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Nation in brief: Colorado wildfires force evacuations

From wire reports

Wind-driven wildfires swept across Boulder County grasslands Wednesday, destroying at least four structures and prompting mandatory evacuations of at least 500 homes.

No injuries were immediately reported.

The fires started in parched, rolling grasslands dotted with subdivisions, individual homes and horse ranches about 25 miles northwest of Denver.

Authorities said at least three of the destroyed structures were homes, and the fourth was either a barn or a home.

Winds ranged from 35 to 55 mph, said Kyle Fredin, a National Weather Service spokesman.


Bridges to close for inauguration

Police are blocking off all bridges crossing the Potomac River into Washington and a huge chunk of downtown when Barack Obama takes the oath of office Jan. 20, securing the largest area of the nation’s capital for any inauguration.

Some 3.5 square miles of downtown, including the business district and government buildings surrounding the National Mall, will be closed to traffic starting the afternoon of Jan. 19 and remain closed until the morning rush hour on Jan. 21. The Secret Service announced the closures Wednesday.

Officials estimate between 2 million and 3 million people will travel to Washington for the event.


Passenger tackled after plane threat

A Kentucky man who claimed to have a bomb aboard a Los Angeles-bound jetliner was then tackled and bound by other passengers Wednesday, the FBI said.

No bomb was found aboard the Delta Air Lines Flight 110 from Atlanta, and after questioning by the FBI and airport police, federal investigators decided not to pursue charges against Lawrence Johnson, 45, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said. Johnson was turned over to Los Angeles police and booked for making a false bomb threat. He was being held at a downtown jail, said airport police Sgt. Jim Holcomb.

Eimiller said the plane was a minute or two from touching down when the man apparently left his seat and walked to the rear of the plane, where he scuffled with a flight attendant.

After passengers restrained him, the man claimed to have a bomb, then later lunged for an exit door and assaulted a passenger, Eimiller said.

Passengers and flight crew members then restrained him a second time, binding him with plastic ties.


Survivors receive ‘John Doe’ letters

The Army said Wednesday that 7,000 family members of soldiers killed in the Iraq or Afghan wars mistakenly were sent letters addressing them as “John Doe.”

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. was sending a personal letter to all the families who received the improperly addressed letters as the result of a printing error, the Army said.

The 7,000 original letters were sent late last month to inform survivors about private organizations that offer gifts, programs and other assistance to families that have lost soldiers in Iraq or other countries where they are deployed for the war on terrorism.

The letters, which were printed by a contractor, were to have been automatically addressed with the specific names and addresses of survivors, said Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman. Instead, they contained the placeholder greeting – “Dear John Doe.”

“It’s our fault for not catching it,” he said. “We are certainly sorry.”

From wire reports
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