Monday, March 8, 2010

360 News Briefs

President Will Nominate Former Army Intel Officer To Lead TSA

An Obama administration official says the president plans to nominate a former top Army intelligence official to lead the Transportation Security Administration.

The administration official says President Barack Obama has chosen retired General Robert Harding to lead the federal agency charged with keeping terrorists and bombs off airplanes.

Harding's intelligence background is significant because the administration has stepped up its counterterrorism efforts since the attempted airplane bombing on Christmas Day in Detroit, Michigan.

Obama's original pick for the TSA job withdrew his name from consideration when it became clear he would face a tough confirmation battle in the Senate.

US Troops Withdrawing From Haiti

U.S. troops are withdrawing from the shattered capital, leaving many Haitians anxious that the most visible portion of international is ending even as the city is still mired in misery and vulnerable to unrest.

As troops packed their duffels and began to fly home this weekend, Haitians and some aid workers wondered whether U.N. peacekeepers and local police are up to the task of maintaining order. More than a half-million people still live in vast encampments that have grown more unpleasant in recent days with the early onset of rainy season.

Some also fear the departure of the American troops is a sign of dwindling international interest in the plight of the Haitian people following the catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake.

U.S. officials say the long-anticipated draw down of troops is not a sign of waning commitment to Haiti, only a change in the nature of the operation. Security will now be the responsibility of the 10,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force and the Haitian police.

A smaller number of U.S. forces -- the exact number has not yet been determined -- will be needed as the U.N. and Haitian government reassert control, said Gen. Douglas Fraser, head of U.S. Southern Command, which runs the Haiti operation.

California Police: 14-Year-Old Girl's Remains Found

Authorities in Southern California say the skeletal remains of a 14-year-old girl who disappeared a year ago while walking to school have been found in a remote area of the Pala Indian Reservation.

Escondido Police Chief Jim Maher said Amber Dubois' bones were found Sunday and positively identified through dental records later in the day. Maher declined to answer any questions during a brief news conference Sunday because he said the discovery is part of an ongoing murder investigation.

Amber's father, Maurice Dubois, appeared distraught at the news conference and thanked volunteers for their work on the yearlong search.

WWII-Era Plane Crashes Off Fla. Panhandle; 2 Dead

A neurosurgeon and one other person were killed when the World War II-era plane they were in crashed into the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida Panhandle.

Walton County Sheriff's Office spokesman Mike Gurspan confirmed Sunday that Dr. Herman Evan Zeiger, of the Birmingham, Ala., area, was piloting the plane when it went down a day earlier.

Zeiger was flying the vintage T-6 Texan in formation with several similar aircraft, but Gurspan says it's unclear if they were doing acrobatics or participating in any organized show.

The body of a female passenger has been transported to the medical examiner, but she has not yet been identified.

On Sunday, divers are still trying to remove the wreckage of the plane from waters about 45 feet deep.

Swiss Reject Plan Giving Abused Animals A Lawyer

Swiss voters on Sunday soundly rejected a plan to appoint special lawyers for animals that are abused by humans, dealing a blow to advocates who say Switzerland's elaborate animal rights laws aren't being enforced.

Official results showed that 70.5 percent of voters cast their ballot against the proposal to extend nationwide a system that has been in place in Zurich since 1992. Some 29.5 percent of voters backed the proposal, with officials putting the turnout at just over 45 percent.

"The Swiss people have clearly said our animal protection laws are so good we don't need animal lawyers," Jakob Buechler, a lawmaker for the centrist Christian People's Party, told Swiss television SF1.

Switzerland tightened its animal protection laws two years ago and now has among the strictest rules anywhere when it comes to caring for pets and farm animals.

Pigs, budgies, goldfish and other social animals cannot be kept alone. Horses and cows must have regular exercise outside their stalls, and dog owners have to take a training course to learn how to properly look after their pets.

Tiana Angelina Moser, a lawmaker for the Green Liberal Party, said animal rights advocates would now be looking for other ways to make sure laws against animal abuse are properly applied and those who hurt animals receive appropriate punishment.

According to the country's only animal lawyer, Antoine F. Goetschel, public prosecutors are often unsure about animal rights and shy away from pursuing cases even if there is clear evidence of abuse.

Goetschel said he represents about 150-200 animals annually in Zurich, while in other cantons (states), only a handful of cases go to court each year.

Opponents of the latest proposal, including farmers' groups and the government, had argued that existing laws are sufficient and appointing lawyers for animals would incur unnecessary costs for taxpayers.


Fisherman Rescued From Chattahoochee River

A fisherman was pulled from the Chattahoochee River in Gwinnett County at about 10:16 a.m. Sunday, officials said.

Authorities said that the 45-year-old man got stuck in some trees on the river near Kennedy Road in Suwanee.

He was reportedly fishing in a float tube when he encountered swift and rising waters from the Buford Dam.

The man was evaluated for a minor injury to his hand and was released at the scene.

Crews from Forsyth County helped the Gwinnett Swift Water Rescue unit bring the man to shore.

4 Injured When RV Explodes

Three adults and one teenager were injured following a gas explosion at an RV park Saturday. It happened at the Fosters Mill RV Park in Cave Springs in Floyd County.

Officials said a man was trying to light a space heater when the RV exploded. Authorities said the explosion was so powerful that it blew out the seams of the RV. Fire also singed the ceiling and roof.

A 13-year-old boy was airlifted to Grady Hospital. He has first and second degree burns.


'Alice' Opens With $116.3 Million, A 3-D Record

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp's trip down the rabbit hole drew huge crowds, as "Alice in Wonderland" earned a whopping $116.3 million in its opening weekend - a record for a 3-D film.

The surprisingly huge total easily surpassed all other films in release and gave Walt Disney Studios an even bigger opening than that of the hugely popular 3-D film "Avatar." It also marked the biggest opening weekend for a non-sequel.

"This is just one of those cultural phenomenons that has caught everybody's interest," said Chuck Viane, Disney's president of distribution. "They don't come like this very often."

The film beat forecasts that ranged between $65 million-$75 million, and the surprising results added some intrigue to Oscar Sunday. Before the weekend, Disney and 20th Century Fox competed over the available 3-D ready screens; screens outfitted for 3-D are rapidly rising, but still amount to fewer than 4,000 in the U.S. and Canada.

AP; The Pentagon; WKRG-TV; Swiss-TV SF1; WSB-TV; Reuters.

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