- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 1, 2007

Tahoe blaze traced to illegal campfire

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Evacuated residents prepared to return to their burned-out streets as officials announced that an illegal campfire caused the inferno that destroyed more than 200 homes and charred 3,100 acres.

A U.S. Forest Service investigation found that the fire south of Lake Tahoe was built in a campfire-restricted area, but it said there was no evidence it was deliberately set to spark the devastating wildfire that has displaced about 3,500 people.

Donna Deaton, an investigator for the U.S. Forest Service, said Friday the fire was built about a quarter-mile south of Seneca Pond, a popular recreation area south of Lake Tahoe. There were no suspects, she said.

Tennessee to require ID for all beer sales

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Comer Wilson hasn’t had to show his ID to buy beer in awhile. Maybe it’s the 66-year-old man’s long white beard.

Starting today, gray hair won’t be good enough. Mr. Wilson and everyone else will be required to show identification before buying beer in Tennessee stores — no matter how old the buyer appears.

Tennessee is the first state to make universal carding mandatory, the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association says. However, the law does not apply to beer sales in bars and restaurants, and it does not cover wine and liquor.

Supporters say it keeps grocery store and convenience store clerks from having to guess a customer’s age. Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen said it’s a good way to address the problems of underage drinking.

31 men accused in gang-related killings

ST. CHARLES, Ill. — Thirty-one men have been charged with murder in 22 gang-related killings that date back nearly two decades, authorities said Friday.

Many of those charged were former leaders of the Latin Kings gang, and some still possibly could be in the gang’s upper echelons, Aurora police Chief William Powell said. Twenty-nine of those accused were in custody Friday, authorities said.

The men range in age from 17 to 55, but most were in their mid-20s to late 30s. The oldest homicide dates back to 1989, and the most recent took place in 2005. Chief Powell said many of those killed belonged to rival street gangs, but some were innocent victims.

While some of the suspects already have made preliminary appearances in court, none has entered any plea, according to the state’s attorney’s office.

Sea lanes shifting to protect whales

BOSTON — The busy shipping lanes in and out of Boston Harbor will be narrowed and shifted northward today in an attempt to lower the risk of rare right whales being killed by ships.

It’s the first time in U.S. history shipping lanes have been changed to protect wildlife.

Each year, ships from around the world, carrying everything from cars to natural gas, make about 3,500 trips through the designated lanes stretching from southeast of Cape Cod into the port of Boston.

The final stretch of that corridor will be given a slight northeast rotation today. Researchers say that change will take ships outside an area with a high concentration of North Atlantic right whales and reduces the risk of ships striking whales by more than 50 percent.

With the entire North Atlantic right whale population estimated at just 350, that lower risk is significant, said Richard Merrick, a federal researcher who helped devise the change.

Actor cleared in death

NEW YORK — An actor who played a prison inmate in a TV drama was cleared in a real-life criminal case after prosecutors said they couldn’t prove he acted negligently in a fight that sent a clubgoer tumbling down a nightclub elevator shaft to his death.

A judge Friday dropped a criminally negligent homicide charge against Granville Adams, who said he was defending himself when he shoved Orlando Valle at BED New York on Feb. 3.

Mr. Adams, who played prisoner Zahir Arif on the HBO series “Oz,” pushed Mr. Valle against the sixth-floor elevator doors. They opened, and Mr. Valle plunged four floors before landing on top of the elevator car at the second floor, according to police.

From staff reports and wire dispatches

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