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American Scene: Rubber ducks seized over chemical safety
LOS ANGELES — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in Southern California have seized nearly 36,000 Chinese rubber ducks that contain levels of a chemical that may be unhealthful for children.
The ducks, decorated as Santas, Snowmen and other holiday figures, were seized Dec. 4 by officers and import specialists at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif.
The customs agency said Friday that it worked with the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission in determining that the ducks contain an excessive level of a regulated phthalate, a chemical used to make vinyl and plastics soft and flexible.
The rubber ducks were valued at more than $18,000.
State’s last dry county plans to stay that way
LINEVILLE — Clay County is the only county left in Alabama where there isn’t a single place that you can buy a beer legally. And there are plenty of people there happy to keep it that way.
It’s a scenic but poor county of about 14,000 people in the hills about 50 miles east of Birmingham.
It isn’t illegal to have a small amount of alcohol in Clay County, and lots of people go across the county line to buy it and take it home. Wayne Watts, the county commission chairman and a former police chief, says it’s an open secret that you can buy it from bootleggers, too.
People like the Rev. Bruce Willis say it’s unlikely the county will ever go wet. He says people won’t vote for it in a rural area where family values are important.
Police: Airport security officer killed by husband
CLEVELAND — Authorities in Cleveland say a man fatally shot his airport security officer wife, fired at a second person, and then killed himself at an off-site airport employee parking lot.
The police spokesman says the man fired at another Transportation Security Administration employee who was commuting to work with the man’s estranged wife but missed.
The shooting occurred at the Riveredge airport employee parking lot, located north of the airport in an industrial area along Interstate 480. No names were immediately released.
Police were not sure of a motive for the shooting.
Legal appeal filed to block sexual-orientation therapy ban
SAN FRANCISCO — A conservative legal-defense firm on Friday filed an emergency appeal to a federal appellate court asking it to block a law on sexual-orientation change therapy from going into effect Jan. 1.
“If a young boy molested by the likes of a Jerry Sandusky develops severe emotional distress and unwanted same-sex sexual attractions, this law will force the counselor to tell the boy that his feelings are normal and good,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel. But if the counselor sought to reduce or eliminate the stress caused by the molestation of his client, he would commit an ethical violation under the new law, known as SB 1172, he said.
Liberty Counsel represents several mental-health professionals, trade groups for therapists who provide sexual-orientation change efforts, and parents and teens who are in therapy.
A lower-court judge recently refused to block the law from going into effect. Liberty Counsel has filed its appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
SB 1172 bans mental-health providers from providing SOCE to minors under any circumstances.
Lottery officials: Powerball winner is man in 30s
PHOENIX — The second winner in the recent $587.5 million Powerball drawing is a married man in his 30s from the wealthy Phoenix suburb of Fountain Hills, lottery officials said Friday.
The man remained anonymous, and his prize was announced by officials who said he bought $10 worth of tickets and kept the winning slip in the visor of his car before coming forward.
The man opted to take the pretax cash option of $192 million. Lottery officials said his wife owns half the prize because Arizona is a community-property state.
“He and his wife couldn’t believe it,” lottery official Karen Bach said. “They checked the numbers over and over again — absolutely shocked.”
Ms. Bach said the man is financially savvy and wants to take time to make a solid financial plan and set up a charitable entity to aid causes that he and his wife support.
They told lottery officials they likely would keep working.
The ticket was sold at a convenience store in Fountain Hills, northeast of Phoenix.
A mechanic and his wife, Mark and Cindy Hill, of Dearborn, Mo., already have claimed the other half of the multistate Powerball prize.
NYPD asks for dismissal of lawsuit by Muslims
NEWARK — Attorneys for New York City asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by New Jersey Muslims over its police-run surveillance program.
The lawsuit doesn’t prove its claims that the New York Police Department’s intelligence-gathering activities were unconstitutional, that they harmed the plaintiffs or that they focused on people based on religion, national origin or race, a city attorney wrote in a filing released Friday.
The plaintiffs, which include Muslim individuals and organizations, filed the lawsuit in June. It was the first lawsuit to directly challenge the NYPD’s surveillance programs that targeted entire Muslim neighborhoods, chronicling the daily life of where people ate, prayed and got their hair cut.
Officials won’t say why driver isn’t charged
LUBBOCK — Officials in a West Texas city where four wounded veterans died when a train hit their parade float wouldn’t say Friday why they won’t pursue criminal charges against the driver.
City spokeswoman Sara Higgins said the police report isn’t finished, but investigators “wanted to get it out” that Midland resident Dale Andrew Hayden, 50, won’t be charged.
She said the reasons against filing charges would be explained in the completed report, which is expected to be done within the next week. The report will then go to the district attorney, she said.
Mr. Hayden was driving a flatbed truck carrying wounded veterans and their wives in a Nov. 15 parade when it was hit by a Union Pacific train traveling 62 mph. The National Transportation Safety Board says Mr. Hayden ventured onto the track after the warning signals started flashing and before the arms had descended.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports
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