Somalian guilty of piracy
A federal jury convicted a Somalian man of piracy on Friday for his role as a hostage negotiator in the hijacking of a yacht. All four Americans on board were shot to death. Mohammad Saaili Shibin was also convicted of piracy, kidnapping and hostage--taking for the hijacking of a German merchant ship in 2010. Shibin faces a mandatory life sentence on the piracy charges. “Today’s verdict marks the conviction of the highest-ranking Somali[an] pirate ever brought to the US,” Attorney Neil MacBride said in a statement. “He was among an elite fraternity of pirate negotiators — the vital link to any successful pirate attack. His skills were essential to obtain a ransom for those who attacked the vessel and the financiers who paid for the attack.” Prosecutors said Shibin received at least US$30,000 for his role as a hostage negotiator aboard the Marida Marguerite, which was ransomed for US$5 million. No payment was ever made for the sailing vessel Quest.
Death row dog reprieved
A mutt who sat on doggy death row for more than a year before getting a reprieve is on his way to Louisiana. Prada, a four-year-old pit bull mix, was released on Thursday from Nashville’s Animal Control facility, where he had been held since January last year. Prada was ordered put down after attacking several other dogs, but his owner fought a lengthy legal battle to keep him alive. The woman asked a judge to spare the dog if she agreed to send him to the Villalobos Rescue Center in New Orleans. The center is featured in Animal Planet’s reality TV show Pitt Bulls and Parolees, which puts ex-convicts and abused dogs together so both man and animal can be rehabilitated.
Chavez leads election poll
President Hugo Chavez’s big poll lead puts him in a strong position ahead of the presidential election, but it could also convince radical opponents violence is the only way to beat him, a senior campaign strategist said. Despite ongoing cancer treatment, Chavez is favored to extend his 13-year rule at the Oct. 7 election, with most opinion polls giving him an advantage of at least 10 percentage points over opposition candidate Henrique Capriles. Government warnings of opposition conspiracies have been commonplace since a 2002 coup, but critics say Chavez allies are using scare tactics to lay the groundwork for a refusal to hand over power if they lose. With Chavez’s cancer and political accusations dominating headlines, Capriles is struggling to grab public attention with grassroots campaigning in the provinces.
Fossil find stumps experts
Experts are trying to figure out what a 450 million-year-old fossil dubbed “Godzillus” used to be. The 68kg fossil recovered last year in Kentucky is more than 2m long. The Dayton Daily News reports that scientists at a Geological Society of America meeting viewed it on Tuesday in Ohio. “This is the ultimate cold case,” said amateur paleontologist Ron Fine, who spotted the fossil on a hillside last year. Experts are trying to determine whether it was an animal, mineral or a form of plant life. University of Cincinnati geologist Carl Brett told the Cincinnati Enquirer that it is the largest fossil ever extracted from that era in the region, once covered by water. “This one has us stumped,” said David Meyer, another UC geology professor. Fine shared his find in September last year at a meeting of the Dry Dredgers, a group of amateur geologists.