Fireworks blamed in bird deaths
BEEBE | Researchers say fireworks probably startled thousands of blackbirds that fell dead from the skies in a small Arkansas town shortly before midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Townspeople in Beebe, northeast of Little Rock, spent the holiday weekend cleaning up more than 3,000 carcasses. Necropsies performed Monday showed the birds suffered internal injuries that formed blood clots that helped kill them.
Birds were “littering the streets, the yards, the driveways, everywhere,” said Robby King, a county wildlife officer. “It was hard to drive down the street in some places without running over them.”
The red-winged blackbirds rained onto rooftops and sidewalks and into fields. One struck a woman walking her dog. Another hit a police cruiser.
The tests showed lightning was probably not to blame, and poisoning was ruled out early on.
Facebook gets $500 million cash
NEW YORK | An injection of cash that values Facebook at $50 billion will help it delay going public for at least another year, giving the company breathing room to focus on long-term ambition rather than short-term profit.
The infusion — $500 million from elite investment house Goldman Sachs and a Russian investor, according to a report by the New York Times — represents the most emphatic endorsement yet of Facebook’s potential to make money in online social networking.
It places the company at twice the value of Internet giant Yahoo and about equal to what well-established names such as Boeing and Kraft Foods are worth on the open market.
More important, it buys time for Facebook to keep its books private and not have to cater to the demands of the market. And it gives 26-year-old founder Mark Zuckerberg room to grow into his role as the public face of a multinational company.
Donald Duck lawsuit can go forward
PHILADELPHIA | A Pennsylvania woman who claims Donald Duck groped her at Disney’s Epcot theme park can have her day in court, a federal judge has ruled.
Disney must defend against April Magolon’s claims that the character grabbed her breast as she held her child at the Walt Disney World park and then joked about it.
Ms. Magolon, 27, of Upper Darby, claims the May 2008 encounter left her with post-traumatic stress in the form of nightmares, digestive problems and other permanent injuries. Her lawsuit also charges that Disney parks have a history of fondling complaints involving workers, and that Disney has “condoned” their actions, putting profits over public safety.
In court papers, the defense argued that Ms. Magolon sued the wrong Disney corporate entity and asked the judge to dismiss the suit or move it to Florida, where the encounter is said to have taken place. But U.S. District Judge John R. Padova refused, saying she can proceed in Pennsylvania.
“She, her fiance (who was a witness to the alleged assault), and her treating doctors are all located in Pennsylvania,” Judge Padova wrote in his ruling, adding that Disney also has greater resources to try the case in Pennsylvania than Ms. Magolon does to try it in Florida.
Ms. Magolon does not have a listed phone number, and her attorney did not immediately return calls for comment Monday on the ruling. Disney will comment only through the court proceedings, Walt Disney World spokeswoman Andrea Finger said.
Rockwell mural returns to agency
MONTPELIER | A photographic mural of a Vermont maple sugar-making scene by artist Norman Rockwell is hanging again in a hall of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.
Rockwell created the black-and-white image — of a sugar house with smoke coming from its chimney with people checking sap buckets — after becoming friends with Henry Fairfax Ayres, once the chairman of the Vermont Sugar Makers Association.
The mural, created in the late 1940s, was moved to the Norman Rockwell Museum of Vermont in Rutland in 1987 while the state Agency of Agriculture building was undergoing renovations. The museum balked at returning it to the state.
Outgoing Vermont Agriculture Secretary Roger Allbee, who leaves office Thursday, wanted to bring the mural back to Montpelier before he stepped down.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports