California Weighs Tougher Rules

For Curbing Vehicle Emissions

LOS ANGELES -- California air regulators took up on Thursday the world's most ambitious rules for reducing car emissions that contribute to global warming -- an effort that could have a sweeping effect on how the country fights vehicle pollution.

The regulations are fiercely opposed by the auto industry, which contends that the rules could lead to substantial increases in car prices. The industry has threatened to challenge the regulations in court if they are adopted.

The regulations could have a major impact in two ways: California accounts for 10 percent of the national auto market, and several states follow California's lead when it comes to adopting their own clean-air standards.

The regulations would cut vehicle emissions by as much as 25 percent and call for California to require technological changes in vehicles starting in 2009.

The innovations would include better air conditioners, more efficient transmissions and smaller engines. Regulators estimate that the measures would cut exhaust emissions by 25 percent in cars and light trucks and by 18 percent in larger trucks and SUVs.

Interpreter in Guantanamo Case

Gets Bad-Conduct Discharge

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A Muslim interpreter convicted of mishandling classified documents from the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was given a bad-conduct discharge but will not have to spend more time behind bars.

A military judge, Air Force Col. Barbara Brand, announced the sentence after a hearing in which Senior Airman Ahmad Halabi, 25, made an impassioned plea for leniency.

Halabi told the judge that keeping the documents was a mistake and that he will never do anything to hurt the Air Force or the United States.

The former supply clerk pleaded guilty on Wednesday to wrongfully taking pictures, lying about it and mishandling classified information.

In exchange for Halabi's plea, the military dropped espionage charges.

The case was the third against an accused spy at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay to fall apart this year.

* HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- A pre-dawn fire burned a home in which the windows were covered with plywood storm shutters, turning the house into a "convection oven" and killing four children and an adult, officials said. Four victims -- Johnny Taylor, 15, Jonathon Taylor, 14, Ashley Taylor, 13, and their stepfather, Keenon Shannon, 26 -- died in the home. A fourth child, 12-year-old Sharania Taylor, died at a hospital.

* HARTFORD, Conn. -- A top aide to former governor John G. Rowland (R) was indicted along with the state's largest construction contractor on charges that they participated in a corrupt criminal organization run out of the governor's office. The 15-count indictment accuses former co-chief of staff Peter N. Ellef and contractor William Tomasso of conspiring to steer state contracts.

* JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Three students at Jacksonville University have been punished for installing a stripper pole in an on-campus apartment and taking pictures as clothed female students performed on it at a party. A female student who won a dance contest was also disciplined. Citing privacy rules, school officials would not identify the students or specify the punishment they received, but they said: "The university took this seriously, and the punishment was appropriate." Punishments can range from a reprimand to dismissal.

* SALT LAKE CITY -- Mark Hacking, the Utah man accused of killing his wife, Lori, while she slept and of dumping her body in the trash, waived a preliminary hearing, clearing the way for his murder trial. Authorities here believe Lori Hacking was killed in July after she learned that her husband was not enrolled in a medical school in North Carolina, even though they were packing to move there.

-- From News Services