Nation roundup for February 1


Negotiators talking to Ala. captor through pipe

MIDLAND CITY, Ala. (AP) — A standoff in rural Alabama went into a second full day as police surrounded an underground bunker where authorities said a retired truck driver was holding a 5-year-old hostage he grabbed off a school bus after shooting the driver dead.

A normally quiet dirt road was teeming with activity Thursday around the siege that began late Tuesday. More than a dozen police cars and trucks, a fire truck, a helicopter, officers from multiple agencies, media and at least one ambulance crowded the stretch where the dead-end residential road branches off a U.S. highway near Midland City, population 2,300. A staging area for law enforcement was lit by bright lights overnight.

The boy being held was watching TV and getting medication sent from home, according to state Rep. Steve Clouse, who met with authorities and visited the boy’s family. Clouse said the bunker had food and electricity.

The shelter is about 4 feet underground and has about 6-by-8-feet of floor space, said Police Chief James Arrington from the adjacent town of Pinckard, whose city limits border the neighborhood. Negotiators have been talking to the man through a 4-inch-wide PVC ventilation pipe.

“He will have to give up sooner or later because (authorities) are not leaving,” he said. “It’s pretty small, but he’s been known to stay in there eight days.”

Arrington thought the man had been sleeping some, because he told negotiators one night that he was through talking and was going to sleep.

The gunman, identified by neighbors as Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, was known around the neighborhood as a menacing figure who once beat a dog to death with a lead pipe, threatened to shoot children for setting foot on his property and patrolled his yard at night with a flashlight and a shotgun.

The chief confirmed that Dykes held anti-government views, as described by multiple neighbors.

“He’s against the government — starting with Obama on down.” He said the FBI, which was leading the standoff, had reason to believe that the bus driver’s shooting was a hate crime.

“He doesn’t like law enforcement or the government telling him what to do,” Arrington said. “He’s just a loner.”

Authorities say the gunman boarded a stopped school bus Tuesday afternoon and demanded two boys between 6 and 8 years old. When the driver tried to block his way, the gunman shot him several times and took a 5-year-old boy off the bus.

“As far as we know there is no relation at all. He just wanted a child for a hostage situation,” said Michael Senn, a pastor who helped comfort other traumatized children after the attack.

Dykes had been scheduled to appear in court Wednesday to face a charge of menacing some neighbors with a gun as they drove by his house weeks ago.

The bus driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, was hailed by locals as a hero who gave his life to protect the 21 students aboard the bus. Authorities say most of the students scrambled to the back of the bus when the gunman boarded.

Neighbors described a number of run-ins with Dykes in the time since he moved to this small town near the Georgia and Florida borders, in a region known for peanut farming. Dykes had been scheduled to appear in court to answer charges he shot at his neighbors in a dispute last month over a speed bump.

In that dispute, neighbor Claudia Davis said he yelled and fired shots at her, her son and her baby grandson over damage Dykes claimed their pickup truck did to a makeshift speed bump in the dirt road. No one was hurt.

Mike and Patricia Smith, who live across the street from Dykes and whose two children were on the bus, said their youngsters had a run-in with him about 10 months ago.

“My bulldogs got loose and went over there,” Patricia Smith said. “The children went to get them. He threatened to shoot them if they came back.”

Another neighbor, Ronda Wilbur, said Dykes beat her 120-pound dog with a lead pipe for coming onto his side of the dirt road. The dog died a week later.

“He said his only regret was he didn’t beat him to death all the way,” Wilbur said. “If a man can kill a dog, and beat it with a lead pipe and brag about it, it’s nothing until it’s going to be people.”

Court records showed Dykes was arrested in Florida in 1995 for improper exhibition of a weapon, but the misdemeanor was dismissed. The circumstances of the arrest were not detailed in his criminal record. He was also arrested for marijuana possession in 2000.

3 dead after storms rake South, move to Northeast

ADAIRSVILLE, Ga. (AP) — A violent storm system that spawned deadly tornadoes in the South delivered torrential rain and dangerous winds to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, leaving at least three people dead and tens of thousands without electricity as swollen rivers threatened flooding.

Two people were killed by tornadoes Tuesday and Wednesday, while a third was found dead Thursday in a flooded homeless camp.

In the Georgia city of Adairsville, many homes splintered by the massive storm front as it punched across the Southeast on Wednesday.

The vast storm front shattered homes and businesses around the Midwest and South with tornadoes and high winds. By Thursday, it had spread tens of thousands of power outages from Georgia to Connecticut, triggered flash floods and forced water rescues in areas outside Washington. Evacuations were ordered in parts of Virginia and Maryland with river levels on the rise. In Laurel, Md., outside Washington, officials were opening some dams to ease pressure after the heavy rains.

