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ALABAMA

Deck collapse kills partier

HOOVER | A wooden deck crumpled under a group of Fourth of July partiers in Alabama, killing one person and injuring six others.

Seven partygoers plummeted three stories when the deck at an apartment complex in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover collapsed Sunday night. Two uninhabited decks below were crushed by the falling debris.

Hoover Fire Department spokesman Rusty Lowe said one person was pronounced dead at the hospital, another is in critical condition and three are hospitalized with serious injuries. Two were treated for minor injuries and released.

The cause of the collapse is being investigated. Mr. Lowe said it was fortunate the lower decks were empty. He said: "It definitely could have been worse."

CALIFORNIA

Naked stranger found sleeping in home

SAN DIEGO | A San Diego resident awoke to a shocking discovery: a naked stranger passed out on his downstairs sofa.

San Diego police Lt. Jim Filley says the Pacific Beach homeowner called police after wandering downstairs Sunday morning and finding the snoring man.

Lt. Filley says the naked man was drunk and thought he was in his own home in Mission Valley, some 20 miles away.

The man, whose name wasn't released, had taken off his clothes outside the house and walked in through the unlocked front door. The homeowner declined to press charges. And since the intruder had sobered up, he was released to find his own way home.

DELAWARE

Fishing buddies nab two autos

NEW CASTLE | A couple of fishing buddies from Delaware have been catching more than just bass. They've been helping police reel in cars.

Larry Newirth and Dan Cathell spotted a white BMW 750 sedan on June 17. Then on Friday, they found a late-model Honda Accord. Police say the cars were stolen and abandoned. No arrests have been made.

Mr. Newirth, a 63-year-old retired carpenter, jokes that he and Mr. Cathell better stop finding cars or the police will think they're the ones stealing them.

Mr. Cathell, a 44-year-old millwright, says he hopes the thieves stop dumping the cars from the boat ramp so police don't close the dock to the public.

ILLINOIS

Later school starts benefit students

CHICAGO | Giving teens 30 extra minutes to start their school day leads to more alertness in class, better moods, less tardiness, and even healthier breakfasts, a small study found.

"The results were stunning. There's no other word to use," said Patricia Moss, academic dean at the Rhode Island boarding school where the study was done. "We didn't think we'd get that much bang for the buck."

The results appear in July's Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The results mirror those at a few schools that have delayed starting times more than half an hour.

Researchers say there's a reason why even 30 minutes can make a big difference. Teens tend to be in their deepest sleep around dawn — when they typically need to arise for school. Interrupting that sleep can leave them groggy, especially since they also tend to have trouble falling asleep before 11 p.m.

"There's biological science to this that I think provides compelling evidence as to why this makes sense," said Brown University sleep researcher Dr. Judith Owens, the study's lead author and a pediatrician at Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, R.I.

MASSACHUSETTS

Casino bill heads for secret phase

BOSTON | The debate over casino gambling is heading behind closed doors.

On Tuesday, legislative leaders are expected to name the appointees to a six-member conference committee charged with taking the Massachusetts House and Senate versions of the casino bill and drafting a final compromise.

Those discussion aren't open to the public.

Gov. Deval Patrick has emphasized he wants a voice in the final bill, which is being hammered out as lawmakers close in on the July 31 end of their formal session.

One of the key differences between the bills is the question of slot machines at racetracks.

The House bill allows two casinos and 750 slots at each of the state's four racetracks. The Senate bill calls for three casinos and maintains the existing ban on racetrack slots.

NEVADA

Firefighters keep two blazes in check

LAS VEGAS | Firefighters in Nevada have contained one fire in the mountains northwest of Las Vegas and report good progress on another that burned more than a dozen buildings in a small ranching town.

The Bureau of Land Management says the fire that burned 600 acres and destroyed 15 buildings in the ranch community of Moapa was still only 50 percent contained as of midday Monday. But winds were calm, and there were no visible flames. The fire was sparked by a wood chipper Thursday about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, firefighters contained the 20-acre Cathedral fire on Mount Charleston that was caused by an illegal campfire. The U.S. Forest Service said about 35 firefighters were continuing mop-up efforts and removing tree hazards.

No serious injuries were reported in either blaze.

NEW YORK

Bomb-plot imam sent to Saudi Arabia

NEW YORK | An imam who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during the investigation into a suicide bomb plot against New York City subway stations has been deported.

The lawyer for Ahmad Afzali said the imam and his wife, Fatima, left on a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight to Jeddah on Monday afternoon. Two immigration agents accompanied him to the plane to ensure he got on. The lawyer said some of Mr. Afzali's last words on U.S. ground were: "God bless America."

Mrs. Afzali got a position teaching English in Saudi Arabia. The Afghanistan-born imam isn't quite sure what he's going to do there, having lived most of his life in Queens.

He was sentenced April 15 to time served and deportation. Najibullah Zazi pleaded guilty in a plot disrupted by federal and New York City police officials.

NEW YORK

Heat wave hits south, east of U.S.

NEW YORK | The heat wasn't going to keep Jerryll Freels inside on his vacation.

The 28-year-old made his way through Times Square on Monday, combating the hot weather with a wet, white washcloth over his head and a water bottle in hand.

"It's hot, but I know how to stay cool," said Mr. Freels, visiting from Minneapolis.

A string of hot days were expected this week, with temperatures en route to 100-plus degrees in some places. Temperatures reached into at least the 90s Monday from Maine to Texas.

In the East, warm air is "sitting over the top of us, and it's not really going to budge much for the next day or two," said Brian Korty, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Camp Springs, Md. He said after that, a system coming in off the Atlantic Ocean would bring in cooler temperatures.

Monday was a day off for many to mark Sunday's Independence Day holiday. The extended weekend aided utilities by lowering demand for power, said Lissette Santana, a spokeswoman for PPL Electric Utilities in Allentown, Pa.

PENNSYLVANIA

11 burned in fireworks mishap

PALMYRA | Authorities say a firework exploded into a crowd gathered for a town Fourth of July celebration in central Pennsylvania, injuring 11 people.

Palmyra Borough police say a charge misfired, and material exploded into the nearby crowd at Palmyra Middle School and across a football field.

Authorities say the victims suffered burns, contusions and abrasions. Among them are four people ages 11 to 17 and one employee of the company that was staging the fireworks show.

One adult and one minor remain hospitalized Monday with injuries that were not considered life-threatening.

The event was also commemorating Palmyra's 250th anniversary.

TEXAS

Musician plays with one ear

FORT WORTH | If you met Samuel Boutris, you would not assume he is a musician.

He was born without a left ear and has a slight misalignment of the jaw. But this Fort Worth 19-year-old recently gained acceptance to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music, a top conservatory in Philadelphia, where he will continue his clarinet education.

For Mr. Boutris, who has played clarinet since sixth grade, acceptance into Curtis came on his third audition. "It's great," he said. "I was close, but never got there. Now I have."

The road to Curtis has not been easy. Mr. Boutris has suffered the effects of Goldenhar syndrome, a congenital defect that usually involves deformities of the face. The consequences are merely cosmetic for most, but for a musician, missing an ear poses obvious challenges.

"When I was learning, I could not actually hear if I was off-pitch. My teacher would intentionally play [off-key], and I had to feel it," Mr. Boutris said.

Goldenhar affects 1 in 5,600 people worldwide, and Mr. Boutris' case is fairly severe, said Dr. Kenneth Lee, an assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

"The loss of the ear would give him only unilateral hearing. It makes it difficult to localize sound," Dr. Lee said. In a noisy room, such as an orchestra hall, it would be a challenge to focus on an individual conversation, he said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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