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News Briefs

Inert Hand Grenade Causes Evacuation at Los Angeles Airport

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- LOS ANGELES

An inert military-style hand grenade in a passenger’s luggage prompted police at Los Angeles International Airport to evacuate portions of two terminals, close the upper-level roadway and delay hundreds of flights Monday morning.

Federal security employees discovered the grenade around 6 a.m. in a cardboard box packed inside the suitcase of an Alaska Airlines passenger bound for Seattle.

About 6,000 people were evacuated from Terminals 2 and 3 at the airport for more than three hours while a bomb squad robot removed the suspicious package from the bomb-detection machine.

The incident delayed about 200 flights, with incoming planes asked to delay their landings and outgoing flights held on the ground.

The evacuation was the sixth time in a week that terminals have been emptied at the world’s third-largest airport due to a suspicious item or other security snafu, including an unplugged metal detector last Thursday.

Authorities described the owner of the suspicious package only as a man in his 30s. He told investigators that he had no idea the hollowed-out grenade was in his bag and that his brother had packed it.

The FBI detained the man for questioning, but refused to release any other details after the U.S. attorney’s office determined that he had not violated any laws.

Landslide Caused by Earthquake Buries Village, Threatens Others

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- SARBAGH, AFGHANISTAN

At least 60 people were reported dead and 100 were missing Monday after a landslide touched off by an earthquake sent tons of rock down on a village tucked in a narrow gorge in northeastern Afghanistan.

Almost the entire village of Daronzao, which had between 60 and 100 homes, was buried beneath more than 50 feet of chalky rock that plugged a 200-yard-wide gorge and dammed the Samangan River.

The slide occurred during a 7.2 earthquake that struck central Afghanistan on Sunday, shaking a region that stretches from Tajikistan to India, causing several deaths in Kabul and other Afghan cities.

With the river dammed by the landslide, a lake of rising water inundated an estimated 300 more homes and spread over about 10 acres, sending more than 1,000 residents of two other villages racing for high ground.

Officials in Samangan, a city of about 70,000 people about 25 miles northwest of the disaster site, said they feared a breach in the debris would send water roaring through several villages downstream and also threaten the city.

Senate Democrats Express Resolve To Pass Election Reform Bill

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

With negotiations dragging on longer than expected, final action stalled again Monday in the Senate on legislation to overhaul the nation’s voting machinery and procedures.

Democrats failed for the second time in four days to overcome a Republican-led filibuster of the bill, prompting Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., to shelve the measure. He said lawmakers Tuesday would instead begin a lengthy debate on energy policy.

Daschle and proponents of election reform in both parties refused to declare the bill dead, despite the recent setbacks. They said passage could come at any time in the next few weeks after negotiators iron out final details.

“Because so much good work has been done, it is my strong desire to bring this bill to a successful completion,” Daschle said. “And we’re going to do that.”

“All of us want to pass a bill,” agreed Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the measure’s lead Republican sponsor.

The bill is the Senate’s response to the vote-counting problems and other issues that emerged in the 2000 presidential election in Florida and elsewhere. The House passed its own version of an election reform bill in December by a broad bipartisan margin.

The continued impasse reflects the difficulty of negotiating a bill that directly affects how lawmakers are elected. Republicans generally have supported stricter rules to crack down on alleged voter fraud, while Democrats have backed steps to expand the electorate.

Coroner Testifies Victim’s Jugular Mauled by Dogs

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- LOS ANGELES

Dog mauling victim Diane Whipple was killed in the same way a lion pounces on its prey, suffering bruises and cuts everywhere except for the soles of her feet and the top of her head, a chief medical examiner testified Monday.

The most severe wounds were to Whipple’s neck, where her jugular vein was severed and her larynx was punctured, Dr. Boyd Stephens told jurors in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Whipple, a 33-year-old lacrosse coach, died Jan. 26, 2001, after being attacked by two Presa Canario dogs in the hallway of her San Francisco apartment.

The dogs’ owners, Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel, are on trial for involuntary manslaughter in connection with their neighbor’s death. Knoller, who was in the hallway at the time of the attack, also faces a second-degree murder charge.

Prosecutors, who finished presenting their witnesses Monday, maintain that the defendants knew their dogs were dangerous and did nothing to prevent Whipple’s death. Defense attorneys, who will begin to present their case Tuesday, counter that Knoller tried to protect Whipple by shielding her with her body, and that Noel isn’t to blame because he wasn’t present during the attack.