Near the nation’s capital, emergency responders in Virginia’s Loudoun County said they conducted water rescues early Thursday after some flash floods. One Virginia motorist was plucked from a van’s rooftop after veering into a water-filled ravine, WTOP radio reported. Water rescues also were reported in the Washington suburb of Montgomery County, Md.

Anne Arundel County Police Lt. T.J. Smith said a person was found dead Thursday morning in a flooded homeless camp near the Patuxent River. Officials have opened flood gates to ease pressure on dams.

Some flooding also was reported in North Carolina and West Virginia.

Frigid air blanketed the nation’s midsection Thursday, with subzero temperatures and wind chills recorded in the Dakotas. In Detroit, icy roads were blamed for a massive chain reaction wreck involving about 30 vehicles on Interstate 75. At least three people died there, and another pileup involving more than 40 vehicles near Indianapolis closed a stretch of Interstate 70 in both directions.

Some of the fiercest damage occurred in Adairsville, a town some 60 miles northwest of Atlanta. WSB-TV in Atlanta aired footage of an enormous funnel cloud bearing down on Adairsville. Winds flattened homes and wiped out parts of a big manufacturing plant. Insulation dangled from trees and power poles. A bank lost a chunk of its roof.

In Adairsville, Kandi Cash tried to salvage photos and other keepsakes from the debris of her grandparents’ destroyed home. On the same lot was a mobile home where her aunt lived and another small house her cousin was fixing up to move into after a planned May wedding. All three homes were demolished: Christmas ornaments, children’s toys, clothing, household items and just about everything else that makes up a home were strewn about.

“I’m just picking up pictures,” said Cash, 28. “I’ve found the most important ones, like when my cousin was born and her late daddy, the ones that matter most.”

Cash, who lives in nearby Cartersville, rode out the violent weather in a neighbor’s basement. Once the worst had passed, she called her family in Adairsville and was relieved to hear they’d all made it to a cinderblock storm shelter under her grandparents’ home.

“I just told them that the Lord was watching after them,” she said. “The houses can be rebuilt. The most important thing was that they were safe.”

Anthony Raines, 51, was killed when a tree crashed down on his mobile home, crushing him on his bed, Bartow County Coroner Joel Guyton said. Nine other people were hospitalized for minor injuries, authorities said.

The other death reported from the storms occurred in Tennessee, where an uprooted tree fell Tuesday onto a storage shed where a man had taken shelter.

Near Adairsville, the storm was powerful enough to flip cars, including one turned upside down onto its roof.

“The sky was swirling,” said Theresa Chitwood, who owns the Adairsville Travel Plaza.

A shelter was set up at a recreation center as temperatures plummeted to the 30s and 40s overnight and people had no heat or power. Georgia Power said some 9,600 customers were still without power Thursday morning, down from about 14,000 a day earlier.

Around the Southeast, meanwhile, authorities were investigating several reports of twisters.

In Tennessee, officials confirmed that a tornado with peak winds of 115 mph touched down in Mount Juliet. No serious injuries were reported even though the path of damage was about 150 yards wide. At least six other tornadoes were reported statewide. At a shopping center in Mount Juliet, large sheets of metal littered the parking lot and light poles were knocked down. One wall of a Dollar General store collapsed, and the roof was torn off.

Deaths from the latest storm ended the nation’s longest break between tornado fatalities since detailed records began being kept in 1950, according to the Storm Prediction Center and National Climatic Data Center. The last one was June 24 in Florida. That was 220 days ago as of Tuesday.

The last day with multiple fatalities was June 4, when three people were killed in Missouri.

Patty Andrews of Andrews Sisters rallied troops

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Patty Andrews never served in the military, but she and her singing sisters certainly supported the troops.

During World War II, they hawked war bonds, entertained soldiers overseas and boosted morale on the home-front with tunes like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B” and “I Can Dream, Can’t I?”

Andrews, the last surviving member of the singing Andrews Sisters trio, died Wednesday at 94 of natural causes at her home in the Los Angeles suburb of Northridge, said family spokesman Alan Eichler in a statement.

“When I was a kid, I only had two records and one of them was the Andrews Sisters. They were remarkable. Their sound, so pure,” said Bette Midler, who had a hit cover of “Bugle Boy” in 1973. “Everything they did for our nation was more than we could have asked for. This is the last of the trio, and I hope the trumpets ushering (Patty) into heaven with her sisters are playing ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.’”

Patty was the Andrews in the middle, the lead singer and chief clown, whose raucous jitterbugging delighted American servicemen abroad and audiences at home.

