- - Monday, February 7, 2011

ARIZONA

Citizenship bill stalls in committee

PHOENIX | The Arizona lawmaker who proposed a challenge to automatic U.S. citizenship for children of illegal immigrants called off a scheduled vote on his measure Monday because he didn’t have enough votes to get it out of committee.

But Republican Sen. Ron Gould of Lake Havasu City said he doesn’t think his bill is dead. Calling off a vote in committee doesn’t prevent lawmakers from bringing up their proposals for a vote again.

Mr. Gould hopes the measure would prompt a court interpretation on an element of the 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to people born in the U.S. who are “subject to the jurisdiction” of this country. Supporters of the bill the amendment doesn’t apply to the children of illegal immigrants because such families don’t owe sole allegiance to the U.S.

The bill’s sponsors say the goal is to force a court to rule that a child born in the U.S. is a citizen only if either parent is a U.S. citizen or a legal immigrant.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Natural History Museum reopens after fire

A fire broke out Monday morning at a building near the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History on the Mall, emitting a plume of black smoke and closing area streets, officials said.

Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas said a building detached from the museum that contains the facility’s cooling tower caught fire early Monday. She said it appeared the fire started while a contractor was working in the mechanical building.

No smoke entered the main building, where millions of artifacts and specimens are housed. The museum opened to visitors Monday shortly after its regular opening time of 10 a.m.

D.C. Deputy Fire Chief Kenneth Crosswhite said the fire did not pose a risk to the museum. No injuries were reported.

ILLINOIS

State sues to stop convicted ex-cop’s pension

CHICAGO | Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit Monday to stop a former Chicago police official convicted of lying about the torture of suspects from getting his $3,000-a-month pension.

Miss Madigan’s suit names Jon Burge and the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago, claiming that the board violated the state’s pension code last month when it voted not to terminate Burge’s benefits.

Burge was sentenced last month to 4½ years in prison after being convicted in June of lying in a civil lawsuit when he said he’d never participated in or witnessed the physical abuse of suspects. A subsequent pension-board action on terminating Burge’s pension failed by one vote, 4-4. It needed five votes to pass.

The four board members who voted to allow Burge to keep the pension said his convictions for perjury and obstruction of justice weren’t directly related to his job as a police officer and that he didn’t have any law enforcement duties when he was accused of making the false statements in 2003.

Burge was fired from the police department in 1993 over the alleged abuse of a suspect. He began receiving his pension about four years later.

LOUISIANA

Mardi Gras Indians work to copyright costumes

NEW ORLEANS | Chief Howard Miller knows cameras will start clicking next month when his Creole Wild West Mardi Gras Indians take to the streets with their elaborately beaded and feathered costumes.

They and members of the city’s other tribes are working to get a slice of the profits when photos of the towering outfits they have spent the year crafting end up in books and on posters and T-shirts.

Intellectual-property law says apparel and costumes cannot be copyrighted, but Tulane University adjunct law professor Ashlye Keaton has found a way around that by classifying them as artworks instead.

The first test for the Indians who have copyrighted the new costumes they will wear this year will come next month at Mardi Gras.

MARYLAND

Police: Suspicious toilet with phone not dangerous

TOWSON | A suspicious toilet bearing a cell phone and a radio or TV transmitter were left outside a local government building in Towson, but authorities said it proved harmless and didn’t contain an explosive device.

A Baltimore County police spokesman, Lt. Robert McCullough, said police have a lead to a possible suspect after the toilet was discovered Monday morning on a sidewalk outside the offices of the county executive and county council.

Lt. McCullough said the toilet was decorated with images and notes, but he didn’t elaborate on the content of the notes. He said the toilet and materials were arranged in a way that raised suspicion.

He said a hazardous-device team, a bomb-sniffing dog and crime lab personnel were summoned to investigate.

NEW YORK

TV executive guilty of beheading wife

BUFFALO | The founder of a Muslim-oriented New York television station has been convicted of beheading his wife in 2009.

Muzzammil Hassan never denied that he killed Aasiyah Hassan inside the suburban Buffalo station the couple established to promote cultural understanding. A jury on Monday rejected his claim he was the victim of spousal abuse.

Hassan acted as his own lawyer during the trial in Buffalo.

The Pakistan-born Hassan has been in custody since Feb. 12, 2009, when he walked into the Orchard Park police station and told officers his wife was dead. Her decapitated body was found at the studios of Bridges TV in town.

The Hassans had two young children.

PENNSYLVANIA

Tour guides can’t sue, for now, over tests

PHILADELPHIA | Tour guides upset over a rule that would require them to pass a test to lead visitors around Philadelphia can’t proceed with a free-speech lawsuit while the tests are on hold because of budget woes.

That’s the ruling Monday from a federal appeals court, which was asked to stop the city from licensing tour guides in Philadelphia’s historic area.

The plan is designed to ensure that tourists are getting the straight story on the nation’s birthplace.

The three tour guides who filed suit say they could ace such a test, but they say they shouldn’t have to, under the First Amendment.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court says a judge was correct to dismiss the suit as moot until the city acts on the plan.

The city says the test hasn’t even been drafted.

From wire dispatches and staff reports