- - Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Engine problems sideline icebreaker

ANCHORAGE | Engine problems will keep the Coast Guard’s only functioning heavy icebreaker in port for the rest of the year.

Inspections of the 399-foot Polar Sea’s main diesel engines revealed premature excessive wear in 33 cylinder assemblies. An analysis to determine the cause is expected by August.

The Polar Sea was scheduled to support operations off Alaska’s coast, including oil spill recovery exercises and standby search and rescue, starting in August. The Coast Guard says the vessel likely will be unavailable until at least January.

The Coast Guard’s other large polar icebreaker, the Polar Star, is being reactivated but will not be ready until 2013.


Toyota driver’s retrial challenged

ST. PAUL | Prosecutors say they’re opposing a retrial for a Minnesota man imprisoned for the crash of a Toyota that killed three people, saying there’s no evidence he’s innocent.

Koua Fong Lee is serving an eight-year sentence for criminal vehicular homicide. The 32-year-old St. Paul man has maintained that he tried to stop his 1996 Camry before the 2006 crash.

But Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said Wednesday that neither a recent reinspection of the wreckage nor information from Lee’s attorney are enough to overturn his conviction.

Lee’s attorney began trying to reopen the case earlier this year after Toyota began large-scale recalls of some models because of sudden unintended acceleration.

A judge will decide whether a retrial is warranted.


Fire kills 4, leaves 3 seriously hurt

PATERSON | A blaze in northern New Jersey left four people dead and three people seriously injured, officials said.

The fire broke out early Wednesday and engulfed the house within minutes. Two nearby homes were damaged.

Public Safety Director Glenn Brown said two people jumped out of a third-story window to escape the blaze and one of them died. The other suffered two broken legs and severe injuries.

Authorities suspect the blaze was an electrical fire.

Fire Chief Michael Postorino said the fire department had been called to the house in January for a faulty boiler. He said officials cited the homeowner for electrical violations.


Coyote attacks keep children indoors

RYE | Residents of a New York City suburb were warned Wednesday to keep small children indoors after coyotes attacked and injured two little girls just days apart.

Officers and wildlife specialists have been authorized to shoot the coyotes on sight and to kill any that are trapped, Rye Police Chief William Connors said.

“We will work with wildlife experts to see why this is happening and what we can do in the long term, but to be clear, this is a threat to public safety, and we are treating it as such,” Chief Connors said.

The girls, ages 3 and 6, “are doing fine,” Mayor Doug Frank said.

Coyotes have been common in some New York City suburbs for more than a decade but normally avoid human interaction. Authorities said they’re not sure what’s contributing to their aggressiveness in Rye.

“This is very unusual behavior,” Chief Connors said. “Wildlife experts tell us that the danger with wild animals like this is when they lose their fear of humans.”

There was no indication that the animals were rabid, Chief Connors said, although he thought both girls were being treated for the disease as a precaution.

Officials hope to trap or shoot the coyotes, said Chief Connors, adding that he hoped doing so would “rekindle that fear of human interaction.”


50th Catholic parish closing in Cleveland

CLEVELAND | Parishioners were waving Hungarian flags and carrying “Save Our Church” banners as they protested the closure of mostly older, ethnic Catholic parishes in Cleveland.

About 100 people gathered Wednesday afternoon at St. Emeric’s Church downtown, the last of 50 churches to be shuttered in a massive downsizing. A bell tolled solemnly as parishioners read off the names of the closed churches.

The Diocese of Cleveland announced the closings last year, citing falling attendance, a priest shortage and financial problems.

Some churches have been closed while others have merged. There are 174 parishes left.

At some parishes, churchgoers have picketed outside the bishop’s office and held Mass on the sidewalk in protest.


Franklin, Rice team up for benefit

PHILADELPHIA | Aretha Franklin will take the stage next month with an accomplished accompanist more famous for diplomacy: Condoleezza Rice.

The pair will play at Philadelphia’s Mann Center for the Performing Arts on July 27 in show that will feature Franklin’s music and classical composers.

The Mann Center’s website says former Secretary of State Rice will accompany Miss Franklin on piano for “Say A Little Prayer,” “Natural Woman,” selections from Mozart and more.

Miss Franklin says in a statement that “Rice is a consummate classical pianist” and that since I sing the arias, I thought that we could do something, a bipartisan effort for our favorite charities.”

The venue says the performance is a benefit for programs that support inner-city children and its own education initiatives.


Not guilty pleas entered for officers

PROVIDENCE | Pleas of not guilty have been entered for three Rhode Island police officers arrested as part of a large drug-dealing investigation.

A judge entered the pleas Wednesday on behalf of Officer Robert Hamlin, Detective Joseph Colanduono and Sgt. Stephen Gonsalves.

Mr. Hamlin and Mr. Colanduono were ordered to remain held without bail.

The three officers were arrested in March as part of a state police drug investigation that has resulted in the indictments of 24 people.

The officers, who have been suspended without pay, did not speak during their arraignments in Providence Superior Court. An attorney for Mr. Hamlin declined to comment. Attorneys for the other two officers did not immediately return calls for comment.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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