- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Scottish couple arrested in meth sting

PHOENIX — British authorities have arrested a Scottish couple on an 82-count federal grand jury indictment handed up in U.S. District Court in Arizona accusing them of illegally supplying chemicals to methamphetamine labs in Arizona and throughout the United States.

Brian Howes, 43, and Kerry Ann Shanks, 28, both of West Lothian, Scotland, were taken into custody yesterday by the Central Scotland Police after a far-reaching international investigation known as Operation Red Dragon. Both are awaiting extradition to the United States.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spokesman Rusty Payne said 100 clandestine methamphetamine laboratories, including 20 in Arizona, have been dismantled as a result of the operation. The most recent lab seizure was Jan. 8 in Phoenix, where iodine crystals and red phosphorous — the essential chemicals used in the conversion of pseudoephedrine into methamphetamine — were found.

Mr. Payne said numerous meth labs also have been taken down in Texas, New York and North Carolina, as well as in several foreign countries.

“More than 800 pounds of chemicals found their way to the U.S. because of Howes and Shanks,” said Timothy J. Landrum, DEA special agent in charge. “This operation has ruptured their cyber-pipeline.”


Court reinstates Padilla charge

MIAMI — A U.S. appeals court reinstated the most serious charge against al Qaeda suspect Jose Padilla yesterday, reviving a murder-conspiracy count that could send the former “enemy combatant” to prison for life.

The government accused Padilla, a 36-year-old U.S. citizen, with being part of a North American support cell that provided money and recruits to global Islamist extremists.

A federal judge in Miami had dismissed the murder-conspiracy charge on grounds that it duplicated two other counts against him, and therefore violated the constitutional ban on punishing someone twice for the same offense.

The government appealed and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta reversed the ruling yesterday. It said that since Padilla theoretically could have committed one of the reported offenses without committing the other, the charges did not duplicate.

The reinstated charge accused Padilla, who was arrested at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago in May 2002, of conspiring to murder, kidnap and maim people in a foreign country and carries a penalty of life imprisonment.


Bill aims to outlaw ATVs on beaches

HONOLULU — State officials want to stop residents from using all-terrain vehicles on state beaches, which they say damages Hawaii’s natural environment and wildlife.

State Sen. Mike Gabbard, a Republican, introduced legislation to restore criminal penalties for driving ATVs on beaches. The Department of Land and Natural Resources also wants $5 million to increase enforcement.


Cosby urges support for schools

NEW ORLEANS — Standing on the front steps of one of New Orleans’ most troubled schools, entertainer Bill Cosby said the education and well-being of this city’s children are not getting the attention and support they deserve from the state.

Mr. Cosby lent his celebrity status to a group pushing for improvements in city schools. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the state has taken over most of the city’s schools from the problem-plagued local school board, and many of those schools are suffering from teacher shortages and overcrowded classrooms, among other problems.

“It’s a great disrespect for children,” said Mr. Cosby, standing in a chilly rain in a sweat shirt and ball cap at John McDonogh High School.

Local and state education officials met yesterday with Mr. Cosby and a group calling itself the Downtown Neighborhoods Improvement Association of New Orleans. Among the improvements Mr. Cosby and the group are requesting are a lower student-teacher ratio, reduction in the number of security guards on school campuses and hiring of more counselors, social workers and psychologists.


Female groundhog hungers for spring

HOWELL — Woody has something the nation’s other prognosticating groundhogs don’t: female intuition.

Other groundhogs — Gen. Beauregard Lee in Georgia, Sir Walter Wally in North Carolina and, of course, Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania — might be more established, but Woody has a good track record. She has correctly predicted when spring would arrive six out of eight years.

Why is she so successful? She relies on her stomach, said Richard Grant, executive director of the Howell Conference and Nature Center. On Friday, if Woody comes out of her home, eats any of the food placed in front of her — such as bananas and peanuts — and stays out for at least 30 seconds, then spring is coming soon. If not, we’re in for another six weeks of winter.


Clemson University probes King Day party

CLEMSON — Clemson University and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said yesterday that they are investigating an off-campus party during the Martin Luther King Day weekend at which white students mocked blacks by drinking malt liquor and at least one student wore blackface.

Pictures from the party were posted online, and Clemson officials learned of the Jan. 14 party this past weekend. The school is probing whether students were harassed or whether underage drinking was occurring.

Clemson President James Barker wrote in a letter to students and faculty that he was “appalled, angered and disappointed” by the party, which “appeared to mock and disparage African Americans.”

The party organizers issued an unsigned letter of apology, saying, “We invited all races and types of peoples and never meant any racial harm.”

Clemson has roughly 1,100 black students out of more than 17,000 undergraduates, the university’s Web site says.


Power outage forces students out of dorm

KNOXVILLE — A power outage at the University of Tennessee knocked out heating and fire alarm services to several campus buildings, forcing about 1,000 students out of their dormitory in freezing weather.

The cause of the Monday night outage wasn’t clear, said Jeff Maples, senior associate vice chancellor for finance and administration. “We think it’s an underground cable,” he said.

Repair crews were still at work yesterday.

The school’s Thompson-Boling Arena was opened and its shower facilities were made available for students who couldn’t find other places to stay, said W. Timothy Rogers, vice chancellor for student affairs.

“This is one of those fun college experiences you just don’t get very often,” said Jim Bobcock, 20.


Runaway boy faces ‘capacity hearing’

TACOMA — A judge set a court hearing for next month to determine whether a 9-year-old boy who ran away from home and talked his way onto two flights on his way to Texas may be charged in a car theft and police chase.

Semaj Booker, whose determined effort to get to his grandfather in Dallas made national headlines earlier this month, appeared briefly Monday before Superior Court Judge John A. McCarthy, who ruled there was probable cause to set a hearing in the car theft case.

Under state law, a child age 8 to 11 is presumed to be incapable of committing a crime unless prosecutors prove he understood what he did and knew it was wrong. Finding probable cause, Judge McCarthy scheduled a Feb. 12 “capacity hearing” to answer those questions.

The boy, who authorities say has a history of stealing cars and running away, is accused of taking a neighbor’s car on Jan. 14 in Lakewood and leading police on a chase at speeds up to 80 mph before the engine blew. Police returned him to his mother, Sakinah Booker. She reported him missing the next morning, Jan. 15. That night, he was detained in San Antonio, where he had managed to fly from Seattle.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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