- - Tuesday, March 8, 2011

ALASKA

Exxon Mobil wins ruling in oil spill case

ANCHORAGE | Exxon Mobil Corp. has won a round in a dispute with environmentalists who want more money to clean up oil left on the shoreline of Prince William Sound from the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker spill.

U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland ruled Monday against a request from former University of Alaska marine science professor Rick Steiner. He had filed a motion trying to force the oil company to pay a $92 million claim filed in 2006 by the state and federal governments.

Government lawyers are waiting for studies on the remaining oil and the effectiveness of cleanup techniques before pursuing the claim, the Anchorage Daily News reported Tuesday.

ARIZONA

State Senate passes official-firearm bill

PHOENIX | Arizona is step closer to making an historic Colt revolver the state’s official firearm.

The state Senate on Tuesday approved a bill to give that status to the Colt Single-Action Army revolver, a weapon that bill supporters say contributed to the state’s heritage.

Gun-control advocates previously denounced the measure as time-wasting and insulting because it comes so soon after the deadly Jan. 8 shooting spree in Tucson that killed six and wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a former Arizona legislator. But the only criticism during Tuesday’s vote came from a senator who questioned whether the state should be endorsing a commercial product.

Republican Sen. Adam Driggs of Phoenix noted that Colt’s lobbyist had advocated for the bill’s passage.

The Senate’s 18-12 vote sends the bill to the House.

CALIFORNIA

Estimated million fish found dead in marina

REDONDO BEACH | An estimated 1 million fish turned up dead Tuesday in a Southern California marina, creating a floating feast for pelicans, gulls and other sea life and a stinky mess for harbor authorities.

Boaters awakened to find a carpet of small silvery fish surrounding their vessels, said Staci Gabrielli, marine coordinator for King Harbor Marina on the Los Angeles County coast. Authorities said there was also a 12- to 18-inch layer of dead fish on the bottom of the marina.

California Department of Fish and Game officials said the fish were sardines that apparently depleted the water of oxygen and suffocated.

“All indications are it’s a naturally occurring event,” said Andrew Hughan, a department spokesman at the scene.

COLORADO

Woman admits aiding terrorist cell

A Colorado woman has admitted she conspired to help a terrorist cell that sought to train with an al Qaeda-linked group and incite an Islamic holy war.

Prosecutors said Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, 32, of Leadville, Colo., conspired with others to get military training in South Asia and moved to Ireland in 2009 to join the group.

Court papers released Tuesday show the Algerian man she married there sought to recruit “brothers & sisters” to train with the group known as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Paulin-Ramirez faces up to 15 years in prison after her guilty plea Tuesday for conspiring to aid foreign terrorists.

Federal prosecutors said she joined forces with Colleen LaRose of Pennsylvania, who dubbed herself “Jihad Jane” online.

Defense attorney Jeremy Ibrahim said Paulin-Ramirez got caught up in something larger than she knew.

HAWAII

Scientists: Oldest wild bird is new mother

HONOLULU | The oldest known wild bird in the U.S. is a new mother.

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist spotted the Laysan albatross that is at least 60 years old a few weeks ago. It was with a chick at Midway Atoll, a remote wildlife refuge 1,300 miles northwest of Honolulu.

A U.S. Geological Survey scientist first banded the seabird as she incubated an egg in 1956. She was estimated to be at least 5 years old at the time. The albatross has since worn out five bird bands.

Bruce Peterjohn, the chief of the North American Bird Banding Program, said Tuesday that the albatross is the oldest wild bird documented by the 90-year-old bird banding program run by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Fish and Wildlife Service and Canada.

MARYLAND

Poll on boardwalk draws global response

OCEAN CITY | An online poll about how best to refurbish Ocean City’s boardwalk has drawn an overwhelming response.

Officials said people in 2,000 cities and more than 25 countries filled out the questionnaire.

Fifty-one percent of respondents said they favored keeping an all-wood surface for the boardwalk. That’s also the most-expensive option on the table. Fifteen percent of voters favored a concrete ribbon down the middle of the boardwalk, and 34 percent voted for a compromise option in which the concrete would be painted to look like wood.

The boardwalk is deteriorating because of decades of wear and tear. Ocean City Council member Mary Knight said she’s undecided about the future of the boardwalk but notes that concrete would be much cheaper.

MISSOURI

U.S. marshal killed in shootout

ST. LOUIS | The U.S. Marshals Service in Washington says a deputy marshal shot in the head during a St. Louis gunbattle has died of his wounds at a hospital.

The agency says Deputy U.S. Marshal John Perry died of gunshot wounds at 7 p.m. at Saint Louis University Hospital. The 48-year-old had been with the U.S. Marshals for almost 10 years.

Authorities say the suspect, Carlos Boles, shot the deputy and two other law enforcement officers as they were trying to arrest Boles about 7 a.m. Tuesday on charges of assaulting a law enforcement officer and drug possession.

Boles was killed in the exchange. The other two law enforcement officers survived — one being shot in the ankle and the other falling down stairs after a bullet grazed his face.

Boles had a criminal record dating to 1993, including multiple arrests and 12 convictions on charges ranging from assault to drug possession, according to court records and the Marshals Service.

MONTANA

Court upholds award against debt collector

BILLINGS | A North Dakota law firm accused of trying to collect a $3,800 debt after the statute of limitations expired is now the one that owes a lot of money.

An appellate court upheld a $311,000 jury award to a Montana man who sued the firm in 2007 over a violation of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Johnson, Rodenburg & Lauinger appealed the April 2009 summary judgment and damages awarded to Timothy McCollough of Laurel. The case was heard in July by a special panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Billings, including retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

The panel issued a decision Friday upholding the damages. They include $1,000 statutory maximum for violating the debt collection law, $60,000 in punitive damages and $250,000 for emotional distress.

PENNSYLVANIA

Priests in sex report are suspended

PHILADELPHIA | The Philadelphia archdiocese suspended 21 Roman Catholic priests Tuesday who were named as child molestation suspects in a scathing grand jury report released last month.

The priests have been removed from ministry while their cases are reviewed, Cardinal Justin Rigali said. The names of the priests were not released.

The two-year grand jury investigation into abuse by priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia resulted in charges against two priests, a former priest and a Catholic school teacher who are accused of raping young boys. And in an unprecedented move in the U.S., a former high-ranking church official was accused of transferring problem priests to new parishes without warning anyone of sex-abuse complaints.

The grand jury said as many as 37 priests remained in active ministry despite credible allegations of sexual abuse.

After the release of the grand jury report, the second such investigation in the city, Cardinal Rigali vowed to take its calls for further reforms seriously.

WYOMING

Gas drilling creates smog

CHEYENNE | Wyoming, famous for its crisp mountain air and breathtaking vistas, is looking a lot like smoggy Los Angeles these days because of a boom in natural gas drilling.

Folks who live near the gas fields in the western part of the state are complaining of watery eyes, shortness of breath and bloody noses because of ozone levels that have exceeded what people in L.A. and other major cities experience on their worst pollution days.

In many ways, it’s a haze of prosperity: Gas drilling is going strong again, and as a result, so is the Cowboy State’s economy. Wyoming reports one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates: 6.4 percent. And while many other states are running up monumental deficits, lawmakers are projecting a budget surplus of more than $1 billion over the coming year in this state of a half-million people.

Still, in the Upper Green River Basin, where at least one day care center called off outdoor recess and state officials have urged the elderly to avoid strenuous outdoor activity, some wonder if they’ve made a bad bargain. Two days last week, ozone levels in the gas-rich basin rose above the highest levels recorded in the biggest U.S. cities last year.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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