- - Wednesday, February 15, 2012

FLORIDA

Electric cigarette explodes in man’s mouth

PENSACOLA — A faulty battery caused an electronic cigarette to explode in a Florida’s man’s mouth, taking out some of his front teeth, a chunk of his tongue and severely burning his face, fire officials said.

Tom Holloway, 57, of Niceville, was trying to quit smoking so he was puffing on the device Monday night when it blew up, fire officials said. Officials have not identified the victim, but a Facebook page under his name was filled with well-wishers commenting on the injury and database searches matched his address with his name.

“The best analogy is like it was trying to hold a bottle rocket in your mouth when it went off,” said Joseph Parker, division chief for the North Bay Fire Department. “The battery flew out of the tube and set the closet on fire.”

Chief Parker said fire investigators do not know the brand of cigarette, type of battery or age of the device.

Fire Chief Joseph Miller said the victim contacted the department Wednesday to thank firefighters and told them he was recovering at a hospital.

KANSAS

Explosives found in vehicle near Statehouse

TOPEKA — Police arrested the owner of a suspicious vehicle parked in the Kansas Judicial Center parking lot near the Kansas Statehouse with several homemade explosives and an empty gun holder inside.

Capitol Police Spokesman Patrick Saleh said officers arrested the owner Wednesday in a state office building connected to the Statehouse by an underground tunnel. He wasn’t armed.

In what Mr. Saleh says was an unrelated incident, another man was arrested after allegedly phoning in a threat to Gov. Sam Brownback’s office from a motel.

CALIFORNIA

Architect charged with death of firefighter

LOS ANGELES — The architect of a Hollywood Hills mansion where a Los Angeles firefighter died during a blaze a year ago has been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Authorities say the blaze started in an improperly installed fireplace. They say the flames burned through a plastic sprinkler pipe and filled the attic with water until the ceiling fell on firefighter Glen Allen, 61.

Los Angeles County prosecutors charged Gerhard Becker, 48, on Wednesday. The German national could face up to four years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors say Mr. Becker was the architect and main contractor for the luxury home that caught fire Feb. 16 last year.

Five other firefighters were injured.

Mr. Becker was arrested when he flew from Spain to Los Angeles on Saturday. He remains jailed.

OHIO

Cincinnati toughens scrap-metal sale restrictions

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati has approved tough new restrictions on scrap metal sales aimed at curbing thefts.

Legislative experts say the rules will be among the strictest in the nation. They require frequent sellers to obtain licenses, pass criminal background checks and wait two days to get paid.

Supporters said they are trying to deter thieves by making it more difficult to sell stolen scrap. High prices for copper and other metals, combined with a struggling economy, have spurred metal thefts globally.

The new rules come a day after a man was accused of stealing cremation urns, dumping remains and selling the urns for scrap in the Cincinnati area.

FLORIDA

Human and humanoid robot shake hands in space station

CAPE CANAVERAL — Astronauts and robots have united in space with a healthy handshake.

The commander of the International Space Station, Daniel Burbank, shook hands Wednesday with Robonaut. It’s the first handshake ever between a human and a humanoid in space.

NASA’s Robonaut was launched aboard space shuttle Discovery a year ago. Crews have been testing it to see how it one day might help astronauts perform space station chores.

On Wednesday, ground controllers activated computer software that enabled the robot to extend its right hand, fingers outstretched. Mr. Burbank took the mechanical hand and pumped it up and down, as the robot’s fingers tightened around his hand.

“The first human-humanoid handshake in space,” Mr. Burbank proclaimed.

A cheer went up in the control room in Huntsville, Ala.

“For the record, it was a firm handshake,” Mr. Burbank radioed. “Quite an impressive robot.”

Robonaut, the first humanoid in space, built from the waist up, said via Twitter that it was an awesome experience, then followed up with some sign language.

NEW YORK

Spree killer serving 200 years gets 25 more for final stabbing

NEW YORK — A man already sentenced to 200 years in prison for killing four people in a stabbing and carjacking rampage in New York City has received an additional 25 years.

Maksim Gelman was sentenced Wednesday for slashing a Manhattan subway passenger at the end of the bloody crime spree.

Gelman pleaded guilty last month to attempted murder.

Separately, Gelman admitted in Brooklyn to a string of killings and other violence that started with an argument over using his mother’s car. He killed his stepfather, a woman whose friends have said Gelman was obsessed with, the woman’s mother and a pedestrian who Gelman ran over.

WASHINGTON

Josh Powell’s family wants him to be buried near boys

SEATTLE — Josh Powell’s surviving relatives want him buried at the same cemetery as the two sons he killed, the city manager in Puyallup said Wednesday.

Powell’s relatives visited the public Woodbine Cemetery and selected a plot about 25 feet from the boys, City Manager Ralph Dannenberg told the Associated Press. They haven’t paid for it yet, and any sale is on hold because the parents of Powell’s missing wife have promised legal action.

“We don’t have any rules or procedures regarding refusing plots to anyone,” Mr. Dannenberg said. “We’re going to wait to see what the outcome is in court.”

Powell was a suspect in Susan Powell’s 2009 disappearance from their home in West Valley City, Utah. He attacked his sons with a hatchet and blew up his house, killing himself and the two boys on Feb. 5.

Attorney Anne Bremner, who represents Susan Powell’s parents, Charles and Judy Cox, says she will seek a temporary restraining order to block Josh Powell from being buried there.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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