Nation roundup for October 12


N. Korea detainee visits with mom

SEATTLE (AP) — An ailing American who has been detained in North Korea for 11 months has had an emotional reunion with his mother for the first time since he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, the family said Friday.

Myunghee Bae was allowed into North Korea to see her son, Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American Christian missionary, at a hospital where he has been held since August.

Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, of the Seattle suburb of Edmonds, said Friday she had not yet spoken with her mother, but did hear from the Swedish ambassador in Pyongyang, who attended the visit. Photographs of the reunion depicted Bae, wearing vertical stripes of blue and white, embracing his mother and holding her hand.

“He said it was a very emotional meeting, that they had a reunion and that Kenneth did look better from when he was hospitalized on Aug. 9,” Chung said.

Kenneth Bae, a 45-year-old tour operator and Christian missionary, was arrested last November while leading a group of tourists in the northeastern region of Rason. The government accused him of subversive acts.

He was transferred over the summer from a prison camp, where he largely farmed vegetables, to the hospital because he had lost more than 50 pounds. He also suffers from diabetes, an enlarged heart, liver problems and back pain, his family has said.

The ambassador reported that Bae has regained about 15 pounds since being hospitalized, Chung said.

“The rest he’s been given must be helping,” Chung said.

Though comforting, the visit did not necessarily give the family any greater hope that Bae might soon be freed: “We can only hope,” Chung said.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the U.S. helped coordinate the visit through the Swedish embassy, which represents U.S. interests in North Korea because the U.S. has no diplomatic ties there.

The State Department has been in close contact with Bae’s family, she said.

1 killed, dozens hurt in train crash

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A logging truck collided with a train taking passengers on a scenic tour amid fall foliage in eastern West Virginia, killing one person and injuring more than 60 others Friday, emergency services officials said.

The cause of the accident between the truck and the Durbin & Greenbrier Railroad train on a trip at the height of the autumn leaf-watching season in the mountain region wasn’t immediately known.

Two passenger cars overturned in the accident at 1:30 p.m. Friday along U.S. Route 250 about 160 miles east of Charleston near Cheat Mountain, said emergency services director Shawn Dunbrack of Pocahontas County.

News photographs showed first responders beside the highway aiding the injured, the scenic mountain route splashed with brillaint red and yellow foliage. Emergency vehicles thronged the scene.

Randolph County emergency services director Jim Wise said at least three people were critically injured. He said 21 people were taken to a hospital in Elkins by ambulances and 45 others were transported there by bus with lesser injuries. There were no immediate details on the death and the nature of the injuries.

Hospital spokeswoman Tracy Fath said that at least eight ambulances arrived at the hospital. She didn’t immediately know the condition of the arrivals. Medical personnel also were tending to those who arrived by bus.

“Some wished to have medical care. Some declined to have medical care,” Fath said. “Our staff is on the bus trying to (assess) which ones will want to be seen.”

Dunbrack said the train involved was operated by the Durbin & Greenbrier Railroad. The railroad operates several trains in the area, including the Cheat Mountain Salamander that runs Tuesdays through Saturdays in October on a 6.5-hour trip.

Calif. man accused in terrorism case

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A California man pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of attempting to provide material support to al-Qaida and lying on a U.S. passport application to facilitate an act of terrorism.

Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, 24, of Garden Grove, was arrested earlier in the day in Santa Ana while waiting to board a bus to Mexico, the FBI said in a statement.

An American citizen, Nguyen briefly appeared in federal court during the afternoon and was ordered detained on the grounds of danger and risk of flight.

A grand jury indictment says Nguyen is also known as Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum and attempted to work under the direction of al-Qaida.

It does not provide any details about the alleged act of terrorism.

Investigators do not believe Nguyen was traveling with other people, and the FBI said it was not aware of a continuing threat to the public.

Nguyen’s mother, Hieu Nguyen, told reporters at the courthouse that she doesn’t know anything about the case and was surprised by the allegations. She and Nguyen’s brother said he converted to Islam in the past year.

Officials for the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office declined comment. Nguyen’s lawyer, Amy Karlin, also declined to comment on the case. Nguyen’s next court date was scheduled for Oct. 18.

N.J. high court to mull gay marriage

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The state’s highest court on Friday agreed to hear a case on whether gay marriage should be legal and whether same-sex marriage licenses can be issued while it decides.

The issue, battled in New Jersey’s courts and Legislature for more than a decade, has taken on new urgency on both fronts with the opponents the same — Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who is considered a possible 2016 presidential candidate, and the state’s gay rights advocates.

The Supreme Court’s decision to take up the case was the one thing both sides wanted. Christie’s administration asked the court to take the case without first going through an appeals court. In a brief filed Friday, it argued that the issue is too important to be decided by just one judge.

And gay rights advocates say the state Supreme Court made the right call in taking up the case.

“It certainly shows that they understand the public importance and that makes all the sense in the world,” said Hayley Gorenberg, a Lambda Legal lawyer representing Garden State Equality and a group of couples who asked a judge in July to order the state to grant same-sex marriages.

The judge, Mary Jacobson, agreed with the advocates in a ruling last month, finding that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from June makes it necessary for the state to grant same-sex marriages starting Oct. 21.

The state wants that delayed until the appeals are fully resolved.

The court is expected to rule before Oct. 21 on the question of issuing licenses and is scheduled to hear the full case on Jan. 6 or 7.

That’s just before the deadline for lawmakers to override Christie’s 2012 veto of a bill that would have allowed same-sex marriage in the state. Advocates are pushing lawmakers hard for an override.

Currently, 13 states, including most in the Northeast, recognize same-sex marriage. Since 2007, New Jersey has granted gay couples civil unions.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June extended benefits such as Social Security survivor benefits and joint tax filing to gay couples.

The gay rights groups argued the state is standing in the way of New Jersey couples’ ability to get those benefits in violation of a 2006 state Supreme Court ruling that said the state’s gay couples had to receive treatment equal with married couples.

So far, the federal government has not been consistent about whether couples with civil unions will receive the federal benefits. Rules being created in some departments say they will; in others, they won’t.

The state government is arguing that the federal government should grant full marriage benefits to New Jersey couples with civil unions.

Marsha Shapiro and Louise Walpin, who live in South Brunswick, were married in New York last year on the 20th anniversary of their religious wedding.

The couple, who are plaintiffs in the suit against the state, said that if the stay Christie is requesting is not granted, they’ll tie the knot legally in New Jersey immediately.

“Whenever the first day is, we can find someone who can find someone to say we are married,” said Walpin.

 

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