Texas Experts Battle Calif. Tanker Fire

SACRAMENTO, Aug. 24 (UPI) — Oil and gas firefighting experts from Texas Wednesday worked to control a fire burning in a propane tank car in California since Tuesday.

California firefighters worked through the night to control a blaze that broke out Tuesday afternoon in a tank car filled with 29,000 gallons of liquid propane. The crew of specialists from Texas determined Wednesday the metal sides of the tanker were beginning to melt, and workers were preparing to cut into the tanker to spill the liquid propane, KCRA-TV, Sacramento, reported.

“Despite the best efforts of firefighters to cool the tanker with water, the tank is showing signs of melting and (is) coming apart,” Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

The fire could burn for up to two weeks if it is left to its own devices, fire officials said.

The possibility that the tank car would explode prompted the evacuation of thousands of homes and businesses in Lincoln, part of metropolitan Sacramento, the Sacramento Bee reported.

The evacuation order affected everything within a mile radius of the Northern Energy tank farm where the fire was burning.

Fire crews said if the tanker exploded it would send a fireball rolling at ground level for several blocks and hurl large pieces of metal into the air.

March Planned On Israeli Embassy In Cairo

CAIRO, Aug. 24 (UPI) — Egyptian activists said they are calling for a million-man march in the Israeli Embassy in Cairo to call on authorities to kick the Israeli envoy out.

Six Egyptian soldiers were killed last week during an Israeli raid that was carried out in response to attacks allegedly from militants who crossed into Israel from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

The attackers were allegedly wearing Egyptian uniforms when they stormed Israeli targets, killing eight people in the border town of Eilat.

The attack was allegedly carried out in coordination with a group calling itself al-Qaida in the Egyptian Sinai, though it was unclear if the group has working ties with al-Qaida central or Hamas.

Demonstrators at the Israeli Embassy in Cairo say they are calling for a million-man march Friday to oust the Israeli envoy, Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reports.

Cairo denied that gunmen were using its territory to launch attacks on Israel, adding it wanted to discuss a joint investigation into last week’s raid with the Israelis.

The Arab League in its statement said Israeli bears “full responsibility” for what it said were crimes committed against Egypt.

Parts Of Ivorian Health System Wiped Out

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, Aug. 24 (UPI) — Healthcare facilities in western Ivory Coast have been destroyed and returning refugees are finding nothing left of their former lives, the ICRC said.

Ivory Coast was pushed to the brink of civil war after rival claims of victory following presidential elections in November. French peacekeepers assisted in the arrest of Laurent Gbagbo in April, clearing the way for Alassane Ouattara to assume the presidency.

The conflict, however, costs thousands of lives and forced tens of thousands of people to flee the country.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said entire villages and much of the healthcare system in western Ivory Coast was destroyed and looted during the conflict.

Raymond Zanhan, a regional leader, said he fled the area shortly after Gbagbo’s arrest, only to return to find nothing.

“When I came back from hiding and I got here, I was disgusted,” he was quoted as saying. “Everything was gone.”

He went on to say that only 10 percent of the refugee population has returned, noting people are hesitant to return to Ivory Coast.

Ouattara has called on the International Criminal Court to conduct an investigation into the post-election crisis. Human rights groups accuse both sides of committing atrocities.

Mother Sentenced For Felony Child Neglect

MADISON, Ind., Aug. 24 (UPI) — An Indiana woman whose boyfriend allegedly used pliers to pull two teeth from her 2-year-old son’s mouth has been sentenced to prison for child neglect.

Jessica L. Carder, 22, of Hanover will spend 13 years and 11 months in prison for felony neglect of a dependent, the Madison Courier reported Tuesday.

Prosecutors said Carder failed to seek medical attention for her child after the teeth were pulled and attempted to cover up the crime to protect her boyfriend, both aggravating circumstances considered by the sentencing judge.

“I think if a parent saw their child in that situation, they would run, not walk, to seek medical attention,” Superior Court Judge Alison Frazier said before announcing the sentence.

Carder and her boyfriend Andrew Richards, 28, were arrested at Carder’s Hanover home Dec. 23.

An investigation had begun after the grandparents of Calder’s son found he had two teeth missing and had several bruises and scrapes on his body.

Richards is scheduled to be tried at the end of September.

