Nation briefs 8/15/06

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Attention to locomotives' emissions renewed

WASHINGTON -- For years, government scientists who measure air pollution assumed diesel locomotive engines were relatively clean and emitted far less health-threatening emissions than diesel trucks or other vehicles. But not long ago, those scientists made a startling discovery: Because they had used faulty estimates of the amount of fuel consumed by diesel trains, they grossly understated the amount of pollution generated annually. After revising their calculations, they concluded the annual emissions of nitrogen oxide and fine particulate matter, or soot, would be by 2030 nearly twice what they originally assumed. The new findings have put pressure on the government to crack down further on diesel engine emissions.

Houston police: Katrina evacuees linked to crime

HOUSTON -- Katrina sent a lot of bad guys to Texas, as Houston is finding out. Houston took in 150,000 evacuees -- the most of any U.S. city -- after Katrina struck Aug. 29. Houston police believe the evacuees are partly responsible for a nearly 17.5 percent increase in homicides so far this year over the same period in 2005. About 21 percent of Houston's 232 homicides through July 25 involved an evacuee as either a suspect or a victim, according to police, who attribute much of the bloodshed to fighting among rival New Orleans gang members.

Report: X-rays don't find explosives in shoes

WASHINGTON -- X-ray machines used to screen passengers' shoes are unable to detect explosives, according to a Homeland Security Department report on aviation screening. Findings from the report, obtained recently by The Associated Press, did not stop the Transportation Security Administration from announcing Sunday that all airline passengers must remove their shoes and run them through X-ray machines before boarding.

Cuban TV airs first video of ailing Castro

HAVANA -- Cuban state television on Monday aired the first video of Fidel Castro since he stepped down as president to recover from surgery, showing the bedridden Cuban leader joking with his brother and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Castro appeared tired and pale, yet alert in the videotaped encounter, clearly enjoying himself as he chatted with Chavez, his close friend and political ally. Acting president Raul Castro also was present for his brother's 80th birthday Sunday.

China's death toll from Saomai hits 255

BEIJING -- Soldiers mobilized to help with the recovery from China's strongest typhoon in five decades, while the death toll rose to 255 Monday after scores more bodies were pulled from the sea. Typhoon Saomai, with winds up to 135 mph, hit China's crowded southeast Thursday and destroyed more than 50,000 houses, sank more than 1,000 ships and tore down power lines, blacking out six cities. More than 1.6 million people were forced to flee their homes. The number of confirmed deaths rose by more than 100 after scores of bodies were pulled from the sea in Fuding, a city in Fujian province, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

-- From wire reports

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