5 Stranded Whales Die Off Fla. Keys

BIG PINE KEY, Fla. -- At least 28 pilot whales stranded themselves yesterday in shallow water off the Florida Keys and five died, officials said.

The whales were stuck in two separate groups about five miles north of Big Pine Key, said Laura Engleby of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service.

Seven of the surviving whales were transported to a temporary holding facility in the lower keys, where they will be evaluated for release. Other survivors were moved into deeper water in hopes they would begin swimming on their own, Engleby said.

"But we won't be surprised if they strand themselves again," she said.

2 Fla. Child Cases End in Death

MIAMI -- Two children died this week while under the care of guardians approved by the state's troubled child welfare agency, and in one case, the department did not disclose a convicted criminal's background before he took custody of his son.

Christopher Bennett, 28, is charged with fatally beating 5-year-old Zachary at their home Tuesday. Bennett had previous arrests for stalking and assault and battery.

In the second case, Gregory Joseph, 23, was accused of fatally beating Deondre Bondieumaitre, a 16-month-old boy who police said was placed in his care by the Department of Children and Families.

The cases renew concerns about an agency undergoing an overhaul after several high-profile tragedies, including the unsolved disappearance of 5-year-old Rilya Wilson. The girl had been missing for 15 months before department officials realized that she was gone.

Ala. Murder Conviction Upheld

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- An Alabama appeals court upheld the murder conviction and death sentence of a Georgia man convicted of killing a federal judge during a string of mail bombings in 1989.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals rejected arguments by Walter Leroy Moody Jr. that his 1996 conviction should be overturned, including that he was not given enough time to find an attorney. Moody, of Rex, Ga., was convicted in the slaying of Robert Vance, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. Vance died and his wife was injured when he opened a package in the kitchen of their suburban Mountain Brook, Ala., home.

Moody also is serving seven life sentences without parole on federal convictions of murdering Vance and a civil rights lawyer, threatening to kill 17 judges and sending two other bombs that were intercepted.

* ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A 14-year-old boy was burned over 65 percent of his body after setting himself on fire to mimic a stunt from the "Jackass" show on MTV. Just before clicking the lighter, he stared into a video camera and said: "Don't try this at home." The boy, who was not identified, has had three major surgeries since the stunt in late March and is expected to survive, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

* NEW ORLEANS -- William Gray, the weatherman known for his predictions of hurricane seasons, said he is on the brink of ceasing to issue forecasts because he is running out of money. The Colorado State University professor sharply criticized the federal government for repeatedly rejecting his requests for money, but vowed to find a way to continue forecasting for at least a few more years. "This is my life, and I'm not going to let Big Brother knock me down," Gray said.

* CHARLOTTE -- North Carolina's Highway Patrol cited two men for clipping dogwoods, the state flower, on Interstate 40 for sale in New York. James Charles Elpers, 29, and Claudio Alberto Macree, 26, both of Newport, were cited for violating a state law that forbids cutting or taking certain plants from the public domain.

-- From News Services