Nation digest 01/04/05

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Five suspects indicted in Maryland arsons

GREENBELT, Md. -- Five men accused of setting fire to homes under construction in an upscale development outside Washington have been indicted on federal charges, prosecutors said Monday. The Dec. 6 fires destroyed 10 houses and damaged 16 others in the Hunters Brooke development. Damage was estimated at $10 million. A grand jury indicted the men with arson, conspiracy to commit arson, and aiding and abetting the arsons.

U.S. airlines have another safe year

WASHINGTON -- Only 34 people have died in U.S. commercial airline crashes in the past three years, making it one of the safest periods in aviation history even as more Americans than ever travel by air. On Oct. 20, a Corporate Airlines twin-engine turboprop crashed into the woods on approach to Kirksville, Mo., killing 13. Those were the only fatalities aboard U.S. scheduled airlines in 2004. National Transportation Safety Board chairman Ellen Engleman Conners noted that some 42,000 people die every year on the roads.

Laser incident with jet may have been a prank

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A laser beam aimed at a Chicago-bound jet may have been a prank, FBI officials said Monday, adding that terrorism has been ruled out. The flight crew of a United Airlines flight to O'Hare International Airport from Nashville reported seeing a green laser beam Sunday night shortly after the plane took off, said Lynne Lowrance of the Nashville International Airport. Federal agents are looking into similar incidents in Cleveland; Washington, D.C.; Houston; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Medford, Ore.; and Teterboro, N.J.

Despite death, musket shoot will continue

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A teenager was killed during a rural town's New Year's tradition of firing vintage black-powder muskets into the air, but town officials declared Monday that the centuries-old ritual would continue to be celebrated. During the revelry early Saturday, a rifle exploded and pieces of the barrel struck 18-year-old Matthew K. Shook in the side of the head. "There's no effort in place here to end the practice," Mayor Bob Austell said. "This is something that's been going on in Cherryville for more than 200 years." Austell conceded, however, it was time to review safety standards for the "New Year's Shoot" in Cherryville, a town of 5,400. The tradition has been traced to German settlers who would fire their weapons as a kind of good-luck wish.

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