- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 27, 2008

Navajos ban smoking in public

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. | The Navajo Nation Council has banned the use of commercial tobacco in public places on the reservation - including such outdoor venues as rodeos and fairs.

The measure bans cigarettes and chewing tobacco - but not tobacco used in ceremonies for traditional or religious purposes - on the reservation across parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The reservation is about the size of West Virginia.

Violators could be fined $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense and $500 for the third offense or possible community service. Thomas Walker Jr., who sponsored the legislation, says council delegates approved the measure Friday evening on a vote of 42-27.

FDIC closes two Western banks

CARSON CITY, Nev. | Two banks operating in Nevada, Arizona and California - 1st National Bank of Nevada and First Heritage Bank N.A. - were closed Friday by federal regulators.

The 28 branches of the banks, owned by Scottsdale, Ariz.-based First National Bank Holding Co., were scheduled to reopen Monday as Mutual of Omaha Bank branches, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said.

The FDIC said that the takeover of the failed banks was the least costly resolution and that all depositors - including those with funds in excess of FDIC insurance limits - will switch to Mutual of Omaha with “the full amount of their deposits.” The agency said account holders could write checks and use ATM or debit cards during the weekend.

“There’s just not much to do on the customer side of things,” FDIC spokesman David Barr said. “There’s going to be no impact on the depositors whatsoever, except basically a name change.”

No lines of angry account holders formed Saturday - a stark contrast to the hundreds of angry customers who waited for hours earlier this month in Southern California to demand their money after IndyMac Bank’s assets were seized.

As of June 30, the closed banks had total assets of $3.6 billion. Most of the assets are in 1st National, while First Heritage N.A. accounts for $254 million.

Lawn mower shooter arrested

MILWAUKEE | A man who shot his malfunctioning lawn mower in a fit of possibly drunken rage faces a felony weapons charge, authorities say.

Police arrested Keith Walendowski, 57, Friday after officers said they found an illegal short-barreled shotgun and a handgun along with ammunition for both in his basement, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

“It’s my lawn mower and my yard, so I can shoot it if I want,” Mr. Walendowski said, according to police.

Officers said Mr. Walendowski, who shares a house with his mother, had been drinking before he decided at 9:30 a.m. to mow the lawn. He tried and failed to start his Lawn-Boy.

Dick Wagner of Wagner’s Garden Mart told the newspaper that shooting the mower was a mistake. “Anything not factory recommended would void the warranty,” he said.

Northern lights mystery solved

LOS ANGELES | Scientists working with NASA said they’ve uncovered the source of substorms in space that fuel the explosive energy behind the northern lights.

Vassilis Angelopoulos, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles and lead investigator of the NASA-funded mission known as THEMIS - Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions - said the energy comes from magnetic fields.

“Our data show clearly and for the first time that magnetic reconnection is the trigger,” Mr. Angelopoulos said. “Reconnection results in a slingshot acceleration of waves and plasma along magnetic field lines, lighting up the aurora underneath. … We are providing the evidence that this is happening.”

The energy release is responsible for the brightening of the aurora borealis or northern lights. The substorms also wreak havoc on satellites, power grids and communications systems, UCLA said.

The findings were published in the journal Science

Wildfire threatens edge of Yosemite

MIDPINES, Calif. | Authorities say a wildfire was threatening several hundred homes near the main entrance road to Yosemite National Park.

Cheryl Goetz, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said the 1,000-acre fire was burning in steep, rugged terrain along both sides of the Merced River.

The Mariposa Sheriff’s Department is warning residents of the town of Midpines, located along Highway 140 west of Yosemite, to prepare to evacuate. Campers on nearby Bureau of Land Management land were evacuated as a precaution.

Fire crews were being flown Saturday into the hard-to-reach area. The fire was first reported Friday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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