- - Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NEBRASKA

Lawmakers advance Keystone pipeline bill

LINCOLN — State lawmakers backed a plan Wednesday to have the state’s Department of Environmental Quality conduct an independent review of possible routes the contested Keystone XL pipeline could take through the state, after developer TransCanada volunteered to reroute the massive project to avoid the environmentally sensitive Sandhills region.

The single-house Legislature voted 45-0 in favor of Speaker Mike Flood’s proposal to task Nebraska’s environmental protection agency with examining new possible routes. The Legislature would have to back the measure twice more before it could go to Gov. Dave Heineman for his signature.

TransCanada volunteered this week to divert its proposed route for the Keystone XL pipeline so that it wouldn’t pass through the Nebraska Sandhills. The offer followed the U.S. State Department’s announcement that it would delay its decision on the transnational pipeline until at least 2013.

The proposed $7 billion pipeline would carry up to 700,000 barrels of crude a day from Alberta’s tar sands to Texas Gulf Coast refineries. The route would cross six states - Montana, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma and Texas - and had stirred fears about a contamination threat to the Ogallala aquifer, a key water source for eight states.

NEW YORK

Foreign adoptions by Americans plunge again

NEW YORK — The number of foreign children adopted by Americans fell by 15 percent last year, reaching the lowest level since 1994, largely as a result of sharp cutbacks by China and Ethiopia, sources of most adoptees in recent years.

Figures released Tuesday by the State Department for the 2011 fiscal year showed 9,320 adoptions from abroad, down from 11,059 in 2010 and down nearly 60 percent from the all-time peak of 22,884 in 2004.

Once again, China accounted for the most children adopted in the U.S. But its total of 2,589 was down from 3,401 the previous year as China finds itself with fewer abandoned children and more interest in domestic adoptions.

Ethiopia was second, at 1,727, but that was down from 2,513 in 2010. The main factor was a decision by Ethiopian authorities to slow down the handling of adoption applications to reduce instances of fraud and ease a heavy workload at Ethiopia’s Youth Ministry.

Following Ethiopia on the list were Russia, which accounted for 970 adoptions, South Korea at 736, Ukraine at 632, the Philippines at 230, India at 228, Colombia at 216, Uganda at 207 and Taiwan at 205.

One reason that the overall adoption numbers have dropped so sharply in recent years is that problems of fraud and corruption prompted the U.S., as well as other nations, to suspend adoptions from several countries, notably Vietnam, Cambodia, Guatemala and Nepal.

MISSOURI

Mother charged with killing toddler son

AFFTON — Prosecutors charged a 20-year-old suburban St. Louis woman with murdering her 13-month-old son, saying she told police she beat the boy because he was crying and “wouldn’t lay down, wouldn’t go back to sleep.”

Shelby Dasher is charged with second-degree murder in the death of her son, Tyler, whose body was found discarded near a cemetery about a mile from home on Tuesday, hours after she reported him missing.

Miss Dasher was arrested early Wednesday and was being held on $500,000 cash bond.

St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch said Wednesday that Miss Dasher told police she repeatedly struck her son because he was crying and “wouldn’t lay down, wouldn’t go back to sleep.” He said she also admitted she disposed of his body.

Police said when Miss Dasher called to report her son missing, she told them she overslept that morning and discovered him gone from his crib when she awoke.

People walking a dog discovered the boy’s body later Tuesday near a cemetery.

GEORGIA

Probe clears ousted SCLC members

ATLANTA — Prosecutors in Georgia have concluded there’s no proof that two ousted board members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference stole more than $560,000 from the famed civil rights organization.

The report on the 18-month-long investigation was obtained by the Associated Press. The ousted board members called Wednesday on Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard to release the findings to the public.

Prosecutors looked into alleged financial mismanagement by former chairman Raleigh Trammell and ex-treasurer Spiver Gordon. The allegations led to a deep split in the organization, as well as the ouster of Trammell, Gordon and several other board members, and a protracted legal battle in civil court.

According to the report, investigators were able to determine that the expenditures were for legitimate, authorized programs and travel.

CALIFORNIA

Major drug tunnel found in San Diego

U.S. authorities estimate 14 tons of marijuana have been seized in connection with a cross-border tunnel that links warehouses in San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico.

The U.S. Homeland Security and Justice departments say U.S. and Mexican authorities found the marijuana Tuesday.

Cross-border tunnels have proliferated in recent years, but the latest find is one of the more significant, based on the amount of drugs seized.

Raids last November on two tunnels linking San Diego and Tijuana netted a combined 50 tons of marijuana on both sides of the border. Those secret passages were lined with rail tracks, lighting and ventilation.

ALABAMA

1 dead, several hurt as storms rip Southeast

BIRMINGHAM — A strong storm system that produced several possible tornadoes hit the Southeast on Wednesday, damaging dozens of homes and buildings. At least one person was killed and more than a dozen others were injured.

Suspected tornadoes were reported in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Four homes were damaged in western Alabama, about 60 miles southwest of Tuscaloosa, in the worst bout of weather for that state since about 250 people were killed during a tornado outbreak in April.

In north Georgia, an unidentified person was killed when a tree fell on a sport utility vehicle, said Capt. Tim House of the Forsyth County sheriff’s office.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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