- - Sunday, June 24, 2012

GULF COAST

NEW ORLEANS — Parts of three states were under a tropical storm warning Sunday as Debby churned off the Gulf Coast, leaving wary residents to closely watch a storm whose path has so far been difficult to forecast.

Low-lying coastal areas in Louisiana were under a tropical storm warning, and the governor declared a state of emergency to free up resources ahead of a possible landfall. Warnings also were issued for coastal Alabama and parts of Florida, including the Panhandle.

Debby already had dumped heavy rain on parts of Florida and spawned some isolated tornadoes, causing some damage to homes and knocking down power lines.

It was not completely clear when or where Debby would make landfall, though current models showed it reaching hurricane strength by the time it hit the Louisiana coastline.

NEW YORK

Fund manager agrees to pay Madoff clients $405 million

ALBANY — New York’s attorney general says he has secured a civil settlement in which hedge fund manager J. Ezra Merkin will reimburse clients with $405 million lost in Bernard Madoff’s historic investment scam.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Sunday that the clients will be paid over three years and New York state will get $5 million to cover the cost of the settlement.

MASSACHUSETTS

Banana truck crash, fire destroys historic tavern

SEEKONK | An out-of-control tractor-trailer carrying bananas crashed into a natural-gas main and ignited an explosion on Sunday morning, setting fire to an 18th-century building that housed a tavern and destroying it.

Fire officials in Seekonk, about 6 miles east of Providence, R.I., said the 18-wheeler fell on its side and slid into the Old Grist Mill Tavern, whose website says the building was constructed in 1745 for grinding grain raised by area farmers.

OKLAHOMA

3 crew members missing after trains collide Sunday

GOODWELL — Three Union Pacific Railroad crew members were missing after two freight trains collided Sunday in the Oklahoma Panhandle.

An eastbound train carrying vehicles and a westbound train crashed about 10:08 a.m. Sunday near Goodwell, Union Pacific regional spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza said. A two-person crew was aboard each train, and officials were unable to account for two engineers and a conductor.

IOWA

AP: Few felons seeking to vote since crackdown

IOWA CITY — Republican Gov. Terry Branstad has made Iowa one of the most difficult states in the nation for felons to vote, with an executive order he issued last year already having disenfranchised thousands of people, a review by the Associated Press shows.

On the day he took office, Mr. Branstad signed an order reversing a six-year policy started under Democrat Tom Vilsack in which felons automatically regained their voting rights once they were discharged from state supervision.

The move flew in the face of a nationwide trend to make voting easier for felons, making Iowa one of four states where felons must apply to the governor to have voting rights restored. Mr. Branstad’s new process requires applicants to submit a credit report, a provision critics call inappropriate and unique among states.

Since then, 8,000 felons in Iowa have finished their prison sentences or been released from community supervision, but less than a dozen have successfully navigated the process of applying to get their citizenship rights back, according to public records obtained by the AP.

INDIANA

Judge upholds online ban for state’s sex offenders

INDIANAPOLIS — A federal judge has upheld an Indiana law banning registered sex offenders from accessing Facebook and other social-networking sites used by children.

Judge Tanya Walton Pratt said in an 18-page order Friday that the state has a strong interest in protecting children and that the rest of the Internet remains open to those who have been convicted.

PENNSYLVANIA

Penn State seeks to refocus spotlight on football field

STATE COLLEGE — Just days before Jerry Sandusky was convicted on multiple counts of child sex abuse, an email was sent to thousands of Penn State alumni with a simple message:

“We are ONE TEAM. Join us.”

Inside was a link to a website for purchasing tickets to football games.

After seven wrenching months of utter turmoil, shock and sadness, Penn State is looking toward the future and trying to change the subject.

The Nittany Lions open their season on Sept. 1 at 107,000-seat Beaver Stadium against Ohio University. For legions of PSU fans, it can’t come fast enough.

“Time is going to have to heal the image and perception,” former Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge said. “That’s going to happen sooner for some, later for others. It’s going to take time for people to think about Penn State and Penn State football without thinking about the Jerry Sandusky scandal.”

FLORIDA

Deadly Friday rampage shocks suspect’s family

ST. PETERSBURG — Cathie Little said Saturday there’s a good side to her big brother, Tony. “We just don’t know where it went.”

In the span of one hour Friday morning, authorities say, Anthony J. Giancola, 45, stabbed four people, beat two others with a hammer, slammed his car into four more, and ran over a 13-year-old boy on a bicycle.

Those who witnessed his rampage said they were certain he was on something. He is being held without bail in the Pinellas County Jail, charged with two first-degree murders and four attempted murders. More charges are likely.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports