Archive for Saturday, May 4, 2002

Nation Briefs

May 4, 2002

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Cleveland: Airport evacuated after security lapse

Two airport concourses were evacuated Friday after a passenger's bag set off an explosives detector, and the passenger and bag disappeared into the crowd before security personnel noticed, authorities said.

Airport Commissioner Fred Szabo said screeners were unable to locate the bag in a search of the concourses. He could not rule out the possibility that the passenger got on a departing flight with it before the concourses were closed.

The explosives detectors frequently return false readings, Szabo said. But without the bag, he said, there was no way of knowing if Friday's incident was a false alarm.

New Mexico: Weather helps crews gain ground on fire

Declining wind allowed an armada of water- and slurry-dropping aircraft to aid firefighters battling Friday to control a 15,500-acre wildfire in southern New Mexico.

The blaze was 50 percent contained, fire officials said.

Ranchers helped build fire lines around the blaze, which had grown more than 63 percent larger in a pine forest overnight, even as more than a dozen planes and helicopters soaked it.

The fire has burned 20 structures, at least two of them homes.

William Myers started the fire accidentally Tuesday, the Otero County sheriff said in Mayhill. Apparently distressed over the fire damage, Myers shot himself to death the next day. Investigators aren't sure how he sparked the fire.

Connecticut: Titanic explorer to seek JFK boat

The undersea explorer who found the Titanic will search the Pacific around the Solomon Islands for the remains of PT-109, John F. Kennedy's World War II boat.

Robert Ballard of New Haven plans to use remote cameras to find for the 80-foot, wooden-hulled patrol torpedo boat that was commanded by Kennedy. National Geographic is working with Ballard on the search, set for this month.

It may prove a difficult task. PT-109 sank on Aug. 2, 1943, after it was cut in half by a Japanese destroyer. Two members of Kennedy's crew died in the collision. The young naval officer and 10 other survivors swam 15 hours to reach an island.

California: Klamath River water ordered to farmers

A federal judge in Oakland rejected an effort by commercial anglers, American Indian tribes and environmental groups seeking to force the government to release more water to the Klamath River instead of diverting it to farms.

Commercial fishermen sued the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the National Marine Fisheries Service last month, arguing that water being stored for farmers should be released to help young salmon migrate to the ocean.

The Klamath straddles the California-Oregon state line, and its waters irrigate crops as well as provide a home to fish such as the threatened coho salmon.

Texas: Lady Bird Johnson can't speak after stroke

Lady Bird Johnson, hospitalized after a mild stroke, is unable to speak but is upbeat and aware of her surroundings Friday, her doctor said.

The 89-year-old former first lady was taken Thursday to Seton Medical Center in Austin after she awoke from a nap at her home and had trouble speaking and swallowing medication. Her doctor said she appears to have suffered damage to a small area on the left side of her brain.

Johnson was in fair condition Friday, and was expected stay at the hospital through the weekend for observation and additional tests.

Pennsylvania: 11-year-old suspended for stick-figure doodle

A school suspended an 11-year-old girl for drawing two teachers with arrows through their heads, saying the stick figures were more death threat than doodle.

Becca Johnson, an honor-roll sixth-grader at Mellon Middle School in Mount Lebanon, drew the picture on the back of a vocabulary test on which she had gotten a D.

The stick figures, on a crudely drawn gallows with arrows in their heads, had the names of Becca's teacher and a substitute teacher written underneath. Another teacher spotted the doodle in the girl's binder Tuesday and reported it, prompting the three-day suspension.

New York City: Former police officer guilty of manslaughter

A former police officer was convicted of manslaughter Friday for killing a family of four with his minivan after a 12-hour drinking binge that started in a precinct parking lot.

Joseph Gray, 41, admitted drinking as many as 13 beers before the fatal accident on Aug. 4, 2001, but contended he was still OK to drive.

Gray sat motionless as the jury returned its verdict. He faces up to 15 years in prison at sentencing May 23.

Gray had pleaded innocent in the deaths of Maria Herrera, 24, who was 8 months pregnant; her 4-year-old son Andy, and her sister, Dilcia Pena, 16. Gray was also charged with the death of Herrera's baby boy, who was delivered after the accident but also died.

Washington, D.C.: Group for blind seeks changes in currency

The American Council of the Blind sued the federal government Friday seeking changes in the design of the nation's paper currency.

The lawsuit contends individuals who can't identify currency denominations are precluded from participating in a variety of transactions integral to daily life, such as the ability to freely make purchases.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, seeks changes including the use of Braille markings and varying the length and height of bills by denomination.

The council is suing under a provision contained in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The provision says individuals with disabilities may not be excluded from or denied the benefits of participation in any program or activity conducted by the U.S. government.

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