- - Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Tsunami debris heads for N. America coast

HONOLULU — Tsunamis generated by the earthquake in Japan last March dragged 3 million to 4 million tons of debris into the ocean after tearing up Japanese harbors and homes.

Scientists believe ocean currents are carrying some of the lumber, refrigerators, fishing boats and other objects across the Pacific toward the United States.

Of the 1 million to 2 million tons of debris still in the ocean, 1 percent to 5 percent may reach Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, said University of Hawaii senior researcher and ocean current expert Nikolai Maximenko.

That’s only a portion of the 20 million to 25 million tons of debris the tsunamis generated altogether, including what was left on land.

Some debris appears to have already arrived in the U.S., such as a half-dozen large buoys found in Alaska late last year suspected to be from Japanese oyster farms.

Nicholas Mallos, conservation biologist and marine debris specialist for the Ocean Conservancy, said many of the objects are expected to be from Japan’s fishing industry. Fishing gear could harm wildlife, such as endangered Hawaiian monk seals, if it washes up on coral reefs or beaches.

“The major question is how much of that material has sank since last year, and how much of that remains afloat or still in the water column,” Mr. Mallos said.


King under house arrest for reckless driving

RIVERSIDE — Rodney King has been sentenced to 20 days of house arrest and fined $500 for misdemeanor reckless driving in Southern California.

Mr. King is the black motorist whose beating by white Los Angeles police officers was videotaped in 1991. Four officers were acquitted of charges in state court a year later, leading to rioting in Los Angeles.

The 46-year-old Mr. King was arrested in Moreno Valley seven months ago on suspicion of drunken driving.

But Riverside County prosecutors say his blood-alcohol reading was 0.06 percent, which is below the 0.08 legal threshold. He also had a trace of marijuana in his system.

The (Riverside) Press-Enterprise says Mr. King, through his attorney, pleaded to a lesser so-called “wet reckless” driving charge Monday.

Mr. King also was placed on three years’ probation.


Mining advocates sue over ban near canyon

FLAGSTAFF — The National Mining Association and the Nuclear Energy Institute are suing the federal government over a 20-year ban on new hard rock mining claims near the Grand Canyon.

Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar announced the prohibition last month that covers more than a million acres rich in high-grade uranium ore reserves.

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act gives the Interior secretary the ability to withdraw 5,000 or more acres but not for longer than 20 years without congressional approval.

The lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Arizona asks a judge to declare the act unconstitutional. The mining advocacy groups also contend that Mr. Salazar’s office relied on old, inaccurate information for an environmental analysis.

A spokesman for the Interior Department declined to comment, citing pending litigation.


FedEx truck hits Amish buggy; adults, children hurt

MASSENA — Authorities say two young Amish children are in critical condition after their horse-drawn buggy was rear-ended by a FedEx truck on a northern New York road.

State police say the accident occurred around 2:30 p.m. Monday on Route 37 in the town of Massena, on the Canadian border in St. Lawrence County. Troopers say two women each had two of their children in the buggy when it was struck from behind by the truck.

Police say two 3-year-old children are in critical condition Tuesday at a Syracuse hospital. One of the mothers is at the same hospital being treated for a possible spinal injury. Troopers say the other woman and two children are believed to have been treated and released.

The truck driver and co-worker weren’t injured.

The cause of the accident remains under investigation.


Wild city parrots take flight to the suburbs

BRISBANE — The famous wild parrots of San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill have spread their wings to the suburbs.

About a hundred of the green birds have been spotted on the slopes of San Bruno Mountain in Brisbane, a city about 10 miles south of San Francisco, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday.

The birds probably migrated there in search of food, said Mark Bittner, author of the best-selling book, “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.” The book and a documentary of the same name several years ago helped make the birds a tourist draw in San Francisco.

The playful birds - native to South America - with their cherry-colored heads are known to dart acrobatically and chirp at high decibels.

A flock of about 100 can be found around the northern edge of San Francisco, where the first of their kind likely escaped from a pet importer and then adapted to the city’s chill and fog and the presence of humans.

“They’re fun. They make people laugh,” Mr. Bittner told the Chronicle. “And don’t worry, they never scream at night.”

The birds in Brisbane - some of which likely circulate back to San Francisco - have been spotted eating juniper and hawthorn berries. They were first seen about three years ago.

Danette Davis said she was in her house one day when she heard a loud commotion that prompted her dog to start barking.

“I went out and saw something green on the wire,” she told the Chronicle. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s a parrot.’ “

The parrots have taken such a liking to resident Joe Sulley, he said they occasionally perch on him during visits to his back deck.

“Parrots on my head? It’s fabulous,” he said.


Harvard group seeks degrees for expelled gays

BOSTON — Harvard students and faculty are planning a rally to urge administrators to award posthumous degrees to seven students expelled from the Ivy League school in 1920 because they were gay or perceived to be gay.

The students plan to rally Wednesday during a campus visit by Lady Gaga, who will be at Harvard to launch her Born This Way anti-bullying foundation. The singer has been a strong activist for the gay community.

The group says it wants Harvard to formally abolish its so-called “secret court,” a tribunal of administrators that investigated charges of gay activity among students in 1920.

Harvard administrators apologized in 2002 after a student reporter searching the school’s archive came across a file labeled “secret court” and reported on the school’s expulsion of the students.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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