- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2006

MASSACHUSETTS

Repairs close Big Dig tunnel

BOSTON — A Big Dig tunnel used by motorists to get around a section of highway where a woman was killed by falling ceiling panels was ordered closed yesterday for repairs to the same type of panel.

The tunnel, a quarter-mile-long ramp, needs repairs to panel fixtures, officials said. The work was expected to last several days and comes after a car carrying Milena Del Valle, 38, was crushed July 10.

Since then, motorists have been using the ramp as a detour around the accident scene. The ramp had been identified by Gov. Mitt Romney’s inspection teams as a potential trouble spot, said a state Highway Department spokesman.

TEXAS

Shuttle crew ready to return

HOUSTON — All their assigned duties were completed and final precautionary tests turned up no problems yesterday, leaving weather the only question facing the astronauts on the space shuttle Discovery as they looked forward to a return to Earth.

Mission Control yesterday gave the shuttle crew permission to try for a landing today at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, clearing all lingering technical questions about the shuttle heat shield and the system that provides hydraulic power for landing.

“We feel very confident that Discovery is safe to come home,” landing director Steve Stitch said in a press conference yesterday. Re-entry is one of the two most dangerous parts of a shuttle flight, along with the launch. A damaged heat shield caused the shuttle Columbia to disintegrate during re-entry in 2003.

DELAWARE

Oil spill fouls stretch of Christina River

WILMINGTON — Private contractors, state environmental officials and representatives of Siemens AG worked yesterday to contain and clean up 2,100 gallons of waste oil that fouled a five-mile stretch of the Christina River on the Wilmington Riverfront.

The oil spewed into the river after a hose ruptured Saturday evening during a transfer of waste oil at the International Petroleum Co. of Delaware facility, which is operated by USFilter, a subsidiary of Siemens. The cause of the rupture was under investigation, said Vince Glorioso, a business unit manager for USFilter.

The impact of the spill stretched from the mouth of the Christina River to the Interstate 95 overpass and into the Brandywine River.

HAWAII

Tour copters banned from forest reserve

LIHUE — The state ordered tour helicopters to stop landing in Kauai’s Moloaa Forest Reserve because the forays into the pristine area could harm the ecosystem. The illegal landings carry fines of $2,000 per day.

In May, the state inspected an area near a waterfall in the reserve and found a helicopter landing site with two adjacent structures.

ILLINOIS

Heat wave has much of nation sizzling

CHICAGO — Temperatures soared into the upper 90s and higher yesterday from coast to coast, bringing out heat warnings, wilting athletes and driving others into the shade.

The choking heat was expected to continue for the next few days, and the hot air was moving toward the East Coast, meteorologists said.

Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich said yesterday that the state would make more than 130 office buildings available as cooling centers beginning today. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty had ordered the National Guard out to help firefighters as temperatures even in the normally cool northern part of the state pushed 100 degrees amid very dry conditions.

The National Weather Service issued excessive heat warnings for Las Vegas, Chicago, St. Louis and Tulsa, Okla.

MISSISSIPPI

Judge rejects release for ex-KKK leader

PHILADELPHIA — A judge Friday refused to release Edgar Ray Killen from prison while the former Ku Klux Klan leader appeals his conviction in the 1964 killing of three civil rights workers.

Killen, 81, was convicted last year of manslaughter in the slayings of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman.

He was sentenced to 60 years in prison but has been in poor health, and his attorneys argued that the former sawmill operator and preacher should be allowed out of prison for health reasons during his appeals.

They said Killen couldn’t attend the hearing Friday before Neshoba County Circuit Judge Marcus Gordon because he has an intravenous drip in his arm and that would have required an ambulance to transport him to the courthouse. The state Department of Corrections had said it would not provide an ambulance for the trip.

NEW YORK

Doctor suspected in building blast dies

NEW YORK — The doctor suspected of blowing up his town house rather than allowing his ex-wife to benefit from its sale has died, nearly a week after suffering critical injuries in the blast, a hospital spokeswoman said yesterday.

Dr. Nicholas Bartha, 66, died late Saturday, said Mary Halston, an administrator at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Police had been unable to speak to Dr. Bartha about the July 10 explosion because he was in a medically induced coma. Authorities have said they were investigating whether he might have caused it rather than sell the house as part of a divorce judgment favoring his ex-wife. Investigators have confirmed that someone tampered with a gas line leading into the basement.

The physician, who lived and worked in the four-story landmark on Manhattan’s upscale Upper East Side, was the lone occupant during the blast. It leveled the building and left the block covered in bricks, broken glass and splintered wood. At least 14 other persons were injured, including 10 firefighters, authorities said.

NORTH CAROLINA

State eyes tougher sex-offender law

RALEIGH — North Carolina wants help from eyes in the sky to keep track of serious sex offenders.

Satellite tracking and stepped-up registration for sex offenders are part of a stack of proposals in the state legislature aimed at having law-enforcement officers keep better track of former convicts who have committed sex crimes.

Legislators have considered tactics such as requiring sex offenders on a state registry to verify their home address more often, enlisting the help of the state Division of Motor Vehicles in increasing registrations and restricting where sex offenders live.

But with the end of the legislative session near, most of the focus has turned to satellite monitoring and requiring offenders to more frequently update law-enforcement officials about their whereabouts.

Under the proposed registration rules, offenders who live in one county but work and have temporary homes in another county would have to register with sheriffs in both places. People on the registry would have to verify the information in person twice a year.

OREGON

Plane crashes into residences

HILLSBORO — A plane participating in an air show crashed into a residential neighborhood near the Hillsboro Airport, setting at least two homes on fire.

Connie King, a spokeswoman for the Hillsboro Fire Department, said three homes were hit, but she did not know whether there were any injuries.

The crash happened toward the end of the two-day Hillsboro Air Show.

Witness Kory Hauser said the plane, an older model jet, went down about 4:30 p.m. about a mile and a half from the airport, the Statesman Journal in Salem reported.

“It was doing a loop and couldn’t pull out in time,” he told the paper. “It clipped about three houses and went down.”

The air show was immediately canceled, and Mr. Hauser said the streets in that section of Hillsboro were in gridlock.

Another witness, Josh Boer, told a Portland TV station that a house “literally exploded” when the plane hit and sent out a fire bomb that lit two other homes on fire.

WISCONSIN

Nightclub shooting kills 2, wounds 1

MILWAUKEE — An argument at a nightclub in a popular tourist area spilled into the streets early yesterday and erupted into fighting and gunfire that left two persons dead and a third wounded, authorities said.

Detectives were still sorting through details and trying to determine a motive, but police Capt. Michael Young said there were 50 to 75 witnesses. There were no immediate arrests.

Club employees locked the door and fled during the incident, Mr. Young said.

Police said they will not allow the club to reopen because the owners had been operating it as a dance club even though the city had denied them a dance hall license.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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