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GEORGIA

Survey: 1 in 4 women domestic violence victims

ATLANTA — One in four women say they were hit hard, kicked or otherwise violently attacked by their intimate partners, according to a government survey released Wednesday that offers startling findings about domestic violence.

The survey is a new national look at how many women say they've been abused and offers some numbers that are higher than previous reports.

One expert called the report's estimate on rape and attempted rape "extremely high" — with one in five women saying they were victims. About half of those cases involved intimate partners. But advocates say rape has been vastly underreported in the past and the new numbers are plausible. No documentation was sought to verify the women's claims, which were made anonymously.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report is based on a randomized telephone survey of about 9,000 women.

The report found that as many as 29 million women say they have endured severe and frightening physical violence from a boyfriend, spouse or other intimate partner. That includes being choked, beaten, stabbed, shot, punched, slammed against something or hurt by hair pulling. That number grows to 36 million if slapping, pushing and shoving are also counted. The report also found that almost half of the women who reported rape or attempted rape said it happened when they were 17 or younger.

UTAH

Thousands of birds make crash landing

ST. GEORGE — Thousands of migratory birds were killed or injured after apparently mistaking a Wal-Mart parking lot, football fields and other snow-covered areas of southern Utah for bodies of water and plummeting to the ground in what one state wildlife expert called the worst mass bird crash she had ever seen.

Crews went to work cleaning up the dead birds and rescuing the injured survivors after the creatures crash-landed in the St. George area Monday night.

"They're just everywhere," said Teresa Griffin, wildlife program manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resource's southern region. "It's been nonstop. All our employees are driving around picking them up, and we've got so many people coming to our office and dropping them off."

No human injuries or property damage have been reported.

Officials say stormy conditions probably confused the flock of eared grebes, a ducklike aquatic bird likely making its way to the Mexican coast for the winter.

NEW YORK

Woman is killed in elevator accident

NEW YORK — A woman was killed in a freak elevator mishap Wednesday at a Madison Avenue office building, Fire Department officials said.

The accident occurred around 10 a.m. in a 1920s office tower near Grand Central Terminal that has been the longtime home of advertising agency Y&R, formerly known as Young & Rubicam.

Fire officials said the woman was stepping onto the elevator on the first floor when either her foot or leg became caught in the closing doors. The car then rose abruptly, dragging her body into the shaft and killing her, officials said.

The elevator then became stuck between the first and second floors. Two women who were on the elevator were taken to a hospital to be evaluated for psychological trauma but weren't physically injured, Fire Department officials said.

Investigators with the fire department, the police department and the city's buildings department were on the scene in midtown Manhattan. The name of the victim was not released. Fire officials said she was 41.

GEORGIA

Feds closer to OK of nuclear reactor

ATLANTA — Federal regulators are leaning toward approving a nuclear reactor designed by Westinghouse Electric Co. that could power the first nuclear plants built from scratch in a generation.

A majority of the members of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission have released statements saying they voted to approve the AP1000 reactor, most recently Commissioner William Magwood IV, who publicly released his vote Wednesday. Mr. Magwood is the third of the five commissioners to vote in favor of the reactor, although it is possible that other commissioners have voted but not publicly released their ballots.

The commissioners can change their preliminary votes, which are not official until the NRC holds a final vote during a public meeting.

Still, the early support is a step forward for utility companies in Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas that have billions of dollars riding on plans to build that reactor in the Southeast. Until the NRC approves the reactor design, those utilities cannot get a license to build their plants.

FLORIDA

Investigators: Possible fraud uncovered at FAMU

TALLAHASSEE — Authorities looking into the death of a Florida A&M University drum major opened a new investigation after they uncovered possible employee fraud and misconduct at the school, according to documents released Wednesday.

Meanwhile, there was more fallout in Georgia. An Atlanta-area school district suspended all marching band activities at 21 high schools over concerns of "inappropriate physical activity" between students. Two alleged victims of hazing at Florida A&M were in the Southwest DeKalb High marching band, which was one of those suspended.

"Our interest is in protecting students, the safety of the students," said district spokesman Walter Woods, who would not say whether the inappropriate activity involved hazing. "We have notified schools to be vigilant of our existing policy, which is zero tolerance for harassment of any kind."

In Florida, the state law enforcement agency sent letters to the head of the FAMU board and the head of the state university system, but they did not detail the potential fraud or misconduct, saying only that it involves school employees as well as "persons associated" with the university.

CALIFORNIA

Court: Church can fire teacher living with lover and child

SANTA ANA — A Southern California church can fire an unmarried preschool teacher living with her boyfriend and their child, an appeals court has ruled.

Sara Henry filed a wrongful termination lawsuit after she was fired in May 2009 for living arrangements contrary to the religious beliefs of Tustin's Red Hill Lutheran Church and its school.

The 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana last week upheld a lower court ruling in favor of church.

The appeals court said that Miss Henry was fired because she lived with her boyfriend in a sexual relationship while unmarried, a violation of church belief. The court noted she wasn't terminated because she had a baby out of wedlock.

Red Hill Lutheran said on its website that it is a member of conservative-leaning Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, which was formed by several congregations that left the more liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church in America over theological differences.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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