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May 10, 2012 at 5:00 PM
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Justice Dept. files lawsuit against Arpaio

WASHINGTON, May 10 (UPI) -- The Justice Department says it is suing Arizona Sheriff Joseph Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office for his campaign against illegal immigrants.

Federal prosecutors say Arpaio engaged in "discriminatory and otherwise unconstitutional law enforcement actions against Latinos who are frequently stopped, detained and arrested on the basis of race, color, or national origin." The Sheriff's Office is also accused of discriminatory jail practices against Hispanic inmates and taking illegal retaliation against perceived critics.

The Justice Department last December issued a letter of findings, alleging the discriminatory actions and said efforts to reach a resolution have failed, primarily because the Sheriff's Office refused to agree to oversight by an independent monitor.

The lawsuit alleges the Sheriff's Office "promotes and is indifferent to the discriminatory conduct of its law enforcement officers, as is demonstrated by inadequate policies, ineffective training, virtually non-existent accountability measures, poor supervision, scant data collection mechanisms, distorted enforcement prioritization (and) an ineffective complaint and disciplinary system."

The Justice Department said the Sheriff's Office promotes "a culture of disregard for Latinos that starts at the top and pervades the organization."

"At its core, this is an abuse of power case involving Sheriff Arpaio and a sheriff's office that disregarded the Constitution, ignored sound police practices, and did not hesitate to retaliate against perceived critics in a variety of unlawful ways," Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, said Thursday in a statement.

"No one in Maricopa County is above the law and the department will fight to ensure that the promise of the Constitution is realized by everyone in Maricopa County."

Romney sorry, but doesn't remember pranks

OMAHA, May 10 (UPI) -- Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, on the campaign trail in Omaha Thursday, apologized for an anti-gay high school prank he said he couldn't remember.

Romney, the apparent Republican presidential nominee, also took a swipe at President Obama, calling him a "big money Democrat" who is even more liberal than former President Clinton, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

The Romney campaign raised $800,000 at a fundraiser dinner at the Omaha Hilton, the report said.

Also Thursday, Romney apologized repeatedly for high school pranks that may have hurt other students. But in an interview with Fox News, the former Massachusetts governor said he doesn't remember them.

Romney spent his teenage years spent at Cranbrook, a prestigious prep school in Michigan, CBS News said.

The pranks were described in a Washington Post story.

The Post said in one of the pranks friends held down a classmate believed to be gay while a young Romney repeatedly clipped his hair while the victim screamed for help.

"I don't remember that incident," Romney told Fox News. "I tell you I certainly don't believe that I ... thought the fella was homosexual. That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s. So that was not the case. But as to pranks that were played back then, I don't remember them all but again, high school days -- if I did stupid things I'm afraid I gotta say sorry for it."

The Post said the attack on the gay student was confirmed by five classmates who said it was "senseless, stupid, idiotic" and "vicious."

Romney also allegedly shouted "Atta girl!" when another supposedly gay student tried to speak up in class, among a series of other pranks, the report said.

The candidate said his propensity for pranks changed when he met his future wife Ann in high school, CBS reported.

Double agent in bomb plot held U.K. passport

WASHINGTON, May 10 (UPI) -- The double agent who revealed the latest al-Qaida bomb plot was a Saudi-born man who held a British passport, CNN reported Thursday.

Details continued to emerge about the man who was sent to Yemen by the Saudi counterintelligence agency to infiltrate al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. A source told the U.S. broadcaster the mole was born in Saudi Arabia but had been raised in Europe and had been sympathetic to Islamic fundamentalists.

CNN said his British passport made him attractive to al-Qaida because it allowed him to travel to the United States without obtaining a visa.

The source said after the man was accepted for training as a suicide bomber he contacted Saudi intelligence from Yemen and they informed U.S. intelligence about the planned operation to blow up a U.S.-bound jetliner.

The double agent and another informant were spirited out of Yemen along with the underwear-type explosive device being analyzed by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies. CNN said the device used PETN, the same explosive that has been used in previous al-Qaida attempts to down airplanes.

Carney: No surprise Putin staying home

WASHINGTON, May 10 (UPI) -- The White House said Thursday the administration was not surprised when Russian President Vladimir Putin decided not to attend the G8 meeting.

Putin, who was inaugurated as Russia's president during the weekend, is sending Prime Minister Medvedev to the United States in his stead.

"It was not a surprise, and it does not at all feel like a snub," press secretary Jay Carney told White House reporters aboard Air Force One heading to Seattle. "It was something we understood and understand."

Carney said President Obama had talked with the Russian president Wednesday and was looking forward to meeting with Putin face-to-face in June at the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico.

Putin said his responsibilities to form a new government in Moscow would keep him from attending the G8 summit at Camp David May 18-19.

Chen says family is being threatened

BEIJING, May 10 (UPI) -- Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng says authorities appear to be cracking down on his extended family back home in Shandong province.

Chen, who fled house arrest last month, said his nephew is suspected of attempted murder after three men broke into his house. His nephew's wife is also missing. Chen's brother and sister-in-law appear to be under virtual house arrest, the BBC reported Thursday.

The blind activist is in a Beijing hospital being treated for a leg injury he sustained in his escape and is hoping to go to the United States with his wife and children to study at New York University as soon as his paperwork is complete.

Chen says he doesn't have much information about his family back home but he told the BBC he fears retribution against him has begun.

"I'm worried about my family's situation right now. I think the local government in Shangdong has started their revenge against me," Chen told the BBC Chinese service by telephone.

Chen said he and his family had been illegally detained in their home in Shandong for almost two years before he escaped to the U.S. embassy.

First lady hosts military Mother's Day tea

WASHINGTON, May 10 (UPI) -- First lady Michelle Obama hosted military children, moms and grandmoms Thursday for a Mother's Day and Military Spouses Appreciation Day Tea.

Joined by Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, the first lady took her guests to the White House State Dining Room, the White House said.

There officials set up with three brightly colored skirted stations for cookie decorating, flower pot arranging and tea sachet-making for about about 32 kids who appeared to be between about 5 and 12 years old. The children made presents for their mothers and grandmothers.

The White House said executive chef Cris Comerford helped create the tea sachets, showing kids how to drop in herbs and flowers, and sent them off with tea and White House beehive honey. Executive pastry chef Bill Yosses doled out Purell and instructions at the cookie frosting table, and White House florist Laura Dowling offered ideas and encouragement at the flower table.

Wearing a yellow top and pale gold skirt, the first lady and Biden moved from table to table, admiring projects and greeting the kids.

Then the two women went to the East Room where there was a lunch for military moms and grandmoms, the White House said. The children presented their gifts at the lunch.

Biden spoke, recalling the "difficult year" for her family while her son Beau was deployed to Iraq, and thanked all the military families for their service.

The first lady thanked Biden and first grandmother Marian Robinson, who attended the tea. "My mom is my rock," she said, "she has taught me to believe in myself, pick myself up when I stumble, and she is a shoulder to lean on and to cry on, which I do a lot."

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