$38M deal reached for Minn. bridge collapse victims

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota lawmakers reached agreement on a $38 million compensation package for victims of a deadly bridge collapse, culminating months of work to provide relief beyond the state's legal liability.

The deal struck in a joint committee of the House and Senate will offer everyone who was on the bridge up to $400,000, with an additional $12.6 million pool for the people who suffered the most severe injuries and losses. Thirteen people died in the Aug. 1 collapse, and 145 were hurt.

'This is what we've been fighting for the whole time,' Kimberly Brown, who suffered back, neck and knee injuries, told reporters Friday. 'For everything that everybody's been through, thank God that they have figured out a way to help everybody.'

NY mobster wields vocabulary words in prison letters

NEW YORK - He's known as Vinny Gorgeous, but convicted mob boss Vincent Basciano might want to trade up to Vinny Photogenic or Vinny Pulchritudinous.

Some of his letters from federal prison, which are being intercepted and scrutinized by authorities, are full of such words as 'thespian,' 'flippant' and 'sagacious,' his lawyer said Thursday.

A new form of gangland slang, or a coded message to fellow wise guys? No, attorney Ephraim Savitt said, just vocabulary Basciano wants the recipient - his 7-year-old son - to learn.

'He wants the kid to go to college and be a success,' Savitt said, claiming his client's fatherly aims are being frustrated by authorities' slow pace in reviewing the letters.

Basciano, 48, is serving a life sentence for the 2001 killing of a Mafia rival. A jury convicted him in 2006 of racketeering, attempted murder and gambling but deadlocked on a murder charge in the slaying of Frank Santoro. After a retrial, Basciano was convicted of murder in July 2007.

Man pleads not guilty to charges in ricin case

LAS VEGAS - A man authorities suspect was poisoned by ricin found in his motel room pleaded not guilty Friday to possession of a biological toxin and weapons charges.

A June 17 trial was scheduled for Roger Bergendorff, who has been in federal custody since his April 16 arrest. The charges carry a possible penalty of 30 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.

Authorities say about 4 grams of 'crude' powdered ricin were found Feb. 28 in Bergendorff's extended-stay motel room several blocks off the Las Vegas Strip, along with illegal silencers for .22-caliber weapons.

Lei measuring longer than 1 mile strung in Hawaii

HONOLULU - May Day was Lei Day in Hawaii.

Volunteers hoping to set a record for the world's longest lei strung together flowers that stretched for more than a mile at Kapiolani Park in Waikiki on Thursday, organizers said.

Video, photos and witness statements documenting the lei, which measured 5,336 feet in length, will be sent to Guinness World Records, organizers said.

Success seems all but certain, because organizers say there currently isn't a Guinness record for the world's longest lei.

Bush says economy is going to 'come on'

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. - President Bush said Friday the slow growth of the economy is 'not good enough for America,' but new rebate checks will inject some life soon.

'This economy is going to come on,' Bush said. 'I'm confident it will.'

Checks of up to $600 for individuals and $1,200 for couples are starting to hit bank accounts this week. They are part of a broader economic stimulus plan that also includes tax breaks for businesses as an incentive to invest.

Bush called it 'a robust attempt to inject life' into the economy that hasn't fully kicked in yet. His pep talk came while visiting a technology plant in this St. Louis suburb.

Iowa railroad bridge opens 1 track a day after barge crash

DES MOINES, Iowa - A railroad bridge across the swollen Mississippi River in southeastern Iowa partially reopened Friday, more than a day after it was struck by a grain-filled barge.

The BNSF bridge at Burlington is part of a main rail for freight and passenger traffic, and its closure has disrupted schedules for more than 100 trains, BNSF Railway spokesman Steve Forsberg said.

The barge remained pinned against the bridge Friday, but the line on the south side of the bridge opened before noon, Forsberg said. The other line was struck by the barge and remained closed.

Judge throws out videos as evidence in explosives trial

TAMPA, Fla. - An Egyptian college student facing federal explosives charges won a victory Friday when a judge threw out some videos considered by prosecutors to be key evidence in his trial next week.

Videos of armed rockets found on Youssef Samir Megahed's home computer were revealed by prosecutors too late to be used against him in trial, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday said. Prosecutors said the videos depicted rockets being used in Middle East conflicts.