Tanker explosion releases river of burning fuel, forces evacuation

EVERETT, Mass. - Jolted from bed by a thunderous explosion, John Malone grabbed his pants and looked out the window to see a flaming river of fuel flowing toward his apartment from an overturned tanker truck.

Malone was not hurt, and safety officials were surprised and grateful that no one else was either after the accident early Wednesday that spilled 9,400 gallons of burning fuel into a sleeping community.

Witnesses said a 10-foot wall of flame flowed through the neighborhood below a rotary where the tanker flipped, blowing up cars and destroying two triple-deckers, including Malone's.

Nearby residents were hastily evacuated, including about 84 residents of a senior-citizen complex and 10 to 12 families who lost their homes in the fire.

19 injured as tour bus loses brakes, runs into tree

LOS ANGELES - A tour bus full of people on their way to a taping of the 'Dr. Phil' TV show crashed into a tree at a Hollywood church Wednesday, authorities said. Nineteen people suffered mostly minor injuries.

The chartered bus with 41 people on board was getting off a freeway about 10:15 a.m. when its brakes malfunctioned, police Lt. Roger Mora said.

The bus hit a parked car, crashed through a fence and hit a tree in the yard of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood.

Sex offender charged with murder of boy

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A convicted sex offender was charged Wednesday with murdering a 4-year-old boy whose body was found in a garbage truck in July.

The boy disappeared from outside his family's apartment near Churchill Downs on June 29. A city trash collector found the body of Cesar 'Ivan' Aguilar-Cano in the back of a garbage truck eight days later.

Cecil Eugene New II, 46, who lived across an alley from the boy's family, was arrested Wednesday morning, Louisville police spokesman Phil Russell said.

A grand jury indicted New on charges of murder, kidnapping, tampering with physical evidence and unlawful transaction with a minor.

Congressional study finds high risk of catastrophic runway collision

WASHINGTON - Air travelers face a high risk of a catastrophic collision on U.S. airport runways because of faltering federal leadership, malfunctioning technology and overworked controllers, congressional investigators said Wednesday.

The investigators gave the Federal Aviation Administration credit for reducing runway safety incidents from a peak in 2001. But they said the agency's 'runway safety efforts subsequently waned' as the number of incidents settled at a lower level.

University settles sexual-assault lawsuit for $2.85M

DENVER - The University of Colorado has agreed to pay two women $2.85 million to settle a lawsuit alleging they were sexually assaulted by football players and recruits, school officials said Wednesday.

The allegations had sparked a football recruiting scandal at the school, prompted broad university reforms and led to a shake-up of its top leaders.

University spokesman Ken McConnellogue said the school also agreed to hire an adviser to monitor compliance with federal laws governing equal treatment of women and add a position in the university Office of Victim Assistance.

The agreement came two months after an appellate court revived the lawsuit.

State Farm appeals $1M punitive award in Katrina case

NEW ORLEANS - State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to throw out a $1 million punitive damage award to a Mississippi couple who sued the insurer for refusing to cover Hurricane Katrina damage to their home.

A three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments from lawyers on both sides of the case, which was the first among hundreds of Katrina insurance lawsuits to be tried by a jury in Mississippi. The court didn't immediately rule on State Farm's appeal.

Defense secretary says secure, stable Iraq is within reach

BAGHDAD - U.S. military commanders in northern Iraq told Defense Secretary Robert Gates here Wednesday that they need more troops to battle increased attacks by al-Qaida terrorists who have fled north after being pushed out of the Baghdad region.

The call for the movement of Iraqi and U.S. forces into the north comes as Gates hailed the improved security in Baghdad and said a stable Iraq is within reach. Just before Gates spoke in the heavily fortified Green Zone, however, a car bomb exploded across the Tigris River in a largely Shiite Baghdad neighborhood, killing at least 14 people, police said.