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American Scene

- - Sunday, August 28, 2011

ALASKA

Small 3.5 earthquake hits state's biggest city

ANCHORAGE — Seismologists say a minor earthquake occurred in Alaska, jolting the state's largest city.

The Alaska Earthquake Information Center said the 3.5 magnitude quake hit at 3 p.m. Sunday 34 miles northwest of Anchorage.

The quake was felt in Anchorage, but there were no immediate reports of damage.

CALIFORNIA

Wildfire near Yosemite forces 100 to leave homes

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK — About 100 people have been ordered to leave their homes as a wildfire burns outside Yosemite National Park, fire officials said Sunday.

Residents of the community of Rancheria were told to evacuate Saturday, while residents of the nearby communities of Yosemite West, Old El Portal, Incline and Jerseydale were told they might have leave their homes.

The blaze, which is burning in a steep and rugged area of thick forests along State Highway 140, has also forced the indefinite closure of the road, one of the main entrances into the park. Despite the size of the blaze and its proximity to Yosemite, park officials said it was not affecting activities within the park.

"Smoke is not really impacting the valley today," Yosemite fire information officer Kass Hardy said.

The blaze, which began Thursday when a motorhome caught fire, was 35 percent contained Sunday. About 850 firefighting personnel were on the scene, including helicopter crews.

PENNSYLVANIA

Soldier sought in 4 deaths found dead in woods

JAMISON — An Army officer suspected of killing four people in Pennsylvania and Virginia was found dead in a wooded area Sunday after a manhunt during Tropical Storm Irene's winds and heavy rains paralyzed residents in the Philadelphia suburb.

Hours after he fired at several officers, wounding two of them, the body of Capt. Leonard John Egland, 37, of Fort Lee, Va., was found around 3:30 p.m. in the Bucks County community of Warwick Township, Police Chief Mark Goldberg said.

Capt. Egland's body was found several hundred yards behind a gas station where, after the first altercation with police, authorities say he again fired a semiautomatic rifle at SWAT team members who discovered his truck and found him before dawn in a trash bin. The officers, who were not injured, chased him into the woods but lost him as the storm raked the area, Chief Goldberg said.

"It was bad," he said. "Weather conditions were horrible and it was a very dangerous situation."

Three Bucks County SWAT teams, state police and numerous police departments searched for Capt. Egland after his former mother-in-law was found fatally shot in her home in Buckingham. Authorities in Virginia said he had earlier killed his former wife, her boyfriend and the boyfriend's young son before taking his own young daughter on a frantic drive through Pennsylvania.

TEXAS

$5 strip club 'pole tax' upheld by state court

AUSTIN — A $5 entrance fee to Texas strip clubs is constitutional and not an improper restriction on nude dancing, the Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday.

Lower courts had called the so-called "pole tax" an improper burden on the free expression of nude dancing and a violation of the First Amendment.

The fee has been imposed on clubs that allow nude dancing and serve alcohol since 2007 to raise money for sexual assault prevention programs and health care for the uninsured.

The all-Republican Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously, said the fee is too small to be considered a burden on free expression, and the state has a legitimate interest in trying to curb the secondary effects of potential violence associated with adult entertainment and alcohol.

To avoid paying the fee, strip clubs could simply not serve alcohol, Justice Nathan Hecht wrote for the court.

From wire dispatches and staff reports