Pentagon to ease recruiting standards




WASHINGTON &

Faced with higher recruiting goals, the Pentagon is quietly looking for ways to make it easier for people with minor criminal records to join the military, The Associated Press has learned.




The review, in its early stages, comes as the number of Army recruits needing waivers for bad behavior &

such as trying drugs, stealing, carrying weapons on school grounds and fighting &

rose from 15 percent in 2006 to 18 percent this year. And it reflects the services' growing use of criminal, health and other waivers to build their ranks.




Overall, about three in every 10 recruits must get a waiver, according to Pentagon statistics obtained by AP, and about two-thirds of those approved in recent years have been for criminal behavior. Some recruits must get more than one waiver to cover things ranging from any criminal record, to health problems such as asthma or flat feet, to low aptitude scores &

and even for some tattoos.




The goal of the review is to make cumbersome waiver requirements consistent across the services &

the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force &

and reduce the number of petty crimes that now trigger the process. Still, some Army officers worry that disciplinary problems will grow as more soldiers with records, past drug use and behavior problems are brought in.




Lt. Gen. Michael Rochelle, the Army's deputy chief of staff for personnel, said the review is necessary. Now, he said, many recruits who were arrested as juveniles for what can be considered youthful indiscretions &

minor fights or theft &

are forced to get waivers even if they were never convicted of the crime.




College students accused of kidnapping




EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. &

Two students at Southern Illinois University in this St. Louis suburb kidnapped, paddled and burned a young man with freshly baked cookies after a drug deal went bad, prosecutors said.




Madison County prosecutors on Monday charged Rosario James, 23, and Jordan Sallis, 20, each with two counts of aggravated kidnapping and one count of robbery and aggravated battery.




Both were jailed Tuesday on $150,000 apiece.




Sheriff's Capt. Brad Wells said that Friday night, three men went to James' house to buy marijuana, but two of them grabbed the drugs and fled, leaving the third behind. The suspects held that man, who is in his late teens, and told him he needed to find $400 for the drugs, Wells said.




The suspects beat the man with a wooden paddle, burned his neck and shoulders with cookies immediately after taking them from the oven, shaved off some of his hair and poured urine over him from a soda bottle, Wells said.




New planet found in constellation




LOS ANGELES &

A new planet was discovered orbiting a sun-like star 41 light years away, making it the first known planetary quintet outside our solar system, astronomers said Tuesday.




The newfound planet joins four others circling the nearby star 55 Cancri in the constellation Cancer. Although it resides in the star's so-called habitable zone, a place where liquid water and mild temperatures should exist, it is more like Saturn than Earth and therefore not likely to support life.




Still, scientists have not ruled out the possibility of finding an Earth-like planet within the system as technology improves.




"It's a system that appears to be packed with planets," said co-discoverer Debra Fischer, an astronomer at San Francisco State University.




Ranked fourth from 55 Cancri, the latest planet is about 45 times the mass of Earth and has an orbit of 260 days. It was detected after nearly two decades of observations by ground-based telescopes using the Doppler technique that measures a planet's stellar wobble.




Oprah pulls disputed book from site




NEW YORK &

Oprah Winfrey has pulled a discredited children's book, Forrest Carter's "The Education of Little Tree," from a list of recommended titles on her Web site, blaming an archival "error" for including a work considered the literary hoax of a white supremacist.




"The archived listing was posted in error and has been removed," Winfrey spokeswoman Angela DePaul told The Associated Press on Tuesday, adding that she did not know long "Little Tree" had been on the site.




First published in 1976, "The Education of Little Tree" was supposedly the real-life story of an orphaned boy raised by his Cherokee grandparents; the book became a million seller and sentimental favorite.




But suspicions about Carter, who died in 1979, began in his lifetime, and were raised significantly in the early 1990s, not long after the book won the ABBY. Carter was identified as Asa Earl Carter, a member of the Ku Klux Klan and speechwriter for former Alabama governor George Wallace who wrote Wallace's infamous vow: "Segregation today! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!"




"" The Associated Press




Illinois middle schooler is given detention for hugging 2 friends at school




MASCOUTAH, Ill. &

Two hugs equals two days of detention for 13-year-old Megan Coulter.




The eighth-grader was punished for violating a school policy banning public displays of affection when she hugged two friends Friday.




"I was just giving them a hug goodbye for the weekend," Megan said, who was to serve her second detention Tuesday after classes at Mascoutah Middle School.




Megan's mother, Melissa Coulter, said the embraces weren't even real hugs &

just an arm around the shoulder and slight squeeze.




District Superintendent Sam McGowen said that he thinks the penalty is fair and that administrators in the school east of St. Louis were following policy in the student handbook.




Coulter said she and her husband told their daughter to go ahead and serve her detentions because the only other option was a day of suspension for each skipped detention.




The couple plan to attend the next school board meeting to ask board members to consider rewording the policy or be more specific in what is considered a display of affection.