Cell phone ignites, sets man on fire
VALLEJO — It’s every gadget fan’s nightmare: A cell phone apparently ignited in a man’s pocket and started a fire that caused severe burns over half his body.
Luis Picaso, 59, was in stable condition Monday at UC Davis Medical Center with second- and third-degree burns to his upper body, back, right arm and right leg, Vallejo Fire Department Assistant Chief Kurt Henke said.
Firefighters arrived at a residential hotel late Saturday night to find Mr. Picaso lying on the bathroom floor after the cell phone in his pants pocket set fire to his nylon and polyester clothes, department spokesman Bill Tweedy said.
“It was either a malfunction or some type of glitch in his phone,” said Mr. Tweedy, adding that investigators found no other possible ignition source, such as matches or open flame, nearby.
Authorities declined to name the manufacturer and model of the phone.
The fire and water caused $75,000 damage.
Residents injured fleeing building fire
COLORADO SPRINGS — Nearly two dozen residents forced to flee their burning apartment complex were injured after some jumped from balconies to escape the flames.
“People were throwing kids out of the windows,” said James Evans, who lives in a third-floor apartment.
At least 60 persons escaped into freezing weather; some jumped to safety and others were rescued by firefighters, authorities said.
The streets were coated with ice from firefighters’ efforts to hose down the blaze, which broke out sometime before 1 a.m. The cause was not immediately known.
Memorial Hospital Central said 23 persons were taken there with sprained ankles, broken bones and other injuries, but none of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.
Israeli pleads guilty to Ecstasy trafficking
FORT LAUDERDALE — An Israeli described as one of the world’s biggest drug traffickers pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiring to import thousands of Ecstasy tablets into the United States and was sentenced to 17 years in prison.
Zeev Rosenstein, a 52-year-old reputed organized crime figure known as “The Fat Man,” will serve his time in Israel.
Rosenstein was extradited from Israel last March to face charges of conspiring to distribute more than 850,000 Ecstasy pills.
The Drug Enforcement Administration listed Rosenstein as one of the 44 biggest global traffickers, saying his network spanned four continents.
He also reached an agreement with the Israeli government to plead guilty in an attempted murder involving a rival, said defense attorney Roy Black. The agreement calls for a three-year term to be served at the same time as the U.S. sentence.
Woman donates $7,000 to city
NEW YORK — Think you love New York? Marguerite Drucker really loves New York.
The 84-year-old housewife, who moved away several years ago, sent the Big Apple a $7,000 cashier’s check and an anonymous note professing her enduring fondness for the city.
“Dear sir,” her handwritten letter said. “Please find enclosed check for the poor of the city of New York. The city has been very good to me.”
The letter, sent to the comptroller’s office, didn’t have a return address, but Mrs. Drucker’s name was on the check.
Mrs. Drucker, a former nurse, was married to a pediatrician in the borough of Queens, where they raised seven children, participated in church activities and contributed to charities, friends said. She now lives in another state and didn’t wish to discuss her gift.
Newspapers pledge action on diversity
PHILADELPHIA — The owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News has pledged to create a new diversity committee in response to complaints that recent Inquirer newsroom layoffs disproportionately affected minorities.
Seven minority employees met with management yesterday and the papers’ owner, Philadelphia Media Holdings, pledged to create the committee that will explore ways to hire more minority journalists, said Melanie Burney, an education reporter at the Inquirer and an executive board member of the National Association of Black Journalists.
Management said the paper’s hands were tied by union contracts that required the most recent hires to be laid off first, Miss Burney said.
Earlier this month, Philadelphia Media Holdings said it would cut 71 Inquirer newsroom jobs, laying off 68 and reassigning three employees. Miss Burney said 16 of those jobs were held by blacks and five by Asians. The paper also is laying off 34 advertising employees.
Weather warnings will get specific
SAN ANTONIO — The National Weather Service will stop issuing countywide severe weather warnings in the fall, instead putting out warnings that are more geographically specific, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said yesterday.
The weather service will issue “storm-based warnings” for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, flash floods and marine hazards for specific areas within a county, using well-known landmarks such as highways or rivers.
Severe weather warnings are currently issued for entire counties.
White hunter charged in Hmong man’s death
MARINETTE — A white man was charged yesterday with murdering a Hmong hunter in the woods in a slaying that rekindled racial tensions in Wisconsin and raised fears among Southeast Asian immigrants that the dead man was the victim of a payback crime.
James Nichols, 28, shot and stabbed Cha Vang, 30, whose body was found Jan. 6 in a wildlife refuge near Green Bay, where both were hunting squirrels, authorities said.
District Attorney Brent DeBord gave no motive for the killing, which Mr. Vang’s family said appeared to be racially motivated.
Two years ago, a Hmong deer hunter fatally shot six white hunters after being accused of trespassing in the Wisconsin woods.
From wire dispatches and staff reports.