Nation digest 05/25/04

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

FBI: Violent crime falls in 2003, murders rise

WASHINGTON -- Violent crime declined in 2003 despite a third consecutive yearly increase in homicides, according to preliminary FBI statistics released Monday. The violent crimes -- rape, robbery, aggravated assault and homicides including murder and manslaughter -- dropped 3.2 percent compared with 2002, fueled mostly by sharp declines in rape and assault. Homicide was the only category on the increase, rising nationwide last year by about 178 cases, or 1.1 percent. In the previous two years, murder and manslaughter edged up 1 percent in 2002 and 2.5 percent in 2001.

Circus performer who visited Cape dies in fall

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Police are investigating the death of a performer who fell around 30 feet onto a concrete floor during a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus show. Dessi Espana, 32, was twirling on long chiffon scarves when the silky cloth gave way during Saturday's performance at the Xcel Energy Center, witnesses said. She died later that night. In April, Espana performed at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau as part of the Hometown Edition of Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey tour. Espana was not using a safety harness because of the way she had to move in the performance, and chiffon acts traditionally don't use nets, spokesman Mark Riddell said. James Honerman, a spokesman for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said his office will not conduct an investigation.

Fingerprint error clears lawyer in bombing case

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A federal court threw out the case Monday against an American lawyer arrested earlier this month in connection with the Madrid train bombings. Brandon Mayfield, a 37-year-old convert to Islam, called his time behind bars "humiliating" and "embarrassing" and said he was targeted because of his faith. The court cited a fingerprint-identification error by the FBI in dismissing the case. FBI officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, had said that his fingerprint matched one found on a bag of detonators near the train station in Madrid in the March 11 bombing, which killed 191 people and injured 2,000 others. But last week, Spanish authorities said the fingerprints of an Algerian man were on the bag.

NASA: U.S. spacesuits on space station unusable

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA ruled Monday that U.S. spacesuits on the international space station are unusable and ordered the crew to use Russian gear instead, adding considerable time and distance to a critical spacewalk next month. The crew wanted to wear American suits and go out the much closer American hatch to get to a broken power supply unit on the exterior of the space station, but a cooling problem with the outfits made that impossible. The mid-June spacewalk involves replacing a power control and circuit breaker box that last month shut down one of the gyroscopes that stabilize the space station and keep it tilted in the right direction.

Rain-swollen rivers wreak havoc across Midwest

Rain-swollen rivers flooded regions throughout the Midwest on Monday even as residents assessed damage from pounding weekend storms. In the northern Illinois community of Gurnee, residents Monday battled the rising waters of the Des Plaines River in what threatened to become the town's worst flood in two decades. In the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines, authorities were distributing sandbags and preparing fliers alerting residents of the rising water levels. Flooding also was a problem in Iowa, where storms beginning Friday produced a string of 19 tornadoes, hail, high winds and heavy rains. More than 20 counties in southeastern and east-central sections of Lower Michigan were under flood warnings Monday.

-- From wire reports

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