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Patrol members die in volcanic cavity

Three members of a ski patrol team died Thursday when they fell into a volcanic fissure at the Mammoth Mountain resort, officials said.

Whether they were killed by the 21-foot fall or were also affected by gases seeping from the cavity was not immediately clear.

The victims were part of a four-man team inspecting the mountain after heavy snowstorms and fencing off the gap in the rock, officials said.


FEMA director gets job permanently

With hurricane season just two months away, President Bush on Thursday nominated the acting director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be permanent head of the nation’s disaster response agency.

R. David Paulison, a 30-year firefighter, took over at FEMA in September, when Bush named him to replace Michael Brown, who quit in the face of unrelenting criticism over the agency’s sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina.

“I’d be darned if I was going to turn my back on it,” Paulison said of his job at a news conference after he and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff acknowledged that some others were not interested in the post.

Charleston, W.Va.

Byrd says he will continue campaign

In his first public comments since the death of his wife of nearly 69 years, Sen. Robert C. Byrd pledged Thursday to continue his campaign for a record ninth term.

“I’m doing exactly what Erma would want,” the 88-year-old Democrat said.

Erma Ora James Byrd died March 25 at age 88 after battling an illness for five years.

Supporters were worried about the impact of his wife’s death on the senator, whose own health has been a concern. Byrd has had trembling in his hands for several years, which he dismisses as a “cosmetic malady.”

Nantucket, Mass.

Tourist town wants to ban chain stores

Nantucket joined several other historic tourist towns across the country in approving a measure that would ban chain stores from the island’s downtown, a move endorsed by more than 480 residents at a town meeting.

The rule would bar any new chains with more than 14 outlets that have standardized menus, trademarks, uniforms or other homogeneous decor from opening downtown. The ban would not affect gas stations, grocery stores, banks and other service providers.

The measure passed by a unanimous vote Tuesday but still needs to be approved by the state Attorney General’s office.


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Early exit polls show strong support to lift Ireland ban on abortion

UPDATED: 3:05 p.m.

Ireland’s referendum Friday represented more than a vote on whether to end the country’s strict abortion ban. It was a battle for the very soul of a traditionally conservative Roman Catholic nation that has seen a wave of liberalization in recent years.