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American Scene

- - Tuesday, July 5, 2011

CALIFORNIA

Feds agree to deadline for sea-turtle safety zone

SAN FRANCISCO — Conservation groups and federal fisheries managers have settled a lawsuit seeking to spur the government to finalize its plan for creating a large protection zone for endangered leatherback sea turtles off the Pacific coast of the U.S.

The settlement filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court requires the National Marine Fisheries Service to finalize the details of its critical habitat plans for the turtles by Nov. 15.

The Center for Biological Diversity and other groups sued after the service missed a deadline to designate 70,600 square miles off the coast of the Western United States as a safe zone for the animals.

The large turtles have an immense range, swimming from Indonesia to the U.S. to lay eggs. The newly protected areas are meant to protect their migratory routes and food supply.

KANSAS

Abortion rights activists critical of new regulations

Abortion rights supporters worried Tuesday that regulations Kansas is trying to enact would give the state health department unfettered access to patient medical records and suggested it could endanger the privacy of women who have terminated pregnancies.

Supporters of the new rules called such concerns unfounded because state law contains protections against patient information becoming public.

One anti-abortion leader said the abortion providers and their allies are trying to stir up privacy fears to avoid scrutiny of their operations.

A new Kansas law requiring abortion providers to obtain a special annual license - and the accompanying health department regulations - are part of a wave of new restrictions enacted across the country. Abortion opponents capitalized on the election of Republican governors or large GOP legislative majorities; Kansas has both. The state also previously drew national attention for a fierce debate over medical records and abortion patients' privacy when an attorney general investigated clinics.

The new regulations took effect Friday, but a federal judge blocked their enforcement until a lawsuit involving two of the state's three abortion providers is resolved.

CONNECTICUT

Nearly $4 billion raised in university campaign

NEW HAVEN — Yale University has raised $3.88 billion amid tough economic times, finishing the largest fundraising campaign in its history, which will help pay for its biggest expansion in decades, extend its international reach and make its school of music tuition-free.

The campaign exceeded its goal of $3.5 billion. More than 110,000 alumni, parents, friends, corporations and foundations contributed.

Yale began the campaign in 2006 with a nucleus fund of $1.147 billion, and by 2008, giving had reached $2.3 billion. While the global economic crisis brought a decline in giving for 2009 and 2010, contributions totaled more than $857 million in the final year.

The University of Michigan reported raising more than $3 billion two years ago.

GEORGIA

Colon cancer deaths down except in Mississippi

ATLANTA — Colon cancer deaths continue to drop across America except in Mississippi, health officials said Tuesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report that echoes earlier findings of a national decline in colon cancer deaths. Rates fell by as much as 5 percent and 6 percent in a few states - Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Mississippi was the only state that saw no real decline, according to the CDC report.

From 2003 to 2007, the colon and rectal cancer death rate in the U.S. fell from 19 to 17 per 100,000 people. That represents nearly 32,000 fewer deaths, the CDC found.

Kentucky and West Virginia had the highest rates in 2007, tied at nearly 21 deaths per 100,000 people. Mississippi and Delaware were next, slightly more than 20.

But Kentucky, West Virginia and Delaware all saw drops of around 2 percent to 3 percent. Mississippi's didn't budge to a statistically significant degree.

HAWAII

Law recognizing native Hawaiian rights to be signed

HONOLULU — Gov. Neil Abercrombie is expected to sign a bill into law on Wednesday recognizing the first people of Hawaii.

The law formally recognizes native Hawaiians as the only "indigenous, aboriginal, maoli people of Hawaii."

Sen. Malama Solomon says the bill, which passed with just one no vote in May, recognizes Hawaiians as equals and not conquered people. She says every generation of native Hawaiians since the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893 has struggled with not being legally recognized as equals.

When signed into law, the measure is to add a new chapter to the Hawaii Revised Statutes, which would establish a process for native Hawaiians to organize themselves.

NEW JERSEY

62 arrested for fighting in 'Jersey Shore'

SEASIDE HEIGHTS — Plenty of fights in Seaside Heights, N.J., have aired on MTV's "Jersey Shore," but none resulted in this many arrests.

Police say they arrested 62 people at the town's boardwalk after fights broke out following a July 4 fireworks display.

Police say some of the thousands of spectators lingered after the fireworks show. They say a series of fights broke out and continued until police ordered the boardwalk closed at 1 a.m. Tuesday.

Seaside Heights Detective Steve Korman tells the Asbury Park Press that 39 people were arrested on disorderly persons offenses. Others were charged with assault, drug possession and interfering with law enforcement.

Police say they're not sure what caused the fights.

The MTV reality series is shooting another season in Seaside Heights, but police say they weren't involved.

NEW YORK

Canadian mayor backs high-wire stunt

NIAGARA FALLS — The mayor of Niagara Falls, Ontario, has become the first Canadian official to publicly support an attempt by daredevil Nik Wallenda to cross Niagara Falls on a wire, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

Mayor James Diodati wrote to state Sen. George D. Maziarz to say that he supports the high-wire stunt because it would draw people to the area, the Buffalo News reported.

Mr. Maziarz co-sponsored legislation to allow the first wire walk across the falls since 1910. The measure, which was approved by the Legislature last month but not yet sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, directs the state parks agency to write rules and regulations specifically for Mr. Wallenda's walk across the Niagara River Gorge.

In his letter to Mr. Maziarz last week, Mr. Diodati wrote: "Bringing an act of such exceptional quality and stellar reputation as the Wallendas to Niagara Falls would be a great highlight for our city."

Niagara Falls, N.Y., Mayor Paul Dyster and tourism officials on the U.S. side of the border support the stunt, but Mr. Dyster has said his economically struggling city needs to take into account concerns that the event could be perceived as a "sideshow" to the falls.

If Mr. Cuomo signs the bill into law, Mr. Wallenda still would need permission from Canadian officials if he is to end the walk in an area overseen by the Niagara Parks Commission. The Ontario commission has denied such requests in the past.

NORTH CAROLINA

Army ripped over Fort Bragg concert

RALEIGH — A trio of civil liberties groups says Fort Bragg leaders were out of line when hosting a Christian rock concert at the base last fall.

The American Civil Liberties Union, its state chapter and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State sent a letter to Army Secretary John M. McHugh on Tuesday.

The letter says the "Rock the Fort" event in September breached military regulations regarding support for religious events. The groups also say the base compounded the problem by not providing similar support to a planned atheist event originally scheduled for the spring.

The groups are asking the Army to provide training for Fort Bragg officials regarding events held by outside groups.

Fort Bragg officials have said they followed proper procedure for both events.

From wire dispatches and staff reports