Philadelphia Closes

Key Street for Good

PHILADELPHIA -- The city has permanently closed the street in front of Independence Hall to vehicles and pedestrians, a security decision that has angered business leaders in the shopping district.

The one-block section of Chestnut Street had been closed since Sept. 21, 2001, when the city shut it down because of security concerns after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but city officials had said the measure was temporary.

As recently as last month, Mayor John F. Street's office had said the road closure would not be permanent.

But, on Friday, Street spokeswoman Barbara Grant said city officials had decided to make it permanent, a move the mayor supported.

The closure does not block direct access to any commercial establishments, but business leaders protested.

"This is a big slap in the face," said John Keenan, manager of the Omni Hotel at Independence Park.

"You can't walk. You can't drive," he said.

* LITTLE ROCK -- Arkansas officials said they would retry a rape case that ended in a mistrial on Friday after the testimony of a 3-year-old girl who prosecutors say was the victim of the sexual assault. The judge declared a mistrial after the jury reported it was hopelessly deadlocked after three hours of deliberations. A second trial was scheduled for Feb. 18 in Jonesboro, Ark. State officials said the girl may have been the youngest person in Arkansas ever to testify in a rape case. An Arkansas man, Karess D. Jones, 26, is charged with sexually assaulting the child while staying overnight at her family's home earlier this year. Jones is charged in another Arkansas city with a similar offense.

* LINCOLN, Neb. -- The longtime executive director of the state's largest antiabortion group has been charged with a felony for allegedly intercepting e-mail and voice messages from Planned Parenthood of Lincoln, an abortion provider. Nebraska Right to Life Director Julie Schmit-Albin, 46, was charged Friday, along with former Planned Parenthood employee John F. Keller, 53, with intercepting communications. Keller was able to access Planned Parenthood's e-mail messages because he had set up the organization's computer system and knew the passwords of individual employees, police said.

* LORDSBURG, N.M. -- A bus collided with a tractor-trailer rig as it merged onto an interstate, killing three people, including a 7-year-old boy, and injuring at least 23 others, state police said. The crash happened Friday evening as the tour bus entered Interstate 10 from U.S. 80 between Lordsburg and the Arizona state line, Lt. Rob Shilling said.

* SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A federal judge sentenced a Colorado man to 18 months in prison for embezzling more than $1.7 million from the International Longshoreman's Association. John Dunsmoor, 52, pleaded guilty in June to money laundering and stealing from ILA Local 1969 employee pension and welfare benefit plans. The judge also ordered Dunsmoor on Friday to reimburse the union $2.05 million under an agreement with the U.S. attorney's office that won him leniency.

-- From News Services