Bat Attack in N.Y. Leads

To Hate-Crime Charges

NEW YORK -- A white man faces hate-crime charges after police said he and two friends set upon three black men with a baseball bat, leaving one with a fractured skull, in a neighborhood that became infamous for a fatal racial confrontation two decades ago.

The attack Wednesday happened in the Howard Beach section of Queens -- the same neighborhood where three black men were beaten in 1986 after their car broke down, stirring tensions in what became one of the city's ugliest racial episodes.

Nicholas Minucci, 21, was to be charged Thursday with first-degree assault as a hate crime, menacing, criminal possession of a weapon and other charges, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said.

Two of the three black men told investigators they were looking for a luxury sedan to steal but changed their minds. They said a white man in a car spotted them and then returned with two friends.

* ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota's government shut down for the first time in state history Friday, forcing as many as 9,000 layoffs and closing highway rest stops over the Fourth of July weekend. The shutdown came at midnight after lawmakers gave up on a temporary spending plan. The Senate adjourned abruptly only 20 minutes after Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) said he hoped the two sides could agree on a stopgap measure to keep state government running 10 more days. With the start of the new fiscal year, the sticking points include taxes, casino gambling and health care for the poor.

* Oracle Corp. chief executive Larry Ellison plans to give Harvard University $115 million to monitor global health initiatives. Harvard spokesman B.D. Colen said the school in Cambridge, Mass., is in talks with Ellison about the gift. He declined to discuss specifics. The money would fund a program supervised by professor Christopher J.L. Murray, Oracle spokesman Bob Wynne said Thursday in a phone interview.

* AURORA, Colo. -- A 25-year-old woman killed in a car crash hours before she was to be married was making a legal left turn when she was hit by a drunken driver, police said. Kevin Kraft, 27, was speeding and his blood-alcohol level was well over the legal limit of 0.08 when his pickup slammed into Arlene Gavrilis's car on June 4, police spokesman Marcus Dudley said Wednesday.

* CHILLICOTHE, Ohio -- Lightning struck a softball field at a prison Wednesday night, killing one inmate and injuring five prisoners and two guards, authorities said. The inmates were playing softball when a storm moved through, said Tim Brunsman, warden at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution.

* FORT DODGE, Iowa -- Three teenagers who police say doused opossums in lighter fluid and set them on fire have been charged with animal torture. The arrests came a week after authorities found a videotape of the three 19-year-olds laughing and jeering as they set the animals ablaze. The three young men were charged Wednesday with two counts of animal torture and released on bond.

-- From News Services