- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 10, 2010

CALIFORNIA

NHTSA to inspect runaway Prius

EL CAJON | A Toyota Prius that sped out of control on a California freeway was towed to a dealership Tuesday while federal and company inspectors converged on the car to determine whether a stuck gas pedal was to blame.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sent two investigators to examine the car after Monday’s incident, said Olivia Alair, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation, which oversees NHTSA. Toyota Motor Corp. spokesman Brian Lyons said the automaker is sending three of its own technicians to investigate.

James Sikes, 61, of Jacumba, told authorities that the accelerator malfunctioned Monday as he drove his Prius on Interstate 8 in San Diego County. The car reached 94 mph during the 20 minutes before a California Highway Patrol officer helped get the Prius driver to slow down and turn off the engine.

The CHP held the car overnight but it was towed to the dealership Tuesday, Officer Brian Pennings said.

The incident comes while Toyota is trying to calm fears about the safety of its vehicles, which had been known for their safety and reliability.

LOUISIANA

Executive’s body found in river

NEW ORLEANS | The body of a missing Texas oil executive was pulled from the Mississippi River, police said.

Bob Young of the New Orleans police department said police think Douglas Schantz, 54, drowned accidentally. Mr. Schantz, president of Houston-based Sequent Energy Management, had been missing since early Friday.

He was in town to give Tulane University a $25,000 gift during a reception Thursday. A colleague who was with him said that after the dinner they went to Bourbon Street around midnight.

Police said Mr. Schantz left a bar around 2 a.m. and was then seen on a security video at a river dock. They said he had been drinking and seemed disoriented.

Police said Mr. Schantz had all of his credit cards and jewelry and foul play is not suspected.

NEW JERSEY

Man pleads guilty in airport security case

NEWARK | A graduate student from China who slipped under a rope barrier at Newark Liberty International Airport to say goodbye to his girlfriend, prompting a security breach and leading to worldwide flight delays, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge Tuesday and apologized publicly for the first time.

“I want to deeply apologize to those [affected] for my breach,” Haisong Jiang said outside of court. “I just wanted to spend more time with my girlfriend. I made a big mistake, and I also learned a big lesson.”

Mr. Jiang, a doctoral student in a joint molecular biosciences program at Rutgers University, admitted to a municipal judge that he passed under a rope and entered a restricted area at the airport Jan. 3 to spend more time with his girlfriend. She was leaving for California and visiting him in New Jersey.

As part of a plea agreement for the defiant trespassing charge, Mr. Jiang agreed to pay a $500 fine, plus additional court costs, and perform 100 hours of community service.

NEW YORK

Faster rebuilding at 9/11 site urged

NEW YORK | Construction workers hoping to speed up the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site chanted “Build it now!” at a rally Tuesday to urge quicker action on the project.

Construction is under way on 1 World Trade Center, a memorial and a transit hub, but the building of other planned towers has stalled as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spars with developer Larry Silverstein.

The authority, which controls the property, wants more private-sector cash for the project than Mr. Silverstein has offered and prefers to delay construction on two of the towers until the real estate market improves.

An arbitration panel gave the two sides until Friday to hammer out a new schedule for rebuilding parts of the site of the 2001 terror attacks.

Port Authority Executive Director Chris Ward said Tuesday the authority “is not willing to do a public bailout of Larry Silverstein.”

PENNSYLVANIA

Police: Woman recruited jihadists

PHILADELPHIA | A suburban Philadelphia woman “desperate to do something” to help suffering Muslims has been charged with using the Internet to recruit jihadist fighters and help terrorists overseas, even agreeing to move to Europe to try to kill someone, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Authorities said the case shows how terror groups are looking to recruit Americans, even suburban women, to carry out their goals.

A federal indictment charges that Colleen R. LaRose agreed to kill a Swedish citizen on orders from the unnamed terrorists and traveled to Europe to carry out the killing. It doesn’t say whether the Swede was killed, but Miss LaRose was not charged with murder.

U.S. Attorney Michael Levy told the Associated Press that the indictment doesn’t link Miss LaRose, a U.S. citizen who moved to Europe in August 2009, to any organized terror groups.

Authorities describe Miss LaRose as in her 40s and from Montgomery County. They say she called herself JihadJane in a YouTube video in which she said she was “desperate to do something somehow to help” ease the suffering of Muslims. According to the indictment, she agreed to obtain residency in a European country and marry one of the terrorists to enable him to live there.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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