Nation digest 12/30/03

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Seven killed during North Carolina police chase

TROUTMAN, N.C. -- A car trying to outrun a police officer ran off a road and crashed early Monday, killing all seven teenagers inside, the highway patrol said. The driver was identified as a 15-year-old, and the father of one of the victims said none of the teens had licenses and the group had been borrowing cars for joyrides. A police officer from Troutman began chasing the car after seeing the 2001 Dodge Intrepid weaving in its lane, the patrol said. The vehicle flipped over after hitting an embankment, crashed into a tree and then skidded to a stop upside down in a creek.

Search for snowboarders halted by bad weather

PROVO, Utah -- The search for the bodies of two snowboarders swept down a mountainside by an avalanche was called for two days Monday because of bad weather. Provo Canyon was slammed with 10 inches of snow Monday, and high wind and more snow would make it difficult for search crews to safely work on the 11,000-foot Elk's Peak area, where four successive avalanches trapped the snowboarders. Five friends were caught by the avalanche Friday. Two survived. The body of the fifth snowboarder was found Sunday afternoon.

Five in N.H. hospitalized with meningitis; one dies

CONCORD, N.H. -- Hospitals across New Hampshire were being warned Monday to be "hyper-vigilant" in recognizing cases of bacterial meningitis after five teens were hospitalized with symptoms of the disease and one of them died from it. All five teens identified by state health officials were hospitalized last week. The symptoms of meningitis, which causes the brain to swell, can appear similar to the flu, including headache, fever and nausea. But with meningitis, up to 15 percent of the cases are fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Wind may have caused deadly motor home crash

DRAPER, Utah -- Investigators said powerful winds may have caused a motor home to crash off a highway bridge on Sunday, killing six family members and injuring four. The motor home was traveling on Interstate 15, about 20 miles south of Salt Lake City, when the vehicle drove into the median, through a guard rail and then went airborne for about 100 feet before crashing nose first on a highway below.

U.S. says N. Korea ready to talk -- in principle

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration confirmed on Monday receiving word from China that North Korea was willing -- in principle -- to hold a second round of nuclear talks. But no date was set for the talks, which were originally to be held in December, and a State Department spokesman declined to describe the development as progress. North Korea is seeking financial aid and U.S. assurances that it will not be attacked.

Judge: Parental notice law unconstitutional

CONCORD, N.H. -- A federal judge on Monday declared a New Hampshire law that would require parental notice before a minor could get an abortion to be unconstitutional. The ruling came two days before the law was to have taken effect. U.S. District Judge Joseph DiClerico said the law is unconstitutional because it lacks an exception to protect the minor's health. Republican Gov. Craig Benson, a strong supporter of the law, had no immediate comment on the judge's ruling. Similar laws have been struck down in other states.

Web site for deadbeat parents takes in $37,000

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- A Web site featuring parents who owe child support has recovered more than $37,000 in its first month of operation, Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Monday. The Illinois Department of Public Aid unveiled the Web site Nov. 24. It displays names, pictures and last-known addresses of parents who haven't kept up with child support payments.

Teen in wrestling death may accept plea offer

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- An attorney for a teenager who once received a life sentence for murdering a 6-year-old playmate said Monday the boy "is inclined" to accept a plea bargain that would allow him to be released within three months. Henry Hunter, a Tallahassee attorney advising Lionel Tate's mother, said attorneys were trying to work out "two procedural matters." He declined to specify those issues or speculate when Tate might accept the offer.

Islamic group denies role in pop star's defense

LOS ANGELES -- The Nation of Islam on Monday denied it was taking a central role in Michael Jackson's strategy to defend himself against charges that he committed lewd acts on a child. The group issued a statement after receiving inquiries from news organizations. Sources close to the Jackson camp had told the AP that the Chicago-based group was helping direct decisions that related to the case. Jackson's attorney, Mark Geragos, also denied the reports.

Feds expect 400 injuries from holiday fireworks

WASHINGTON -- The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that about 400 revelers hoping to start 2004 off with a bang will be injured by fireworks at backyard parties and other New Year's gatherings. The agency's estimate was based on government data on emergency room injuries during the last seven years. Injuries range from the loss of fingers and hands to severe burns and shrapnel wounds. July obviously is the biggest month for fireworks injuries, averaging about 6,000 each year. Lagging in second place was June with 800 injuries.

-- From wire reports

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