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American Scene

- - Thursday, September 22, 2011

ALABAMA

Natalee Holloway's mom opposes declaring her dead

BIRMINGHAM — An attorney says the mother of missing Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway will oppose a petition by her former husband to declare their daughter dead.

Dave Holloway, a Mississippi insurance agent, filed the petition in June. A hearing on the petition is scheduled for Friday.

The 2005 disappearance of Natalee, 18, of Mountain Brook, during a trip to Aruba with friends remains unsolved.

Mr. Holloway wrote that it was his "painful" belief that his daughter is dead and recounted the years spent investigating her disappearance.

His request says the teenager didn't have a will and owned about $500 worth of personal property.

Ms. Holloway's attorney, John Q. Kelly, called the request "inexplicable" and said Natalee's mother still hopes for her daughter's safe return.

ARKANSAS

Missing moon rock found among Clinton's papers

LITTLE ROCK — An archivist sifting through the papers and memorabilia amassed during Bill Clinton's time as Arkansas governor found a moon rock brought back by the Apollo 17 mission that had mysteriously disappeared.

The rock, which weighs less than half an ounce, was found in one of the roughly 2,000 boxes of Clinton materials that are housed in Little Rock, said Bobby Roberts, who directs the Central Arkansas Library System.

The rock was collected during the 1972 Apollo 17 mission and was given to the state more than 30 years ago.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette first reported the rock missing last year.

Mr. Roberts said he was not sure how the rock ended up among paperwork from when Mr. Clinton served as governor, but he said he is glad it has been recovered.

An Arkansas museum employee discovered another moon rock last summer, according to the Democrat-Gazette. That piece of the moon was from the Apollo 11 mission.

CALIFORNIA

Nurses at dozens of hospitals strike

SAN FRANCISCO — Nurses began picketing Thursday morning outside dozens of Northern and Central California hospitals as part of a one-day strike over benefit cuts and other concessions sought by hospital management.

The strike at 33 not-for-profit hospitals run by Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health and at the independent Children's Hospital Oakland began at 7 a.m., said Charles Idelson, a spokesman for the California Nurses Association, which organized the strike.

The union expects nearly 23,000 nurses to walk off the job at the hospitals, which include Kaiser facilities in Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose, and the Berkeley and Oakland campuses of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, a Sutter Health-affiliated hospital.

Hospital officials said they have made preparations for the strike. Some Sutter Health facilities are expected to bring in replacement nurses, as is Children's Hospital Oakland.

Children's Hospital also has rescheduled elective surgeries, said Erin Goldsmith, a hospital spokeswoman.

The focus of the planned strike is Sutter Health, where contract talks are under way at a number of hospitals.

NEW YORK

Transit agency backed in '93 WTC bombing case

ALBANY — New York's top court on Thursday found the World Trade Center managers immune from negligence claims for failing to deter the 1993 parking garage bombing that killed six people and injured about 1,000.

The Court of Appeals, divided 4-3 in reversing lower courts, concluded that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs area airports and owns the trade center site, is entitled to government immunity for its security measures at the building.

The decision is unlikely to affect settled claims but could mean the transit agency doesn't have to pay those that are still outstanding.

About 200 claims in the case were filed by 648 plaintiffs, and most have been settled privately. A handful of personal injury claims remain, plus one for business interruption by tenant Cantor Fitzgerald seeking hundreds of millions of dollars.

TEXAS

Prisons end special last meals in executions

HOUSTON — Texas prison officials say they're stopping the practice of special last meals for inmates facing execution, after a state senator complained about an extensive request from a man involved in a notorious dragging death.

Sen. John Whitmire said Thursday that he wanted the "ridiculous" and "inappropriate" practice ended or he would seek a state statute banning it. Prisons director Brad Livingston agreed and said the practice was ending immediately. He said condemned inmates will get the same meal as other offenders.

The meal request from Lawrence Russell Brewer, who was executed Wednesday for the hate crime slaying of James Byrd Jr., included two chicken-fried steaks, a bacon cheeseburger, a pound of barbecue, a pint of ice cream, a pizza and fudge.

Prison officials said Brewer didn't eat any of it.

From wire dispatches and staff reports