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American Scene

- - Thursday, July 22, 2010

ALASKA

Pair admits to lying to FBI

ANCHORAGE — A National Weather Service employee and his British-born wife pleaded guilty Wednesday to domestic terrorism charges of lying to the FBI about a hit list of possible targets who the couple suspected were enemies of Islam.

Paul Rockwood Jr. and his wife, Nadia Rockwood, of King Salmon, Alaska, were charged with lying about the list and making false statements about domestic terrorism during interviews with FBI agents in May.

The FBI alleged that the list had about 15 targets. Its contents were not made public, but officials said none of those targeted lived in Alaska.

Under a plea deal, Rockwood, 35, who worked as a meteorological technician for the weather service, will get eight years in prison, the maximum allowed. His 36-year-old wife, who is five months pregnant, will be allowed to return to the United Kingdom and serve five years of probation there.

CALIFORNIA

Six killed in bus crash

FRESNO — A Greyhound bus traveling to Sacramento from Los Angeles crashed on a highway in California's Central Valley early Thursday, killing six people and seriously injuring nine others.

The bus, carrying 36 people, struck an SUV that had overturned in front of it, slammed into a concrete center divider and clipped another vehicle shortly after 2 a.m. just outside downtown Fresno, California Highway Patrol Officer Axel Reyes said.

The bus went off the right shoulder of the highway and down a 15-foot embankment before hitting a eucalyptus tree and coming to rest on a freeway off-ramp with its front end smashed and tree branches jutting into the vehicle.

The six dead people included four women and two men. Three of the women were in the overturned SUV, according to officials. Nine people were taken to hospitals with moderate to critical injuries, Officer Reyes said.

GEORGIA

15 U.S. deaths tied to fungus

ATLANTA — U.S. health officials say a fungus usually found in the tropics has taken root in the Pacific Northwest and has been blamed for at least 60 illnesses and 15 deaths.

The fungal illness is still considered rare. But an increasing number of people who have breathed it in have become sick or died. Symptoms include a persistent cough, headache and fever.

The fungus seems to grow on or around trees. Over the past six years, health officials have tracked 43 cases in Oregon, 15 in Washington, one in California and one in Idaho.

MICHIGAN

Ex-GM worker accused of stealing secrets

DETROIT — A federal grand jury in Detroit has indicted a former General Motors employee and her husband in an alleged scheme to steal information about hybrid vehicles.

Shanshan Du is accused of copying thousands of GM documents in January 2005, five days after getting a severance offer from the automaker. The government says the conspiracy began in 2003.

The government says her husband, Yu Qin, subsequently made a deal to provide hybrid technology to a Chinese company.

Prosecutors say the Troy couple shredded documents and dumped them in a bin behind a store in May 2006 after the grand jury sought information.

NEVADA

Ex-governor dies in fall from roof

LAS VEGAS — Former Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn, a two-term moderate Republican whose tenure marked a prosperous era in a state now facing severe budget problems, died Thursday after falling from the roof of his Las Vegas home while making repairs. He was 73.

The predecessor to current Gov. Jim Gibbons was pronounced dead at University Medical Center, where he was taken after the fall, Coroner Mike Murphy said. Authorities are investigating whether the death was from natural causes or an accident.

Billy Vassiliadis, a friend and spokesman for the Guinn family at the hospital, said Mr. Guinn had been on the roof making repairs. He said Mr. Guinn's wife, Dema, found him and called 911. Police received the call just after 10:30 a.m.

NEW YORK

Two arrested at wedding site

RHINEBECK — Two Norwegian journalists face trespassing charges after they were arrested on the New York estate where Chelsea Clinton is expected to get married.

New York state troopers charged Thomas Bjorn Nilsson and Kjerste Sortland with a violation Wednesday. Police say they were on the Astor Estate in this town along the Hudson River 90 miles north of New York City.

Media reports indicate Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, will marry Marc Mezvinsky on July 31 at the estate.

Helje Solberg, managing editor for Verdens Gang in Oslo, said police overreacted when Mr. Nilsson and Mr. Sortland tried to take pictures of the gate and said they were not on the property.

PENNSYLVANIA

Neighbor charged with digging up body

WYALUSING — A mystery behind the macabre case of the elderly Pennsylvania woman who kept her beloved, and deceased, sister and husband at home has been partly solved with the filing of misdemeanor charges this week.

Neighbor James Flanagan, 62, admits he dug up the twin sister in October and moved her body inside Jean Stevens' home in northeastern Pennsylvania, state police said in a complaint. The body had been buried on Mrs. Stevens' rural property.

Mr. Flanagan faces misdemeanor charges of abuse of a corpse and has also been issued a summons.

Mrs. Stevens, 91, has not been charged with any crimes for keeping the embalmed corpses in her ramshackle home in Wyalusing. Authorities tipped to the situation discovered the bodies in June. By then, her husband, James, had been dead for more than a decade.

Although police know who dug up the husband's body from a local cemetery, they say the statute of limitations precludes them from filing charges.

UTAH

Computer worker linked to immigrant 'list'

SALT LAKE CITY — A computer specialist for a state agency has come under suspicion in the distribution of a list of 1,300 purported illegal immigrants.

A person familiar with the case identified the worker Thursday as Teresa Basset, who works in the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

Miss Bassett could not be reached for comment. An e-mail to her work address was not returned Thursday. A message left with a Department of Workforce Services spokesman was not returned.

The immigrant list that was mailed to news media and law enforcement contains Social Security numbers, birth dates, workplaces, addresses and phone numbers. Names of children are included, along with due dates of pregnant women.

From wire dispatches and staff reports