WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is preparing to circulate proposed tough new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program as early as this week at the United Nations, U.S. officials said Wednesday. The proposed measures, which would target elements the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps under fresh penalties as well financial institutions under existing U.N. sanctions resolutions, are being finalized and prepared for debate in the U.N. Security Council, the officials said. The Security Council has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Iran over suspicions it is hiding nuclear activities.
Florida: Shuttle launch plan
NASA has set an early February launch date for space shuttle Endeavour. Senior managers met Wednesday and decided unanimously to proceed toward a Feb. 7 launch date for Endeavour. It will be a pre-dawn liftoff at 4:39 a.m. — in all probability the last shuttle launch in darkness. Endeavour will carry up a new room and observation deck for the International Space Station, the last of the major U.S. components. The six-person crew will hook up the chamber, named Tranquility, during a series of spacewalks.
Pennsylvania: PETA protest
An animal rights group wants organizers of Pennsylvania’s Groundhog Day festival to replace Punxsutawney Phil with a robotic stand-in. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said it’s unfair to keep the animal in captivity and subject him to the huge crowds and bright lights that accompany tens of thousands of revelers each Feb. 2 in Punxsutawney, a tiny borough about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. PETA is suggesting the use of an animatronic model.
Nebraska: Teen reports incest
A 41-year-old woman is accused of having sex nightly with her teenage son when he was in seventh and eighth grades, officials said Wednesday. Omaha Police said the now 15-year-old boy reported the alleged abuse last week to a counselor, who notified authorities. The boy told police his mother was addicted to prescription drugs when the alleged abuse took place in 2008 and 2009 while he lived with her in Omaha. The woman, who now lives in Fort Calhoun, was arrested Monday.
Tennessee: Boulder hits home
Emergency officials said a boulder about the size of a compact car crashed into an apartment, barely missing a woman sleeping in her bedroom. The fire chief in Rogersville said 75-year-old Elizabeth Allred was lucky that the 10-foot-wide boulder didn’t hit her bed straight on. Instead, it crashed nearby and the imploding wall sent her hospital bed rolling across the room. She was at home recovering from a broken hip when it happened Monday morning. Allred said it felt like a train crashed into her room.
Lebanon: 737’s black boxes
The Lebanese army said investigators have detected signals from the black boxes of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 that crashed and will attempt to retrieve them in coming days. An officer said the signal heard late Wednesday was coming from a depth of about 3,900 feet and about 6.2 miles from the seaside airport. The plane went down early Monday just minutes after takeoff from Beirut in a fierce storm. All 90 people on board were feared dead, but only a few bodies have been found so far.
France: Cemetery desecration
A Jewish cemetery was desecrated Wednesday, with at least 18 gravestones marked with swastikas and overturned, police and Jewish officials said. The desecration in a Strasbourg cemetery came as Jews marked the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz death camp, a symbol of the Holocaust, when the Nazis killed millions. France’s main Jewish organization, CRIF, said the inscription “juden raus” (Jews out) was found on one tomb.
New Zealand: Lizard caper
A German man who stuffed 44 small lizards into his underwear before trying to board a flight has been sentenced to prison for plundering the country’s protected species. Hans Kurt Kubus, 58, will spend 14 weeks behind bars and must pay a $3,540 fine before being deported to Germany, a District Court judge ruled Tuesday. Kubus was caught at Christchurch International Airport in December, about to board an overseas flight with 44 geckos and skinks in a hand-sewn package concealed in his underwear.
From Herald news services