Nation Brief

+ More

By Chris Wilson and Nikki Schwab

A First Victory for One of the Jena Six
A week after 15,000 people converged on Jena, La., to protest what they saw as the aggressive prosecution of six black teens accused of beating a white classmate, the most visible of the group was released on bail.

Mychal Bell, 17, walked out of the LaSalle Parish Courthouse late last week, greeted by civil rights leaders after the district attorney dropped his bid to try Bell as an adult. A state appeals court threw out the original conviction because Bell was 16 at the time of the incident. He will be tried as a juvenile.

The tremendous interest in the case has given civil rights leaders hope that a new surge of activism is afoot.

Busting Open a Steroid Machine
It was the biggest steroids bust in U.S. history. In Operation Raw Deal, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration nabbed 124 individuals across the United States last week after a two-year, multinational probe. The investigation also netted 56 steroid labs and more than 11 million dosage units, according to the DEA.

The raids reveal the intricate network that illegal human growth hormones and other performance-enhancing drugs traverse on their way to the black market. Raw materials usually come from China, are processed in North America, and are distributed through the Web.

Steroid abuse among professional athletes has become an explosive issue. Just days earlier, Tour de France officials upheld a ruling that stripped American cyclist Floyd Landis of his 2006 victory after he tested positive for doping.

Quick: Why Did We Fight the British?
Immigrants will have to show a better grasp of American values to pass a new citizenship test after October 2008. The new test is designed to be more concept oriented, U.S. officials say. Instead of asking, for instance, "What country did we fight during the Revolutionary War?" it asks: "Why did the colonists fight the British?" Immigrant-rights activists have complained that the revisions and higher fees set up more barriers to naturalization. But officials say the test is actually easier. The pass rate on a recently administered pilot test was 92.4 percent vs. 84 percent for the old test. True, the new test will require some studying, but the old one was criticized for encouraging rote memorization without enhancing understanding. About 700,000 immigrants were nationalized last year.

A Guilty Verdict and a New Charge
His spiritual guidance was supposed to lead church members to salvation, but when it led one underage woman into an incestuous marriage, it became a crime. Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs was convicted in St. George, Utah, last week of two counts of rape as an accomplice in an arranged marriage between a 14-year-old and her 19-year-old first cousin, Allan Steed. While the woman objected to the marriage, Jeffs left her feeling she had no choice, she said, but to dutifully sleep with her cousin. His attorneys argued that Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was a victim of religious persecution. The case shed light on the sect in which Jeffs is revered as a prophet and polygamy is common. The case doesn't end with Jeffs, though. Prosecutors last week charged Steed with one count of rape.