BAGHDAD

Fugitive Sunni vice president calls death sentence ‘unjust’

From self-exile in Turkey, Iraq’s fugitive vice president scoffed Monday at a Baghdad court that sentenced him to the gallows for masterminding death squads against rivals, describing it as a puppet of the prime minister and saying he will not return to appeal the verdict.

The conviction of Tariq al-Hashemi, one of the nation’s highest-ranking Sunni officials, rids Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of a top political foe while threatening to deepen the rift between Iraq’s main Muslim sects as the nation struggles to achieve stability nine months after U.S. troops withdrew.

In a statement posted on a militant website Monday, Iraq’s wing of al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the countrywide attacks and promised “black days ahead.”

Later in the day, a car bomb exploded outside a restaurant in southwest Baghdad, killing eight people and wounding 32, security and health officials said.

Appearing alternately affable and defiant at a news conference in Turkey’s capital, al-Hashemi maintained his innocence after being found guilty of organizing the murders of a lawyer and a Shiite security officer.

“The verdict is unjust, politicized, illegitimate and I will not recognize it. It means nothing to me,” al-Hashemi, who took office in 2006, told reporters in Ankara.

NEW YORK

J.C. Penney to cut more hair in effort to regain customers

Children who missed the opportunity to get a free haircut at J.C. Penney last month will get plentymore chances.

After an overwhelming response to the chain’s free haircut program offer for children in August – 1.6 million haircuts, to be exact – Penney will be making it a permanent offer every Sunday, starting Nov. 4.

The decision underscores the extent of new CEO Ron Johnson’s efforts to re-energize the chain and transform every aspect of its business, from pricing to creating a new shopping experience.

The move comes as the Plano, Tex.-based company grapples with two straight quarters of losses and severe sales drops as shoppers, accustomed to big sales, have been turned off by a new pricing plan that eliminates hundreds of sales events in favor of every day prices that are 40 percent lower than last year.

CARROLLTON, Texas

Man accused of killing teen to prevent her testimony

A Texas man accused of raping a 16-year-old girl used social media to lure her to a meeting, abduct her from her school and drive her to a river, where he killed her to keep her from testifying against him, police and a family spokeswoman said.

The man insisted in a jailhouse interview Monday that he only wanted to talk to the teen and prove his innocence but said he was overcome by “demons” once they were face-to-face.

Franklin B. Davis, 30, of the Dallas suburb of Irving, was charged with capital murder Sunday in the death of Shania Gray. Gray was last seen alive Thursday afternoon at Hebron High School in nearby Carrollton. Her body was found Saturday in a secluded area near the Trinity River.

Carrollton police spokesman Jon Stovall said in an email that police believe Davis killed Gray because she was about to testify against him.

A spokeswoman for Gray’s family, Sherry Ramsey, told The Dallas Morning News that Gray met Davis when she babysat his two children. Ramsey said that later, after the teen declined many further requests to babysit, Gray told her grandmother that Davis had raped her.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.

Colleagues mourn officer killed in Obama’s motorcade

The danger in seemingly routine police work of directing traffic and shutting down roadways gained new attention Monday as colleagues mourned an officer who died while working on President Obama’s motorcade.

Jupiter Police Officer Bruce St. Laurent, 55, was killed Sunday in West Palm Beach after his motorcycle was struck by a pickup truck while he prepared to shut down a stretch of Interstate 95 ahead of the motorcade.

Outside Jupiter Town Hall, the flag was lowered to half-staff, the fallen officer’s patrol car was draped in memorial bunting and makeshift memorials sprang up for lighting candles and leaving flowers.