

CHICAGO Federal officials charged 35 persons in an international scheme to smuggle drugs inside cans of baby formula, and said some of the smugglers rented infants from their parents so that customs agents would not get suspicious.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald announced three indictments yesterday charging Chicago-based conspiracies in which cocaine and heroin were smuggled into the United States from Panama and Jamaica for distribution in Chicago, New York and England between 1996 and 1999.

Those charged included accused suppliers in Panama and Jamaica, nine organizers, couriers and four Chicago parents, authorities said.

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