Other items: Pilot held to blame for strafing school in New Jersey and death-penalty law dismissed as unfair in Kansas.
225 counties fail clean-air standards
The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday identified 225 counties in 20 states that don’t meet new clean-air standards designed to protect against one of the tiniest but most harmful pollutants microscopic soot, 1/30th the width of a human hair.
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The counties and the District of Columbia now have three years to devise a pollution-reduction plan for fine particles and then must meet federal standards by 2010. Such pollution comes from power plants, car exhaust, diesel-burning trucks, wood-burning stoves and other sources.
Failure to comply could mean a county will have to limit development and its state could lose federal highway dollars.
About 95 million people live in the 225 counties and the nation’s capital. Washington state is not affected.
Little Egg Harbor, N.J.
Pilot held to blame for strafing school
An Air National Guard pilot who fired on a New Jersey school during a training exercise was to blame for the incident, but poorly designed controls in the F-16 also played a role, the Air Force concluded yesterday.
The report also disclosed that there have been three other incidents this year in which an F-16 pilot unintentionally fired during nighttime strafing missions. It did not say where and when the other incidents occurred.
The report said the pilot never intended to strafe the Little Egg Harbor Township Intermediate School on Nov. 3 and suggested computer-software changes to the aircraft-control systems to prevent another incident.
The pilot was identified as Maj. Roberto Balzano, based at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. His commander will determine if punitive or administrative action should be taken, the report said.
Death-penalty law dismissed as unfair
The Kansas Supreme Court yesterday threw out the state’s 1994 death-penalty law, ruling it gave prosecutors an unfair advantage when jurors were asked to balance aggravating and mitigating circumstances at sentencing.
The court’s 4-3 decision throws out the sentences of all six men on the state’s death row, including a serial killer and two brothers convicted in a notorious mass shooting in Wichita.
According to the law, if jurors believe arguments for and against putting a defendant to death are equal, the prosecution is deemed to have won the argument, and the defendant is sentenced to death. No one has been executed since the law took effect in 1994.
The court urged lawmakers to fix the problem in their next session, which begins Jan. 10.
A limited national missile-defense system likely won’t be activated until early next year, missing the Bush administration’s year-end goal, a military spokesman said yesterday. The announcement came two days after a test interceptor-missile failed.
Discarded smoking materials caused a fire that gutted the residential Mason Hotel in San Diego yesterday, killing one person and injuring more than a dozen, several critically, authorities said.
Voters who claim problems with Ohio voting machines Nov. 2 indicated fraud refiled a request with the Ohio Supreme Court yesterday to overturn the presidential results.
American Airlines says it will begin selling $3 snack boxes in the main cabins of domestic flights longer than three hours, beginning Feb. 1.