Nation roundup for March 11


Family: Uncle tried to save 7 from Ky. house fire

GRAY, Ky. (AP) — As flames engulfed a small house in rural southeastern Kentucky, Gino Cima raced to the scene to try to save his nephew, his nephew’s fiancee and the five children inside. The drive in the tiny town of Gray took just minutes, but family members said Sunday that Cima was too late — he reached a side door as the fire raged and pulled out the bodies of the two adults.

“Hey, there’s babies in there, there’s babies in there!” Gino Cima screamed to firefighters, according to his wife, Laura, who also was at the scene.

The fire killed all seven people in the ranch-style home Saturday. Officials on Sunday did not identify the victims, but family members said the children ranged in age from 10 months to 3 years. They said the woman who died was three months pregnant and was the mother of three of the children inside. The other two children were siblings and friends of the family, visiting for the night for a sleepover, the relatives said.

Officials said the cause of the fire was under investigation. Arson investigators were at the scene Saturday, but officials said no foul play was suspected.

Laura Cima said she owned the single-story, wood-frame house that the couple was renting. She said they had recently moved in and were busy painting and getting carpets cleaned. They shared a bedroom in the back of the house, and Cima said the children were sleeping in a front room Saturday morning. She described an unused bedroom where she and her husband saw flames pouring out of a window when they arrived Saturday.

Gray is a few miles outside of Corbin, a city of about 7,000 in the foothills of Appalachia near the Daniel Boone National Forest and the borders of Tennessee and Virginia.

Shannon Disney, a sister-in-law of one of the victims, said the house that burned on Shady Brook Lane is surrounded by homes of family members — so many that the area is nicknamed “Disneyland.” She said a relative who drove past the house at 7:45 a.m. noticed nothing unusual, but another who lives nearby saw smoke coming from it around 9 a.m.

Disney described the couple as devoted to the children, with their lives organized around bedtime and bath time. She said the woman had just gotten an ultrasound, and the couple was excited to plan for the birth, though they didn’t know yet whether it was a boy or girl.

Disney called the house alive with kids, with the couple regularly pulling children on a wagon, pushing a tire swing or playing hide-and-seek. On Sunday, children’s toys and a stroller were seen outside the house as a stream of people stopped by.

“Everybody is very heartbroken over it. Everybody knows the Disney family,” said Amy Weddle, who was working Sunday at J&G Market, a popular convenience store where the couple and the children frequently stopped to buy candy and milk. “They’re always good to everybody.”

Weddle put a jar on the counter Sunday seeking donations to help pay for burial expenses. It had four $1 dollar bills in it Sunday morning.

State police said Sunday that no more information on the fire would be released until Monday.

AP source: Google to pay $7M to settle Wi-Fi case

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google will pay a $7 million penalty to settle a multistate investigation into the Internet search leader’s collection of emails, passwords and other sensitive information sent over wireless networks in neighborhoods throughout the country several years ago.

A person familiar with the matter says the resolution will close a joint investigation by more than 30 states. The person asked not to be identified because the settlement isn’t expected to be announced until early next week.

The case dates back to 2010 when Google Inc. revealed that company cars taking street-level photos for its online mapping service also had been vacuuming up personal data transmitted over wireless networks that weren’t protected by passwords.

Google has maintained it didn’t break any U.S. laws and has apologized for a breach of online etiquette.

100-plus fall ill while on Caribbean cruise

PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. (AP) — A cruise ship has returned to South Florida after concluding a Caribbean voyage that saw more than a hundred people develop a gastrointestinal illness on board.

Royal Caribbean International reported Friday that 105 of 1,991 guests and three of 772 crew members experienced a possible short-lived norovirus illness during the 11-night trip.

They have responded well to over-the-counter medication being administered onboard the ship.

The cruise line says in a statement that crew members scrubbed the ship to help prevent the spread of the illness and again when it returned to port.

The source of the illness wasn’t immediately reported.

The Centers for Disease Control says the contagious norovirus causes about 21 million illnesses in the U.S. each year and contributes to 800 deaths.

Forest Service may let more fires burn

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — After coming in $400 million over budget following last year’s busy fire season, the Forest Service is altering its approach and may let more fires burn instead of attacking every one.

The move, quietly made in a letter late last month by Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, brings the agency more in line with the National Parks Service and back to what it had done until last year. It also answers critics who said the agency wasted money and endangered firefighters by battling fires in remote areas that posed little or no danger to property or critical habitat.

