Winds diminish; fleeing halted
LOS ANGELES | Residents of the San Fernando Valley breathed air free of smoke and ash for the first time in four days Wednesday under brilliant blue skies.
Gone were the convulsive winds that at times reached gale force. Nowhere could Los Angeles police be found using bullhorns to order residents out of homes and away from deadly fires that have blackened more than 34 square miles and destroyed more than 50 homes.
The last evacuation orders for two big fire areas at opposite ends of the valley were lifted, though some locations were open just to residents. Some of those who returned found only rubble.
Congressman’s son jailed in sex case
ST. CHARLES | The son of Rep. Bobby L. Rush has been sentenced in Illinois to 180 days in jail for sexual contact with female inmates at a state corrections facility where he worked.
Jeffrey M. Rush, 42, was sentenced Wednesday after pleading guilty to official misconduct in a deal with prosecutors.
Rush purportedly met two inmates for sexual contact on numerous occasions and offered a third a ride while he was security chief at the Fox Valley Adult Transition Center in Aurora. He was fired in September 2007.
Democrat Bobby Rush is seeking re-election November.
Polio vaccine aims at common form
BOSTON | A newer vaccine that targets the most common form of the polio virus works up to four times better than the conventional vaccine that tries to protect against all three types of the crippling disease, researchers said Wednesday.
The so-called monovalent vaccine may help speed the fight to eradicate polio, U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials Ellie Ehrenfeld and Konstantin Chumakov wrote in a commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine, where two studies on the three-year-old vaccine appear.
14 indicted in scheme
ST. LOUIS | Fourteen people have been indicted on charges of using convenience stores to trade in stolen goods and contraband cigarettes, sending the profits to groups in the Palestinian territories.
Five stores were raided Tuesday as part of a purported racketeering organization and at least nine people were arrested, authorities said.
The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force was involved in the investigation, but officials would not say whether they think terrorism was involved.
The indictment, announced by U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway, said that since 2000, the organization profited from bank and wire fraud, receipt of stolen property and sales of contraband cigarettes.
Judge throws out suit against God
LINCOLN | A judge has thrown out a Nebraska legislator’s lawsuit against God, saying the Almighty wasn’t properly served due to his unlisted home address.
State Sen. Ernie Chambers filed the lawsuit last year seeking a permanent injunction against God. He said God has made terroristic threats against the senator and his constituents in Omaha, inspired fear and caused “widespread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth’s inhabitants.”
Mr. Chambers has said he filed the lawsuit to make the point that everyone should have access to the courts regardless of whether they are rich or poor.
Ex-senator pleads guilty in corruption
ALBUQUERQUE | A once powerful New Mexico politician, former Sen. Manny Aragon, pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy and mail fraud in a corruption case centered on construction of a courthouse.
Aragon, 61, the former Senate president pro tem, faces 5 1/2 years in prison in a plea deal, federal prosecutor Jonathon Gerson said.
Aragon, a Democrat, was accused of pocketing $650,000 in a scheme with four other people to bilk the state out of $4.2 million during construction of the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Courthouse.
Mayor nixes plan to buy Jesus statue
EDMOND | The mayor of this conservative Oklahoma City suburb on Wednesday retreated from a board’s decision to help buy a bronze sculpture depicting Jesus Christ and said a private group will buy out the city’s commitment.
“We’re not looking for a lawsuit,” Edmond Mayor Dan O’Neil said.
The Edmond Visual Arts Commission last month approved paying $3,900 for “Come Unto Me,” a 26-inch-high statue that shows Jesus surrounded by children. It is planned for a sidewalk outside a downtown Catholic gift shop, which raised the rest of the $7,800 sculpture’s price tag.
Mr. O’Neil said Wednesday that he plans to secure private funding to cover the city’s commitment, as well.
From wire dispatches and staff reports