- - Wednesday, August 1, 2012

PHOENIX — A federal appeals court is temporarily prohibiting Arizona from enforcing its new ban on abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy.

A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel issued its order Wednesday, two days after a trial judge ruled that the ban could take effect as scheduled Thursday.

The appellate court said it will hold a hearing as soon as possible this fall.

Abortion rights groups appealed U.S. District Judge James Teilborg’s ruling that the ban is constitutional.

Gov. Jan Brewer signed the measure into law in April, making Arizona one of 10 states to enact types of a 20-week restriction.

Arizona’s ban applies except in medical emergencies. It would replace one that starts at viability, the ability to survive outside the womb and generally is considered to be about 24 weeks.

Heavy flooding forces rescues, highway closure

PHOENIX — Fast-moving water trapped a baby and several others in their vehicles and forced the closure of a well-traveled highway as a dust storm and monsoon blew through the Phoenix area.

The storm, carrying pea-sized hail, flooded homes, knocked out power to area residents and collapsed a backyard fence late Tuesday. Firefighters rescued nine people from four vehicles on a highway west of Interstate 17 near Phoenix.

Alexis Zuniga, who was among those rescued, said the flooding was immediate, building up at least a foot every five minutes.

“We had to hold onto the brake the entire time, and then we just waited for help,” she told Phoenix television station KPNX.

Phoenix Fire Capt. Scott McDonald said it took an hour to rescue the people from their vehicles Tuesday amid the fast-moving water that rose to 4 feet at one point, the Arizona Republic reported.

COLORADO

Blast at school injures workers

ERIE — Three construction workers have been injured in an explosion and partial roof collapse at a middle school east of Boulder.

Erie Middle School was closed for summer break at the time of the explosion Wednesday.

Mountain View Fire and Rescue spokeswoman Laura McConnell says two workers were transported to the hospital by ambulance and one was flown, but details about their condition weren’t known.

School district spokesman John Poynton told the Daily Camera that initial reports indicate a water heater may have exploded.

Students aren’t set to return to class until Aug. 16.

CONNECTICUT

Cut in utility’s profit mulled due to outages

HARTFORD — State regulators harshly criticized the state’s biggest utility Wednesday for its “deficient and inadequate” handling of two massive storms last year and held out the possibility of cutting its allowed profit as punishment for extensive outages affecting hundreds of thousands of customers.

The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority issued its final decision in after a months-long review of how Connecticut Light & Power prepared for and responded to Tropical Storm Irene in late August last year and a freak October snowstorm.

Regulators said CL&P failed to get adequate help before the October storm and that its response was deficient.

“The Connecticut Light and Power Company’s performance in the aftermath of the 2011 storms was deficient and inadequate in the areas of outage and service restoration preparation,” regulators said in their 119-page decision.

CL&P’s failures were sufficient to “warrant regulatory sanction,” the agency said.

A spokesman for the Berlin-based utility said he had not read the decision and would not comment.

FLORIDA

Terrorism case snags on competency, witnesses

MIAMI — A once high-profile federal prosecution of an elderly Muslim cleric and one of his sons on terrorism finance charges has become bogged down in questions over the imam’s mental stability and a legal fight over defense testimony.

A federal judge recently cast doubt about 77-year-old Hafiz Khan’s mental fitness to stand trial. Prosecutors say Mr. Khan was the ringleader of a group that funneled tens of thousands of dollars to the Pakistani Taliban terror group.

If Mr. Khan is ruled incompetent, trial would be delayed for months or longer.

Prosecutors also oppose a defense request to allow three others indicted in the case and a fourth man to testify from Pakistan. Further delays are likely if the testimony is allowed.

Charges were dropped last month against another of Mr. Khan’s sons.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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