Spider invasion shuts school
A school has been forced to close after being overrun by “false widow” spiders, the latest in a series of sightings of the country’s most poisonous arachnid. Dean Academy in the Forest of Dean region was to shut its doors yesterday while experts dealt with the eight-legged invaders, vice principal Craig Burns said in a statement. The spiders, which resemble the potentially deadly black widow, have colonized parts of the south for more than a century and are thought to have spread further afield in the past 25 years, according to the Natural History Museum. Their bite can cause swelling or fever.
Public rally for raped teen
A day after a special prosecutor was named to re-investigate a sexual abuse case involving a Missouri teenager, a crowd of a few hundred people braved chilly conditions on Tuesday night to show support for a girl whose story has drawn worldwide attention. The rally on Maryville’s courthouse square was organized over the Internet by a women’s rights activist from the Kansas City area who used social media to garner support for Daisy Coleman, who was 14 when she said a 17-year-old boy gave her alcohol and sexually assaulted her last year. Daisy’s story generated new attention and an outpouring of responses on social media following a Kansas City Star investigation. Melinda Coleman, Daisy’s mother, claims justice was denied when Nodaway County prosecutor Robert Rice dropped felony charges against the 17-year-old boy in March last year, two months after she found her daughter passed out on the family’s front porch in below-freezing temperatures.
Complaint hotline heats up
People who called the San Francisco City Government to complain about noise from a Nike marathon on Sunday got an earful of racy language when they were incorrectly directed to a phone sex line. City officials now say they were given the wrong number and are investigating how the mix-up occurred. The phone sex number and marathon number differed only in their prefix: 800 versus 866. City official Nancy Alfaro said the wrong number was given out for about 30 minutes before city officials were alerted. It is not clear how many people were misdirected.
Mom charged with assault
The mother of a missing five-year-old girl whose emotional appeal to find her daughter elicited nationwide sympathy was charged on Tuesday with aggravated fatal assault after further questioning led police to raise four lesser charges she was facing, prosecutors said. Fiona Bourgeon disappeared in May during what her mother, Cecile, claimed was a moment of inattention when she fell asleep on a park bench, sparking a huge police search and an outpouring of grief. However, four months later, the 25-year-old and her partner, Berkane Makhlouf, admitted they had buried the girl in a forest near the central city of Clermont-Ferrand. The circumstances of the girl’s presumed death remain unclear, and Cecile Bourgeon and Makhlouf have accused each other of violence. Cecile Bourgeon said Makhlouf had hit Fiona after a heavy drinking session, but he turned the tables on her, saying she had kicked the little girl twice in the stomach and twice in the head that night, his lawyer said. They both maintain the violence was not the cause of Fiona’s death, which was caused by some form of “domestic accident.” Makhlouf was charged with aggravated fatal assault last month.