- - Thursday, September 18, 2008

ALABAMA

Dozens arrested in drug roundup

GADSDEN — At least 50 people are in custody on drug-related charges and more arrests are expected in an operation spearheaded by the Etowah County Safe Streets Task Force.

Sheriff Todd Entrekin said Operation Dark Knight began at about 8 a.m. Tuesday.

About 90 officers from federal, state, county and local agencies served about 150 arrest warrants.

Sheriff Entrekin said most of the individuals arrested were charged with selling illegal drugs.

HAWAII

Group seeks palace restoration

KAILUA-KONA — The caretakers of Kamehameha the Great’s personal residence in Kailua-Kona are seeking 500,000 ti leaves to restore the roof on one of the buildings.

Ahuena Heiau, a national historic landmark, was the center of political power in the Hawaiian kingdom during Kamehameha’s day.

Kamehameha consulted his priests and highest advisers there. The king died on the grounds in 1819.

Community members can drop off ti leaves at Yano Hall in Captain Cook or at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. Those interested in helping prepare the leaves should meet at Ahuena Heiau on Sept. 27.

MASSACHUSETTS

Ratepayer advocates gather at summit

CAMBRIDGE — Energy advocates from around New England gathered Wednesday in Cambridge for a summit aimed at fighting high costs in the region.

Advocates for low-income people and commercial and industrial energy customers were scheduled to meet into the afternoon.

Attorney General Martha Coakley says the summit is designed to bring together ratepayers and their advocates to talk about how the New England states can collaborate to fight rising energy costs.

The group was set to discuss how customers can take advantage of state and regional programs, as well as innovations in managing costs.

MISSISSIPPI

Ex-teacher faces three sex charges

BILOXI — A former Biloxi teacher has been indicted on multiple counts related to allegations she had sex with a 15-year-old male student.

A Harrison County grand jury indicted Rebecca Dawn Bogard on charges of exploitation of a child, touching of a child for lustful purposes and statutory rape. She faces up to 65 years in prison if convicted.

Authorities say Miss Bogard, 28, was a science teacher the Biloxi School District’s alternative school. School district officials say the student attended the alternative school.

Police say the purported sexual activity did not occur on a school campus.

MONTANA

$1 million bail set for murder suspect

BILLINGS — A judge set bail at $1 million Wednesday for a man charged with killing a Billings couple two years ago by tying them with duct tape, wire hangers and telephone cord, then beating and cutting them before setting their bodies afire to cover a robbery.

The bodies of Norman Leighton, 69, and Patti Hubbert, 54, were found by firefighters in their smoldering southside apartment.

Richard Covington, 46, also is charged in the shooting death of Gerald Morris, 43, who lived next door and disappeared about the same time. His remains were found two weeks later, south of Billings.

Charging documents were filed Tuesday against Mr. Covington.

District Judge Russell Fagg set bail at $1 million for Mr. Covington, who was arraigned Wednesday on three counts of murder and a dozen other felonies.

NEVADA

Slots company announces layoffs

RENO — International Game Technology (IGT), the world’s largest maker of slot machines and casino systems, is offering buyouts to workers and will lay off an undetermined number of employees because of the struggling economy.

In an e-mail sent to employees Tuesday, IGT Chairman and Chief Executive Officer T.J. Matthews said the number of layoffs will be based on how many workers accept a voluntary separation package that was introduced last week.

IGT spokesman Ed Rogich told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that about 500 employees, age 55 and over, were offered buyouts.

UTAH

Job growth slows; unemployment rises

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s job growth nearly came to a halt in August as the result of a construction industry slowdown in a sluggish housing market.

State statistics released this week show employment grew only 0.3 percent in August, compared with the same period last year.

Mark Knold, chief economist at the Utah Department of Workforce Services, says the housing industry is shedding jobs and that’s having a ripple effect through the rest of the work force.

The state has added about 3,200 jobs in the past year.

Utah’s unemployment rate jumped to 3.7 percent in August, up from 2.8 percent last year.

Nationally, the unemployment rate is 6.1 percent.

VERMONT

Cooling tower woes continue at plant

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant has been reduced to 55 percent power after another problem with one of its cooling towers.

A spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says three sections of the plant’s east cooling tower were found to be leaking Tuesday night, forcing the tower to be shut down and the plant to reduce power.

Vermont Yankee spokesman Robert Williams says it appears that the leak of about 60 gallons per minute was a result of faulty packing material in an expansion joint and was not related to structural problems in the towers.

A section of the plant’s west cooling tower collapsed in 2007, with new problems cropping up this July.

From wire dispatches and staff reports