EPA official quits over remarks

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration's top environmental official in the South and Southwest region has resigned after Republicans targeted him over remarks made in 2010, when he used the word

crucify

to describe how he would go after companies violating environmental laws.

In a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson sent Sunday, Al Armendariz said that he regretted his words and stressed that they did not reflect his work as administrator of the five-state region. His resignation was effective Monday.

Republicans in Congress had called for Armendariz's firing after Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe highlighted the 2010 speech last week as proof of what he calls EPA's assault on energy, particularly the technique of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. - AP

S.C. teacher faces charges in assault

COLUMBIA, S.C. - A middle school teacher in South Carolina has been accused of dragging a student under a table during class, telling the boy "this is what the Nazis do to Jews," police said Monday.

The 12-year-old student said he got up to sharpen a pencil at Bluffton Middle School on Wednesday when Patricia Mulholland grabbed him by his collar and said, "come here, Jew," police said. The teacher then dragged him 10 feet under a table and made the comment about Nazis, according to police.

Mulholland says she was trying to teach the students a lesson about the Holocaust; she had given a lesson on the Holocaust the day before. She was arrested and faces charges of assault and battery and public disorderly conduct, said a Bluffton Police spokesman, Lt. Joe Babkiewicz. - AP

Review of Ryan appeal is ordered

CHICAGO - The U.S. Supreme Court ordered a lower court Monday to look at former Illinois Gov. George Ryan's bid to overturn his corruption convictions, a decision that cracks open the possibility that the imprisoned Republican could win a new trial.

The decision marked one of the few significant rulings that have come in Ryan's favor since he was convicted of taking kickbacks for steering state business to insiders, among other corruption schemes.

The high court took issue with how the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reached its decision to reject his appeal, but stopped short of overturning Ryan's convictions. Ryan, who has denied wrongdoing, is near the end of a 6 1/2-year prison term. - AP

Turtle smuggler gets 21 months

LOS ANGELES - A man accused of smuggling dozens of live turtles and tortoises from Japan into the United States by hiding them in snack-food boxes was sentenced Monday to nearly two years in prison.

Atsushi Yamagami, 39, of Osaka, Japan, was given 21 months and ordered to pay more than $18,000 in fines after pleading guilty in August to one felony count of smuggling.

Yamagami was arrested in January 2011 at Los Angeles International Airport as part of an undercover investigation by federal agents. - AP