Lawmaker Denies He Exposed Himself

INDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 24 (UPI) — Indiana state Rep. Phil Hinkle said he paid a young man $80 to spend time with him in a hotel room but denied the man’s claim he exposed himself.

Hinkle, a Republican, told the Indianapolis Star he e-mailed Kameryn Gibson, 18, who said in a Craigslist posting he was looking for a “sugga daddy” but did nothing illegal while with Gibson Aug. 6 in the downtown Indianapolis hotel room.

Gibson told the Star he attempted to leave the room and called his sister Megan after Hinkle identified himself as a lawmaker and that Hinkle tried to prevent him from leaving and exposed himself.

After his sister arrived, Gibson said, Hinkle offered them $100, an iPad and a Blackberry to keep quiet about the meeting.

Hinkle said he never exposed himself or offered anything to the Gibsons, but that they stole the items while he was in the bathroom.

“These people are lying through their teeth,” he said.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Brian Bosma, a Republican, stripped Hinkle of two committee chairmanships and called for his resignation.

Hinkle, who said he is not gay, said he would not heed Republican leaders’ call for his resignation.

“Those people didn’t elect me,” he said. “The constituents did.”

He said resigning would amount to a concession that the Gibsons’ account was true.

USC Cracks Down On Fraternities

COLUMBIA, S.C., Aug. 24 (UPI) — The University of South Carolina has temporarily barred its fraternities from holding rush for new members.

The ban is to be lifted Friday for 11 fraternities, The (Columbia) State reported. It will remain in place for seven while their operations are reviewed by the Office of Student Conduct.

Officials said the block on issuing bids to prospective new members was imposed last week because of reports of parties featuring drinking and exotic dancers.

At least one fraternity hired a lawyer and was prepared to argue the university’s actions were unfair because fraternities not accused of wrongdoing were also being punished and discriminatory became sororities were not targeted. J. Todd Kincannon, the lawyer, would not say which fraternity hired him.

University officials held a closed meeting Tuesday night with alumni members of the fraternities involved. No current students were present.

“We got unanimous support that the culture at the University of South Carolina needs to change,” Keith Ellis, associate director of fraternity life, said. “Our message is that they should enforce their national policies.”

Libya: West Strives For Smooth Transition

TRIPOLI, Libya, Aug. 24 (UPI) — As victorious rebels, Western intelligence services and NATO warplanes hunt for Libya’s elusive fallen dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, Western governments are striving to ensure a smooth transition for the oil-rich North African country.

But after six months of civil war and the collapse of a brutal regime that Gadhafi once boasted hunted down its dissidents like “stray dogs,” that may be the hardest task of all.

Gadhafi was in power for 42 years after leading a military coup that overthrew the Senussi monarchy on Sept. 1, 1969, and ruled through fear, killings and intimidation.

There are many old scores to be settled by those who suffered at his hands.

On top of this, the country is riven by traditional tribal rivalries and feuds that in the power vacuum caused by Gadhafi’s defeat could unleash the orgy of bloodletting that ravaged Iraq after Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003.

The rebels, mostly from eastern Libya, have long thirsted for the blood of Gadhafi and his supporters in the west of the country.

Gadhafi is the third despotic ruler to be toppled since the Arab world was plunged into turmoil in January with a wave of pro-democracy uprisings.

But his fall of his family-led regime marks the first instance of actual regime change. The political demise of Presidents Zine el-Abdeine Bin Ali of Tunisia Jan. 14 and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt Feb. 11 did not.

In both cases, observed the U.S. security think tank Stratfor, “the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt were led by the military, which survived by distancing itself from the … ruling parties and the heads of state” and supervising the orderly transition to new leadership and, hopefully, democratic elections.

“The fall of the Gadhafi regime, however, will likely leave the process of regime change incomplete,” said Stratfor, which predicted that Libyan regime is unlikely “to be replaced by a new state any time soon.”

Once Gadhafi’s forces are vanquished, the disparate rebel forces, drawn from political and tribal groups with widely differing agendas and ideologies, “will likely not be able to establish a new republic,” Stratfor added.

“A fractious rebel community obviously complicates any efforts at arriving at a power-sharing agreement.

“In all likelihood though, not only will the rebels face serious obstacles in establishing a new state, the Gadhafi state will be reduced to a non-state actor, one that will likely retain a lot of firepower.

“This arrangement will aggravate the various rebel factions, which will already be struggling with one another for power.

