Nation roundup for March 8


Spokesman for bin Laden caught

WASHINGTON (AP) — Osama bin Laden’s spokesman and son-in-law has been captured by the United States, officials said Thursday, in what a senior congressman called a “very significant victory” in the fight against al-Qaida.

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith is expected to be in U.S. federal court in New York on Friday in an initial hearing to face terror charges, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information. The case marks a legal victory for the Obama administration, which has long sought to charge senior al-Qaida suspects in American federal courts instead of military tribunals at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

Rep. Peter King, the former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, credited the CIA and FBI with catching al-Qaida propagandist Abu Ghaith in Jordan within the last week. He said the capture was confirmed to him by U.S. law enforcement officials.

A Jordanian security official confirmed that Abu Ghaith was handed over last week to U.S. law enforcement officials under both nations’ extradition treaty.

Agencies probe Calif. lion attack

DUNLAP, Calif. (AP) — The US Department of Agriculture and Cal-OSHA on Thursday joined other state and federal agencies investigating the fatal mauling of a volunteer intern at an exotic animal park in California.

State investigators who protect workplace safety said they are trying to determine whether Cat Haven near Fresno has the required written procedures that employees follow to stay safe.

The USDA enforces the federal Animal Welfare Act and hopes to learn whether the 4-year-old lion that killed 24-year-old Dianna Hanson showed any behavior prior to the attack that might have indicated potential danger.

Fresno County sheriff’s investigators and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife want to know why Hanson was in the enclosure with the animal.

The Seattle-area intern had loved lions and tigers since childhood, “was absolutely fearless” around them and hoped to work at a zoo after her six-month internship, her father said.

“She was at ease with those big cats,” Paul Hanson, an attorney, said of his daughter. “They liked her.”

Hanson said he dropped his daughter off on Jan. 2 at Cat Haven, about 45 miles east of Fresno.

“It was just a dream job for her,” he said, adding that she gave him a little tour and showed him the lion Cous Cous, which authorities said killed her.

Hit-run suspect arrives in NYC

NEW YORK (AP) — A man arrested in connection with a car crash that killed a rabbinical college student and his pregnant wife, whose newborn later died, arrived back in New York City on Thursday, a day after surrendering in Pennsylvania.

Julio Acevedo arrived at a Brooklyn police precinct hours after waiving extradition. Acevedo surrendered to police in the parking lot of a Bethlehem, Pa., convenience store on Wednesday evening.

He was arrested on a charge of leaving the scene of an accident but could face more serious charges.

He was expected to appear in court in Brooklyn later Thursday. He was accused of barreling down a Brooklyn street at 60 mph early Sunday and crashing into a hired car carrying Nachman and Raizy Glauber, both 21, who died Sunday. Their premature son, delivered by cesarean section, died Monday.

The hired car had a stop sign, though it’s unclear whether the driver stopped.

At an appearance in Pennsylvania, Acevedo, 44, told Judge Kelly Banach that he had finished the 11th grade, was unemployed and lives in Brooklyn with his mother. He wore an orange jumpsuit and was shackled at the ankles and wrists.

People will shed pounds for cash

Associated Press

Willpower apparently can be bought. The chance to win or lose $20 a month enticed dieters in a yearlong study to drop an average of 9 pounds — four times more weight than others who were not offered dough to pass up the doughnuts.

Many employers, insurers and Internet programs dangle dollars to try to change bad habits like smoking or not exercising, but most studies have found this doesn’t work very well or for very long.

The new study, done with Mayo Clinic employees, was the longest test yet of financial incentives for weight loss. Doctors think it succeeded because it had a mix of carrots and sticks — penalties for not losing weight, multiple ways to earn cash for succeeding, and a chance to recoup lost money if you fell off the “diet wagon” and later repented.

Incentives are “not like training wheels where people learn healthy habits and then will continue them on their own” — you have to keep them up for them to work, said one study leader, Dr. Steve Driver of Mayo in Rochester, Minn.

And if you’re looking to set up a system like this at work or among friends, the key is to make it self-sustaining, Driver said. The Mayo one did that by having people who didn’t lose weight put penalties into a fund that paid rewards to those who did.

It’s also a good idea to make people pony up in advance. One woman flew into a tizzy when she stepped on a scale at a weigh-in and was told she’d have to pay.

“She headed for the door” but later came back and paid, Driver said. “People in Minnesota are pretty honest.”

Driver will discuss the study this weekend at an American College of Cardiology conference in San Francisco. The group released results Thursday. Mayo paid for the study and Driver owns stock in Gympact, a company with an Internet program that gives financial incentives for exercising.

The diet study involved 100 obese employees at Mayo Clinic but was not a workplace wellness program. Half were given weight-loss counseling, monthly weigh-ins and a three-month gym membership. The others had those things plus financial incentives.

The aim was to lose 4 pounds a month up to a goal that depended on their starting weight. If they failed, they paid $20 into a kitty. If they succeeded, they got a voucher to collect $20 when the study ended. Part of the kitty was used to pay the rewards. The rest was put into a lottery that anyone could win, whether they had made their weight-loss goals or not.

“People saw that if they stuck with it, they had a chance at winning more than they had lost,” Driver said.

Participants in the financial incentives group also earned $10 a month and lottery “tickets” for coming to monthly weigh-ins and texting their weights to study leaders each week, said Dr. Don Hensrud, preventive medicine chief at Mayo. So people could have lost as much as $240 or won as much as $360, plus what built up in the lottery fund.

After a year, 27 of the 50 financial incentive participants came out ahead moneywise. About 62 percent of them completed the study versus 26 percent of the other group. The incentives group lost a little more than 9 pounds on average, compared to 2.3 pounds for the others.

The results are promising, but people may need to lose more than 9 pounds to make a big difference in health, said Dr. Kevin Volpp, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics.

“There’s been an explosion of interest in this” and 86 percent of large employers now provide incentive programs like this, he said.

 

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