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NATION: Feds seek help on gas line probe

Feds seek help on gas line probe

SAN BRUNO, Calif. — Federal investigators are asking for the public’s help to determine whether a gas line in a San Francisco suburb was leaking before a deadly fireball destroyed nearly 50 homes.

Christopher Hart of the National Transportation Safety Board said investigators had not yet seen any record of gas leak complaints before Thursday’s explosion in a San Bruno neighborhood.

Some residents have said they smelled gas in the days leading up to the blast.

Officials are asking those people — especially anyone who called Pacific Gas and Electric about the problem — to tell officials.

Hart also said investigators want to talk to residents who noticed dead vegetation around the rupture spot, which can be a sign of a leak.

Four people have been confirmed dead in Thursday’s blast, and four remain missing.

Wall Street makes more gains Mon.

NEW YORK — Investors looking for reassurances about the health of the global economy received just that Monday.

Stocks extended their rally into a third week after global regulators agreed to new rules for how much money banks must hold in reserves, China reported its economy remains robust and companies announced a flurry of new takeovers.

‘‘The package of catalysts is a perfect backdrop for a market trying to confirm global economic growth,’’ said Quincy Krosby, a market strategist at Prudential Financial. Dealmaking and the expansion in China further reduced worries about the economy falling back into recession, Krosby said.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 81 points for its eighth gain in the past nine days. The Dow did close off its high after some traders pulled money out of retail stocks ahead of the government’s monthly retail sales report due out today.

Second wildfire burns two homes

LOVELAND, Colo. — Authorities believe a second wildfire burning in the foothills of northern Colorado has destroyed two homes, but firefighters were hopeful Monday that they could gain control over the blaze.

There are six to 10 homes within a half mile of the 700-acre fire, but it wasn’t moving very aggressively, Larimer County sheriff’s Maj. Bill Nelson said.

Firefighters were hoping to take advantage of the lull and drop more fire retardant on the blaze, which has burned about a square mile. Nelson said authorities were in a good position to get the blaze under control using an air tanker and helicopters that had been fighting a wildfire 35 miles to the south, near Boulder.

‘‘We need to control it today. We have enough resources to do that,’’ he said.

Man hints at pleas in holiday attack

DETROIT — A Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up an international flight near Detroit on Christmas has fired his lawyers and suggested he wants to plead guilty to some charges.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds advised Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab not to get rid of his attorneys, but he insisted. Edmunds then granted his request and asked if he had anything further to say.

Abdulmutallab responded with, ‘‘If I want to plead guilty to some counts ... basically, how would that go?’’

Edmunds told him she couldn’t advise on such matters.

Abdulmutallab’s appearance at the federal courthouse Monday is his first since January.

He’s being held on charges that include attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. Nearly 300 people were aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253.

Soldiers can sue contractors

GREENBELT, Md. — A federal judge said military contractors can be sued by soldiers and others who allege they were harmed by improper waste disposal while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus ruled last week in Maryland that military contractors including Halliburton Co. must face lawsuits alleging the soldiers were exposed to toxic emissions and contaminated water when they burned waste in open pits.

Teen pleads guilty to killing brother

INDIANAPOLIS — A defense attorney said an Indiana teenager who pleaded guilty to charges he strangled his 10-year-old brother is remorseful.

Eighteen-year-old Andrew Conley entered his plea Monday as jury selection was to begin for his trial in the small Ohio River town of Rising Sun.

Ohio Circuit Court administrator Connie Sandbrink says Conley faces a minimum sentence of 45 years in prison.