She could also deliver sentimental ballads like “I’ll Be with You in Apple Blossom Time” with a sincerity that caused hardened GIs far from home to weep.

From the late 1930s through the 1940s, the Andrews Sisters produced one hit record after another, beginning with “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen” in 1937 and continuing with “Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar,” ”Rum and Coca-Cola” and more. They recorded more than 400 songs and sold over 80 million records.

Other sisters, notably the Boswells, had become famous as singing acts, but mostly they huddled before a microphone in close harmony. The Andrews Sisters — LaVerne, Maxene and Patty — added a new dimension. During breaks in their singing, they cavorted about the stage in rhythm to the music.

Their voices combined with perfect synergy. As Patty remarked in 1971: “There were just three girls in the family. LaVerne had a very low voice. Maxene’s was kind of high, and I was between. It was like God had given us voices to fit our parts.”

Kathy Daris of the singing Lennon Sisters recalled on Facebook late Wednesday that the Andrews Sisters “were the first singing sister act that we tried to copy. We loved their rendition of songs, their high spirit, their fabulous harmony.”

The Andrews Sisters’ rise coincided with the advent of swing music, and their style fit perfectly into the new craze. They aimed at reproducing the sound of three harmonizing trumpets.

Unlike other singing acts, the sisters recorded with popular bands of the ’40s, fitting neatly into the styles of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey, Bob Crosby, Woody Herman, Guy Lombardo, Desi Arnaz and Russ Morgan. They sang dozens of songs on records with Bing Crosby, including the million-seller “Don’t Fence Me In.” They also recorded with Dick Haymes, Carmen Miranda, Danny Kaye, Al Jolson, Jimmy Durante and Red Foley.

The Andrews’ popularity led to a contract with Universal Pictures, where they made a dozen low-budget musical comedies between 1940 and 1944. In 1947, they appeared in “The Road to Rio” with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour.

The trio continued until LaVerne’s death in 1967. By that time the close harmony had turned to discord, and the sisters had been openly feuding.

Midler’s cover of “Bugle Boy” revived interest in the trio. The two survivors joined in 1974 for a Broadway show, “Over Here!” It ran for more than a year, but disputes with the producers led to the cancellation of the national tour of the show, and the sisters did not perform together again.

Patty continued on her own, finding success in Las Vegas and on TV variety shows. Her sister also toured solo until her death in 1995.

Her father, Peter Andrews, was a Greek immigrant who anglicized his name of Andreus when he arrived in America; his wife, Olga, was a Norwegian with a love of music. LaVerne was born in 1911, Maxine (later Maxene) in 1916, Patricia (later Patty, sometimes Patti) in 1918.

All three sisters were born and raised in the Minneapolis area.

Listening to the Boswell Sisters on radio, LaVerne played the piano and taught her sisters to sing in harmony; neither Maxene nor Patty ever learned to read music. All three studied singers at the vaudeville house near their father’s restaurant. As their skills developed, they moved from amateur shows to vaudeville and singing with bands.

After Peter Andrews moved the family to New York in 1937, his wife, Olga, sought singing dates for the girls. They were often turned down with comments such as: “They sing too loud and they move too much.” Olga persisted, and the sisters sang on radio with a hotel band at $15 a week. The broadcasts landed them a contract with Decca Records.

They recorded a few songs, and then came “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,” an old Yiddish song for which Sammy Cahn and Saul Kaplan wrote English lyrics. (The title means, “To Me You Are Beautiful.”) It was a smash hit, and the Andrews Sisters were launched into the bigtime.

In 1947, Patty married Martin Melcher, an agent who represented the sisters as well as Doris Day, then at the beginning of her film career. Patty divorced Melcher in 1949 and soon he became Day’s husband, manager and producer.

Patty married Walter Weschler, pianist for the sisters, in 1952. He became their manager and demanded more pay for himself and for Patty. The two other sisters rebelled, and their differences with Patty became public. Lawsuits were filed between the two camps.

Patty Andrews is survived by her foster daughter, Pam DuBois, a niece and several cousins. Weschler died in 2010.

Authorities: Teen wounded at Ga. middle school

ATLANTA (AP) — Authorities say a shooting at an Atlanta middle school that left one teen wounded was not random and the boy’s injury does not appear to be life-threatening.

Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos said investigators believe something occurred between the two people involved that may have led to Thursday’s shooting.

The suspect is also a student at Price and has been taken into custody.

Campos says the wounded boy was shot in the back of the neck. He says a teacher received minor injuries in the “disorder” that followed the shooting.

Students at the school were kept inside for hours as their parents waited anxiously outside. By 5 p.m. children were being reunited with their parents.

 

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