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News Briefs

Defense Lawyers Seek To Humanize Shoe Bomber


Shoe bomber Richard C. Reid did not consider himself “particularly brave” or take “pleasure” in trying to blow up an airplane over the North Atlantic, but instead acted out of a desire “to prevent the destruction of the religion that saved him,” his defense lawyers said Tuesday.

Reid is to be sentenced in federal court in Boston on Thursday, and faces a likely sentence of life in prison. The government last week filed a lengthy court memorandum urging that the 29-year-old British native never leave prison.

On Tuesday, his federal public defenders filed their own memo, trying to explain Reid's troubled childhood, his experiences with drugs and minor offenses in England, and his eventual journey to Islam, which he credits for ultimately turning his life around.

``He had come into contact with young Muslims who were convinced that Islam was under attack,'' the defense lawyers said. ``Mr. Reid, who reports that he had neither known nor cared about history or world affairs, soon became convinced that his faith -- the faith that he felt had saved his life -- was in serious trouble.''

The defense argued that airport security officials in Paris should never have let him on the plane, given his unkempt, suspicious appearance and the fact that he had paid cash for his ticket and brought very little luggage.

Kazaa Owner Seeks Injunction Against Labels, Studios


Dramatically raising the stakes in the battle over online piracy, the company behind the world’s most popular file-sharing service accused the major record labels and Hollywood studios of misusing copyrights and attempting to monopolize the market for digital music and movies.

The move by Sharman Networks, which distributes the Kazaa software, came less than two weeks after U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson in Los Angeles confirmed that the labels and studios could sue Sharman in the United States. Sharman, which is based in the South Pacific tax haven of Vanuatu, had asked Wilson to throw out the copyright-infringement claims for lack of jurisdiction.

Every file-sharing service sued for piracy has tried to defend itself by claiming the major entertainment companies abuse their copyrights and violate antitrust laws, and none has yet succeeded. Sharman has gone a step further, asking Wilson to bar the labels and studios from enforcing copyrights on all music and movies until the alleged misuse has ended and its effects have dissipated.

The injunction would shield Sharman from damages and protect anyone who pirated the labels’ and studios’ works.

911 Error Hindered Search for Four Missing Teens


A 911 operator failed to follow a procedure that would have notified the police Harbor Unit immediately about a distress call from four missing teen-agers, police said Monday.

It remained unclear whether that error cost the boys their lives.

Charles “Carlo” Wertenbaker, 16, Andrew Melnikov, 16, Max Guarino, 17, and Henry Badillo, 17, have been missing since Friday night, when authorities believe they took an 8-foot Fiberglas rowboat from a City Island dock and attempted to row out to nearby Hart Island.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the department’s nearest boat, the Hercules, was 30 minutes away, and it would have taken officers at least 20 minutes to even begin their search in the cold and dark.

Kelly said the teens could have survived about 15 minutes in the frigid 33-degree Long Island Sound.

“It would still have been a challenge to get resources to the scene quickly enough, if you want to hypothesize that they were about to go underwater when they made the call,” Kelly said.

But Coast Guard officials said later that the boys could have stayed alive anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours.

Servicemen Leave Behind the Possibility of Fatherhood


Before he ships out for the Persian Gulf to possibly fight a war with Iraq, Navy engineer James Erler is taking care of a long to-do list: He needs to fix things around the house, put the family finances in order, run some last-minute errands.

And, while he’s out, pay a quick visit to the sperm bank.

As tens of thousands of troops receive orders to deploy, U.S. servicemen are finding time for an unconventional errand -- one that takes Norman Rockwell images of a soldier’s farewell and gives them a 21st-century twist. During the past month, the nation’s leading sperm banks have reported a record increase in visits by departing military men as couples seek a kind of genetic insurance against the injury, illness and death that war can bring.

By putting sperm in the deep freeze, some servicemen believe they are safeguarding against birth defects or infertility, problems they fear could be caused by exposure to chemical or biological weapons or unexpected side effects of vaccinations. While it may bring peace of mind, the technology also forces couples to confront an uncomfortable new question: whether to start a pregnancy even after the death of the father.

Erler, who is stationed at the 32nd Street Naval Base in San Diego, has met with a doctor and plans to bank his sperm in the coming weeks. He and his wife, Melissa, decided he ought to do so after the couple discussed the dangers of a war.