- - Wednesday, July 27, 2011


$100,000 donated for fence project

PHOENIX — A fundraising website launched by state lawmakers to build more fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border has brought in more than $100,000 in donations in its first week of operation.

State Sen. Steve Smith, sponsor of the law authorizing the fence, says the total doesn’t include checks that recently have arrived by mail and which are now being tallied.

The Republican gave his fundraising update Wednesday to a legislative committee focusing on border security. The plan calls for the state to use donated money and inmate labor to build additional fencing along parts of the border, likely on state or privately owned property.

The federal government has already built about 650 miles of fences along the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. Nearly half of that fencing is in Arizona.


Money-losing red light cameras are shut down

LOS ANGELES — The nation’s second-largest city decided Wednesday to shut down its traffic enforcement cameras because the program is losing $1.5 million a year. There also were questions about whether the tactic actually saves lives.

With a 13-0 vote, the City Council voted to stop issuing photo traffic enforcement tickets as of midnight Sunday, when a deal with an Arizona-based contractor expires.

City Hall will review procedures with the vendor to remove cameras at 32 intersections and deal with existing tickets.

However, officials won’t learn until later if the phase-out will cost the city more money, or if the vendor, American Traffic Solutions, must perform the work for free.

Some cameras operated by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority will remain along bus and rail routes. There also are more than 30 other camera enforcement programs operating in other cities and venues within Los Angeles County.

The City Council’s decision was expected after the Police Commission voted to drop the program, which had ticketed more than 180,000 drivers since 2004.


TSA agent accused of harassing slow driver

SOUTH WINDSOR — A U.S. Transportation Security Administration screener has been cited for allegedly harassing a slow driver in Connecticut.

Police said Donald Eichler, 63, flashed a TSA badge and honked his horn in an effort to speed up the other driver. The woman called 911 and said she was frightened by his actions.

The man said Wednesday that the woman overreacted. He said she was driving 30 mph in a 40 mph zone in South Windsor, where he lives. He said he tapped the horn a few times and flashed a work identity card as other cars lined up behind him.

Mr. Eichler was pulled over Tuesday morning and issued a misdemeanor summons on a charge of vehicle driven to harass or intimidate. He is scheduled to appear in court Aug. 8.


Anthony judge wants public-records law changed

ORLANDO — The judge in the Casey Anthony case has urged the Florida Legislature to change the state’s laws in order to keep jurors’ names secret in high-profile cases, especially when they might receive threats because of a verdict.

Judge Belvin Perry wrote in an order that releasing the names of jurors “makes a mockery” of Florida’s privacy law, but a public records advocate said Wednesday that people have more faith in a transparent process.

Judge Perry has delayed releasing jurors’ names in the Anthony case until October, in part because the panel, along with Miss Anthony, received threats after she was acquitted of murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee.


After reform, tenure awarded to fewer teachers

NEW YORK — New York City is granting tenure to fewer than six out of 10 public school teachers this year, part of an effort to end what Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said was a practice of bestowing job security automatically.

Mr. Bloomberg and schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced Wednesday that 58 percent of the more than 5,200 teachers who received decisions this year were granted tenure. That’s down from 89 percent last year and 94 percent the year before that.

Mr. Bloomberg announced in September he would overhaul the way city teachers are granted tenure, linking their advancement to improving student performance.

Once teachers are granted tenure, they cannot be fired without an administrative hearing.

Teachers union President Michael Mulgrew says he is concerned the decisions may not have been based on individual teacher performance.


Unmanned Army blimp crashes in woods

NEW FREEPORT — An unmanned reconnaissance blimp launched from Ohio by defense contractor Lockheed Martin crash-landed Wednesday in the woods of southwestern Pennsylvania.

Lockheed Martin spokesman Keith Little told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the remote-controlled airship took off from Akron, Ohio, shortly before 6 a.m.

Mr. Little said the high-altitude ship was being tested as a communications relay for the Army and was supposed to climb to 60,000 feet. The blimp made it 32,000 feet, but a problem kept it from rising higher.

The ship was put into a controlled descent and came down in Greene County, about 45 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.

Lockheed said the company was cooperating with a State Police investigation. State Police and Lockheed officials did not return calls from the Associated Press.


Man sentenced in gas, oil auction hoax

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah environmental activist has been sentenced to two years in prison for derailing a 2008 government auction of oil and gas leases near two national parks.

Tim DeChristopher was also given three years of probation and fined $10,000 on Tuesday. He was taken into custody immediately.

He was convicted of interfering with and making false representations at a government auction in March. The maximum sentence was 10 years in prison.

The 29-year-old former wilderness guide is the first person to be prosecuted for failing to make good on bids at a lease auction of Utah public lands. He ran up bids on 13 parcels totaling more than 22,000 acres near Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

DeChristopher said it was a civil disobedience act. Prosecutors wanted a stiff sentence, saying his lies harmed others.

The case has become a symbol of solidarity for environmentalists, including celebrities such as folk singer Peter Yarrow.

From wire dispatches and staff reports



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