Dozens of Tornadoes

Tear Through Midwest

MADISONVILLE, Ky. -- Nearly three dozen tornadoes ripped through the Midwest, part of a huge line of thunderstorms that destroyed homes and killed at least two people.

"We heard a weird sound coming through, kind of a whistle," said Penny Leonard, 37, who sought shelter in the basement of a hospital Tuesday in the western Kentucky town of Madisonville.

Meteorologists said a cold front moving rapidly east collided with warm, unstable air from the south to produce the thunderstorms that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes, spawning funnel clouds and tornadoes in parts of Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Tennessee.

The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center had preliminary reports of at least 35 tornadoes in the five states, spokeswoman Peggy Stogsdill said Wednesday at the center in Norman, Okla.

It was the third report of twisters this month. A tornado on Nov. 6 killed 23 people in southern Indiana, and nine tornadoes struck Iowa on Saturday, killing one woman.

Texas Prosecutors Deny

Coercion in DeLay Case

AUSTIN -- Prosecutors in the case of conspiracy and money laundering by Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) on Wednesday denied allegations that they coerced a grand jury to indict the former House majority leader.

DeLay's attorneys have asked that charges against DeLay be dropped because Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, "browbeat and coerced" grand jurors into filing criminal charges as part of a political vendetta.

In court filings, Earle said he "denies the accusations and further asserts that no improper activities or violations of the law occurred."

DeLay is accused of funneling $190,000 in restricted corporate money from his Texas political action committee to an arm of the Republican National Committee, which then gave the same amount to Texas legislative candidates in 2002. The direct use of corporate money for political purposes is illegal in Texas.

A pretrial hearing for DeLay is set for Tuesday. His attorney Dick DeGuerin said he has asked Judge Pat Priest to hold off ruling on the misconduct motion against Earle until Priest rules on DeLay's request to see grand jury records related to the indictments.

* PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland said it hopes to settle for about $42 million all pending sex abuse claims it faces, according to court documents released Wednesday. The archdiocese faces 129 unresolved claims, it said in a bankruptcy reorganization plan filed Tuesday. The archdiocese was the first U.S. Catholic diocese to declare bankruptcy when it filed for protection from creditors in July 2004.

* CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's alcohol board will no longer permit the sale of high-proof grain alcohol, citing safety concerns from college officials who say it is often bought by students. The state's Alcohol Beverage Control Administration said the action against the 190-proof liquor, which is 95 percent pure alcohol, was not in response to any specific incidents. "We're trying new approaches to age-old problems: underage drinking and alcohol abuse," spokesman Gig Robinson said.

* JACKSBORO, Tenn. -- A 14-year-old being held in the shooting death of an assistant principal and wounding of two other school administrators was ordered to receive a mental evaluation. Special Juvenile Court Judge Michael Davis said he wanted the exam performed before deciding whether the teenage boy should be tried as an adult.

-- From News Services

John Graber, left, and Alva Knepp salvage belongings from Henry Knepp's home in Cannelburg, Ind., after a tornado touched down in the area.