- - Sunday, September 12, 2010


Residents return after wildfire

BOULDER, Colo. | Colorado crews let hundreds of evacuees return to their scorched homes Sunday as investigators probed the cause of a devastating wildfire that has burned 10 square miles near Boulder.

A senior law enforcement official familiar with the investigation told the Denver Post that authorities are looking into whether a fire pit sparked the blaze, which could mean criminal charges are possible. The newspaper did not name the official.

Authorities previously said the fire may have started after a vehicle crashed into a propane tank.

Utility workers were restoring electricity to homes where about 2,000 residents have been allowed to return in the rugged foothills above Boulder.


Rare blue diamond up for sale at auction

NEW YORK | A two-stone ring with a rare triangular blue diamond the size of a quarter on a gold band with baguette-cut diamonds could bring at least $15 million when it is offered at auction in New York next month.

At 10.95 carats, the stone is the largest triangular-shaped fancy vivid blue diamond ever to come to auction, Christie’s told the Associated Press in advance of the Oct. 20 sale. It is paired with a 9.87-carat white diamond cut in the same shape.


State pulls plug on port privatization proposals

NORFOLK | State Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton announced Friday that Virginia will not consider three unsolicited industry proposals to operate the port of Hampton Roads.

The proposals, submitted in 2009, were received amid a recession, when the port was valued on the low side, and before the Virginia Port Authority signed a 20-year lease with APM Terminals in Portsmouth this summer, he said.

Mr. Connaughton said that since the proposals were received, cargo volumes moving through the port have steadily increased.

“The bids, therefore, are not considered reflective of the value of the terminals based on the past investment made by the commonwealth and their anticipated value as the economy recovers,” he said.

He said the leasing of the Portsmouth terminal is likely to add to that value.


Trial starts Monday on ‘don’t ask’ policy

SEATTLE | Opponents of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy against gays serving in the military are hoping for another major legal victory as a federal trial begins Monday over whether to reinstate a lesbian flight nurse discharged from the Air Force Reserve.

The trial comes just days after a federal judge in California declared “don’t ask, don’t tell” unconstitutional. While the ruling does not affect the legal issues in the case of former Maj. Margaret Witt, gay rights activists believe a victory — and her reinstatement — could help build momentum for repealing the policy.

Ms. Witt was a member of a squadron based at McChord Air Force Base near Tacoma when she was suspended in 2004 and honorably discharged. She challenged the constitutionality of her dismissal, and a federal appeals court panel ruled in 2008 that the military could not discharge service members for being gay unless it proved that the firing furthered military readiness.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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