- - Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving travel will be mostly by car

The AAA auto club says a few more Americans will be traveling away from home for Thanksgiving this year, though most will be making their holiday treks by car.

The group says about 33.2 million people will travel by car this year, a 2.1 percent jump from 2008. The numbers were based on a survey of 1,350 households.

Air travel was expected to dip 6.7 percent, with about 2.3 million people booking holiday flights. The drop continues a decade-long trend of fewer people traveling by air for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Still, AAA officials say, the slight increase marks a change in consumer confidence, as travelers may feel more financially secure and willing to spend money despite the recession.

Storm grounds flights; I-80 crash shuts lanes

RENO, Nev. — A winter storm with winds gusting to more than 80 mph is expected to leave as much as a foot of snow in the northern Nevada mountains.

The storm dumped several inches of snow by late Friday afternoon. It knocked out power for thousands of people, grounded flights and kicked up a dust storm that contributed to a fatal pile-up that shut down a stretch of Interstate 80.

The howling winds and the resulting dust and dirt reduced visibility to near zero on I-80 about 60 miles east of Reno, where the eight-vehicle wreck killed one, seriously injured six and shut down both westbound lanes for several hours.

High winds postponed scheduled openings this Friday at several ski resorts.

Man gets life in fatal scare

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A man will spend the rest of his life in prison after he was found guilty in what prosecutors said was a case of scaring a North Carolina woman to death.

Multiple media outlets reported a federal jury found 21-year-old Larry Whitfield not guilty of murder Friday in the death last year of Mary Parnell, 79. But they did find him guilty of causing her death by kidnapping her, and that carries an automatic life sentence.

Prosecutors said Whitfield was looking for somewhere to hide after a failed bank robbery attempt in Gastonia in September 2008 when he broke into Parnell’s home.

Authorities said Whitfield never touched the grandmother, but she suffered a heart attack when she saw him, and he didn’t call for help.

Jackson glove on auction block

NEW YORK — A collection of Michael Jackson memorabilia, including the now-iconic rhinestone-studded glove he wore when he performed his first moonwalk dance in 1983, is being sold at auction.

The glove and other Jackson items are part of a music memorabilia auction being held by Julien’s Auctions at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York’s Times Square on Saturday.

Jackson wore the left-handed glove, which accompanied his fedora, when he unveiled what was to become his trademark dance on Motown’s 25th-anniversary TV special. It’s a modified, store-bought glove covered with a mesh of rhinestones.

The glove’s pre-auction estimate is between $40,000 and $60,000.

The pop icon, who died June 25 at age 50, gave the glove to Walter “Clyde” Orange, of the singing group the Commodores, after the 1983 performance.

Rise in mental crises taxes responders

BURLINGTON, Vt. — Police and emergency responders across the nation have long struggled to deal with people who have mental illness. Now some say the situation is getting worse.

A poor economy and cuts to institutional programs threaten to overwhelm personnel trained to deal with crime and vehicle accidents, not mental crises.

In Burlington, the police department recently hired a mental health specialist to handle some of these calls, in hopes of reducing the number of people with mental illness who are shuttled needlessly into the justice system.

Across the country, as many as 1,300 departments have set up crisis intervention teams, which get specialized mental health training and work with the community on the responses.

Expectant father takes spacewalk

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — An astronaut anticipating the birth of his daughter at any moment embarked on the first spacewalk of his career Saturday, tackling a load of maintenance work outside the International Space Station.

Atlantis crewman Randolph Bresnik ventured out into the black void for the mission’s second spacewalk as his wife, Rebecca, was on the verge of giving birth to their second child. They also have a 3-year-old son.

Mrs. Bresnik was due to give birth Friday, but the baby had not arrived as the spacewalk started Saturday. The astronauts agreed with Mission Control to hold off on any news if the birth occurred during the spacewalk.

Everyone wanted Mr. Bresnik, a 42-year-old Marine, focused on his job 220 miles above the planet. Spacewalking always carries extra risk.

Also working outside Saturday was Michael Foreman, a veteran spacewalker. The two men will install a railing and other gear on the space station, and rearrange some equipment.

Earlier Saturday, their colleagues attached another platform to the orbiting outpost, filled with big spare parts.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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