Trial starts for man in al-Qaida scheme
A man who once tried to blow up his parents’ house went on trial Monday on federal charges alleging he offered to help al-Qaida destroy pipelines and refineries to help end the war in Iraq.
Michael C. Reynolds, 49, who lived with his elderly mother in Wilkes-Barre, was arrested in December 2005 after he tried to meet a purported al-Qaida contact near a hotel where he was staying in Pocatello, Idaho, authorities said.
The contact, whom he knew from an Internet chat room, turned out to be Shannen Rossmiller, a judge from Conrad, Mont., who was working for the FBI. Prosecutors said Reynolds exchanged more than 50 e-mail messages with Rossmiller, at one point providing a list of materials that would be needed to build a bomb.
Rossmiller has won national acclaim by using the Internet to lure would-be terrorists.
Reynolds maintains that he, like Rossmiller, was working as a private citizen to uncover terrorist plots.
He has a 1978 arson conviction stemming from an attempt to blow up his parents’ house in Purdys, N.Y., using gasoline, open cans of paint, a disconnected propane gas line and a timing device.
HOT SPRINGS, S.D.
Rain helps slow fire that leveled homes
Overnight rain and lower temperatures slowed a wildfire that had raced out of a canyon, destroyed at least 30 houses and killed a homeowner who went back to try to save his belongings, a top fire official said Monday.
The change in weather gave firefighters a chance to shore up fire lines, though conditions could shift again for the worse, state wildland fire coordinator Joe Lowe told crews at a morning briefing held in light rain.
The blaze was started by lightning on Saturday, and by Monday it had covered an estimated 11 square miles just southwest of Hot Springs, on the southern side of the Black Hills.
Other fires blackened the landscape in California, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Montana and Oregon, many of them also started by lightning and fueled by the dry conditions, made worse by a heat wave that sizzled across the West last week.
4,300 at Va. Tech sign up for alerts
More than 4,300 students and employees at Virginia Tech have signed up for a new emergency alert system, several months after a student gunman killed 32 people and himself on campus.
The sign-up period for the campus emergency alerts by phone, e-mail or instant message began July 2, one week before the school’s first freshman orientation session for the fall semester.
The university was in the process of selecting a vendor for the system when a gunman opened fire on campus April 16. That morning, the school sent a mass e-mail about two hours after the first victims were shot in a dormitory. The e-mail, which warned students to be cautious and contact police about anything suspicious, went out about 20 minutes before the gunman opened fire again.