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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Endangered whales die, causing worry

Compiled from wire reports The Spokesman-Review

Boston Four endangered whales have been found dead in the past six weeks – including two just this week, scientists said.

A dead North Atlantic right whale was spotted off the coast of Georgia on Wednesday, a day after one was found off Nantucket Island in Massachusetts. Two were found in late December off Virginia and Nantucket.

Tony LaCasse, a spokesman for the New England Aquarium, said biologists hope to perform autopsies on the whales found this week to determine the causes of death.

“What we do know is losing that number of animals in such a short period of time puts us generally on a slippery slope to extinction,” he said.

There are currently between 325 and 350 of the whales known to scientists. That’s an improvement from 2000, when the population was counted at about 300.

Delaware River oil spill put at 265,000 gallons

Phildadelphia The Coast Guard now estimates that 265,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Delaware River after an oil tanker struck a hunk of metal on the river bottom in November, officials said Friday.

The amount is nearly nine times the initial estimate of 30,000 gallons, but less than the 473,500 gallons of oil that officials later said was unaccounted for.

The Coast Guard came up with the final estimate after the ship, the Athos I, was taken out of the water in Mobile, Ala., and had part of its hull removed, Capt. Jonathan Sarubbi said.

The amount of oil removed from all the tanks was measured, and an independent marine surveyor completed the calculations, Sarubbi said.

The ship suffered its crippling injury on Nov. 26 as it prepared to dock in Paulsboro, N.J., south of Philadelphia. Its oil blackened miles of shoreline and killed wildlife.

As of Friday, cleanup workers had recovered 84,020 gallons of oil and oily liquid, 1,817 gallons of submerged oil and 7,812 tons of oily solids; 258 birds have been released and 174 have died.

Coast Guard officials are still trying to identify the 15-foot-long hunk of metal that punctured the ship, spokeswoman Kimberly Smith said. Some engineers have said it appears to be part of a huge pump. Investigators speculated it might have been scrap metal once used as a ship anchor.

Museum worker admits stealing $850,000

New York A former employee of the Whitney Museum of American Art pleaded guilty Wednesday to embezzling about $850,000 by voiding valid ticket sales over a 2 1/2 -year period and pocketing the cash.

Naseem Wahlah, 30, former manager of visitor services, pleaded guilty in Manhattan’s state Supreme Court to second-degree grand larceny in exchange for probation and 200 hours of community service. She has returned all the money; investigators recovered $800,000 from her Brooklyn home.

Prosecutors had urged a tougher sentence based on the amount Wahlah stole and the fact she returned the money only after she was caught.

The museum hired private detectives after being tipped that Wahlah was stealing by another former employee, Rowan Foley. Video cameras caught Wahlah and Foley voiding ticket sales and stealing cash.

Foley admitted he stole about $30,000 and pleaded guilty last year to third-degree larceny. He was also sentenced to probation.

The museum, which was founded in 1931, has 700 to 1,000 visitors per day, generating about $20,000 in ticket sales.