Washington President Bush was hurried from his residence to a safer location Wednesday evening and people were evacuated from the White House and U.S. Capitol when a private plane ventured into restricted airspace.
The all-clear came within minutes when two fighter jets intercepted the small twin-engine propeller-driven plane eight miles northeast of the Capitol. The alert ended before evacuations were complete at the White House.
The White House briefly went to red alert – its highest level, presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said.
Arizona wildfire at 152,000 acres
Phoenix A blaze in rugged central Arizona had grown to 152,000 acres Wednesday and concern shifted to a pair of communities surrounded by pine forest that could be threatened.
The fire in rugged canyons north of Phoenix grew by more than 10,000 acres overnight and was expected to continue spreading through grass and desert brush. The lightning-sparked blaze was about 20 percent contained early Wednesday, down from 25 percent on Tuesday, fire officials said.
The blaze began June 21 as two lightning-started fires and destroyed 11 homes near Cave Creek, just north of Phoenix. The fire may have dealt a fatal blow to the world’s largest saguaro cactus, which could be two centuries old.
The 46-foot Grand One, recognized in the National Register of Big Trees for its height, mass of limbs and a base circumference of nearly 8 feet, was scorched.
Dioceses settle suits for $42 million
Sacramento, Calif. Two northern California Catholic dioceses agreed Wednesday to pay more than $42 million to settle 41 clergy sex abuse claims, resulting in the dismissal of all but one lawsuit.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento agreed to pay $35 million to 33 victims just “two minutes” before a jury trial was set to begin in one of the cases, attorney Larry Drivon said.
Also Wednesday, the Diocese of Santa Rosa announced it will pay $7.3 million to eight plaintiffs.
Domestic partners challenge falls short
San Francisco The California Supreme Court Wednesday declined to hear a challenge to the state’s sweeping domestic partners benefits law.
The law grants rights and obligations relating to children, community property, death and other issues to the more than 27,000 couples on the state domestic partner registry. Most are gays and lesbians, although unmarried heterosexual couples over 65 years old are also eligible.
Two conservative legal groups challenged the law as “marriage by another name” and therefore prohibited by Proposition 22, the 2000 ballot measure that affirmed California marriage as heterosexual. A lower court denied the challenge as did a state appellate court.
Lightning strike kills Ohio inmate
Chillicothe, Ohio Lightning struck a softball field Wednesday night at a prison, killing one inmate and injuring five prisoners and two guards, authorities said.
The inmates were playing softball at the time, said Tim Brunsman, warden at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution.
The injured were taken to a hospital in this city 45 miles south of Columbus. Their conditions were not available. The victims’ names were not released.
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