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Illicit drug use declining in U.S.

Compiled from wire reports The Spokesman-Review

Washington The percentage of Americans using illicit drugs declined slightly last year, though the results were more pronounced for youths, according to a survey released Thursday.

For people ages 12-17, there was a 9 percent drop in illicit drug use between 2002 and 2004, the federal government announced.

Overall, 19.1 million Americans used illicit drugs last year, or 7.9 percent. The numbers were basically the same for the surveys taken in the previous two years, when about 8 percent of Americans reported using illicit drugs within the previous month.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health is an annual survey of close to 70,000 people

Lawsuit filed to save woodpecker

Little Rock, Ark. Environmentalists who fear a plan to divert water to eastern Arkansas farms will harm the habitat of the recently rediscovered ivory-billed woodpecker filed a federal lawsuit Thursday.

The project would pump 100 billion gallons of water per year from the White River. The Arkansas Wildlife Federation and the National Wildlife Federation said diverting so much water will harm the swampy woods that are the ivory-billed woodpecker’s habitat.

The groups on Thursday sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to halt work on the irrigation project.

MS-13 gang targeted in FBI roundup

Washington More than 650 suspected members of MS-13 and other gangs were arrested in the United States, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in a coordinated crackdown on violent Hispanic gangs, officials said Thursday.

The roundup, conducted Wednesday by 6,400 law enforcement officers in the five countries, was run out of FBI headquarters in Washington, FBI assistant director Chris Swecker said.

“Our end game is to take out the leadership elements especially,” Swecker said at a news conference.

“These arrests are a means to that end.”

MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, originated in Los Angeles among Central American immigrants. An estimated 10,000 MS-13 members are in the U.S.

Fire closes tracks in NYC’s Penn Station

New York Fire broke out in an equipment room and spread smoke inside New York’s busy Pennsylvania Station, shutting down several commuter train tracks and forcing a partial evacuation Thursday evening, the fire department said.

The cause of the fire wasn’t immediately known.

The fire was reported about 7:40 p.m. Firefighters were able to keep the flames contained to the equipment room, and the fire was out by 9:30 p.m.

L.A. man convicted of killing business rival

Los Angeles A man convicted of murdering a business rival and three members of her family and torching their Hollywood Hills home was sentenced to death Thursday.

Pravin “Peter” Govin, 36, of Cypress, Calif., was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy-Powell, who described the slayings as a “crime that just defies understanding.”

The victims, Gita Kumar, 42, her teenage son and daughter, and her mother-in-law, were blindfolded and tied up before they were strangled and burned in the fire.

Prosecutors said the killings stemmed from a business dispute over an alley that separated a hotel Govin owned and a hotel owned by the victims’ family in the Studio City area.

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