- - Thursday, January 19, 2012

NORTH CAROLINA

Black students: Study shows deeper problems

RALEIGH — An unpublished study by Duke University researchers that says black students are more likely to switch to less difficult majors has upset some students. They say the research is emblematic of more entrenched racial problems.

The study concludes black students match the GPA of whites over time partially because they switch to majors that require less study time and have less stringent grading standards.

About three dozen students held a silent protest Sunday. And members of the Black Student Alliance have met with the provost to express their unhappiness.

One of the researchers says he hopes the study shows the need to find ways to keep minorities in difficult majors such as the natural sciences, economics and engineering. A Duke spokesman says the school is taking the issues raised seriously.

NEVADA

Brush fire burning homes south of Reno

RENO — Winds gusting up to 80 mph pushed a fast-moving brush fire through a valley south of Reno on Thursday, burning multiple homes and threatening many more along U.S. Highway 395.

Nevada State Trooper Dan Lopez said authorities have shut down about a five-mile stretch of the highway after heavy smoke reduced visibility to zero north of Washoe Lake in Pleasant Valley, about 10 miles from Reno.

Authorities evacuated hundreds of students from Pleasant Valley Elementary School and were beginning to move people out of neighboring Washoe City.

At least three structures have burned, and explosions could be heard in the area, The Reno Gazette-Journal reported.

Mr. Lopez said U.S. 395 was closed from the south end of Reno at the Mount Rose Highway leading to Lake Tahoe, to the north end of Washoe Valley near the Bowers Mansion. Northbound traffic was being rerouted back to Carson City about 15 miles to the south.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Many teen moms wrong about risk

A federal study finds many teen mothers with unintended pregnancies thought they were safe from getting pregnant, while a fifth said they didn’t mind if they got pregnant.

Thirty-one percent of teen mothers, representing 186,447 women, said they were surprised to become pregnant because they “thought I could not get pregnant at the time.” Another 8 percent thought they or their partners were “sterile.”

The next most common answers were that their “partner did not want to use contraception” (24 percent) or that they “didn’t mind” getting pregnant (22 percent).

Data from teen mothers in five states also revealed that half of the mothers didn’t use any contraception, and 5 percent used an unreliable method, such as withdrawal.

Another 24 percent said they became pregnant despite using “moderately effective” condoms, while 21 percent said they had been using “highly effective” methods, such as pills, shots, patches, rings and IUDs, according to the Jan. 20 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

MASSACHUSETTS

2 face charges after airport drug seizure

BOSTON — Police say two Puerto Rican men have been arrested at Boston’s Logan Airport after a drug dog sniffed cocaine in their luggage.

Officers seized more than 8 pounds of cocaine after questioning the men shortly after their arrival from Puerto Rico on Wednesday night.

State police say the drugs have a street value from $130,000 to $150,000.

Police didn’t say what aroused suspicions. But they say the men didn’t give a credible story about their travel.

Authorities say they got permission to search the travelers’ luggage before a state police dog alerted them about the two suitcases.

Police say 18-year-old Adam I. Miranda and 24-year-old Luis Robles face cocaine trafficking and drug conspiracy charges. They appear in court Thursday. It’s not immediately known who is representing them.

CALIFORNIA

Man charged in SUV ride that shut subway

SAN FRANCISCO — A man was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence Thursday over allegations he shut down San Francisco’s subway system for more than two hours after driving his SUV onto the underground tracks, police said.

Scott Mitchell, 40, of Sebastapol, Calif., also has been charged with driving on train tracks and failure to obey a traffic sign, said Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman.

No injuries were reported as Mr. Mitchell is expected to be cited and released, Mr. Esparza said.

“It appears he just drove into the tunnel and his vehicle got stuck when it hit a concrete step,” Mr. Esparza said. “We believe he was under the influence of alcohol. It’s very fortunate that nobody was injured.”

Mr. Mitchell’s vehicle entered a tunnel on Church Street shortly before 6 a.m. and traveled eastward almost to the Van Ness Station, said Paul Rose, spokesman for the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency.

No trains were involved in the incident, Mr. Rose said.

Tyrone Julian, a Muni manager, said he saw the SUV going about 40 mph into the tunnel and chased it down. The driver appeared intoxicated, Mr. Julian said.

All underground train lines were shut down during the morning commute while crews removed the vehicle and inspected the system. Trains resumed service by 8:15 a.m.

Some damage was done to the tracks, but crews would do repairs with trains moving slower through the affected area, Mr. Rose said.

NORTH JERSEY

Authority settles suit over escalator accident

HACKENSACK — The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority has settled a lawsuit over an escalator accident at Giants Stadium that seriously injured several people.

An attorney for the plaintiffs confirmed Thursday’s settlement, which was first reported by The Record. The deal came midway through a civil trial.

Eight people sued the sports authority and the company that maintained the escalator. They were riding the escalator down from the stadium’s upper level after a New York Giants-New England Patriots game on Dec. 29, 2007, when it sped up and then stopped suddenly, causing some steps to break apart.

One man lost his leg in the accident and another could face amputation of a foot.

Terms of the settlement weren’t released.

Schindler, the company that maintained the escalator, settled with plaintiffs last week.

ALASKA

Fuel transfer done in iced-in Nome

ANCHORAGE — A massive effort to pump fuel from a Russian tanker to the iced-in Alaska city of Nome is complete, moving an estimated 1.3 million gallons into the city that faced a shortage after missing its last delivery.

Stacey Smith, manager of Vitus Marine LLC — the company that arranged for the tanker to deliver gas and diesel to the city — said the operation finished up Thursday morning.

The pumping operation finished up with temperatures finally reaching above zero in Nome, which for weeks has been experiencing record cold temperatures, dipping to more than 30 below zero.

The two lines that pumped both gasoline and diesel fuel from the ship will have to be cleared of any residual fuel, which could mean up to 7,000 more gallons of fuel.

The city of 3,500 didn’t get its last pre-winter barge fuel delivery because of a massive November storm. Without the Russian tanker’s delivery, Nome would run out of fuel by March or April, long before the next barge delivery is possible.

Alaska has had one of the most severe winters in decades. Snow has piled up 10 feet or higher against the wood-sided buildings in Nome, a former gold rush town that is the final stop on the 1,150-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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