“Therefore, it is only reasonable to consider the possibility that a new state will not be established in the foreseeable future, and that Libya should brace itself for long-term instability.”

The International Crisis Group remarked that as Libya shudders into the putative post-Gadhafi era, the largely desert country of 6.4 million people “faces a pivotal moment of historic proportions.”

But the ICG stressed: “The new, still nascent, Libyan leadership faces a dual, difficult legacy which it will need to overcome: four decades of an autocratic regime that failed to build genuine state institutions and six months of a civil war that, together with inevitable human and material losses, exposed old divisions and fissures while prompting new ones.

“The challenge for that leadership, as well as for international actors who enabled its drive into Tripoli, is threefold: to establish a broadly inclusive and representative transitional governing body; address immediate security risks; and find an appropriate balance between, on the one hand, the search for accountability and justice and, on the other, the imperative of avoiding arbitrary score-settling and revenge.”

NATO effectively sided with the country’s eastern rebels when the Libyan uprising began.

For most of his rule, Gadhafi had supported terrorism and was considered an international pariah with maniacal tendencies so Western military support, in the form of an air campaign and discreet supply of weapons, for the rebels wasn’t surprising.

But that thrust Western intelligence services and Special Forces into the murky intrigues of the conflict. The ramifications of the alliances forged and how these shape the new political realities have yet to be determined.

And the scramble for Libya’s oil wealth that’s probably about to ensue will no doubt further agitate and complicate an already volatile crisis.

Democrats Outpace GOP In Fundraising

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 (UPI) — Democratic Party committees have raised $24 million more than their Republican counterparts for the 2012 U.S. elections, records show.

That’s more than twice as big a lead as Democrats held at comparable points in the past two election cycles, Politico reports.

Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had raised $129 million this year through July.

During the same period, their Republican counterparts — the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee — raised a combined $105 million.

Republicans say the Democrats enjoy a big advantage in raising money because of their control of the White House and note President Barack Obama has done much more fundraising than the previous five presidents during their first terms.

Privately, however, some Republicans worry about whether the gap could hurt their candidates’ chances.

Politico pointed out raising money has become less centralized, as it now comes not only from parties and candidates’ committees but more and more from independent groups that, unlike party committees, can receive unlimited amounts.

Nonetheless, party committees still play a huge role because they can coordinate directly with campaigns, and independent groups cannot.

SoCal Mom Faces Charges In Baby’s Fall

SANTA ANA, Calif., Aug. 24 (UPI) — Prosecutors said a Southern California mother allegedly shoved her baby from a hospital parking garage and then left after having her ticket validated.

Sonia Hermosillo, 31, of La Habra was arrested this week after a witness reported seeing her pushing her 7-month-old son from the fourth floor of the parking structure and then walking inside to validate her parking ticket before driving off.

Hermosillo faced arraignment Wednesday on felony charges of child abuse and attempted murder, the Orange County District Attorney’s office said in a written statement. Prosecutors planned to seek $1 million bail as well as an immigration hold on the woman.

Prosecutors said Hermosillo’s son, dubbed Baby Doe, suffered from an unspecified medical condition that required him to wear a helmet and undergo regular visits to Children’s Hospital of Orange County. Hermosillo allegedly removed the head gear before she pushed him.

Baby Doe was taken to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center where he was in critical condition.

U.S.: Canada’s China Trade Policy Weak

OTTAWA, Aug. 24 (UPI) — A U.S. diplomatic note leaked Wednesday said Canada’s business courtship of China in 2007 “resulted in no apparent deliverables,” but good press.

The WikiLeaks Web site released some 5,000 diplomatic communications, among them some written by David Wilkins, who was the U.S. ambassador to Canada in 2007, the Globe and Mail reported.

Wilkins wrote of two trips Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and International Trade Minister David Emerson made in January 2007 to Beijing to expand trade.

“Excluding an agreement to cooperate on scientific research, the trips resulted in no apparent deliverables for Canada,” Emerson’s cable said. “However, they did serve to placate Canadian business leaders who had been concerned that the Canadian government was not paying enough attention to China.”

Emerson’s correspondence said the business junkets were “described by the [Canadian] press and government in positive terms,” but were mostly symbolic to warm Canada’s relations with Beijing.

Among China’s grievances were that Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper warmly welcomed Tibet’s Dalai Lama as a world leader twice and also chastised Beijing over its human rights record. Harper also declined to attend the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the report said.