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American Scene

- - Monday, February 28, 2011

ARKANSAS

Doctor gets life in prison in bombing

LITTLE ROCK | A doctor convicted in a bombing that nearly killed the chief of the Arkansas Medical Board has been sentenced to life in prison.

Randeep Mann was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Little Rock after Dr. Trent Pierce asked for a harsh sentence. The bombing left Dr. Pierce blind in one eye and with limited vision in the other, and deaf in one ear.

Prosecutors say Mann left a bomb outside Dr. Pierce's West Memphis, Ark., home in 2009 after the state medical board suspended his license to prescribe narcotics following the overdose deaths of some of Mann's patients.

Mann was convicted last year on charges including using a weapon of mass destruction with intent to kill. His wife was sentenced to a year in prison after being convicted of obstruction.

CALIFORNIA

Jane Russell, star of '40s, '50s films, dies

LOS ANGELES | Jane Russell, the busty brunette who shot to fame as the sexy star of Howard Hughes' 1941 Western "The Outlaw," died Monday of respiratory failure, her family said. She was 89.

Although Miss Russell made only a handful of films after the 1960s, she had remained active in her church, with charitable organizations and with a local singing group until her health began to decline just a couple weeks ago, said her daughter-in-law, Etta Waterfield. She died at her home in Santa Maria, Calif.

Hughes, the eccentric billionaire, put her onto the path to stardom when he cast her in "The Outlaw."

With her sultry look and glowing sexuality, Miss Russell became a star before she was ever seen by a wide movie audience. The Hughes publicity mill ground out photos of the beauty in low-cut costumes and swimsuits, and she became famous, especially as a pinup for World War II GIs.

By that time, she had become a box-office star by starring with Bob Hope in the 1948 hit comedy-Western "The Paleface."

COLORADO

Voluntary movie donations approved

DENVER | A voluntary 10-cent donation to help bring movie shoots to Colorado is a step closer to heading to theaters.

The Colorado House gave preliminary approval Monday to a bill that would allow the Colorado Film Commission to collect donations from moviegoers for incentive programs for filmmakers.

The bill passed unanimously on a voice vote. The original bill would have added a 10-cent fee to movie tickets, but the fee was made optional after some complained it was an unfair tax increase.

ILLINOIS

Doctors want minors barred from tan salons

CHICAGO | The American Academy of Pediatrics wants teenagers banned from tanning salons to reduce their risk of skin cancer.

More than 30 states regulate indoor tanning by minors, with some banning children younger than 14 or requiring parental permission. Illinois and New York are among states considering bills barring anyone younger than 18 from indoor tanning.

The academy's stance is part of a policy statement appearing Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Lead author Dr. Sophie Balk of Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York said indoor tanning is popular among teenage girls. Some make getting a tan part of their senior prom ritual.

About 8,700 people died of melanoma last year, and about 68,130 melanomas were diagnosed. Evidence links indoor tanning with increased risk.

MISSISSIPPI

Firm fined for hiring illegals sued for bias

JACKSON | A Mississippi company that pleaded guilty to conspiracy related to the nation's largest workplace raid on illegal immigrants is now facing a lawsuit accusing it of discriminating against non-immigrants who applied for jobs.

A discrimination lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court on behalf of four black women claims the company gave preferential treatment to Hispanic applicants and workers, many of whom were illegal immigrants from Mexico. The lawsuit, which represents only one side of a legal argument, seeks class-action status.

Immigration agents detained nearly 600 illegal immigrants at Howard Industries' electrical-transformer plant in Laurel in 2008. It was the largest such raid in U.S. history. The company pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy to violate immigration laws and was fined $2.5 million.

NEW YORK

New beef ads unveiled by Taco Bell

NEW YORK | Taco Bell is turning to TV commercials to battle damage to its image from a lawsuit questioning its taco filling.

The fast-food chain has been on the defensive since it was pushed into the media spotlight by a lawsuit that claimed the restaurant's seasoned-beef filling did not have enough beef to be billed as such. Taco Bell has repeatedly said the claim is false.

The $3 million television ad campaign comes the week that Taco Bell is due to respond to the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in California.

Taco Bell initially fought back with full-page ads last month in national newspapers. The print ads made a splash with the headline "Thank you for suing us."

The company also launched a social media campaign urging Twitter users to voice their support. And last month, Taco Bell offered Facebook fans a free crunchy beef taco to thank them for their loyalty.

The Alabama law firm that filed the lawsuit last month in California has said its testing showed the filling was made of only 35 percent beef and therefore couldn't be called "beef."

PENNSYLVANIA

Officials: Birds killed with legal poison

SINKING SPRING | Pennsylvania game officials said dozens of birds found dead along a highway over the weekend apparently were killed with a poison that's legal for farmers to use.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission said Monday that tests showed the birds were killed by Starlicide. It's a poison designed to kill European starlings and gulls, and is less toxic to most other birds.

European starlings are an invasive species that eat farmers' crops and feed. U.S. Agriculture Department officials and farmers are allowed to use the poison.

Witnesses and local animal-control officials had been wondering what could have killed the 50 to 100 birds that were spotted by motorists on Sunday. Some had questioned whether it was similar to other cases worldwide of sudden and unexplained bird die-offs.

TEXAS

ATF: Gun in agent's death traced to Texans

DALLAS | Three people suspected of smuggling guns to Mexico were arrested in a Dallas suburb on Monday after federal investigators traced the gun used in the killing of a U.S. agent in Mexico to one of them, officials said.

Agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrested the suspected gun smugglers in morning raids in the southern Dallas suburb of Lancaster, ATF spokesman Tom Crowley said.

The ATF said the gun was used in a Feb. 15 shooting of two federal agents who were driving on a highway near the northern Mexico city of San Luis Potosi on Feb. 15. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata was killed; agent Victor Avila was wounded.

Mr. Zapata and Mr. Avila, who worked at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, were attacked as they returned to Mexico City from a meeting with other U.S. personnel in the state of San Luis Potosi. Mr. Avila was shot twice in the leg.

Some reports at the time said the two were stopped at a roadblock, while others said they were run off the road by other vehicles. The Mexican government does not authorize U.S. law enforcement personnel to carry weapons.

Also Monday, the Mexican navy announced that marines had captured a regional boss for the Zetas drug gang that is accused in Mr. Zapata's slaying.

WEST VIRGINIA

Security chief indicted in mine blast

CHARLESTON | The security chief of a Massey Energy Co. subsidiary is charged in a federal indictment with obstructing the investigation of a 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners at the company's Upper Big Branch Mine in southern West Virginia, federal prosecutors said Monday.

The indictment accuses Hughie Elbert Stover, 60, of lying to an FBI agent and a federal Mine Safety and Health Administration inspector. It also charges he ordered an employee to dispose of thousands of pages of security documents from the Raleigh County mine more than nine months after the explosion.

The April 5 blast was the deadliest at a U.S. coal mine since 1970 and remains the subject of criminal and civil investigations. Mr. Stover is the first person connected to the case known to be charged with a crime.

Mr. Stover was head of security at Performance Coal, the Massey subsidiary that operates the mine. The indictment was handed up Friday and unsealed Monday when Mr. Stover was arrested and later released on a $10,000 bond. Lying to the FBI is punishable by up to five years in prison, while obstruction carries a 20-year term.

From wire dispatches and staff reports