American Scene

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Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

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NEW JERSEY

Conductor who burned Koran sues over firing

NEWARK | A former New Jersey train conductor fired after publicly burning pages from the Koran on the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks filed a lawsuit Friday seeking reinstatement and monetary damages.

Derek Fenton’s dismissal violated his constitutional right to free expression, the American Civil Liberties Union said in its lawsuit.

Mr. Fenton burned part of the Muslim holy book to protest plans to build an Islamic center several blocks from the World Trade Center site. Police ushered him from the scene, but he was not arrested. NJ Transit said it fired him two days later for violating its code of ethics.

Mr. Fenton “has the right to engage as a citizen in expressive activity about matters of public interest, including matters related to the proposed construction of an Islamic community center near Ground Zero,” the lawsuit asserts. “When he burned pages of the Koran on September 11, 2010, as a protest against the center, Fenton was exercising that right.”

NJ Transit’s code of ethics requires employees to give notice to an ethics liaison officer before participating in political activities. An employee can then participate as long as state or federal law or agency rules don’t explicitly prohibit them and “the activity doesn’t conflict with the employee’s official duties.”

TENNESSEE

Airline probing emergency landing

MEMPHIS | An AirTran Airways flight carrying 65 people from New Orleans to Milwaukee had to make an emergency landing in Tennessee when smoke and an odor was reported onboard.

The Boeing 717 landed safely in Memphis on Saturday night. No one was injured. The airline said in a statement that Flight 619 was diverted to Memphis as a precaution.

AirTran spokeswoman Cynthia Tinsley-Douglas told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Sunday that the passengers were put on another plane and arrived in Milwaukee just after midnight.

The airline said it is looking into what happened.

UTAH

Ancient skulls mailed to university

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