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New details on 787 fire but little headway in inquiry

The first report of a possible fire came from a cleaning worker just minutes after the passengers and crew had left a Boeing 787 jet that had landed shortly before at Logan Airport in Boston. A cleaning worker noticed “an electrical burning smell and smoke” in the back of the cabin, according to a report released Thursday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

A mechanic then saw and smelled smoke there before seeing two distinct flames about 3 inches long at the front of the case holding the plane’s lithium-ion battery in the electronics bay.

Other managers reported smoke in the nearly empty passenger cabin that was “intense” and “caustic smelling” before summoning firefighters, who found “a white glow with radiant heat waves” coming from the battery, the report said.

The battery was also hissing loudly and leaking liquids and seemed to be reigniting. Standard fire suppressants had little effect, the report said, and a fire captain’s neck was burned, he said, when the battery “exploded.”

The new details about the fire were in a preliminary report that indicates that the board has still not made much progress in figuring out why a battery in the new Boeing 787 jet parked at the airport burst into flame on Jan. 7.

—Christopher Drew and Jad Mouawad, The New York Times

Students initiate inquiry into harassment reports

The U.S. government has begun an investigation into claims that the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, routinely botched sexual assault and harassment complaints and mistreated victims — the latest in a series of similar allegations against high-profile colleges and universities.

In January, a group that includes current and former students and a former administrator filed a detailed complaint with the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, after interviewing what the authors say were hundreds of victims, many of whose cases they contend were mishandled.

The university’s chancellor, Holden Thorp, said he received a letter Wednesday informing him that the civil rights office was investigating the charges.

Neither the authors of the complaint nor federal officials have made the 34-page document public, and university officials say they have not seen it, though parts of it have been described by the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel.

—Richard Perez-pena, The New York Times

Plan to ban trade in polar bear parts is rejected

BANGKOK — A proposal to ban international trade in polar bear parts was rejected Thursday at a major conference on wildlife trade, highlighting the difficulties of reaching a global consensus on protecting many kinds of endangered wildlife.

The question of whether to upgrade the protective status of polar bears was a leading subject of debate by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, which is meeting here in Bangkok.

Others include proposals to extend protection to three species of sharks, manta rays and freshwater sawfish, and to various species of timber.

The polar bear proposal was put forward by the United States but opposed by Canada, Greenland, and Norway, all of which have polar bear populations. A compromise offered by the European Union, which would regulate the trade with export quotas and a tagging system rather than banning it entirely, also was rejected by the convention.

—Bettina Wassener, The New York Times