Fires Threaten Homes

On Arizona Mountain

SAFFORD, Ariz. -- Firefighters guarded a $200 million mountaintop observatory and wrapped sheets of aluminum around summer cabins Tuesday to protect them from a wildfire.

As of midday, the flames were two miles from Turkey Flat, a community of 74 cabins on the side of Mount Graham. But officials said the 8,550-acre blaze could spread quickly in the hot, dry weather.

The lightning-sparked fire and a nearby 7,810-acre blaze prompted evacuation of the Mount Graham International Observatory and a total of about 90 cabins in Turkey Flat and another community.

The observatory's eight buildings and 81/2 acres of pine forest on Mount Graham's 10,470-foot Emerald Peak were surrounded by a 200-foot-wide clearing, and fire crews planned more controlled burns to expand the buffer zone. It also has a sprinkler system that officials said would be turned on if flames were within a quarter-mile.

Woman Pleads Guilty

To Killing Two Newborns

CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. -- A woman pleaded guilty to killing two of her newborns -- one on Mother's Day last year while her husband and two children slept -- and hiding their bodies in concrete.

Stacy DeBeer, 31, agreed to plead guilty in exchange for two consecutive terms of 15 years to life in prison. She would not be eligible for parole until she served 30 years, authorities said.

DeBeer said that before dawn on May 11, 2003 -- Mother's Day and her birthday -- she gave birth on her living room couch, placed the infant girl in a garbage bag and hid the body. She told police she killed another newborn girl five years earlier.

Her husband, Brian DeBeer, 32, was charged with hindering prosecution by helping hide the first infant in 1998. His trial could be held in August.

* MINEOLA, N.Y. -- The former superintendent of one of the country's top school districts was charged with embezzling more than $1 million for such things as airline flights, cruises, dermatology treatments, furniture and jewelry. Frank Tassone, 57, retired last month after charges were filed against Pamela Gluckin, a former assistant superintendent also accused of taking more than $1 million from the Roslyn School District on Long Island.

* MILWAUKEE -- Indian gambling grew more than eight times faster than non-Indian casino gambling in 2003, bringing in about $16.2 billion nationwide, according to a study being released Wednesday. Non-Indian casinos generated more revenue, $26.5 billion, but that was an increase of 1.4 percent from the year before, the study by economist Alan Meister found. Tribal gambling revenue grew 12 percent over the same period.

* LANSING, Mich. -- The Michigan Senate voted to raise taxes on Detroit's three casinos to 24 percent from 18 percent, but the state House, which passed a bill raising the wagering tax to 36 percent, rejected the Senate version. Some lawmakers said the tax increase will help Michigan balance its budget. But casino owners said they will lay off thousands of workers if an increase is approved.

* MINNEAPOLIS -- A federally funded center to protect the nation's food from terrorists opened at the University of Minnesota. The Center for Post-Harvest Food Protection and Defense will work to detect dangerous substances in food and examine who has access to food before it reaches consumers.

* The Coast Guard denied entry to 19 ships and detained 30 in port from July 1 to 5 under new U.N. rules designed to thwart terrorist attacks, the agency said in correcting a previous statement that 42 foreign ships had been denied entry and 38 had been detained.

* REDWOOD CITY, Calif. -- A day after his wife, Laci, disappeared, Scott Peterson told a state polygraph expert that he was not having an affair and that his marriage was fine, the expert testified at Peterson's murder trial. Prosecutors have suggested that Peterson killed his pregnant wife so he could be with his mistress, massage therapist Amber Frey.

-- From News Services