NATION IN BRIEF: Evacuations under way for L.A. foothills

Evacuations under way for L.A. foothills

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE, Calif. — Homeowners in mud-ravaged foothill towns north of Los Angeles packed their cars and fled Tuesday as evacuation orders took hold and a new winter storm approached.

Officials issued evacuation orders for 541 homes on the hillsides of La Canada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Acton and two canyons. Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies went door to door, urging people to leave; those who refused signed waivers acknowledging they were aware of the risk.

Sheriff's deputies also asked residents to move their vehicles and trash cans away from the streets, where heavy rain on Saturday caused water and rocks to roar through, smashing cars and concrete barriers together.

Court halts rules on John Edwards sex tape retrieval

RALEIGH, N.C. — A North Carolina court has temporarily stopped the security rules that a judge issued for the retrieval of the John Edwards sex tape.

The North Carolina Court of Appeals issued a stay on Tuesday without giving a reason. The court, however, did not halt an initial order that requires former Edwards aide Andrew Young to turn over the tape by this afternoon.

Superior Court Judge Abraham Penn Jones last week ordered that Young's copies of the tape be turned over so they can be placed under seal. Jones has threatened Young with penalties if he doesn't hand them over.

Kerrigan family disputes autopsy report on father

BOSTON — The family of Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan insisted Tuesday that they do ‘‘not blame anyone'' for her father's death and criticized a medical examiner's finding that Daniel Kerrigan died of a heart rhythm problem after a fight with his son.

Daniel Kerrigan's death was ruled a homicide by a state medical examiner.

The findings could prompt new charges against Nancy Kerrigan's brother, Mark, 45, who has pleaded not guilty to assault and battery on an elderly person and is undergoing a psychiatric evaluation.

Man allegedly steals ambulancewith patient inside

MADISON, Wis. — Authorities said a drunken man stole an ambulance from a Wisconsin ski area with the patient and paramedics still inside.

The Dane County Sheriff's Department said emergency responders were treating a patient in the back of the ambulance at the Tyrol Basin Ski and Snowboard Area in Mount Horeb on Monday night. They said a 24-year-old Illinois man got into the vehicle and drove it around the parking lot.

The sheriff's department said deputies arrested the man. But it is unclear how he was stopped.

No other details were immediately available.

Cops search landfill for missing baby

SAN ANTONIO — Police began excavating a landfill Tuesday in search of a body or other evidence in the disappearance of an 8-month-old Arizona boy who was last seen with his mother at a San Antonio hotel on the day after Christmas.

Elizabeth Johnson, 23, was locked in a custody dispute with the baby's father when she took off from Tempe, Ariz., in mid-December. Johnson has refused to say where the baby is, but she told the father, Logan McQueary, that she killed the infant and threw his body in a trash bin — a story she later retracted in a media interview.

Toyota seeks damage control in public, private

WASHINGTON — In public, Toyota is running apologetic TV ads and vowing to win back customers' trust. Behind the scenes, the besieged carmaker is trying to learn all it can about congressional investigations, maybe even steer them if it can.

It's part of an all-out drive by the world's biggest auto manufacturer to redeem its once unassailable brand — hit anew on Tuesday as Toyota's global recall ballooned to 8.5 million cars and trucks. The day's safety recall of 440,000 of its flagship Prius and other hybrids, plus a Tokyo news conference where the company's president read a statement in English pledging to ‘‘regain the confidence of our customers,'' underscored a determination to keep buyers' faith from sinking to unrecoverable depths.

— From wire reports