Tidwell played down the change, saying it’s simply an “evolution of the science and the expertise” that has led to more emphasis on pre-fire planning and managed burns, which involve purposely setting fires to eliminate dead trees and other fuels that could help a wildfire quickly spread.

“We have to be able to structure (fire management) this way to help all of us,” Tidwell told The Associated Press. “So that we’re thinking about the right things when we make these decisions.”

The more aggressive approach instituted last year was prompted by fears that fires left unchecked would quickly devour large swaths of the drought-stricken West, Tidwell said. New Mexico and Colorado reported record fire seasons in 2012, and with dry conditions remaining in much of the region 2013 could be another bad year in the West.

In all, the agency oversees about 193 million acres in 43 states.

But the “kill all fires” approach angered watchdog groups and environmentalists, who said it was expensive and ignored fire’s natural ability to rid the landscape of dangerous fuels and bolster forest ecology.

“This new policy gives a lot more flexibility. It takes the blanket policy where every fire was treated the same and gives fire managers more options,” said Timothy Ingalsbee, executive director of Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics and Ecology.

“Chief Tidwell’s move should restore the confidence of the fire management community that all the training and technology that’s been invested to give fire crews the ability to work with fire to restore ecosystems will not be wasted by a return to yesteryear’s all-out war on wildfires.”

While all federal agencies operate from the same federal wildfire management policy, each has its own goals and ways of interpreting it. The National Parks Service, for example, allows more fires to burn on its lands.

But letting fires burn also has its dangers, even in remote areas.

Last year, the Parks Service allowed a fire to burn that started as a half-acre blaze in remote Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California. What became the Reading Fire eventually required firefighters and ended up charring 42 square miles of forestlands as it spread outside the park’s boundaries to lands managed by the Forest Service and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The fire damaged the region’s timber industry and cost an estimated $15 million to suppress. No structures were harmed.

While each agency involved had a different approach to managing fires, the confusion during the Reading fire hammered home the need for agencies with different approaches to talk more often about their expectations, a review of the incident found.

Knowing that the Forest Service is stepping back from 2012’s more aggressive approach helps different agencies plan how they will respond to fires that have the potential to spread, said Eric Hensel, a National Parks Service fire management officer at the Lassen park.

Maine lobster fishery certified as sustainable

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — An international organization has given its seal of approval to the Maine lobster fishery designating it as sustainable, Maine Gov. Paul LePage announced Sunday.

The London-based Marine Stewardship Council said the fishery meets its strict standards for responsible fishing practices. The announcement was made at the annual International Boston Seafood Show, with LePage surrounded by lobster fishermen, MSC representatives and others.

The MSC has been in the business of encouraging responsible fishing practices since 1997 and has now certified nearly 200 fisheries worldwide representing more than 10 percent of the global seafood harvest. Fisheries that make the cut can use the MSC’s ecolabel, a seal that assures consumers that the seafood was not overfished or harvested in a way that harms the ocean.

The designation allows the industry to market itself as sustainably run and to differentiate itself from the Canadian lobster fishery, said John Hathaway, president of Shucks Maine Lobster, a processing company in Richmond.

Surveys show that 80 percent of seafood buyers expect their seafood to come from sustainable resources, and retailers and restaurants are listening, Hathaway said. Wal-Mart has committed to buying only MSC-certified seafood, and McDonald’s announced in January that all fish menu items at its 14,000 U.S. locations will carry the organization’s ecolabel.

“We’re very lucky to be in the position today where Maine lobster is going to be ahead of the curve,” Hathaway said by telephone from the Boston Seafood Show.

Maine fishermen catch lobsters in traps that are placed on the ocean bottom. With trap limits and rules that ban catching lobsters that are too small and too big, along with egg-bearing females, Maine’s lobster fishery for years has been cited as a model. The new certification now makes it official.

The industry can use all the help it can get marketing its product. Maine lobstermen last year caught a record 126 million pounds of lobster worth a record $338 million, but they received an average of only $2.69 per pound, the lowest price since 1994.

“This places greater emphasis on the need for effective marketing and highlights the unique marketing advantage MSC certification provides,” LePage said in a statement.

Kerry Coughlin, regional director for MSC, said Maine has one of world’s most famous and iconic fisheries.

“The Maine lobster fishery has operated for centuries and today’s announcement indicates the fishery’s commitment to be viable for centuries to come,” she said.

 

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