Nation digest 08/01/04

Sunday, August 1, 2004

First lady christens sub named in honor of Texas

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- First lady Laura Bush christened a $2.2 billion nuclear-powered attack submarine named after her home state of Texas on Saturday, cracking a bottle of American sparkling wine against the hull on her first try. The Texas is the first submarine to be christened in Newport News in more than nine years. The private ceremony drew about 5,000 people Saturday, including shipyard workers and those from General Dynamics' Electric Boat division, the yard's partner on the sub. The Texas is the second submarine in the Virginia class, which eventually could have 30 ships.

Escaped tiger strolls through New York park

NEW YORK -- After escaping from the circus, a white tiger alarmed picnickers and motorists Saturday on what for him apparently was a calm, half-mile stroll. The animal, named Apollo, was safely recaptured in the Queens section of the city -- but not before the sight of him on the Jackie Robinson Parkway caused a multicar accident with minor injuries. The 7-year-old, 450-pound tiger, part of the Cole Bros. Circus., was being transferred from a small cage to a larger one when the two enclosures separated, creating an opening big enough for him to get out, police and Forest Park officials said. Apollo prowled through a section of the park, walking past Mary Mason and other people at a church picnic. "Here we are, out on a quiet Saturday afternoon picnic and all of a sudden, a tiger is walking past like he was on a quiet afternoon stroll," Mason said. The Florida-based circus was cited for creating an animal nuisance.

Arson suspected in Washington wildfire

ELLENSBURG, Wash. -- A wildfire that destroyed two homes and threatened dozens of others appears to be the work of an arsonist who has set 10 other fires in central Washington in the last two months, authorities said Saturday. A state of emergency was declared in Kittitas County as a wind-swept blaze forced the evacuation of dozens of homes in the Cascade foothills. Helicopters dropped water and planes distributed retardant to prevent the fire's spread. Undersheriff Clayton Myers said the fire destroyed two homes and a shop as it raced across 300 acres. The fire began Friday near Ellensburg.

Balcony collapses at casino; dozens injured

POLSON, Mont. -- A balcony crowded with dozens of people at a popular bar and casino collapsed, injuring at least 70 people, officials said Saturday. There were no immediate reports of any deaths from the accident Friday night at the Diamond Horseshoe Casino. Polson fire chief Tom Maloney said seven of the injuries were serious or critical, but the others did not appear to be life-threatening. It was not immediately clear what caused the 14-foot-high balcony to collapse.

-- From wire reports

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