Nation roundup for Aug. 26


Soldier fatally shoots herself at Virginia base

FORT LEE, Va. (AP) — An enraged soldier barricaded herself in a building at a Virginia Army base, threw objects around the office and then fatally shot herself in the head Monday as law enforcement officials tried to negotiate with her, authorities said.

The soldier, who has not been identified, was pronounced dead after being taken to Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, according to a news release issued by Fort Lee, where the Monday morning shooting took place. No other injuries were reported.

The heavily trafficked base went on lockdown while the soldier was barricaded on the third floor of the four-story building that houses the Army’s Combined Arms Support Command.

About 1,100 people were inside, but no one else was hurt, Fort Lee officials said.

The Army said an alert was sounded across the post and those in the building either took shelter inside or evacuated as directed. Fort Lee police responded within two minutes of being alerted, the news release said.

“This situation could’ve been worse,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen R. Lyons, who took over as commanding general of the support command Friday.

American held in Syria free after nearly 2 years

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the U.S. mourned an American journalist beheaded by Islamic militants, the nation found something of a reprieve with the release of another freelance reporter who had been held hostage for nearly two years by an al-Qaida-linked group in Syria.

Peter Theo Curtis, who wrote under the byline Theo Padnos, was freed Sunday, offering consolation to U.S. officials, a journalism community and family members deeply unnerved by the grisly video of James Foley’s beheading in a desolate desert landscape.

Curtis’ father, Michael Padnos, said his wife spoke to their son briefly by telephone Monday morning and that he seemed to be in good physical health.

Padnos said his son was apparently in Tel Aviv but would be flown back to Boston soon. He praised the work of the U.S. and other governments in getting his son freed.

“We are very thrilled, and we hope the same thing is going to be true for all the others (journalists held),” said Padnos, speaking in a telephone interview from a boat outside Paris.

Curtis’ release appeared to have been aided by the oil-rich nation of Qatar, which said Sunday that it had “exerted relentless efforts” to win the American’s freedom. Qatar is a leading supporter of the Syrian rebels fighting to oust President Bashar Assad and has been involved in mediating past hostage releases.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Curtis had been held by Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the Nusra Front, an al-Qaida-linked militant group fighting Assad’s government.

Curtis was not believed to be among the hostages held by the Islamic State group that killed Foley. Islamic State was formally disavowed by al-Qaida earlier this year after being deemed too brutal.

Curtis’ release was likely to renew questions about the intentions of different militant groups in Syria and Iraq and how the U.S. should deal with hostage takers.

Calif. man pleads guilty in meat recall case

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The co-owner of a Northern California slaughterhouse accused of processing cows with cancer while U.S. livestock inspectors took lunch breaks has pleaded guilty to a federal criminal charge.

Robert Singleton, who co-owns the Petaluma-based Rancho Feeding Corp., entered his plea Friday in a San Francisco courtroom to aiding and abetting in the distribution of adulterated, misbranded and uninspected meat, the San Francisco Chronicle (http://bit.ly/1tBwLBS ) reported.

Singleton, 77, is free on $50,000 bail. He has signed an agreement requiring him to work with prosecutors who have filed charges against the company’s other owner, Jesse Amaral Jr., and two employees, Eugene Corda and Felix Cabrera.

Those three have pleaded not guilty.

But by admitting guilt, Singleton “accepts full responsibility for his conduct,” his attorney Pamela Davis said. “He acknowledges the harm he’s caused to the community.”

Prosecutors alleged that the owners schemed with employees to slaughter about 79 cows with skin cancer of the eye rather than stopping plant operations while inspectors took lunch breaks. Then, the government alleges, plant workers swapped the heads of diseased cattle with heads of healthy cows to hide them from inspectors.

Operations were halted in February after a series of recalls, including one for 8.7 million pounds of beef. The meat was sold at Walmart and other national chains and used in products, including Hot Pockets.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has said Rancho processed diseased and unhealthy animals and circumvented federal inspection rules.

There have been no reports of illnesses linked to the products, which were processed from Jan. 1, 2013, through Jan. 7, 2014, and shipped to distribution centers and retail stores in California, Florida, Illinois and Texas.

 

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