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Nation in brief: Sea lion numbers down at Pier 39

Tourists look at the empty sea lion docks at Pier 39 in San Francisco on Tuesday.  (Associated Press)
Tourists look at the empty sea lion docks at Pier 39 in San Francisco on Tuesday. (Associated Press)

San Francisco – Last month, marine scientists counted more than 1,500 sea lions on fabled Pier 39, a record number that delighted tourists and baffled experts.

Why so many? Why were they sticking around?

But now, almost all of the sea lions are gone, leaving the experts guessing where they went – and why.

“Most likely, they left chasing a food source,” said Jeff Boehm, executive director of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, which runs an information center and gift shop at Pier 39. “It’s probably what kept them here in the first place.”

On Tuesday, 10 sea lions lounged and swam and dove from the docks, spreading themselves out where the animals were stacked three and four deep just a month ago.

The animals began leaving in droves the day after Thanksgiving, almost as if someone had issued an order.

N-power plans near Fresno

Sacramento, Calif. – A French company and a group of Central Valley investors announced Tuesday that they had signed a letter of intent to build one or two nuclear power plants near Fresno.

The agreement with Areva, a Paris nuclear engineering company, is expected to be finalized in March, said John Hutson, chief executive of the Fresno Nuclear Energy Group, a partnership of local business executives and farmers. Once that’s done, the two potential partners would begin a site selection and evaluation process that could take as long as two years, he said.

Environmentalists were skeptical that the agreement would go anywhere. They point out that California has a law that bans the construction of nuclear power plants unless the state can certify that the federal government has come up with a plan for the permanent storage of spent nuclear fuel.

Police say girl, pal tried to kill mother

Clearwater, Fla. – An 11-year-old Florida girl and her 15-year-old boyfriend are accused of plotting to kill the girl’s mother by setting her bedroom on fire while the woman slept Tuesday, police said.

Samantha Broadhead and Jack Ault have been charged with attempted murder and arson.

Clearwater Police Department detectives say the young couple poured gasoline on Nancy Broadhead’s bedroom floor and bed, and then set the room aflame.

The girl’s mother was awakened by a smoke alarm and managed to escape.


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