Supreme Court appears divided in campaign finance case arguments

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday on whether to give wealthy Americans even more clout in Congress by lifting the legal limit on how much they can give to candidates and their parties, with the outcome seeming likely to depend on Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Through most of the arguments in the case, the justices sounded as though they were closely split along the usual ideological lines.

Conservatives spoke of political free speech while liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg worried that only the voice of the “super-affluent” will be heard in Washington.

—Tribune Washington Bureau


Second team of chemical weapons inspectors heading to Syria

WASHINGTON — A second team of international inspectors will be deployed to Syria as the closely watched effort to disarm President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons gathers steam, officials said Tuesday.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which monitors the worldwide ban on such weapons, said the move reflected progress since the first team of about 20 inspectors reached Syria last week.

Over the weekend, Syrian officials under OPCW supervision began destroying some of their toxic stockpiles with a goal of dismantling or disabling by Nov. 1 all of its chemical production facilities and equipment used to mix the toxic gases and load them into munitions.

—Tribune Washington Bureau


9-year-old stowaway’s history: car theft, sneaking into water park

MINNEAPOLIS — Before a 9-year-old boy stowed away on a flight to Las Vegas last week, he had already stolen a car, sneaked into a Minnesota water park without paying and come under the scrutiny of child protection investigators, a Hennepin County official wrote Monday.

In a one-page e-mail obtained by the Star Tribune, Janine Moore, area director of the county’s Human Services and Public Health Department, told administrators and County Board members that since December 2012, county staff have conducted four child-protection assessments on the boy’s family.

She didn’t identify the boy, his family or where they live, but wrote that his mother works at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, so “there is also an investigation into whether she aided him flying to Las Vegas.”

—Star Tribune (Minneapolis)


Accused Hialeah ballot broker accepts probation

MIAMI — Hialeah absentee ballot broker Deisy Cabrera, accused of voter fraud in an investigation that roiled Miami-Dade politics last year, will serve one-year probation as part of a plea deal.

Police said Cabrera illegally collected at least 31 absentee ballots for the Aug. 14 primary election and filled out a ballot for an elderly woman who was unresponsive with a brain tumor in a Miami Springs nursing home.

Cabrera was charged with absentee-ballot fraud, a third-degree felony, and two misdemeanor counts of violating a county ordinance that makes it illegal for anyone to possess more than two ballots belonging to other voters.

As part of the plea deal, Cabrera pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charges, while prosecutors dropped the felony charge.

—The Miami Herald


Activists free hundreds of mink from Minn. farm

MINNEAPOLIS — A southeastern Minnesota mink ranch had hundreds of its animals set loose in the dead of night as part of a multistate assault by animal rights activists on an industry that serves a well-to-do clientele.

The four-generation Myhre ranch east of Grand Meadow was targeted late Sunday or early Monday, setting off a scramble by workers, friends and fellow farmers to retrieve as many of the suddenly free 450 or so mink, owner Einar Myhre said Tuesday morning.

Myhre said he’s been able to reclaim all but about 75 of the mink that were set loose.

The intrusion on Myhre’s farm was one of nine around the country in the past three months involving the raising of fur-bearing mink, according to Animal Liberation Frontline, a website that tracks these types of actions.

—The Miami Herald


Russian activist sent to mental institution

MOSCOW — For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a Russian court on Tuesday ordered an opposition activist to be sent to a mental institution for compulsory treatment.

Mikhail Kosenko, 38, who spent more than a year in preliminary detention on charges of taking part in a violent demonstration, was ordered by the Zamoskvoretsky district court of Moscow to undergo mental treatment at a prison-like mental institution for an undefined period.

Kosenko, one of a group of 28 opposition activists facing similar charges, was arrested shortly after an opposition rally near the Kremlin on May 6, 2012, the day before Vladimir Putin was inaugurated for his third term as president.

—Los Angeles Times


Annan urges African leaders to stand by International Criminal Court

JOHANNESBURG— African leaders meet in Ethiopia on Friday to discuss calls to withdraw from the International Criminal Court, even as former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan of Ghana urged them to stand by the court.

The ICC is facing its toughest test with the trials of the Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto for crimes against humanity in the ethnic violence that followed a disputed 2007 election.

Annan said many African leaders were “resisting and fighting” the court.

“If they fight the ICC, vote against the ICC, withdraw their cases, it will be a badge of shame for each and every one of them and for their countries,” Annan said in Cape Town, South Africa, after delivering the Desmond Tutu annual peace lecture Monday night.

—Los Angeles Times


Myanmar releases 56 political prisoners on eve of regional summit

NEW DELHI — Myanmar on Tuesday released 56 political prisoners, according to local media quoting government officials, part of a pledge to free all political detainees by the end of the year.

The prisoners, including more than a dozen from Myanmar’s northern Kachin state, were released at 11 a.m., Aung Min, a representative of the prime minister’s office, reportedly said at the start of three days of peace talks in the state. Government troops have been fighting with ethnic Kachin rebels since a 17-year ceasefire collapsed in mid-2011.

News of the release came before a two-day forum starting Wednesday in Brunei that will be attended by more than a dozen heads of state from Southeast Asian and Pacific nations, including Myanmar President Thein Sein.

—Los Angeles Times


Turkey lifts ban on Islamic head scarves, veils in civil service jobs

The Turkish government decreed Tuesday an end to a 90-year-old ban on wearing Islamic head scarves and veils in civil service jobs, threatening to rekindle the secular vs. religious showdown that ignited weeks of unrest in late spring.

The ban, imposed at the dawn of modern Turkey’s statehood, was intended to separate religious practices from government operations and will remain in effect for law enforcement officers, judges, prosecutors and military personnel.

—Los Angeles Times


Argentine president’s head surgery successful, spokesman says

BUENOS AIRES — Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, underwent a successful surgery Tuesday morning in which doctors removed blood that collected in the tissue outside her brain, a government spokesman said.

“The operation has been satisfactory; it went very well,” presidential spokesman Alfred Scoccimarro said at a news conference outside the Buenos Aires hospital where Fernandez was recuperating.

The news was met with cheers and applause from hundreds of supporters, some of whom had camped out overnight and festooned the area with signs expressing their good wishes.

—Los Angeles Times