- - Sunday, May 29, 2011


City ban on trailers hits FEMA tornado relief

CORDOVA — Some residents of one of the central Alabama cities devastated by last month’s tornadoes are angry about a local ban on single-wide-trailer mobile homes.

The ban includes trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for storm victims who are living in tents or the remains of their shattered homes.

Cordova Mayor Jack Scott stands by the ban. He says that he doesn’t want run-down mobile homes parked all over town a few years from now. Angry residents made homeless by the storms filled a community meeting last week and are circulating a petition to remove the mayor from office.

FEMA officials say it’s a local issue but they stand ready to help residents any way they are allowed to do so.


Shooting suspect transferred to Missouri

TUCSON — The suspect in a deadly Tucson shooting rampage was flown from Arizona to a Missouri prison facility where mental health experts will try to make him psychologically fit to stand trial.

U.S. Marshal for Arizona David Gonzales says Jared Lee Loughner arrived in Springfield, Mo., around midday Friday. Mr. Loughner will spend up to four months at the facility.

A judge ruled Wednesday that the 22-year-old was mentally unfit to assist his lawyers in defending him. Mental health experts who examined Mr. Loughner at the same Missouri facility in March and April had concluded he suffers from schizophrenia.

Mr. Loughner has pleaded not guilty to federal charges stemming from the shooting that wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others and killed six people.


Retiring shuttle bids farewell to space station

CAPE CANAVERAL — The astronauts on NASA’s next-to-last shuttle flight floated out of the International Space Station on Sunday and then closed the hatch behind them, after one final round of warm wishes and embraces.

All that remained was space shuttle Endeavour’s undocking late Sunday night and its two-day trip home.

Shuttle commander Mark Kelly said the 1½ weeks of joint flight went well. He was the last to leave the space station, lingering for a few seconds with the three space station residents.

“We’re looking forward to getting home,” Mr. Kelly said, “and we’re going to leave these guys to some peace and quiet and not disturb their space station any more.” The station’s skipper, Russian Andrey Borisenko, wished the six shuttle astronauts a “soft landing.”

Endeavour will return to Florida in the pre-dawn hours Wednesday, never to fly in space again. The shuttle will be retired to a museum in California following the 16-day mission, its 25th.


Bluefin tuna escapes endangered species list

PORTLAND — The bluefin tuna has escaped being placed on the endangered species list, but the majestic fish prized by sushi lovers will be listed as a “species of concern” by the federal agency that oversees America’s fisheries.

After extensive scientific review, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Friday it has determined that bluefin tuna does not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. The agency conducted the review after the Center for Biological Diversity submitted a petition seeking an endangered status for the fish, claiming the species faces possible extinction because of overfishing and habitat degradation, including effects of the BP oil spill on bluefin spawning grounds in the Gulf of Mexico.

Even though bluefin will not be listed as endangered or threatened, NOAA officials said they still have concerns about the fish, which can swim at speeds faster than 50 mph and grow to more than half a ton in size.

NOAA scientists will revisit the status of the species in early 2013 when a new stock assessment and information on the impacts of the BP oil spill are available.


One killed when boat sinks on lake trip

DULUTH — Authorities are investigating after a boat loaded with seven people sank on Lake Vermilion in St. Louis County, killing a 29-year-old man.

The St. Louis County sheriff’s office says that at about 3 a.m. Sunday deputies received a call of a water emergency on the lake near the Forest Lane Resort in Greenwood Township.

Two people in the boat swam to the resort. Four others were rescued by owner of the resort and brought to shore. They told deputies they were traveling from the Bayview Resort when the boat suddenly took on water.

The county rescue squad recovered the body of 29-year-old Casey T. Gilbertson, who was pronounced dead at the scene.


Flooding expected to worsen with snow melt, more rain

More rain began falling Sunday on soaked Montana communities coping after more than a week of floods in the region that along with a heavy mountain snowpack and burgeoning dams has prompted states downstream to also prepare for flooding.

A break in rainy weather at the start of the long holiday weekend allowed Montana residents to clear flood debris from homes and roads, but the respite wasn’t expected to last long. The National Weather Service predicted up to 3 inches of rainfall from Sunday to Monday in the wake of a previous storm that brought as much as 8 inches to some areas of the state.

Officials warned ongoing flooding could ultimately be the worst in decades for the state, with an unusually heavy snowpack in the mountains, persistent spring rains and waterlogged ground incapable of soaking up any more moisture.

“No part of the state is expected to not have some type of flooding,” Monique Lay, spokeswoman for the state Emergency Coordination Center, said.


2 diamond dealers get prison in fake heist

NEW YORK — Two diamond dealers were sent to prison Friday for more than a year for staging an elaborate heist in hopes of snaring insurance money to save their failing business, a crime their attorneys said was driven by desperation.

“Every day for the rest of my life, I will carry the sin of this case. Every day for the rest of my life, I will live with the fact that I have brought this sin and terrible hardship on my entire family,” said Atul Shah, apologizing and sobbing before he and Mahaveer Kankariya were sentenced to 20 months to five years behind bars.

Shah, 49, and Kankariya, 45, were convicted in March of engineering a New Year’s Eve 2008 stick-up with flourishes fit for a caper movie: bandits disguised as Hasidic Jews, wearing fake beards and brandishing realistic-looking toy guns as they seemingly forced Shah to open a safe and empty it of gems. Police found plastic ties, duct tape and disarray when they arrived.


Cleanup begins after blast at chemical factory

HUDSON — Cleanup crews have begun removing debris from a massive chemical plant explosion and fire in North Carolina as investigators start looking into what caused the blaze.

Caldwell County emergency spokeswoman Jessica Carter said Sunday the fire was completely out at the Chemical Coatings Inc. plant in Hudson.

Evacuees were allowed to return to their homes about six hours after the explosion Saturday afternoon. Ms. Carter says federal environmental officials are taking air, water and soil samples to ensure the area is still safe.

Authorities say the plant was closed for the weekend, and no one was killed or injured in the blast. Chemical Coatings makes dyes, lacquers and other coatings for furniture and other products.


3-day abortion wait prompts Planned Parenthood lawsuit

PIERRE — Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit in federal court Friday seeking to block a South Dakota law that would require women seeking abortions to face the nation’s longest waiting period - three days - and undergo counseling at pregnancy help centers that discourage abortion.

The lawsuit asks a federal judge to suspend the law from taking effect until a final ruling on whether the new law, set to take effect July 1, violates a woman’s constitutional right to abortion established under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.

The legal challenge was filed in Sioux Falls, where Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota operates South Dakota’s only abortion clinic.


Soccer-game trip ends in deadly bus crash

CLE ELUM — A bus carrying soccer fans forced one car off the road and then slammed into a disabled pickup truck on the shoulder of Interstate 90 in central Washington, killing two people and injuring 21 others, authorities said.

The bus careened onto its side after hitting the truck after 6 p.m. Saturday, said Washington State Patrol Lt. Scott Martin. The crash occurred near the town of Cle Elum, about 80 miles east of Seattle.

Two people on the bus were killed: Ciro R. Astudillo, 51, and Virginia Ocamposoriano, 45, both of Pasco. The bus was returning to eastern Washington following an exhibition soccer match between Mexico and Ecuador in Seattle on Saturday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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