- The Washington Times - Friday, February 12, 2010


Western Union settles dispute

PHOENIX | Western Union has agreed to a $94 million settlement in a dispute with Arizona prosecutors involving the state’s efforts to reduce the flow of immigrant and drug smuggling money through wire transfers.

The Arizona attorney general’s office said Thursday that the Englewood, Colo.-based company will pay $7 million to each of three Arizona law enforcement agencies to cover the costs of investigating Western Union and its agents.

Authorities have said in court that the company had some unscrupulous agents who knowingly helped smugglers send money to Mexico.

Western Union also will contribute $50 million to the Southwest Border Anti-Money Laundering Alliance, which includes the attorneys general of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.

The company will spend another $19 million to strengthen its own anti-money-laundering effort and pay $4 million for independent monitoring of its anti-money-laundering efforts.


Mumps outbreak tops 1,500 cases

ATLANTA | A mumps outbreak among Orthodox Jews in New York and New Jersey has surpassed 1,500 cases and shows no sign of ending soon.

The outbreak began last summer at a boys camp in the Catskills. Nearly all the cases are in the insular Orthodox Jewish community. Health officials said most had a mumps vaccination, but the shots are not completely effective.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday said the count had reached 1,521. Nineteen people have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported.


Fire station burns after roof collapses

SYKESVILLE | A fire station in Maryland was largely destroyed by a three-alarm blaze after snow from the region’s double blizzards collapsed the roof.

The station in rural Sykesville was empty at the time of the collapse because firefighters were out on a call. Nobody was injured.

Carroll County spokeswoman Vivian Laxton said the roof of the station’s banquet hall caved in about 7:40 a.m. Thursday, rupturing a gas line and sparking the blaze.

The fire burned for more than six hours. Firefighters from three neighboring counties helped bring it under control.

Miss Laxton said the living quarters and banquet hall were destroyed along with much of the equipment inside those buildings.


‘Contractor’ status cuts payroll costs

NASHUA | The Internal Revenue Service and 37 states are cracking down on companies that illegally try to trim payroll costs by changing employees’ status to independent contractors, the Associated Press has learned. The practice costs governments billions of dollars in lost revenue and can leave workers high and dry when they are hurt at work or are left jobless.

Many who’ve studied the problem say it’s worsened during the economic downturn - fueling states to be even more aggressive with their recovery efforts.

By designating workers as independent contractors, businesses can save as much as 30 percent of payroll. They also can avoid unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation payments, as well as the employer’s share of payroll withholding.


Transformer explosion shatters windows

NEW YORK | A transformer explosion sent flames up the front of a Manhattan building, leaving behind broken windows and blackening the front of several stories. No injuries have been reported.

Police spokesman Paul Browne says a fire in an electrical transformer appears to have caused the explosion at about 10:45 a.m. Thursday. The fire department says firefighters responded to a call to 641 Sixth Ave. in Manhattan’s Chelsea district, where a Radio Shack is located.


Storm strands drivers, blamed for fatalities

PHILADELPHIA | Crews in Maryland worked to rescue motorists stranded on highways in snow drifts up to 8 feet and utility workers scrambled to restore power to more than 100,000 customers a day after a powerful storm disrupted the lives of some 50 million people from the Southern plains up through the East Coast.

The storm has been blamed for more than a dozen deaths, mostly in traffic accidents.

Snowbound airports resumed limited operations, but many flights were still canceled or delayed. School systems in the path of the storm remained closed for a second day, including in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, although New York City schoolchildren headed back to class after only their third snow day in six years.

In Washington, the federal government was closed for a fourth straight day. The nation’s capital joined Philadelphia and Baltimore in logging their snowiest winters in history.

Paul Kocin, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Washington, said the storm compares to some of the greatest ever largely because of its timing. He estimated 50 million people were affected.

“The big difference is that it occurred within a week and a half of three other storms,” Mr. Kocin said. “The combination of storms is almost unprecedented - the amount of snow, the amount of impact.”

The latest storm dumped more than 19 inches in Baltimore, 10 inches in the District and 16 inches in Philadelphia.


$1M bond set in shooting case

KNOXVILLE | A Tennessee elementary school teacher accused of shooting and wounding the principal and assistant principal at his school is being held on a $1 million bond.

Mark Stephen Foster, 48, is charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder and unlawful possession of a gun on school property.

He’s accused of shooting the administrators at Inskip Elementary School in Knoxville on Wednesday, soon after the children were dismissed because of snow.

Hospital officials say Principal Elisa Luna remains in critical condition. Assistant Principal Amy Brace was in stable condition Wednesday night.

Police have not discussed a motive. His brother and a former employer say Mr. Foster had shown threatening behavior before.


South slammed with snowstorm

DALLAS | The snow from this storm is being measured in inches, not feet, but it’s falling in Texas and causing plenty of problems.

The National Weather Service says the Dallas-Fort Worth area has received up to 4 inches of snow, while Abilene, Amarillo and Lubbock also were getting measurable accumulations.

Texas Christian University canceled classes because of icy road conditions, and trucks have been spreading sand on highway in the Dallas area.

Farther south, though, the problem is rain. It’s forced the cancellation of Mardi Gras festivities in Port Arthur, in southeastern Texas.

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