Two 25-ton steel columns — one bearing signatures of U.S. steelworkers who helped make it — rose at Ground Zero on Tuesday, a milestone...

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New York

Two 25-ton steel columns — one bearing signatures of U.S. steelworkers who helped make it — rose at Ground Zero on Tuesday, a milestone in prolonged efforts to build the skyscraper that will replace the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

As construction workers, politicians and architects applauded, a crane lifted the 31-foot-high columns and set them over steel bars on the southern edge of the tower’s base. By spring, 27 of the jumbo steel columns to anchor the skyscraper are expected to rise to street level.

“Today the steel rises, the Freedom Tower rises from the ashes of Sept. 11, and the people of New York and the people of America can be proud,” Gov. George Pataki said. The 1,776-foot tower, set to open in 2011, is to be the tallest of the five skyscrapers planned to replace the trade center.

Mayville, N.Y.

Fugitive who shot troopers gets life

An escaped convict who admitted killing a New York state trooper and wounding two others during the largest manhunt in state history was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without parole.

Ralph “Bucky” Phillips, 44, unsuccessfully sought to withdraw his guilty plea and then apologized to the troopers’ families before being sentenced in Chautauqua County Court. He pleaded guilty last month to the aggravated murder of Trooper Joseph Longobardo and the attempted murder of Donald Baker Jr.

The officers were shot while staking out the rural home of Phillips’ former girlfriend on Aug. 31 as part of an effort to capture Phillips after the June 10 shooting of another trooper during a traffic stop near Elmira.


Professor, wife plead guilty in spying case

A psychology professor and his wife pleaded guilty Tuesday to reduced federal charges in a case involving allegations that both had spied for the Cuban government for decades.

Carlos Alvarez, 61, a professor at Florida International University, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to become an unregistered foreign agent. His wife, Elsa Alvarez, 56, admitted knowing about her husband’s illegal activities but failing to report them to authorities.

Carlos Alvarez faces up to five years in prison and Elsa Alvarez up to three years on the revised charges. Both were charged previously with the more serious charge of acting as illegal Cuban agents. Sentencing was set for Feb. 27.

Jefferson City, Mo.

Repairman created short before fire

Hours before a deadly fire at a group home, a maintenance man intentionally short-circuited some wiring to cut off power while he worked on the furnace, investigators said in a report issued Tuesday.

The report by the state fire marshal’s office did not pinpoint the cause of the Nov. 27 fire that killed 10 people at the home for the mentally ill and disabled. But it listed an electrical short or overload in “makeshift” wiring in the attic as a possible cause.

The maintenance man, David Forrester, told an investigator he used pliers to stick a wire into an outlet to trip the circuit breaker and cut off the power while he worked on the furnace Nov. 26. The wiring ran through the attic.

A short-circuit can cause wires to overheat and start a fire. A worker wanting to temporarily cut off power to part of a home would ordinarily flip a circuit breaker manually and reset it later. But Forrester said he did not know which circuit breaker in the electrical box led to the furnace. Asked why he didn’t unplug the furnace, he said: “I don’t know, didn’t even think about it.”


Space shuttle: Discovery left the international space station Tuesday to begin a two-day journey back to Earth.

Seven dead: Preliminary autopsy results show that the seven people found dead inside a duplex in Kirksville, Mo., over the weekend suffered carbon-monoxide poisoning, the coroner said Tuesday.

Seattle Times news service

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