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In brief: 14 men charged in operation of child exploitation network

Wed., March 19, 2014

WASHINGTON – Fourteen men were charged with operating an online child exploitation network that investigators said preyed upon hundreds of boys across the United States and overseas, authorities announced Tuesday.

Law enforcement officials said the arrests were part of a worrisome trend in which children are being enticed into posting sexually explicit images of themselves. Those images are then broadly shared online. In this case, authorities said users of an underground network posed online as girls to coerce boys into sharing with them child pornography images.

The investigation was led by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The 250 victims were spread across 39 states and five other countries – Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada and New Zealand. Most were boys 13 to 15 years old. Two victims were 3 or younger, authorities said.

The images and videos were shared on an underground website on the Tor network, an online anonymity network that masks the location of servers and conceals an Internet user’s location. The subscription-based website operated from about June 2012 until June 2013 and had more than 27,000 members, authorities said.

Eleven of the 14 men, including the man authorities say was the administrator of the network, are being prosecuted in Louisiana. The other three are being charged in New York, Colorado and Wisconsin.

Authorities accuse Jonathan Johnson of Abita Springs, La., of being the leader of the operation.

PHILADELPHIA – A Philadelphia college student died of the same type of meningitis that caused an outbreak at Princeton University in New Jersey, suggesting the strain might still exist on the Ivy League campus despite a massive vaccination effort, federal health officials said Tuesday.

Stephanie Ross, a Drexel University sophomore from Pittsburgh, had been in close contact with Princeton students about a week before getting sick, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She died March 10.

More than 5,000 members of the Princeton community, mostly undergraduate students, received inoculations for the meningitis B strain, but vaccinated individuals can still carry the bacteria in their throats and transmit it to others, the CDC said in a statement. The agency urged vigilance in preventing new cases.

“Although transmission is from person-to-person, this organism is not highly contagious and requires sharing respiratory and oral secretions to spread,” the statement said.

The CDC said there is no outbreak at Drexel, which is about 40 miles from Princeton.

The Princeton outbreak began in March 2013 and sickened seven students and a campus visitor. All have recovered.

Two executions rescheduled while lethal drugs sought

OKLAHOMA CITY – An Oklahoma court on Tuesday rescheduled a pair of executions set for this week and next so state prison officials will have more time to find a supply of drugs for the lethal injections.

The decision came in a lawsuit in which two inmates had sought more information about the drugs that would be used to execute them later this month. The inmates had sought a stay of their executions, but the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals said that request was moot because the state Department of Corrections doesn’t have enough drugs on hand to carry out their death sentences.

Oklahoma and other states that have the death penalty have been scrambling for substitute drugs or new sources for drugs for lethal injections after major drugmakers – many based in Europe with longtime opposition to the death penalty – stopped selling to prisons and corrections departments.

While the judges didn’t rule on the merit of the inmates’ stay request, they pushed their executions back a month – Clayton Lockett to April 22 and Charles Warner to April 29.

Newborn gorilla at zoo getting round-the-clock care

SAN DIEGO – A baby gorilla delivered by a rare emergency cesarean section last week at the San Diego Zoo has pneumonia and is receiving round-the-clock care.

Zoo spokeswoman Christina Simmons said the female gorilla was receiving oxygen and other treatment on Tuesday. She says the gorilla sleeps a lot but is getting stronger day by day and vets are cautiously optimistic about her condition.

The gorilla was born March 12 and underwent surgery last Friday for a collapsed lung.


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