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In brief: FAA funding bill stalls; thousands face furlough

WASHINGTON – Efforts to avert a shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration failed Friday amid a disagreement over a $16.5 million cut in subsidies to 13 rural communities, ensuring that nearly 4,000 people will be temporarily out of work and federal airline ticket taxes will be suspended.

Lawmakers were unable to resolve a partisan dispute over an extension of the agency’s operating authority, which expired at midnight Friday.

The subsidy cut was included by Republicans in a House bill extending operating authority for the FAA, which has a $16 billion budget. Senate Democrats refused to accept the House bill with the cuts, and Republican senators refused to accept a Democratic bill without it. Lawmakers then adjourned for the weekend.

Obama administration officials have said the shutdown will not affect air safety. Air traffic controllers will remain on the job. But airlines will lose the authority to collect about $200 million a week in ticket taxes that go into a trust fund that pays for FAA programs.

FAA employees whose jobs are paid for with trust fund money will be furloughed, including nearly 1,000 workers at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, 647 workers at FAA’s technology and research center in Atlantic City, N.J., and 124 workers at the agency’s training center in Oklahoma City.

Vet’s death on roller coaster blamed on operator error

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Operator error was to blame for an amputee Iraq war veteran’s deadly fall from a roller coaster and the amusement park was cited for having improperly trained workers, state officials said Friday.

Labor Department investigators found the Ride of Steel coaster at Darien Lake Theme Park & Resort was mechanically sound and safety devices were working properly July 8 when Army Sgt. James Hackemer, who had lost his legs to a roadside bomb, was lifted from his seat near the end of the ride and thrown to the ground.

The 29-year-old father of two died of blunt force trauma.

State investigators said operators did not follow rules posted at the ride’s entrance, which require that riders have both legs. A seat belt and metal bar restrain riders by the legs, shins and lap.

Hackemer wasn’t wearing his prosthetic legs when he shifted from his wheelchair into a front seat of the ride.

Jury convicts man in deaths of 11 women

CLEVELAND – A man who lived among the rotting remains of 11 women was convicted Friday of killing all of them, bringing closure to a case that has haunted the city since the bodies were unearthed from a house that smelled like death.

Anthony Sowell, 51, was convicted of aggravated murder, kidnapping, tampering with evidence and abuse of a human corpse in the 11 deaths. He now faces a possible death sentence.

“We do deserve this justice,” said Denise Hunter, whose sister, Amelda, was found buried in Sowell’s backyard in plastic garbage bags. “I’m so glad that finally … all of our families can rest assured – and all of our loved ones can rest assured – that peace has come to our families.”

Most of the victims’ families slipped out a side entrance of the courtroom, preferring to avoid making any comment about the verdict.

The jury deliberated for just over 15 hours before announcing the verdicts.


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