Nation digest 05/10/03

Killer of abortion doctor gets maximum sentence

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Anti-abortion extremist James Kopp was sentenced to 25 years to life Friday for the sniper slaying of a doctor, declaring without a trace of remorse: "I wish I could do 10 life sentences or 10 death penalties" to save the unborn.

Kopp, 48, received the maximum for the 1998 murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian, 52, an obstetrician-gynecologist and father of four who was cut down by a bullet that came through his kitchen window.

Kopp told the judge he did not intend to kill Slepian, but would do it again.

He was captured in France two years ago. France agreed to his extradition only after U.S. prosecutors gave assurances they would not seek the death penalty.

Kopp still faces a federal trial on a charge of interfering with the right to an abortion, which carries a maximum life sentence.

Parents investigated in high school hazing

NORTHBROOK, Ill. -- Authorities are trying to determine whether parents supplied beer and some of the filth used in a videotaped hazing in which high school girls were pummeled and showered with feces, paint and garbage.

The melee, videotaped by students and involving as many as 100 teenagers, occurred Sunday during a girls' touch football game in a park in this well-to-do suburb. Seniors had invited juniors for what was described as an initiation into their senior year.

Five girls were hospitalized, including one who broke an ankle and another who suffered a cut that required 10 stitches in her head.

Cook County Forest Preserve District police said Friday that they probably will file criminal charges next week.

New manager named for space shuttle program

WASHINGTON -- A former Marine officer who has held engineering and management jobs in three NASA centers is taking over as manager of the space shuttle program as the space agency tries to recover from the Columbia accident.

William W. Parsons, 47-year-old director of NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, was named Friday as the new manager of the space shuttle program, succeeding Ronald Dittemore who acted as NASA's most prominent spokesman after the loss of Columbia.

Parsons said he approaches his new job "with a bit of trepidation" because it comes during a period of recovery for the program. Space shuttle Columbia disintegrated while returning to Earth on Feb. 1.

Scientist fear return of sea mammal-killing toxin

LOS ANGELES -- Two dozen sick or dead sea lions and dolphins have washed ashore in Southern California in recent weeks, heralding the apparent return of a naturally occurring toxin that last year caused the second-largest marine mammal die-off in U.S. history.

The California sea lions and common dolphins have been found on beaches between Santa Barbara and San Diego and were believed to be victims of domoic acid poisoning. Last spring, the nerve toxin killed roughly 800 of the two species over a three-month period.

Domoic acid is produced by blooms of microscopic algae. The toxin is concentrated in filter-feeding animals, such as anchovies, sardines and shellfish, which are in turn eaten by marine mammals.

Movers convicted of holding property hostage

NEW YORK -- Three New York City movers were convicted Friday of holding customers' possessions hostage until they came up with thousands of dollars more than the price they had been quoted.

Prosecutors said the scheme went on for a decade or more, claiming millions of dollars from hundreds of victims. The movers would quote a price of about $2,000, but would demand up to $10,000 to make delivery once the possessions were on the truck.

One witness said a child's piggy bank that was stuffed with cash when the movers packed it was returned empty.

-- From wire reports