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American Scene

- - Thursday, December 30, 2010

CALIFORNIA

IHOP settles dispute with IHOP

LOS ANGELES | The International House of Pancakes has dropped its legal flap against a Missouri church over their shared initials.

The Glendale-based flapjack chain accused the International House of Prayer in Kansas City over the church's use of the initials on its website and in signs and events at its headquarters.

IHOP, the restaurant, argued that might confuse customers and could link the pancake chain with the church. The chain dismissed its lawsuit last week in federal court in Los Angeles.

Spokesman Patrick Lenow told the Associated Press that the restaurant company dismissed the suit because it wanted to resolve the matter amicably.

MICHIGAN

Gas leaks probed in deadly blast

WAYNE | Utility and fire officials turned their attention Thursday to investigating whether a natural-gas explosion destroyed a suburban Detroit store, killing two employees and severely injuring the owner.

Consumers Energy spokeswoman Debra Dodd said crews worked overnight to repair a gas main behind what had been William C. Franks Furniture store in Wayne and removed a section of pipe for investigation.

She said it was not clear if the main was damaged in the explosion Wednesday morning or if it had been ruptured before the massive blast that flattened the family-run business. An investigation into the cause could take weeks, if not months, she said.

"Nobody wants to jump to any conclusions," she said, but she added there are "things about it that are characteristic" of a natural-gas blast.

Ms. Dodd said the utility had received two calls of a possible gas leak in the area in the hours before the blast and that a worker had been trying to track down the source when the explosion took place.

Workers rescued store owner Paul Franks shortly after the blast. Wednesday night, search crews recovered the bodies of 64-year-old store salesman James Zell and 54-year-old clerical worker Leslie Machniak.

NEW YORK

Obama ex-official settles case

NEW YORK | The investment banker who helped lead the Obama administration's auto industry overhaul has agreed to pay $10 million to settle influence-peddling accusations in New York.

Former "car czar" Steven Rattner admitted no wrongdoing as part of the deal, which was announced by state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo on Thursday.

Mr. Cuomo's office had filed civil lawsuits against Mr. Rattner in November, accusing him of paying kickbacks to help his company land $150 million in state pension-fund investments in 2004 and 2005. He denied the charges.

The attorney general initially sought $26 million in fines and penalties and a lifetime ban from the securities industry. The settlement announced Thursday only bars Rattner from doing further business with any public pension fund in the state for five years.

OHIO

Ozzy blamed in DUI case

CLEVELAND | An Ohio DUI suspect is blaming his arrest on Ozzy Osbourne.

William Liston was arrested Christmas Eve in the Cleveland suburb of Solon after a period of erratic driving and an accident, according to police reports. WJW-TV reported that he told police officers, "Ozzy Osbourne and his music made me do it."

The station did not say how the former Black Sabbath lead singer was supposedly at fault, beyond suggesting that Mr. Liston saw himself as having been driven mad. Mr. Osbourne's hits as lead singer of the heavy-metal band and as a solo artist include "Paranoid" and "Road to Nowhere."

Solon police say that at one point, Mr. Liston ran a sport utility vehicle off the road. The driver was not hurt.

Mr. Liston is awaiting arraignment on charges of operating a vehicle while impaired, hit-and-run and failure to control. He is to appear in court Tuesday.

According to WJW, police say they found a bottle containing four kinds of prescription pills in Mr. Liston's pocket, In an unrelated case, Mr. Liston pleaded not guilty Thursday in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court in a November break-in at a medical office. He was released on bond.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Oprah rejected on jail interview

COLUMBIA | South Carolina's new governor won't grant Oprah Winfrey a prison interview she's been trying to get for a decade with a woman who drowned her two young sons.

Susan Smith is serving a life sentence for killing 3-year-old Michael and 14-month-old Alex in 1994 by strapping them into their car seats and driving the car into a pond. She has not been interviewed since being charged.

On Wednesday's show, a Winfrey staffer said she has been trying to arrange an interview. Miss Winfrey suggested on the show that Gov.-elect Nikki Haley could change prison rules that prohibit media interviews.

Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said Thursday that Miss Winfrey won't get her wish, saying Smith got enough attention when she originally claimed she was carjacked before the truth came out.

From wire dispatches and staff reports