- - Sunday, March 20, 2011


Worker facing layoff jumps to his death

COSTA MESA | Crisis counselors have been brought in to help stunned co-workers of a Costa Mesa maintenance worker who jumped to his death from the roof of City Hall an hour after he was called in to get his layoff notice.

Huy Pham, 29, jumped off the building at 3:20 p.m. Thursday and was pronounced dead at the scene, Costa Mesa police Lt. Bryan Glass said.

Mr. Pham was on a list of more than 200 people — nearly half of the city’s workforce — targeted for layoffs in a drastic move to plug a $15 million budget hole. Those who received notices would see their jobs outsourced in six months.

Mr. Pham had worked for the city for 4½ years, according to the Orange County Register. He had been at home with a broken ankle and was not supposed to work Thursday but was called in at about 2:30 p.m. to receive his layoff notice, the newspaper said.


Unknown substance detected in Gulf

NEW ORLEANS | The U.S. Coast Guard says there is some sort of substance in the water in the Gulf of Mexico, and officials are collecting samples to determine what it is.

Coast Guard spokeswoman Casey Ranel said the agency sent out a cutter Sunday morning to collect samples of the substance, which was spotted off the coast of Louisiana. Officials are still awaiting the results of testing and are working to determine how big of an area the substance covered.

The Coast Guard had gotten reports of an oil sheen, but officials have not confirmed that the substance is oil. Ms. Ranel says dredging had been going on not far away at the mouth of the Mississippi River, and it’s possible the substance is silt dredged from the bottom.


Prosecutors rejected runaway-teen charges

COLUMBUS | Police recommended charges against six of the people who helped a teenage Christian convert run away from her Muslim parents in Ohio in 2009, an investigation by the Associated Press has found.

But prosecutors in Ohio and Florida have declined to file charges against anyone who helped 16-year-old Rifqa Bary leave Columbus on a Greyhound bus and shelter her for two weeks in Orlando, Fla., without notifying authorities, according to police reports obtained by the AP through freedom of information requests.

The six include a Kansas City minister, a Columbus family friend, an Orlando pastor and his wife, and two members of the pastor’s church.

A lawyer for Miss Bary, now an adult, says prosecutors made the right choice.


35 demonstrators arrested at Quantico

TRIANGLE | Wearing T-shirts and carrying signs bearing the smiling image of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, hundreds of people rallied Sunday outside the base where he is being detained on charges of providing classified data to Wikileaks.

About 35 people were arrested by police in riot gear after they refused to vacate an intersection in front of the entrance to Marine Corps Base Quantico. One protester also was charged with assault and battery of an officer.

Pfc. Manning is confined alone in his cell for all but an hour a day. Each night, he is stripped naked and given a suicide-proof smock to wear to bed. His attorney has called the treatment degrading. Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the so-called Pentagon Papers in 1971, called solitary confinement “a form of torture, and as such, it’s illegal internationally and domestically.”

Mr. Ellsberg was one of the protesters arrested Sunday amid chants of “Free Bradley Manning.” Officers methodically handcuffed protesters and led them away one by one after they refused to leave U.S. Route 1 in front of the base. Short scuffles ensued as dozens of officers attempted to push the protesters, some of whom were seated on the pavement, away from the intersection.


Judge blocks unions law

MADISON | The monthlong saga over Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to drastically curb collective bargaining rights for public workers in Wisconsin took a turn Friday that could force a dramatic rebooting of the entire legislative process.

A judge temporarily blocked the law from taking effect, raising the possibility that the Legislature may have to vote again to pass the bill. But Mr. Walker’s spokesman and Republican legislative leaders indicated they would press on with the court battle rather than consider passing the bill again.

“We fully expect an appeals court will find that the Legislature followed the law perfectly and likely find that today’s ruling was a significant overreach,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, said Friday in a joint statement. “We highly doubt a Dane County judge has the authority to tell the Legislature how to carry out its constitutional duty.”

Dane County District Judge Maryann Sumi granted the temporary restraining order in response to a lawsuit filed by the local district attorney, a Democrat, that said Republican lawmakers violated the state’s open meetings law by hastily convening a special committee before the Senate passed the bill.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican, said the decision will be appealed because the Legislature and the governor, not a judge, are responsible for enacting laws and can’t be blocked in a dispute over the procedures under which a law is passed. His spokesman said an appeal would be filed Monday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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