- The Washington Times - Monday, January 18, 2010

ALABAMA

Motel fire kills four

HOOVER | A motel fire in central Alabama has killed four people and fire officials are now trying to find out what started the blaze.

Hoover Fire Department spokesman Rusty Lowe said Sunday that the four victims were trapped in a room at the Days Inn when the fire started. He said firefighters discovered the victims after they put out the fire.

Officials didn’t immediately say what started the blaze. They also wouldn’t identify the victims or say how many people were at the motel when it caught fire about 8:15 p.m. Saturday. Alabama State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk said his office is helping with the investigation.

CALIFORNIA

NASA to determine if Mars lander lives

LOS ANGELES | Will Phoenix rise from the dead? Don’t bet on it.

Despite the odds, NASA on Monday will begin a three-day effort to listen for signs of life from the Phoenix lander, presumed frozen to death near Mars’ north pole after spending five months digging into soil and ice.

“We have no expectations that Phoenix has survived the winter, but we certainly want to have a look,” said Chad Edwards, chief telecommunications engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

GEORGIA

Swine flu figures show 11,000 dead

ATLANTA | A new government estimate said swine flu has sickened about 55 million Americans and killed about 11,160.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates cover roughly the first eight months of the pandemic — from April through mid-December. The CDC last estimated that through mid-November, the pandemic had sickened 50 million Americans and killed 10,000.

Swine flu infections have been waning since late October, and no states were reporting widespread cases as of last week.

Meanwhile, about 1 in 5 Americans have been vaccinated against swine flu, according to the government’s first detailed estimates of vaccination rates against the new pandemic.

MASSACHUSETTS

Ex-priest’s bid for new trial denied

BOSTON | A key figure in the Boston clergy sex-abuse scandal who claims his rape conviction was based on “junk science” lost his bid for a new trial Friday when the state’s highest court validated his victim’s claim of recovering repressed memories.

Paul Shanley said the judge at his 2005 trial should not have allowed prosecutors to present evidence about the theory of repressed-recovered memories to explain why the victim waited 20 years to report the abuse.

The victim, now in his 30s, claimed Shanley raped him repeatedly when he was a child attending catechism classes at a church in Newton. He said he repressed memory of the abuse for two decades until he saw media coverage of the clergy scandal in 2002.

The Supreme Judicial Court agreed with a Superior Court judge who ruled earlier that repressed memory theory, or “dissociative amnesia,” is controversial, but generally accepted in the relevant scientific community. The high court said the theory is supported by “a wide collection of clinical observations and a survey of academic literature.”

Shanley is serving is serving a 12- to 15-year sentence for child rape and indecent assault and battery.

OHIO

Victory over cigarette ad reversed

COLUMBUS | An Ohio appeals court has reversed a decision that a cigarette company’s advertisement in Rolling Stone magazine violated a tobacco industry settlement.

Ohio and several other states brought lawsuits over an R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. ad in Rolling Stone that ran alongside a November 2007 feature story illustrated with drawings.

Ohio officials and the lower court said the ad’s placement amounted to using cartoons to sell cigarettes, violating a promise in the industry’s 1998 settlement with multiple states.

The appeals court in Columbus ruled Thursday that Reynolds had no say in the content that Rolling Stone chose to run next to the ad.

The ruling overturns a 2008 decision in the state’s favor.

PENNSYLVANIA

Court considers ‘sexting’ case

PHILADELPHIA | The first criminal case involving “sexting” reached a U.S. appeals court on Friday, a case that asks whether racy cell phone photos of three girls amount to child pornography or child’s play.

A county prosecutor in northeastern Pennsylvania threatened to pursue felony charges if the girls skipped his “re-education” course on such topics as sexual predators and “what it means to be a girl in today’s society.”

The photos show two 12-year-olds in training bras at a sleepover and a topless 16-year-old stepping out of the shower.

County officials say they are trying to address the pervasive problem of teens sexting, or exchanging sexually explicit photos and e-mails on their cell phones. According to one study, 20 percent of U.S. teens admit they have done it.

The American Civil Liberties Union considers the images in the Pennsylvania case harmless.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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