No charges for adults who sent
cruel messages to suicidal girl
ST. LOUIS - People who sent cruel Internet messages to a 13-year-old girl before she committed suicide won't face criminal charges.
St. Charles County prosecutor Jack Banas said yesterday that while he understands the public outrage over Megan Meier's death, he could not find statutes allowing him to charge anyone in the case.
"We were certainly hopeful that there was going to be some sort of prosecution, but I'm certainly not surprised," said Megan's mother, Tina Meier.
The Dardenne Prairie girl's parents say she hanged herself Oct. 16, 2006, minutes after she became distraught over mean messages received through the social networking site MySpace. She died the next day, and weeks later her family learned that a boy she had been communicating with online did not actually exist.
A police report said that a mother from the neighborhood and her then-18-year-old employee fabricated a profile for a teenage boy online who pretended to be interested in Megan before he began bullying her.
Transgender pol wins lawsuit,
good to go in today's election
ATLANTA - A judge has dismissed a lawsuit that had claimed a transgender city councilwoman tried to fool voters by running as a female.
The ruling yesterday cleared the way for a runoff today to include Michelle Bruce, who is running for a second term on city council in Riverdale, an Atlanta suburb.
Bruce, 46, landed one of four council seats in 2003 after running unopposed. She was believed to be the state's first transgender politician. She has declined to say if she had surgery to change her gender.
'Jena 6' teen pleads guilty
to juvenile battery count
JENA, La. - A black teenager whose prosecution in the beating of a white classmate led to one of the largest civil rights protests in years pleaded guilty yesterday to a battery charge.
Mychal Bell, 17, originally was charged as an adult with attempted murder in the beating of Justin Barker in December 2006. That charge was reduced before a jury convicted him in June of aggravated second-degree battery. An appeals court threw that verdict out in September and ordered Bell retried as a juvenile.
Under his deal, Bell pleaded guilty to a juvenile charge of second-degree battery in return for an 18-month sentence, with credit for 10 months he already has served. Bell had faced being placed in a juvenile facility until his 21st birthday.
Bell also must pay court costs plus $935 to Barker's family, testify should his co-defendants in the Barker attack stand trial, undergo counseling and be reintegrated into the school system, his lawyers said.
Freelancing SWAT team won't
be reimbursed for Katrina trip
HOBOKEN, N.J. - The two trips Hoboken's now-defunct SWAT team made for Hurricane Katrina relief are not eligible for state reimbursement, officials said.
"It was a self-deployment," New Jersey State Police Capt. Al Della Fave said yesterday.
He said the Hoboken unit was not among the several hundred law officers and emergency responders from New Jersey sent to the New Orleans region after the 2005 storm.
Participants in that effort were coordinated by New Jersey's Office of Emergency Management based on requests from the affected areas, and were eligible to be reimbursed by New Jersey, Della Fave said.
The possible hit to Hoboken taxpayers was reported yesterday by the Jersey Journal, which said city officials said they spent about $5,100 on the two trips.
Researcher finds that divorce is also bad for Mother Earth
WASHINGTON - "Save water, shower together," young people used to proclaim.
Turns out, they were right. Americans spend an extra $3.6 billion annually on water as a result of the extra households created when people divorce, Jianguo Liu, a Michigan State University ecologist, estimated.
In countries around the world divorce rates have been rising, and each time a family dissolves the result usually is two households, said Liu, whose analysis of the environmental impact of divorce appears in this week's online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
A household uses the same amount of heat or air conditioning whether there are two or four people living there. One person or several use the same refrigerator. Two people living apart run two dishwashers instead of just one, he said.
Rich food, booze & stress - it's heart attack season again
WASHINGTON - Heart attack season has arrived.
December and January are the deadliest months for heart disease, and many of the things that make the season merry are culprits: Rich meals, more alcohol - and all that extra stress.
But what may make the Christmas coronary more deadly than the same-size heart attack in August is a double dose of denial. It's not uncommon for people to shrug off chest pain as indigestion.
Research suggests they're even more reluctant to take a run to the emergency room when it means disrupting a holiday gathering, or if they've traveled to a strange city.
* Minnesota health officials said yesterday they were investigating neurological illnesses among 11 workers at a pork-processing plant, but that there was no evidence that the public was at risk.
The workers who became ill had symptoms such as numbness, and tingling in their arms and legs.
The patients all worked in the same part of the plant, removing hog brains with compressed air. *