Washington – International inspectors expect to destroy Syria’s ability to produce new chemical weapons by Nov. 1, the first major deadline in the United Nations-ordered disarmament of the country’s entire chemical arsenal, officials said Wednesday.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the watchdog group overseeing the disarmament effort, said equipment used to produce or mix toxic gases and nerve agents has been destroyed at almost all of the declared facilities inside Syria.
OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan said Syrian authorities continued to provide “complete” cooperation to its team of 27 inspectors, and the group was confident of meeting the first major milestone in the disarmament plan before Friday of next week.
Greenpeace activists face hooliganism charges
Moscow – Russian officials on Wednesday dropped piracy charges against Greenpeace activists who were jailed last month after protesting oil drilling in the Arctic, charging them instead with hooliganism.
An investigation led officials to issue the less-severe charges of hooliganism, which carry a maximum penalty of seven years, instead of piracy, which could mean up to 15 years in prison, Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement.
The 28 Greenpeace activists, a Russian photographer and a British videographer have been held since their ship, the “Arctic Sunrise” was seized by the Russian coast guard after protesting outside the oil rig belonging to Russia’s Gazprom state energy giant on Sept. 18.
Teen arrested in relation to math teacher’s death
Danvers, Mass. – A popular 24-year-old math teacher at Danvers High School in Massachusetts, Colleen Ritzer, has been found dead in woods near the school, and a 14-year-old boy has been arrested in connection with her death, officials said Wednesday.
Police learned Tuesday night that Ritzer also had not returned home and was not answering her cellphone. When police searched for her, they discovered blood in the second-floor bathroom of the high school, and began to search school property.
The 14-year-old boy, Philip Chism, was arraigned on a murder charge Wednesday. He was ordered held without bail.
Rifle stolen from congresswoman’s garage
Raleigh, N.C. – The husband of U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., reported an AR-15 rifle stolen from the family’s home in Dunn, N.C., last week, according to a police report.
The weapon had been left leaning against a gun locker in an unlocked garage, the report said. The rifle, a gun case and a GPS, with a cumulative value of $1,100, were reported stolen, according to Chief J.D. Pope.
The family was unharmed but shaken, said Thomas Doheny, communications director for Ellmers. The weapon belonged to Ellmers’ college-age son, he confirmed,