- - Wednesday, December 28, 2011


3 miners rescued from mine after fire

NEW MARKET | A fire broke out inside a zinc mine in Tennessee on Wednesday, trapping three miners inside for about three hours before they were rescued, authorities said. Two other miners below ground were injured by smoke inhalation.

The three miners were trapped by smoke and needed respirators before they could leave the mine. A rescue team helped them out and they appeared unharmed, though they were taken to a hospital as a precaution, said Tim Wilder of the Jefferson County EMA.

“They looked about as good as expected for being underground for three hours,” he said.

Mr. Wilder said the miners had been in contact with authorities but couldn’t leave because the smoke was so thick. “It’s the ending you hope for,” he said.

Renata Roberts, a spokeswoman for Switzerland-based mine operator Nyrstar, said the three rescued miners were “in fine spirits.”

“We are working with mine safety officials and others to make sure it’s safe to resume operations. We are undertaking a full investigation,” she said.

There were 54 miners underground at the time of the fire, said Amy Louviere, a spokeswoman with the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

It was not clear yet how the fire started on a drill rig about 800 feet below ground around 1:10 p.m.


Oklahoma baby is third sickened by rare bacteria

ATLANTA | An Oklahoma baby is the third infant this month sickened by a rare type of bacteria sometimes associated with tainted powdered infant formula.

The child, from Tulsa County, was infected with Cronobacter sakazakii but fully recovered, health officials said Wednesday. An Illinois child also rebounded after being sickened by the bacteria. A Missouri infant who was 10 days old died.

The Missouri child, Avery Cornett, had consumed Enfamil Newborn powdered infant formula made by Illinois-based Mead Johnson. Powdered formula has been suspected in illnesses caused by the bacteria in years past.

But health officials say the Oklahoma child had not consumed Enfamil. And Mead Johnson this week reported that its own testing found no bacteria in the product.

U.S. officials are awaiting results from their own testing of powdered formula and distilled water - also known as “nursery water” - used to prepare it.


State joins push for new pot classification

DENVER | Colorado has become the third state to ask the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana in a way that allows doctors to prescribe it as a medical treatment.

The head of the Colorado Department of Revenue, which oversees the state’s booming medical marijuana business, made the request in a letter sent Dec. 22. It wasn’t released to the public until Wednesday because of the Christmas holiday.

The letter says the discrepancy between state law and federal drug law, which does not permit medicinal uses of marijuana, is problematic.

Last month, the governors of Washington and Rhode Island also asked that the government list marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug, like morphine and oxycodone.


Autopsies: Victims died of smoke inhalation

STAMFORD | Five family members who were killed in a Christmas morning house fire in Stamford died of smoke inhalation, the Connecticut medical examiner said Wednesday.

One of the victims, Lomer Johnson, also suffered a blunt head and neck injury, which could have resulted from a fall or being hit by an object, according to the medical examiner’s office.

The other four victims were Mr. Johnson’s wife, Pauline, and three of their granddaughters, 10-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah.

All the deaths were ruled accidental. Stamford fire officials said Tuesday that embers in a bag of discarded fireplace ashes started the fire.

Homeowner Madonna Badger, an advertising executive who is the girls’ mother and the Johnsons’ daughter, escaped from the fire, as did Michael Borcina, a friend and contractor working on the house. Mr. Borcina, 52, was released from Stamford Hospital on Wednesday morning, a spokeswoman said.


Man charged in bar assault with cow bone

HONOLULU | A Hawaii man was charged with four counts of assault after allegedly attacking a group of men with what is thought to be a cow’s thighbone, police on the Big Island said Wednesday.

Officers responded to a report of a brawl outside a Kailua-Kona bar on Christmas Eve and arrived to find four men with injuries from an attack. Bar patrons were holding Gregory Haas, 45, who witnesses told police attacked the men with the bone.

“He did indicate that he did actually find it in pastureland here in the Kona area,” Lt. Gerald Wike said Wednesday. The weapon was recovered at the scene and taken as evidence. Police are sure it’s a bone from a large animal and are trying to determine with certainty that it’s from a cow.

Mr. Haas was charged with one count of first-degree assault and three counts of second-degree assault.


Homicide victim donates organs

OAKLAND | An Oakland homicide victim is giving people in dire need of organ transplants new leases on life this holiday season.

Charles Butler Jr., who was shot last week in Oakland, has so far donated his liver, pancreas and a kidney to gravely ill people.

Antioch resident Daniel Murphy is recovering at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center after receiving Butler’s liver. Butler’s family knows Mr. Murphy from their church, and intervened on his behalf to get him the badly needed transplant.

Luke Barnes, a patient at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, has received Butler’s pancreas and kidney.

The transplants happened Christmas Day.

Butler, who recently graduated from the Merchant Marine Academy and was excited for his first assignment, was shot on Thursday while driving near his Oakland home. He was taken off life support the next day.


Court: Convictions in Fort Dix plot upheld

TRENTON| A federal appeals panel on Wednesday upheld the convictions and sentences of five Muslim men accused of planning to attack Fort Dix or other military bases, though it threw out a charge against one defendant.

The main issue was prosecutors’ use of wiretaps obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a part of the Patriot Act aimed largely at gathering foreign intelligence.

The recordings were a major piece of a 2 1/2 month trial for the five men, all immigrants who grew up in the New Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia.

The men - Mohamad Shnewer, Serdar Tatar, and brothers Dritan, Eljvir and Shain Duka - were arrested in May 2007. In 2008, a federal jury in Camden, N.J., convicted them of conspiring to kill U.S. military personnel at Fort Dix. All but Tatar are serving life terms.

Defense attorneys said it was unconstitutional to use the recordings in a domestic criminal case and that it may have been impossible to convict the men without the evidence.

But in a unanimous ruling written by Judge Marjorie O. Rendell, a three-judge panel of the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. The challenged search “was conducted in objectively reasonable reliance on a duly authorized statute,” and therefore admissible at trial, Judge Rendell wrote.


Officials: 1 million visit 9/11 memorial

NEW YORK | Officials at the Sept. 11 Memorial in New York City say they plan to announce Thursday that the site has had 1 million visitors since opening to the public this year.

The memorial plaza and its two huge fountains are now bringing about 10,000 visitors each day to ground zero, even as construction continues on the rebuilt World Trade Center.

Visitors are required to get free passes in advance, and no more than 1,500 people are allowed at a time.

The memorial opened Sept. 12, after its dedication on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

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