- - Friday, January 22, 2010


State sees more rain; evacuations urged

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE — Southern California authorities strongly urged residents of endangered foothill homes to obey evacuation orders Thursday as the week’s fourth Pacific storm blew into the region and flash-flood watches were expanded to numerous urban areas including downtown Los Angeles.

The siege of storms has led to several deaths statewide and flooding in urban areas and on freeways.

Officials appeared concerned the lack of massive debris flows from wildfire burn areas was misleading for residents.

“It’s time to roll, it’s time to evacuate,” said Los Angeles County Public Works Director Gail Farber.


Exotic birds found in condemned home

PUEBLO — Dozens of exotic birds are being nursed to health in Colorado after animal control officers found them malnourished in a condemned house without heat or water.

Authorities went to the place in Pueblo on Tuesday after getting a tip from neighbors and found 45 macaw parrots, about 150 pigeons and some dogs and cats.

By the time officials went back the next day, two of the macaws had died. Authorities say the elderly owner was feeding them dog food to try to keep them alive.

The 43 surviving macaws were seized Wednesday and taken to a veterinarian. The pigeons, cats and dogs remain on the man’s property, with officials bringing them food and water.

The homeowner hasn’t been named or charged with a crime.


Firm will remove Bible references

A Michigan defense contractor will voluntarily stop stamping references to Bible verses on combat rifle sights sold to the U.S. military, a major buyer of the company’s gear.

In a statement released Thursday, Trijicon of Wixom, Mich., says it also providing to the armed forces free of charge modification kits to remove the Scripture citations from the telescoping sights already in use. The Marine Corps has purchased more than 200,000 Trijicon sights and the Army has bought about 100,000.

The references raised concerns the citations break a government rule that bars proselytizing by American troops.


Small fire forces auto show evacuation

DETROIT — Authorities say a small fire has forced the evacuation of thousands of people from the auto show in downtown Detroit. No injuries were immediately reported.

Fire Department spokeswoman Katrina Butler said the fire at Cobo Center was reported Thursday afternoon.

North American International Auto Show spokesman Sam Locricchio said an electrical fire at the Audi display forced the evacuation. He said no vehicles were damaged and smoke was being aired out from the building.

Miss Butler said the cause was under investigation.

The auto show opened to the public Saturday after nearly a week of access for the media, industry insiders and others. It runs through Sunday.


Ten Commandments monument at bank

POTEAU — A Ten Commandments monument that supporters want to put on the lawn of an Oklahoma county courthouse has been installed outside a bank for the time being.

More than 200 people turned out for this week’s unveiling of the monument at Community State Bank in Poteau.

Le Flore County commissioners initially agreed to put the monument on the courthouse lawn. But they later decided to wait for a Supreme Court decision on a similar monument in neighboring Haskell County.

Haskell County commissioners are appealing a ruling that a monument on the courthouse lawn is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.


Man in custody after firing shots at Capitol

AUSTIN — A man fired several shots into the air Thursday while standing on the Texas Capitol’s south steps before throwing down his handgun as state troopers closed in and tackled him, the Texas Department of Public Safety said.

Nobody was wounded in the shooting, department spokesman Tom Vinger said. The 24-year-old suspect from the Houston area was taken to the Travis County Jail and faces felony charges of deadly conduct, Mr. Vinger said. His name wasn’t immediately released.

The shots rang out just after noon, and officers with rifles quickly swarmed the scene. More than a half dozen Department of Public Safety cars quickly appeared, and troopers quickly surrounded the building. The Capitol was on lockdown as officials searched as a precaution.


Meteorite strikes doctor’s office

LORTON — Doctors at a small practice in Virginia got a big surprise when a tennis ball-sized meteorite punched a hole through their roof. No one was injured.

Dr. Frank Ciampi said the rock struck the two-story building around 5:30 p.m. Monday in Lorton, about 20 miles southwest of Washington.

He said they heard a loud bang and found the projectile punched through the roof and ceiling, raining down pieces of wood, plaster and insulation.

The half-pound rock split into three chunks. Television station WUSA took it to the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History and experts confirmed it was a meteorite.

They estimated it was traveling about 220 miles per hour when it struck.


Mom drives in labor to meet husband

WEST ALLIS — Not even labor contractions could keep a Wisconsin woman from driving to meet her husband as the guardsman returned home from Iraq.

Johana Ortiz had gone into labor hours before her husband’s plane landed at Camp Douglas, but she defied her doctor’s orders and made the nearly three-hour trip from Milwaukee.

She says she really wanted her husband to be there for the birth because he was in Iraq during her pregnancy.

When the plane with about 300 soldiers landed last week, commanders directed U.S. Army Spc. Melvin Ortiz to leave the aircraft first. He sprinted to the hangar, hugged his wife and they hopped into a sport utility vehicle.

They then rushed to a suburban Milwaukee hospital, where a healthy 7-pound-8-ounce boy named Eduardo was born.


Man pleads guilty in bull rider’s death

CASPER — A Cheyenne man has pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute the heroin and cocaine that led to the death of a professional bull rider.

Twenty-six-year-old Rhett Epler pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Casper as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors. In exchange for Epler’s plea, prosecutors agreed to recommend he serve no more than five years in prison on a charge that normally carries a 20-year minimum.

Epler is one of four men charged in the Dec. 2 overdose of 21-year-old Cheyenne bull rider Bryan Guthrie.

Prosecutors say Christopher Tyson, Joel Murdoch and Kyle Walla traveled to Denver to buy heroin and cocaine, and that Guthrie gave the men money to help buy the drugs.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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