rhode island
State Senate passes gay-marriage bill

Rhode Island senators on Wednesday put the state on the path to becoming the 10th state to allow same-sex couples to marry.

The legislation easily passed the Rhode Island House in January, and the Senate vote was considered the true test. The bill passed 26 to 12 and now returns to the House for a largely procedural vote, probably next week, before going to Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I), who supports the legislation.

Although all other New England states already allow same-sex marriage, heavily Roman Catholic Rhode Island has been a holdout.

The first same-sex marriages in the state could take place Aug. 1, when the legislation would take effect. State lawmakers approved civil unions two years ago.

— Associated Press

Police kill man after five are shot dead

The nephew of a small-town Illinois mayor shot and killed five people, including two boys, before leading police on a chase that ended in an exchange of gunfire that left him dead, authorities said Wednesday.

State police said they believe Rick O. Smith, 43, entered a Manchester home and shot the victims at close range with a shotgun, killing two women, one man and the boys. Two people were found in a bedroom, two in a second bedroom and the man in a hallway. A sixth victim, a 6-year-old girl, was injured and taken to a hospital.

— Associated Press

3 injured in blasts on fuel barges

Firefighters from Mobile and U.S. Coast Guard crews responded Wednesday night to four explosions and a fire on fuel barges in the Mobile River.

Officials were responding to two explosions and a fire at natural gas barges when a third explosion occurred, a fire and rescue spokesman said. A fourth explosion was reported just before 10 p.m. Central time.

Three people were hospitalized with burns.

The explosions rattled the windows of houses in downtown and blew doors open in the Spanish Fort area, according to the Mobile Press-Register.

— Associated Press

Seven charged with smuggling fish bladders: Seven people have been charged with smuggling bladders from an endangered fish in what authorities said Wednesday may be a growing practice in which the bladders are sold for more than $10,000 each to be used in soup. U.S. border inspectors in Calexico, Calif., on the Mexican border, have seized about 500 bladders since February that were believed to be destined for China and Hong Kong, an official said. The bladders came from totoaba fish that live exclusively in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.

— From news services