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American Scene

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ALASKA

Crippled cargo ship heads for port

ANCHORAGE | A cargo ship that broke down in Alaska's Aleutian Islands while carrying canola seeds and nearly a half-million gallons of fuel oil continued its slow journey to a safe harbor Sunday as a tugboat pulled it through rough seas and up to 25-foot waves.

The 738-foot Golden Seas with 20 crew members aboard was expected to reach Dutch Harbor, 275 miles away, sometime Tuesday.

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Dana Warr said the tugboat captain decided to take a longer route south of the island chain where seas were somewhat less rough. The course change was expected to add about 20 to 30 hours to the trip.

Chief Petty Officer Warr said Sunday evening the vessels were dealing with waves between 20 and 25 feet, despite predictions that the rough seas would abate. "We thought it would diminish more than it has," he said.

CALIFORNIA

Browser flaw allows 'history sniffing'

SAN FRANCISCO | Dozens of websites have been secretly harvesting lists of places that their users previously visited online, everything from news articles to bank sites to pornography, a team of computer scientists found.

The information is valuable for con artists to learn more about their targets and send them personalized attacks. It also allows e-commerce companies to adjust ads or prices — for instance, if the site knows the user has just come from a competitor that is offering a lower price.

Although passwords aren't at risk, in harvesting a detailed list of where people have been online, sites can create thorough profiles on its users. The technique the University of California at San Diego researchers investigated is called "history sniffing" and is a result of the way browsers interact with websites and record where they've been. A few lines of programming code are all a site needs to pull it off.

Although security experts have known for nearly a decade that such snooping is possible, the latest findings offer some of the first public evidence of sites exploiting the problem. Current versions of Firefox and Internet Explorer browsers still allow this, as do older versions of Chrome and Safari, the researchers said.

FLORIDA

Shuttle flight delayed to 2011; cracks cited

CAPE CANAVERAL | Space Shuttle Discovery's final mission is off until February, three months late because of fuel-tank cracks that are stumping engineers.

NASA's top spaceflight managers announced the latest delay on Friday. They said they need more time to understand the cracking, which cropped up following a failed launch attempt in early November.

Discovery remains on the launchpad, holding a load of equipment for the International Space Station. The launch team plans to conduct a fueling test by month's end — rigging the external tank with gauges and sensors, then loading it up — in hopes of cracking the elusive crack problem.

Bill Gerstenmaier, head of NASA's space operations, said liftoff tentatively is set for around Feb. 3, the opening of the next practical launch window. That will push the final mission of shuttle Endeavour back a full month, into April. A series of unmanned cargo ships from other countries are due to fly to the orbiting lab in the next few months, complicating matters. Also on tap is the arrival of a new station crew in mid-December, via a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

MICHIGAN

Gunman's memorial draws hundreds

MENOMINEE | Hundreds of people showed up Sunday for a memorial to a 15-year-old Wisconsin boy who held his social studies class hostage before shooting himself last week, setting aside the terrifying standoff to honor him as a quiet, helpful leader who loved the outdoors.

Sam Hengel's family held the gathering in a school auditorium in Menominee, Mich., because they expected so many supporters. Menominee lies just across the Menominee River from Marinette, Wis., where Hengel held 26 classmates and his teacher at gunpoint for nearly six hours.

Barb Post of Marinette, Wis., said she didn't know Hengel's family, but attended anyway to show support.

"You care about the people and the family, and you understand it could happen to anybody," Ms. Post said.

The line to greet the teen's parents and two younger brothers stretched out of the auditorium and into the lobby, where mourners gazed at collages of photos depicting Hengel as a small child, holding a string of fish and paddling along on a canoe trip with his family.

On a table was a message board. Hengel's brother, Ben, had written "I will always miss you, brother" on it. Next to the board were pin-on buttons emblazoned with Hengel's face and take-home cards listing symptoms that might indicate suicidal thoughts.

MONTANA

Unabomber land on auction block

LINCOLN | A 1.4-acre parcel of land in western Montana that was once owned by Unabomber Ted Kaczynski is on the market for $69,500.

