- - Wednesday, January 12, 2011

CALIFORNIA

First gay museum opens

SAN FRANCISCO | The nation’s first museum about gays, opening in San Francisco’s Castro District, showcases a variety of items ranging from Harvey Milk’s pink-framed sunglasses to manuscripts and sex toys.

The 1,600-square-foot museum, which opened Wednesday, chronicles the evolution of what organizers call the liberation of the gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Milk’s sunglasses displayed in the GLBT History Museum are a tribute to the late San Francisco supervisor, who was the first openly gay politician elected in California.

GLBT Historical Society Executive Director Paul Boneberg told the San Francisco Chronicle the society has a five-year lease for a formerly empty storefront.

The society is relying on donations and volunteers to keep the museum open.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Latest suspicious package not a threat

Days after a parcel ignited at a Washington postal facility, authorities returned Wednesday to the same neighborhood because of a suspicious package that was determined later not to be a threat.

Firefighters gave the all-clear about 45 minutes after they were called to a building in Northeast Washington, D.C. fire department spokesman Pete Piringer said.

The facility handles mail but isn’t run by the U.S. Postal Service, said Michael Romano of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. It’s a different location from the one that received a fiery package last week, he said, though both are on the same street.

Authorities in the District and Maryland are still investigating three packages that ignited last week.

GEORGIA

CDC: Asthma rate up slightly in U.S.

ATLANTA | Asthma seems to be increasing a little, and nearly one in 12 Americans says he or she has the respiratory disease, federal health officials said Wednesday.

About 8.2 percent of Americans had asthma in a 2009 national survey of about 40,000 individuals. That’s nearly 25 million people with asthma, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

The rate had been holding steady at a little less than 8 percent for the previous four years.

Better diagnostic efforts could be part of the reason for the increase. They were thought to be a main reason for an increase in asthma seen from 1980 through 1995, said a medical officer at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

IDAHO

Some lawmakers fail state history quiz

BOISE | Audience members got a brief chuckle during a legislative hearing at the Idaho Capitol when lawmakers were hit with a pop quiz on their state’s history — and not everyone passed.

Public schools chief Tom Luna demonstrated new technology being used in Idaho classrooms during a presentation Wednesday to the 27 lawmakers on the state Senate and House education committees.

He asked lawmakers two questions and gave each an electronic device that functions like a remote to input their answers.

Mr. Luna asked what year Idaho became a state, and the legislators’ answers were calculated and projected on a screen. It showed 17 percent of lawmakers on the two education panels didn’t know the answer: 1890.

When asked which town was Idaho’s first capital, 15 percent did not know the correct answer: Lewiston.

NEW YORK

Amber Alerts come to Facebook

NEW YORK | Amber Alerts, which have helped find 525 missing children since their start in 1996, are coming to Facebook.

Facebook users in the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands can now sign up to receive Amber Alerts in their region. The bulletins will be sent to their Facebook pages the same way updates are sent from friends or businesses they like. It’s a further sign of just how ubiquitous Facebook has become in people’s day-to-day communication.

The announcement was made Wednesday by Facebook, the Justice Department and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Thursday is the 15th anniversary of the kidnapping and murder of Amber Hagerman, the namesake for the program, who was 9 years old when she was killed.

PENNSYLVANIA

Archie Comics expands with digital versions

PHILADELPHIA | The company behind Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica is expanding its reach by making its comic-book titles available for digital download the same day their printed counterparts go on sale.

Archie Comics says that starting in April, several of its titles featuring the gang from Riverdale will be released simultaneously in print and digital versions.

That makes Archie Comics Publications Inc. one of the first major comic-book publishers to do that and reflects what Co-Chief Executive Jon Goldwater Wednesday called the goal of making Archie stories available to everyone everywhere.

TEXAS

Court: Judge can’t rule on death penalty

HOUSTON | Texas’ highest criminal court on Wednesday permanently stopped an unusual court hearing on the constitutionality of the death penalty in the state, ruling that the Houston judge who ordered it doesn’t have the authority to conduct the legal proceeding.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said that state District Judge Kevin Fine was “acting beyond the scope of his lawful authority” when he decided to hold the two-week hearing, which began last month but was stopped temporarily after two days at the request of prosecutors.

Last spring, Judge Fine initially declared the Texas death penalty statute unconstitutional after granting a pretrial motion in a capital murder case over which he is presiding. Under heavy criticism, Judge Fine clarified then rescinded his ruling and ordered the hearing, saying he needed to hear evidence on the issue.

Judge Fine serves in Harris County, which has sent more inmates to the lethal-injection gurney than any other county in the nation.

UTAH

Case against man from Jeffs’ sect not dismissed

SALT LAKE CITY | A Utah judge has refused to dismiss a rape charge against a man whose 2001 spiritual marriage to an underage girl was the basis for the state’s criminal prosecution of polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs.

In a ruling made public Wednesday, 5th District Judge G. Rand Beacham said defendant Allen Glade Steed has not proved that a decision by prosecutors to delay filing the case prevents him from getting a fair trial.

Mr. Steed, 29, was charged with rape in September 2007, one day after a jury convicted Mr. Jeffs of two counts of rape as an accomplice and six years after the alleged crime.

Mr. Steed’s attorneys sought a dismissal in October after the Utah Supreme Court overturned Mr. Jeffs’ convictions in July.

VERMONT

Maker of Mace spray to plead in hazmat case

BENNINGTON | Mace, the company that makes tear-gas and pepper-spray products, said it will plead guilty to a federal charge of storing hazardous waste without a permit at its Vermont plant and will pay a $100,000 fine.

Mace Security International Inc. announced the intended settlement on Monday.

Mace and founder Jon Goodrich were charged with keeping hazardous waste in buildings at its Bennington plant and in shipping containers outside it. The company said it has spent more than $785,000 cleaning up the site.

Mace told the Bennington Banner that the subsidiary company Mace Personal Defense Inc. has submitted the plea agreement to the U.S. attorney in Vermont. It must be approved by prosecutors and a federal judge.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Perella, who is prosecuting the case, declined to comment.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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