U.S. nun’s killer gets early prison release

The confessed killer of U.S. nun and Amazon defender Dorothy Stang has been released from jail after serving less than nine of the 27 years he was given in 2005, officials said Thursday.

The judiciary branch in the northern state of Para said on its Web site Thursday that Judge Claudio Henrique Rendeiro had ruled that Rayfran das Neves Sales was entitled to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest. Neves is prohibited from frequenting bars, must sleep at home and find a job. He was released Tuesday.

Neves, who served eight years and eight months, confessed that in 2005 he shot Stang six times on a muddy Amazon road. Two accomplices, Clodoaldo Carlos Batista and Amair Feijoli da Cunha, are serving 17 and 18 years, respectively.

Stang was born in Dayton, Ohio, and spent three decades trying to preserve the rain forest and defending the rights of poor settlers who confronted powerful ranchers seeking their lands in the Amazon’s wild frontier.

Para state is notorious for land-related violence, contract killings, slave-like labor conditions and wanton environmental destruction.

— Associated Press

On tape, Murdoch plays down charges

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has been recorded saying wrongdoing by his British newspapers was “next to nothing” and apparently acknowledging that his reporters paid police officers for information.

Staffers at two of Murdoch’s British tabloids have been charged as part of police investigations into phone hacking and bribery spurred by revelations two years ago that his News of the World routinely eavesdropped on the cellphone voice mails of celebrities, politicians, royals and crime victims.

In a tape published in transcript by the ExaroNews journalism Web site and broadcast Wednesday on Britain’s Channel 4 News, Murdoch appeared to play down the seriousness of the scandal and the police investigation.

The outlets said the tape of Murdoch was recorded during a meeting with journalists at the Sun newspaper in March. Murdoch told the journalists, “We’re talking about payments for news tips from cops: That’s been going on a hundred years.”

News Corp. denied that Murdoch had known bribery was taking place before the police launched an investigation. The company said that “Mr. Murdoch never knew of payments made by Sun staff to police” before News Corp. executives disclosed the company’s misdeeds to British authorities.

— Associated Press

British police open Madeleine McCann investigation: British police say they have launched a full investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann and want to trace 38 “persons of interest” in the case. Detectives say it’s possible that Madeleine, who vanished from a Portuguese holiday resort six years ago, is still alive. McCann vanished from a vacation home in Portugal’s Algarve region on May 3, 2007, days before her fourth birthday. The case has generated intense media interest.

Bomb blasts kill 6 children in Afghanistan: Roadside bombs killed four young girls and two schoolboys in Afghanistan on Thursday while a police inspector was gunned down on her way to work, officials said. The girls, ages 10 to 12 years, had been sent by their families to a river to fetch water for a wedding that was being held in a home on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, a spokesman for the governor said. The police inspector also died in Lashkar Gah, and the two boys were killed on their way home from school in Paktika province.

Airlines cancel Mexico City flights as volcano spews ash: Airport officials say at least six U.S. airlines have canceled more than 40 flights into and out of Mexico City and Toluca airports after the Popocatepetl volcano, about 43 miles southeast of the capital, spewed out ash, steam and glowing rocks. Mexico City airport spokesman Jorge Pineda said US Airways, Delta, United, American and Alaska Airlines canceled 47 flights as a precaution. But he said that the airport was continuing to operate normally and that no ash had reached the area. At Toluca, Spirit Airlines canceled flights.

— From news services