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American Scene: LEDs mean full rainbow for Empire State Building

- - Tuesday, May 8, 2012

NEW YORK — The Empire State Building will replace its tower lights with a computer-driven LED system that allows for nearly endless color combinations.

The iconic skyscraper's owner is partnering with Massachusetts-based Philips Color Kinetics to install the new light fixtures.

The top of the building is bathed in an ever-changing array of colors in honor of holidays and community organizations and for numerous other occasions.

The new system includes a palette of more than 16 million colors. The present system has 10.

Currently, it takes a team several hours to change the colors. With LED lights, the color changes to the building's facade and mast can be made instantly.

Building owner Anthony Malkin says the energy-efficient technology will be installed by September.

Philips Color Kinetics is a division of Royal Philips Electronics NV.

TEXAS

Police chief: Officer kicked teen suspect

HOUSTON — Houston's police chief believes an ex-officer accused in the 2010 videotaped beating of a 15-year-old burglary suspect kicked and stomped on the boy.

Police Chief Charles McClelland Jr. told jurors Tuesday that the actions of fired officer Andrew Blomberg were "contrary to department policy, training and state law."

Mr. Blomberg is charged with misdemeanor official oppression in the beating and faces up to a year in jail if convicted. He was one of four officers fired and indicted after the incident.

Security video from March 2010 appears to show several officers hitting Chad Holley during his arrest. He was subsequently convicted in juvenile court of burglary and put on probation.

Chief McClelland was the last witness for the prosecution.

Mr. Blomberg's defense began with testimony from a police sergeant who investigated the burglary

NEW MEXICO

Hobbs picked as site of scientific ghost town

ALBUQUERQUE — Gov. Susana Martinez and a group of investors announced Tuesday that a city in the heart of southeastern New Mexico's oil and gas country will be the site of a new $1 billion scientific ghost town where researchers will be able to test everything from renewable energy innovations to intelligent traffic systems and next-generation wireless networks.

Pegasus-Global Holdings and its New Mexico subsidiary, CITE Development, had narrowed the list of potential sites to two last month. Officials announced during Tuesday's news conference that Hobbs beat out a location near Las Cruces.

Hobbs Mayor Sam Cobb said the unique research and development will be a key for diversifying the economy.

"It brings so many great opportunities and puts us on a world stage," he said.

Not far from the Texas border, the community has been growing and local leaders have been pushing to expand the area's reputation to include economic development ventures beyond the staple of oil and gas.

The city currently has two nonstop flights from Houston each day and is working on getting daily service to Albuquerque and Denver. Mr. Cobb said discussions for the new flights have just started but having the research center may bolster efforts to connect Hobbs to more cities.

MICHIGAN

Teen's sweet prom dress made of candy wrappers

ISHPEMING — A northern Michigan teen put together one sweet prom dress, thanks to the help of classmates who collected thousands of Starburst wrappers for her.

Diane McNease tells WLUC-TV that she came up with the idea of making her prom dress out of candy wrappers when she saw a friend folding some. She estimates it took about 18,000 Starburst wrappers to make the corset of her dress, as well as matching hair bands and a purse.

The Ishpeming High School student wore the dress to Saturday's prom in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

The top half of the dress is made out of folded wrappers and the bottom looks more like a traditional gown. It took about five months to make, with help from family and friends.

CALIFORNIA

Border Patrol gets first new strategy in 8 years

SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Border Patrol is unveiling its first national strategy in eight years, a period in which the number of agents more than doubled and apprehensions of people entering illegally from Mexico dropped to a 40-year low.

Chief Mike Fisher is expected to outline the plan Tuesday in Washington. The new approach relies on buzzwords such as "risk-based" and "intelligence-driven" to describe a more nuanced, targeted response to constantly evolving threats.

The Border Patrol has relied on a strategy to blanket heavily trafficked corridors for illegal immigrants with agents. The idea was to push migrants to more remote areas where they would presumably be easier to capture and discouraged from trying again.

MONTANA

Black bear abandons cabin hibernation spot

PHILIPSBURG — A 200-pound black bear that swiped some blankets and pillows from a western Montana cabin to line his makeshift den in the cabin's crawl space has moved on.

Cabin owner Judy Wing of Missoula tells the Montana Standard that now that the bear, dubbed Blue, has awakened, she's going to bear-proof the seasonal cabin on Georgetown Lake.

Ms. Wing's family discovered the bear, and the missing pillows, comforters and homemade blankets, on a Jan. 1 visit. They nailed shut a hatch in the floor and covered the outside opening with brush to keep the bear warm and hidden.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks game warden Terry Althaus says the bear stuck around until early April.

Ms. Wing plans to meet with wildlife officials this weekend to go over ways she can secure the cabin

INDIANA

Man arrested with 4 kids strapped to car hood

FORT WAYNE — Police in northeast Indiana say a man who drove three blocks with four children strapped to the hood of his car has been arrested on a drunken driving charge.

Fort Wayne police spokesman John Chambers says a witness called police Monday evening after seeing a man and woman strap the children to the car in a liquor store parking lot, then drive away.

Mr. Chambers says a U.S. marshal stopped the car.

The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette reports that the children, aged 4, 5, 6 and 7, weren't injured.

Police say the man was arrested on a preliminary drunken driving charge and may face other charges.

The woman was questioned by police, who called the Department of Child Services.

Police didn't identify the man or woman.

CALIFORNIA

State mulls banning gay teen 'conversion' therapy

SACRAMENTO — A first-of-its-kind ban on a controversial form of psychotherapy aimed at making gay people straight faces a key vote in front of California lawmakers.

Supporters say the legislation, which is before its final committee Tuesday, is necessary because such treatments are dangerous and can lead to suicide.

Conservative religious groups emphatically reject that view of sexual orientation therapy and say the California bill would interfere with parents' rights to seek appropriate psychological care for their children.

Mainstream mental health organizations have disavowed such therapy.

The debate comes as gay rights issues take the spotlight around the nation with pending legislation in North Carolina and Colorado and recent comments from Vice President Joseph R. Biden, who said he is "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex couples getting the same rights as heterosexual couples.

From wire dispatches and staff reports