District of Columbia
Zoo checking vegetation to thwart more escapes
WASHINGTON - The National Zoo has been inspecting vegetation around all of its exhibits to ensure animal enclosures are secure after the escape of a young male red panda last month.
According to a zoo report on the escape that The Associated Press obtained following a public-records request, the zoo has been investigating and observing the red panda named Rusty ever since he was found in a nearby neighborhood.
The zoo's investigation found Rusty likely got out late June 23 or early June 24 through the tree limbs hanging low in his exhibit.
Animal keepers have kept watch on Rusty's activity by day and night. He returned to his public exhibit July 9.
New records released on Watergate burglars
WASHINGTON - Court records detailing the personal histories and statements of four men involved in the Watergate break-in are now open to the public, 40 years after they were filed under seal.
The National Archives and Records Administration released 75 pages of documents Monday in response to a judge's ruling ordering the documents unsealed. The judge had previously ordered the release of hundreds of pages of documents in the criminal case involving the burglars. Those pages were released in November, but additional pages were released Monday along with some previously redacted information.
The newly released documents include reports prepared in 1973 after interviews with four of the five burglars. The pre-sentence reports include psychological evaluations and details of the burglars' family and criminal history.
Several US diplomatic sites need security upgrades
WASHINGTON - Fifteen high-risk U.S. diplomatic facilities must be upgraded or replaced to prevent any Benghazi-like attack in the future, State Department officials told Congress Tuesday.
Diplomatic security chief Gregory Starr told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that problems include improper blast walls and insufficient setback from public streets.
He and Bill Miller, the department's point-man for high-risk posts, testified to defend a $2.2 billion request for embassy security funding in 2014. They cited some progress worldwide, including approval for a new Beirut embassy after 30 years of effort.
$300 million fine urged in deadly pipeline blast
SAN FRANCISCO - California regulators on Tuesday called on Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to pay at least $300 million in fines in connection with a deadly 2010 gas pipeline blast. They said it would amount to the largest fine ever levied by the state Public Utilities Commission.
In an amended brief filed in the pipeline case, the commission's safety division cited the eight people killed and 38 homes destroyed in the blast in the San Francisco Bay Area suburb of San Bruno and said there were steps PG&E could have taken to prevent the explosion.
Regulators had originally called for a $2.25 billion penalty against PG&E, though it would consist entirely of funds the utility has spent or promised to spend on pipeline system improvements ordered by the commission.
2 horse slaughterhouses set to open in August
ALBUQUERQUE - The attorney representing newly licensed horse slaughterhouses in New Mexico and Iowa says the plants are set to open Aug. 5.
But lawyer Blair Dunn said those plans hinge on an Aug. 2 court date before a federal judge in New Mexico overseeing a lawsuit by animal protection groups.
The Humane Society of the United States, Front Range Equine Rescue of Larkspur, Colo., and others filed the suit against the Department of Agriculture, alleging it failed to conduct the proper environmental reviews before issuing permits for Valley Meat Co. of Roswell, N.M., and Responsible Transportation in Sigourney, Iowa.
Dunn said the judge will decide whether to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent the plants from opening.
The Associated Press