The listing — by John Pistelak Realty of Lincoln — offers potential buyers a chance to own a piece of "infamous U.S. history."

"This is a one of a kind property and is obviously very secluded," the listing says. It doesn't say who owns the property.

The forested land, which had been listed at $154,500, does not have electricity or running water. Photos posted with the online listing show tall trees, chain-link fences topped by barbed wire and a tree with "FBI" carved into it, though it's not clear why.

Mr. Pistelak said Friday he couldn't immediately comment on the listing, and he didn't return phone messages on Sunday. The property does not include Kaczynski's cabin, which is on display at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Kaczynski is serving a life sentence for killing three people and injuring 23 during a nationwide bombing spree between 1978 and 1995.

NEW YORK

British bank sued over Madoff case

NEW YORK | HSBC prolonged disgraced financier Bernard Madoff's ability to burn investors by "engineering a labyrinth" of international sources of funding for his epic Ponzi scheme, a court-appointed trustee charged Sunday.

Trustee Irving Picard announced a lawsuit in federal bankruptcy court in Manhattan that seeks to recover $9 billion in illicit earnings and damages from the Britain-based bank.

The suit says HSBC ignored warnings from its own accountants that Madoff's phenomenal investment record was suspect.

"Had HSBC and (its executives) reacted appropriately to such warnings and other obvious badges of fraud outlined in the complaint, the Madoff Ponzi scheme would have collapsed years, billions of dollars, and countless victims sooner," Mr. Picard said in a statement. "The defendants were willfully and deliberately blind to the fraud, even after learning about numerous red flags surrounding Madoff."

There was no immediate response to phone and e-mail messages left with HSBC.

Madoff, 72, is serving a 150-year sentence in a federal prison in North Carolina after admitting that he ran his scheme for at least two decades, using his secretive investment advisory service to cheat thousands of individuals, charities, celebrities and institutional investors.

TEXAS

Judge to hold hearing on death penalty

HOUSTON | An unusual hearing on the death penalty will begin Monday in Texas — a deeply Republican state that's executed more inmates than any other in the country.

The hearing was called by Harris County Judge Kevin Fine, who last spring surprised many Texans when he granted a motion declaring the state's death penalty statute unconstitutional. Judge Fine later took back the ruling and ordered the hearing. He says he needs more information.

Judge Fine issued his order in the case of John Edward Green Jr., who is charged with fatally shooting a Houston woman and wounding her sister during a June 2008 robbery.

It comes after death penalty opponents created serious doubt recently about whether two men were wrongly executed: one in 2000, and one in 2004.

MASSACHUSETTS

Justice Thomas' wife regrets call to Hill

BOSTON | The wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said Friday that a recent telephone call to Anita Hill, the woman at the center of a 1991 furor at Justice Thomas' confirmation hearing, was probably a mistake.

In October, Virginia Thomas, a conservative activist, left an unexpected voice mail suggesting Ms. Hill consider apologizing "for what you did with my husband" at the hearing 19 years earlier.

Ms. Hill is now a professor of social policy, law and women's studies at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. The message was left on her office answering machine.

The message "was probably a mistake on my part," Mrs. Thomas said in an interview with the Daily Caller, a political website. She added that the incident was "a private matter."

During Justice Thomas' 1991 confirmation hearings, Ms. Hill accused him, under oath, of making sexually inappropriate comments when she worked for him at the Department of Education and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

On Friday, Mrs. Thomas announced she was resigning as head of Liberty Central, a nonprofit conservative advocacy group that she founded in 2009. She said she will remain a consultant to the group.

GEORGIA

CDC: 1 in 3 got flu shot

As the flu season gets under way, about 1 in 3 Americans have already been vaccinated, health officials reported Friday.

That's about the same rate or even a little ahead of seasonal flu vaccinations at this time last year, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

"We find that very encouraging," said Dr. Schuchat, noting that the flu hasn't been in the headlines as it was last year during the swine flu global epidemic.

