Homes evacuated after derailment
MECCA — A freight train derailed in the Southern California desert and four tanker cars were leaking unknown quantities of hydrochloric and phosphoric acid, forcing home evacuations, authorities said.
No one was injured when nearly 30 of the Union Pacific train's 65 cars derailed Monday night about 140 miles southeast of Los Angeles. It was headed from West Colton to El Centro.
About 40 homes remained evacuated yesterday because of the hazardous fumes, fire officials said.
It was not clear why the train derailed, said James Barnes, director of media information for Union Pacific.
State holds health insurance lottery
PORTLAND — Oregon is conducting a one-of-a-kind lottery, and the prize is health insurance.
The state will start drawing names this week for the chance to enroll in a health care program designed for people not poor enough for Medicaid but unable to afford insurance.
More than 80,000 people have signed up since registration for the lottery opened in January. A few thousand will be chosen for the program.
"It's better than nothing; it's at least a hope," said Shirley Krueger, 61, who signed up the first day. Her part-time job leaves her ineligible for her employer's insurance plan and with too little income to buy her own. It has been more than six months since she could afford to take insulin regularly for her diabetes.
Winter storms pound country
LITTLE ROCK — Deep snow, heavy rain and sleet snarled travel and caused scattered flooding yesterday from the Mississippi Valley to the East Coast.
Two persons were killed in Illinois when their car slid on a sleet-covered road into the path of a truck.
Up to 13 inches of snow fell at Russellville in west-central Arkansas, with up to 8 inches in Missouri and as much as 9 inches around Alton, Ill., the National Weather Service said. Authorities urged motorists to stay home.
A band of snow and rain stretched from the southern Plains to northern New England during the morning, and the Weather Service posted winter storm warnings across sections of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois, with winter weather advisories along the Great Lakes.
Thunderstorms swept through the Southeast.
Voting sites in Ohio were busy for yesterday's presidential primaries despite heavy rain.
Flash flooding forced some to briefly evacuate rural homes around the Alabama community of Collirene, said Lowndes County Sheriff Chip Williams.
Alabama also reported two small tornadoes that destroyed at least two homes and damaged others, the Weather Service said.
Model Smith's estate goes to daughter
LOS ANGELES — A judge yesterday ruled that the baby daughter of deceased model Anna Nicole Smith is the sole heir to her estate, meaning that 18-month-old Dannielynn could inherit a multimillion-dollar fortune.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff's ruling also established a trust for Dannielynn that would be administered by Miss Smith's companion, Howard K. Stern, and Dannielynn's father, Larry Birkhead.
The former Playboy model and television actress died in February 2007 of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs, roughly five months after Dannielynn was born. Her son, Daniel, died only three days after Dannielynn's birth. He was 20.
Daniel had been Miss Smith's heir according to a will that was written well before his death, but the actress/model never changed the will. Mr. Stern, who is executor of Miss Smith's estate, had petitioned the Los Angeles court in October to name Dannielynn as the sole heir.
At the time of her death, Miss Smith was embroiled in a legal battle over the will of billionaire oil tycoon Howard Marshall that still has not been resolved. If that dispute is settled and Miss Smith's estate receives a large payout, the money would belong to Dannielynn.
Hormone pill study finds aftereffects
CHICAGO — The first follow-up of a landmark study of hormone use after menopause shows heart problems linked with the pills seem to fade after women stop taking them, while surprising new cancer risks appear.
That heart trouble associated with hormones might not be permanent is good news for millions of women who quit taking them after the government study was halted six years ago because of heart risks and breast cancer.
But the new risks for other cancers, particularly lung tumors, in women who had taken estrogen-progestin pills for about five years puzzled the researchers and outside experts, including Gerardo Heiss of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, lead author of the follow-up analysis.
The analysis, which appears in today's Journal of the American Medical Association, focused on participants' health in the first two to three years after the study's end. During that time, those who had taken hormones but stopped were 24 percent more likely to develop any kind of cancer than women who had taken dummy pills.
Man held in threat to blow up plane
BANGOR — A man is in custody on federal charges accusing him of threatening to blow up an airliner that was en route to Ireland.
A detention hearing is set for today for Aiden Simon Mackle, 44, of Portadown, Northern Ireland.
Mr. Mackle is accused of telling a Delta Air Lines employee he was a terrorist after drinking and becoming unruly on Flight 146 from Atlanta. The flight was diverted to Bangor International Airport early Saturday.
Mr. Mackle faces federal charges of assault and interfering with a flight crew.
According to an FBI affidavit, he smoked a cigarette in a restroom on the Boeing 76, then became verbally abusive when he was confronted and told a flight attendant that he was associated with terrorist Osama bin Laden and was going to hijack the plane.
Vote postponed on mayoral ouster
DETROIT — Detroit's City Council has postponed a vote on a resolution that would ask embattled Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to step down.
Some council members said yesterday that they need more information before they can decide what to do. The vote has been rescheduled for March 18.
The resolution is more of a "no-confidence" vote and cannot force Mr. Kilpatrick to resign. He repeatedly has said he will not step down.
A prosecutor is investigating whether Mr. Kilpatrick and former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty lied under oath about having an affair during a trial in a whistle-blower lawsuit. The mayor has been dogged by recent press reports about steamy text messages the two exchanged that suggest an affair.
New substance found harmless
LAS VEGAS — A suspicious substance reported at a Las Vegas hotel and casino yesterday was found to be harmless, authorities said, just days after a man was hospitalized in the resort city with suspected ricin poisoning.
Hazardous materials teams responded to the Excalibur Hotel and Casino after a guest reported the unknown substance in his room, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police spokesman Bill Cassell said.
The room was quarantined while crews tested the matter and ultimately confirmed that it was not dangerous, Mr. Cassell said. He declined to elaborate on the nature of the substance.
Local news reports said the man had called police after finding a white powder in the sheets of his bed.
The FBI has been investigating the mysterious circumstances surrounding the illness of a man who was in critical condition at a Las Vegas hospital with suspected ricin poisoning.
Vacant building partially collapses
NEW YORK — A vacant building partially collapsed in New York yesterday, but there were no reports of injuries, the city's fire department said.
Metro North commuter trains running nearby through Harlem were shut down as a precaution, causing chaos for commuters trying to catch trains north from Grand Central Station.
The building in the north of Manhattan at 124th Street was vacant, a fire department spokesman said.
Part of an exterior brick wall fell into a vacant lot adjacent to the building, whose main structure remained intact.
There was no information on the cause of the collapse.
Police investigation yields few leads
MEMPHIS — A day into one of the city's biggest murder investigations in decades — two men, two women and two boys shot and stabbed — police conceded yesterday that they had virtually nothing to go on.
Investigators said they think the attacker or attackers were not among the dead.
But detectives faced a broad window for the killings: some time between Saturday night and Monday evening, when the six bodies and three wounded children were found in a small brick home.
"We're working with a blank sheet of paper," police spokeswoman Monique Martin said.
From wire dispatches and staff reports