- - Monday, September 24, 2012

CHICAGO — A federal appeals court in Chicago heard arguments Monday on the constitutionality of Wisconsin’s law restricting collective bargaining by public employees — one of several related appeals working their way through the courts.

The hourlong hearing before a three-judge panel at the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals focused on clauses that halt automatic withdrawal of union dues and require that unions hold elections annually to reconfirm their official status.

U.S. District Judge William Conley in the Western District of Wisconsin deemed both provisions illegal in a March 30 ruling. He left the majority of the law untouched.

The 2011 law — a centerpiece of the agenda of Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican — set off pitched political battles in Wisconsin and shined a national spotlight on the state. It focused attention on the question of public-sector unions, whether and how to rein them in.

TEXAS

Army officials say Fort Hood shooting suspect hospitalized

FORT WORTH — The Army psychiatrist charged in the deadly 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage has been hospitalized for undisclosed reasons, military officials said Monday.

Maj. Nidal Hasan was listed in good condition after he was admitted Saturday to the Army post’s hospital in Texas. Medical privacy laws prevent the disclosure of information about Maj. Hasan’s health, a Fort Hood news release said.

Maj. Hasan, 42, faces the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted in the November 2009 attack that killed 13 people and wounded more than two dozen others.

Maj. Hasan is paralyzed from the waist down after police at Fort Hood shot him the day of the rampage, but he has not been hospitalized since he was released in March 2010 after recovering from the gunshot wounds.

NEW YORK

Subway ads equate Islamist radicals with savages

NEW YORK — Provocative advertisements equating Muslim radicals with savages appeared in New York City subways Monday, drawing immediate criticism from some riders.

“It’s a terrible idea,” Colby Richardson said at a subway station in midtown Manhattan. “It’s going to spark controversy obviously when you deem one side savages and the other side civilized.”

Said another rider, Cameron McCabe: “I think it’s unfortunate that someone would want to put that up.” But, she added, “I think it’s their right to do so.”

The ads — reading, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” — went up in 10 stations across Manhattan after a court victory by a conservative commentator who once headed a campaign against an Islamic center near the World Trade Center site.

CALIFORNIA

San Francisco considers allowing tiny apartments

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco may soon give new meaning to the word “downsizing.”

Supervisors are set to vote Tuesday on a proposed change to the city’s building code that would allow construction of some of the tiniest apartments in the country.

Under the plan, new apartments could be as small as 220 square feet (a little more than double the size of some prison cells), including a kitchen, bathroom and closet, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Current regulations require the living room alone to be that size.

Schematics for 300-square-foot units planned for San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood include window seats that turn into spare beds and beds that turn into tables.

WASHINGTON

‘Zombie bees’ make first reported appearance in state

SEATTLE — Washington state has its first “zombie bees.”

Novice beekeeper Mark Hohn in Kent found that his bees are infected with a parasite that causes them to fly at night and lurch around erratically until they die.

The Seattle Times reported that it’s the first time the bee infection has been found in the state, according to tracking by San Francisco State University biologist John Hafernik through his website ZombeeWatch.org.

Zombie bees were first discovered in California in 2008.

Bee populations have been dropping in recent years because of another ailment called colony collapse disorder, in which all the adult honey bees in a colony die suddenly.

From wire dispatches and staff reports