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American Scene

- - Sunday, October 17, 2010

CALIFORNIA

Mayor arrested in purse snatching

SAN GABRIEL | A suburban Los Angeles mayor has been arrested after a purse-snatching and a wild ride through streets with a woman clinging to his sport utility vehicle.

San Gabriel police Lt. Ariel Duran said Mayor Albert Y.M. Huang, 35, was booked in jail for investigation of felony assault, felony robbery and misdemeanor battery after his arrest Friday.

Lt. Duran said the mayor had been arguing with the woman over money in a parking lot when he took the woman's purse and got into his SUV.

Investigators said the woman was standing on the running board and reaching through the passenger window when Mr. Huang sped away, reaching speeds of 45 mph for more than a quarter mile.

The woman's relationship to the mayor wasn't disclosed.

GEORGIA

Dalai Lama urges religion-science ties

ATLANTA | The Dalai Lama is visiting a university program in Georgia that aims to foster a balance between science and religion.

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader spoke at a news conference Sunday at Emory University in Atlanta, home to the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative, now in its third year.

The program is working on a science curriculum for Buddhist monks and nuns in India. Emory President James W. Wagner on Sunday presented the Dalai Lama with science textbooks translated into Tibetan.

During a three-day visit, the Dalai Lama will teach, lecture and receive an update on the initiative. The Dalai Lama is a presidential distinguished professor at Emory — the only university appointment he has accepted. He last visited the campus three years ago.

LOUISIANA

First oil-spill trial may start in June

NEW ORLEANS | A judge presiding over more than 300 lawsuits arising from the Gulf Coast oil spill said the first federal trial involving damage claims could be held next summer.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said the first "test trial" for claims filed against energy giant BP PLC by individuals and businesses under the 1990 Oil Pollution Act could start as early as June.

A BP attorney objected to scheduling a trial that soon. But Judge Barbier said if he were to accept the company's timetable, the first trial wouldn't begin until 2013 or 2014.

Judge Barbier has scheduled a separate trial in February 2012 to assign percentages of fault to BP and other companies sued in connection with the rig explosion and fire that led to millions of gallons of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico.

MARYLAND

Suspect arrested in police death

BALTIMORE | A man was accused Sunday of fatally striking an off-duty Baltimore police detective in the head during a dispute over a parking space in a crowded nightlife district.

Sian James, 25, was charged with first-degree murder in the Saturday night death of Detective Brian Stevenson. Mr. James fled the scene and was caught hours later at a nightclub, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.

Mr. Stevenson, an 18-year police veteran who would have turned 38 on Sunday, was out with a friend Saturday night celebrating his birthday and pulled into parking spot. Mr. James approached the officer after he got out of his vehicle and threw a stone or piece of concrete, hitting the detective in the head, Mr. Guglielmi said.

Mr. James, who has a history of domestic violence, left the scene with a woman companion, but was arrested hours later at Mosaic, a downtown nightclub, after police quickly gathered and interviewed witnesses, Mr. Guglielmi said.

NEW YORK

World War II officer given Bronze Star

NEW YORK | The U.S. government has recognized the Serbian-American architect of a World War II mission to rescue more than 500 U.S. bomber fliers shot down over Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia — the largest air rescue of Americans behind enemy lines in any war.

George Vujnovich, a 95-year-old New Yorker, is credited with leading the so-called Halyard Mission in what is now Serbia.

On Sunday, he was awarded the U.S. Bronze Star Medal, presented by Rep. Joseph Crowley, New York Democrat, at Manhattan's St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral. Mr. Vujnovich received a standing ovation from a crowd of several hundred church members, supporters, friends and officials.

"Better now than never," said the retired salesman who lives in the Borough of Queens.

He was an officer of the OSS, the precursor of today's CIA, when about 500 airmen were downed in summer 1944 while on bombing runs targeting German-held oil fields in Romania. The airmen were hidden in villages by Draza Mihailovich, leader of Serbia's anti-Nazi Chetnik guerrillas.

"This mission would not have succeeded without the great courage of Draza Mihailovich and his brave men," Mr. Vujnovich said.

NORTH DAKOTA

Suspicions unfounded in diverted plane

FARGO | A commuter jet was diverted to Fargo on Sunday after a member of the flight crew mistakenly thought a passenger had tampered with a fire-detection device in the lavatory.

Pinnacle Airlines Flight 4375 was headed to Grand Forks from Minneapolis when the pilot requested to land in Fargo about 10 a.m. CDT. Fargo Police Lt. Joel Vettel said the pilot decided to land after being notified of the crew member's suspicions.

The jet was moved to a remote location at the Fargo airport, where passengers deplaned. A search for explosives onboard turned up nothing, Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Sarah Horowitz said.

The fire-detection device was inspected and found to be working properly, Lt. Vettel said. No arrests were made, and the 20 passengers were bused the 75 miles to Grand Forks.

OREGON

Woman, 82, fined for driving 110 mph

GRESHAM | State police gave an 82-year-old woman a ticket for driving 28 miles per hour over her age and twice the posted speed limit of 55 mph.

KVAL-TV reported a trooper spotted Marcia Brandon's car going 110 mph Thursday on Highway 26 west of Gresham.

She said she was on her way to an appointment and wasn't aware she was going that fast.

Mrs. Brandon was given a ticket for $1,103.

UTAH

State plans to write nuke-waste rules

SALT LAKE CITY | Federal regulators have put off a decision on whether blended radioactive waste can be buried in Utah.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's decided last week to develop a new set of rules assessing the dangers of blended waste based on the risks at individual disposal sites.

Utah regulators hailed the broader approach as smarter but are drafting their own standards in the meantime.

"It's not stopping Utah from going ahead and doing what's best for Utah," Utah Radiation Control Board Chairman Peter Jenkins, a health physicist, told the Associated Press on Friday.

The state board has issued draft regulations that require an operator to prove that mixing hotter but less-concentrated wastes won't create an accidental danger hundreds or thousands of years in the future if somebody stumbles across the waste or digs it up.

The NRC said its own review could take years to produce a new set of regulations.

From wire dispatches and staff reports