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News Briefs

Hurricane Dennis Stalks Carolina Coast But Fails to Reach Full Power


Hurricane Dennis stalked the North Carolina coast Monday, bringing pelting rains, blustering winds and massive power outages, but never quite roaring ashore to deliver its full punch.

Yet the medium-strength hurricane, the second to strike the United States in a week, remained steadfast -- and unpredictable -- even as it toyed with coastal residents and tourism from northern Florida to Rehoboth Beach, Del. It maintained winds of nearly 100 mph and never quite made a complete exit, either.

Although the hurricane mercifully had veered to the northeast overnight as it approached the Carolinas, keeping the eye and its very fiercest winds safely over the Atlantic Ocean, it was big and broad enough that its outer bands of wind-tossed rain flooded many low-lying areas along coastal North Carolina. In some spots, rain poured down at the rate of 3 inches an hour, turning streets into rivers.

Winds of up to tropical-storm force, as high as 73 mph, reached 185 miles outward from the storm’s center. That, combined with gusts of up to 110 mph, was enough to send roof shingles flying and tree branches and electrical lines snapping, but overall, damage apparently was minor. More than 50,000 customers were without power Monday from here in New Hanover County to as far west as Raleigh in the central part of the state, utilities reported.

FBI Opens Probe Into Fatal Police Shooting During a Narcotics Raid


Federal authorities have opened an investigation into the fatal police shooting of a 61-year-old grandfather during a narcotics raid, officials said Monday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Gennaco said his office asked the FBI to open a probe to see if Mario Paz’s civil rights were violated by the El Monte Police Department officers who, during an Aug. 9 nighttime raid, shot off the locks to Paz’s home then ultimately shot him in the back.

The police say the officer who shot Paz feared that he was armed or was reaching for a weapon -- characterizations disputed by Paz’s family. El Monte police had been investigating an alleged drug dealer who had used the Paz address in Compton, south of Los Angeles. Police have since said they had no information to tie Paz or his family to drug trafficking and still do not have any information or evidence of wrongdoing.

The federal investigation is a criminal probe, and Gennaco said his office wants to see “whether or not excessive force was used.”

“That’s great,” said Maria Derain, one of Paz’s six children. “The faster questions are answered the better.”

Los Alamos Disciplinary Action Against Its Employees Drags On


It may be weeks or even months before the director of Los Alamos National Laboratory takes disciplinary action against three employees for their alleged mishandling of a suspected Chinese spy, official said Monday.

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson recommended two weeks ago that the laboratory impose some form of discipline, which could range from mandatory counseling to dismissal, against key employees involved in the case of Wen Ho Lee.

But because the lab is managed by the University of California, personnel actions must follow the university’s rules, which include a fact-finding process, rights of appeal and possible arbitration.

Los Alamos Lab Director John C. Browne said that he and University of California President Richard Atkinson decided last week to gather “highly respected and independent” national security experts “to advise us on what actions would be appropriate.”