NEW YORK

Group files lawsuit to stop mosque near ground zero

The debate over a planned Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero became a court fight Wednesday, as a conservative advocacy group sued to try to stop a project that has become a fulcrum for balancing religious freedom and the legacy of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The American Center for Law and Justice, founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson, filed suit Wednesday to challenge a city panel’s decision to let developers tear down a building to make way for the mosque two blocks from ground zero.

The city Landmarks Preservation Commission moved too fast in making a decision, underappreciated the building’s historic value and “allowed the intended use of the building and political considerations to taint the deliberative process,” lawyer Brett Joshpe wrote in papers filed in a Manhattan state court.

WAUKEGAN, Ill.

DNA evidence clears man convicted of 2005 murders

A northern Illinois man jailed on first-degree murder charges in the 2005 stabbing deaths of his daughter and another young girl was a free man Wednesday after prosecutors dropped charges because DNA evidence from the crime scene matched that of another man.

Jerry Hobbs, 39, arrived at the brief court hearing in a blue prison jumpsuit and handcuffs, and a short time later — after changing his clothes — was released from custody, according to the Lake County Jail.

Hobbs had pleaded not guilty in the stabbing deaths of his 8-year-old daughter Laura and her friend Krystal Tobias, 9, in Zion, about 50 miles north of Chicago.

LOS ANGELES

Prosecutor accuses doctors in Anna Nicole Smith death

Two doctors violated their responsibility to protect Anna Nicole Smith by prescribing massive amounts of drugs with the connivance of her lawyer-boyfriend, even though they knew she was addicted to painkillers, a prosecutor argued Wednesday.

But a defense attorney for Howard K. Stern said Stern loved Smith and depended on doctors to prescribe the right medications for her chronic pain. He said she was not an addict.

Smith’s mother, Virgie Arthur, was in the courtroom with other relatives — a reminder of protracted court battles in the Bahamas and Florida after Smith died of a drug overdose in February 2007.

The contentions of Deputy District Attorney Renee Rose came during opening statements at the conspiracy trial of Stern, Dr. Sandeep Kapoor and Dr. Khristine Eroshevich, who are accused of providing vast amounts of powerful opiates and sedatives for the Playboy model.

FORT WORTH, Texas

Seven of 14 puppies perish from heat of jet cargo hold

Seven puppies died after flying in the cargo hold of an American Airlines jet.

American said it contacted the shipper who put the puppies on a Tuesday morning flight from Tulsa, Okla., to Chicago, and is investigating further.

Airline spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan said Wednesday the shipper put 14 puppies aboard Flight 851, which was scheduled to leave Tulsa at 6:30 a.m. but was delayed an hour by storms in Chicago.

American said on its website it won’t carry warm-blooded animals if the actual or forecast temperature is above 85 degrees. As the plane sat on the tarmac in Tulsa, it was already 86 degrees before 7 a.m., according to the National Weather Service.

Fagan said cargo holds carrying animals are routinely kept between 50 and 70 degrees.

Baggage handlers taking the puppies to a kennel area at O’Hare Airport grew concerned because they looked lethargic. Employees tried to cool down the dogs, and they were taken to a vet’s office.

KANSAS CITY, Mo.

U.S. agriculture official: Aid not enough to stop hunger

Governments and aid organizations must help the world’s hungry develop sustainable agriculture systems so that they can feed themselves, a top U.S. agriculture official told those attending an international food conference Wednesday.

Agriculture Department Undersecretary James Miller said it wasn’t enough to just send emergency aid to get people through the day. The U.S. and others must also must help people in poor countries develop ways of feeding themselves consistently, he said.

Miller spoke as the International Food Aid and Development Conference was winding down. He was there to promote a new U.S. initiative called Feed the Future, which is aimed at boosting productivity and improving markets in places where regional trade may be limited and much of what is grown spoils before it reaches starving people.

ALLENTOWN, Pa.

Game company apologizes for Obama image on target

The president of a Pennsylvania-based amusement company apologized Wednesday for a target shooting game depicting the image of a black man that appears to be President Obama.

Irvin Good Jr., president of Goodtime Amusements, said he did not intend to offend anyone by offering the game, called “Alien Attack,” which recently appeared at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Big Time Fair in Roseto, Pa., and sparked a complaint.

“I guess we made an error in judgment and we apologize for that,” said Good, who has had the game for about six weeks. “I voted for the man. It wasn’t meant to be him. If they took it that way, we apologize.”

The game depicted a black man dressed in a suit holding a rolled up piece of paper labeled, “Health Bill.” The man also sported a belt buckle fashioned after the presidential seal. Participants shot darts at targets, located on his head and heart, to score points and win a stuffed animal prize.