In a survey of adults and children, a third reported getting vaccinated, 15 percent said they would definitely get vaccinated and an additional 25 percent said they probably would, she said.

Flu usually peaks between January and March, but was widespread a year ago because of swine flu. So far, flu activity nationwide has been low except in the Southeast, particularly in Georgia.

NEW JERSEY

Alternative hummus nixed by students

PRINCETON | Princeton University students have voted down a referendum on hummus.

It was a quirky vote about a chickpea dip that delved into international relations.

The student group Princeton Committee for Palestine wanted university-run stores to sell an additional brand. The group says that Sabra, the only brand currently offered, supports human rights abuses.

The university's Undergraduate Student Government announced Friday that measure was defeated in voting this week 1,014 to 699.

Sabra is based in Queens, N.Y., and Richmond, Va. It is owned by PepsiCo and the Israeli food conglomerate Strauss Group. Strauss contributes money to support troops in the Israeli Defense Forces. Some say they have abused the rights of Palestinians.

NEW YORK

Restaurateur Elaine Kaufman dies

NEW YORK | Elaine Kaufman, the colorful restaurateur whose East Side establishment, Elaine's, became a haven for show business and literary notables, died Friday at the age of 81.

Ms. Kaufman died at a Manhattan hospital of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and pulmonary hypertension, according to a statement issued by the restaurant's representative.

Ms. Kaufman was a veteran waitress and cafe manager in Greenwich Village when she bought a small bar-restaurant near the corner of Second Avenue and 88th Street in 1963.

It was never about the design or the food, which was basic Italian fare. It was all about the owner-hostess, an outsized mother figure in a tentlike dress, and her friendships with the famous.

Norman Mailer, Gay Talese and George Plimpton quickly became regulars, and over the years the glitterati joined the literati. Even Jackie Onassis went there.

Among those showing up at a 25th-anniversary celebration were Sidney Lumet, Peter Maas, Eli Wallach, Raquel Welch, Jackie Mason, Billy Dee Williams and Cheryl Tiegs.

VIRGINIA

Mine company CEO retires after 30 years

RICHMOND | Massey Energy Chairman and CEO Don Blankenship announced Friday that he will retire at the end of the month, finishing a nearly 30-year career that included big profits for the company, but also fights with labor and federal regulators and a recent mine explosion that killed 29 people.

The company's board of directors named current president Baxter F. Phillips Jr. as Mr. Blankenship's successor, effective Friday. Mr. Blankenship's retirement date is Dec. 31.

"After almost three decades at Massey, it is time for me to move on," Mr. Blankenship said in a prepared statement. "Baxter and I have worked together for 28 years, and he will provide the company great executive leadership."

Mr. Blankenship leaves at a time when Massey's safety practices are under scrutiny by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration and the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training.

The company is under investigation for the April 5 explosion at its Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia that killed 29 and injured two. The blast is the worst U.S. coal mining disaster since 1970 and the subject of civil and criminal investigations.

WISCONSIN

Replacement named for sexting DA

MADISON | A female prosecutor who was once the victim of sexual assault was named Friday to replace a district attorney who resigned in disgrace after trying to strike up a relationship with a domestviolence victim.

Gov. James E. Doyle said his appointment of Jerilyn Dietz as Calumet County district attorney will restore the community's faith in the office and ensure crime victims have a strong advocate. She replaces Ken Kratz, who resigned in October after Mr. Doyle started the process to force him out.

Mr. Kratz admitted sending suggestive text messages to Stephanie Van Groll while he was prosecuting her ex-boyfriend. At least four other women have said Mr. Kratz, who was district attorney for 18 years, made inappropriate sexual advances toward them.

Miss Dietz, 33, has been the lead prosecutor on sexual-assault cases in Manitowoc County. She worked previously as a special prosecutor and assistant district attorney in Kenosha County.

In 1997, while an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Miss Dietz was sexually assaulted by a man who broke into her apartment and attacked her at knife point. Miss Dietz said that experience changed her life and made her decide to become a prosecutor who would work with sensitive cases like rape, incest and sexual assault.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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