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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

FCC to probe pay to commentator

Compiled from wire reports The Spokesman-Review

Washington The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission ordered an investigation Friday into whether conservative commentator Armstrong Williams broke the law by failing to disclose he was paid by the Bush administration to plug the president’s education agenda.

The investigation relates to provisions that require disclosure of such arrangements, FCC Chairman Michael Powell said in a brief statement.

Also Friday, two Democratic senators asked the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative arm, to review whether any other federal agencies have paid commentators to support the administration’s agenda.

Recycling plant fire triggers evacuations

Anderson, Ind. A magnesium fire at a recycling plant burned out of control Friday night, spewing wind-driven toxic fumes and forcing the evacuation of several thousand people from their homes.

Hundreds of firefighters rushed to the Advanced Magnesium Alloys Corp. plant after the fire erupted; explosions inside forced firefighters out less than three hours later, said police spokesman Detective Terry Sollars.

“The whole building is engulfed now,” Sollars said. “It’s a bright glow, it’s burning pretty hard.”

Magnesium is a silvery-white, highly flammable metal that, when ignited, releases irritating or toxic fumes. Magnesium fires are typically extinguished using dry sand since water can cause a flare-up or explosion.

Authorities evacuated an area about one mile wide and two miles long that fell in the path of the smoke and fumes; wind speeds were reported at 5-10 mph, Sollars said.

“They’re afraid the plant is gonna blow,” said Doug Parks, who lives across the street and upwind from the plant. “We heard a couple of explosions that shook the house.”

Sollars said the fire began with an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 pounds of magnesium in one section of the plant. “We’re not sure yet on what the start of it was,” he said.

Twelve to 18 of the plant’s approximately 70 workers were inside at the time, he said.

Dam pressure eased; hundreds evacuated

Corona, Calif. Authorities released a fierce, brown river of water from a Southern California dam and evacuated more than 1,000 people from its path Friday after a temporary earthen barrier at the site began seeping water.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers unleashed more than 10,000 cubic feet of water per second to relieve pressure on the dam 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

“That’s like a swimming pool every second,” Corona Mayor Darrell Talbert said.

The water gushed into the Santa Ana River, whose banks were deep enough to handle the flow without flooding, said Lt. Col. John Guenther, deputy commander of the corps’ Los Angeles district.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch in the area, but Guenther said “there is no imminent danger.”

Cheetah cubs on view for Web surfers

Washington The National Zoo’s new cheetah cubs aren’t on public display yet, but Web surfers can get a sneak peek.

The cubs were born Nov. 23 and are the first cheetah offspring to be born at the zoo in its 115-year history.

The zoo has set up a webcam in the cheetahs’ enclosure to monitor them 24 hours a day. The cubs may not always be visible, depending on their location.

After the cubs make their public debut, the zoo will reposition the camera so viewers can see the cubs in their yard with their mother.