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NATION IN BRIEF: Evidence pins NY crash cause on pilot errors

The Associated Press. National Transportation Safety Board Chair Debbie Hersman, left, talks with fellow board member Robert Sumwalt in Washington on Tuesday during the NTSB's meeting on the crash of Continental Connection flight 3407 near Buffalo, N.Y.

The Associated Press. National Transportation Safety Board Chair Debbie Hersman, left, talks with fellow board member Robert Sumwalt in Washington on Tuesday during the NTSB's meeting on the crash of Continental Connection flight 3407 near Buffalo, N.Y.

WASHINGTON -- Evidence laid out by safety investigators Tuesday pins the cause of an airline crash into a house near Buffalo, N.Y., last year on errors by the pilots, but officials said the root problems extend far beyond a single event.

National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman Deborah Hersman said the accident casts doubt on whether regional airlines are held to the same level of safety as are major airlines, and she promised the board will pursue the issue. She also criticized the Federal Aviation Administration for taking too long to address safety problems raised by the investigation, saying the same issues have turned up before.

FAA officials didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bomb blows up unoccupied truck

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Authorities said someone planted a bomb that exploded under a pickup truck in a South Carolina neighborhood.

Spartanburg County deputies said the explosive device destroyed the unoccupied truck Tuesday morning, damaging a second truck nearby and blowing out the windows of a mobile home.

Deputies said firefighters discovered the bomb after extinguishing the fire ignited by the blast.

Authorities said no one was injured, and investigators didn't find any other explosive devices in the area.

Deputies don't have a motive for the blast or any suspects.

3 children mauled by pack of dogs

FONTANA, Calif. -- Authorities said a pack of escaped dogs mauled three young siblings in California, leaving a 5-year-old girl in critical condition.

Police Sgt. Jeff Deckers said the dogs -- a mastiff and four pit-bull mixes -- escaped a Fontana backyard Monday afternoon and attacked a mother walking with her four children.

Deckers said the mastiff pulled the girl from her mother's hand and shook her violently. She has a punctured lung, broken ribs and bites and is on a ventilator.

Deckers said her brother, who's about 7, also was hospitalized after needing 237 staples to close a leg wound. The girl's sister, who's about 8, was treated for leg and arm injuries.

Court: Sentence for millennium plotter too lenient

SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal appeals court said Tuesday a 22-year prison sentence was too lenient for an al-Qaida-trained terrorist convicted of plotting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on New Year's Day 2000.

A divided three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Ahmed Ressam deserved a much longer prison term because he had reneged on a deal to cooperate with terrorism investigators around the world.

U.S. prosecutors said Ressam's change-of-heart after two years of cooperation compromised at least two terrorist cases in the U.S., resulting in charges being dropped.

The appeals court also took the rare step of removing from the case the Seattle trial judge who imposed the initial sentence.

Sheriff: Fla. lotto winner murdered

TAMPA, Fla. -- A 43-year-old man who had won millions in a lottery jackpot before he went missing nine months ago died of ''homicidal violence,'' Florida authorities said Tuesday.

Further information on how Abraham Shakespeare died would not be released, Hillsborough County Sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said in a news release. The body of the former truck driver's assistant who won $30 million in the lottery in 2006 was found Thursday, buried behind a home beneath a concrete slab.

Shakespeare, of Lakeland, was last seen in April and officials in Polk County -- where he lived and was reported missing -- have long thought he was slain.

No arrests have been made in the case.

Top military officer: Gay ban should be lifted

WASHINGTON -- The military's top uniformed officer on Tuesday made an impassioned plea for allowing gays to serve openly in uniform, telling a Senate panel it was a matter of integrity and that it is wrong to force people to ''lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.''

The comments by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, set the stage for the Defense Department's yearlong study into how the ban can be repealed without causing a major upheaval in the military.