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Congressman Calls for Criminal Charges in Utah Mine Collapse

The general manager and possibly other senior staff at the Crandall Canyon Mine near Huntington, Utah, where nine miners died last August, hid information from federal officials that could have prevented the disaster and should face criminal charges, the chairman of a House investigation said Thursday.

The chairman, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., accused the company of concealing the extent of an earlier collapse in the mine that involved the same high-risk technique, known as retreat mining, that was being used when the disaster began. Miller said that if federal mine officials had known the extent of that earlier collapse, they would not have allowed the company to continue using the method, in which miners remove coal from the pillars that hold up the tunnels.

Miller disclosed that he had sent a referral letter in late April to the Justice Department asking it to investigate whether the mine’s manager, Laine W. Adair, on his own or in conspiracy with others in the company, concealed facts or made false statements to federal investigators about the condition of the mine before the disaster.

On Aug. 6, roof supports in a section of the mine gave way in a major collapse that left six miners fatally entombed. Ten days later, three miners who were working as rescuers died after more tunnels fell.

Airlines Raising Ticket Fees, Negating Many Discounts

Air travel these days is an adventure with many surprises, some of them unpleasant.

That also describes the process of simply buying a ticket.

Airlines have raised fares or increased surcharges, partly to cover the rising cost of jet fuel, at least 10 times so far this year — most recently on Thursday, when American Airlines and Delta Air Lines raised ticket fees again. The increases have wiped out many of the discounts the carriers offered in 2007 to fill planes.

Full-fare coach tickets on some transcontinental routes, like Los Angeles to Philadelphia, now cost more than $1,000 round trip. Leisure fares, purchased in advance, are back to the levels that passengers paid in 2006, or about $230 round trip, on average, according to Robert Harrell of Harrell Associates, which tracks airfares.

Business-class tickets are up 30 percent from the recent lows touched three years ago, when Delta cut fares sharply, Harrell said.

But those figures do not include higher charges and fees, particularly for the higher price of fuel, which has jumped more than 63 percent over this time last year.

Gunmen Assassinate Acting Chief Of Mexico’s Federal Police

Gunmen assassinated the acting chief of Mexico’s federal police early on Thursday morning in the most brazen attack so far in the year-and-a-half-old struggle between the government and organized crime gangs.

The Mexican police have been under constant attack since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2007 and launched an offensive against drug cartels who had corrupted the municipal police forces and local officials in several towns along the border and on both coasts.

Since then, Calderon has sent thousands of federal agents and troops into those areas to establish law and order, provoking a powerful backlash from drug cartels, who have killed some 200 officers, among them at least 30 federal agents.