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Nation in brief

Two killed in mobile home blast

By wire services
Published January 23, 2004

FRONT ROYAL, Va. - An explosion obliterated a mobile home Thursday in northern Virginia, killing two people and injuring two others.

The blast killed a man and a woman who were inside. A neighbor and a firefighter suffered minor injuries.

The mobile home was "completely gone, blown apart," Richard Mabie, Warren County's fire chief, said at a news conference.

A charred oxygen tank was found in the debris, and authorities are investigating whether propane or oxygen tanks may have caused the blast. Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron said investigators have no reason to believe the explosion was deliberate.

La. Senate president starts inquiry of sexual e-mail

BATON ROUGE, La. - The president of the Louisiana Senate has asked for an investigation into whether the Senate's top administrator intentionally sent an e-mail containing graphic sexual images and jokes to government workers.

Senate Secretary Mike Baer contends he was trying to delete the items from his e-mail box but accidentally forwarded them on Jan. 16 to legislators, their staff and members of the governor's office.

The mailing contained several attachments Baer received from others, including jokes that contained sexual content. Also attached was a three-minute video that focused entirely on female genitalia.

The message provoked several complaints.

Ark. court takes school fund case from lawmakers

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - The Arkansas Supreme Court claimed control Thursday over the future of the state's school system, saying the Legislature had missed its deadline to come up with a plan to resolve a decades-long fight over school quality.

The justices said they will appoint a special master to recommend ways to bring education up to constitutional standards. The Legislature can continue its attempts to address the issue, but the court will decide whether they are adequate.

However, the court did not order the state to fund schools with money earmarked for other services and departments - a move requested by the school district that started the case. Arkansas officials had developed what Gov. Mike Huckabee called a "doomsday" plan to keep essential services running in case justices made such a ruling.

Committee set to weigh impeaching governor

HARTFORD, Conn. - Five Democrats and five Republicans were named Thursday to a special House inquiry committee that will recommend whether Gov. John G. Rowland should be impeached.

The three-term Republican governor is under fire for accepting gifts and free work on his vacation cottage from politically connected friends, state employees and a contractor and lying about it. He has said he never returned the favors, but lawmakers from both parties have called for his resignation.

On Thursday, Rowland commended Democratic House Speaker Moira Lyons and Republican House Minority Leader Robert Ward for selecting a bipartisan committee.

The committee will have the authority to draft articles of impeachment.

Priest arrested, accused of growing pot in rectory

Police in Norton, Ohio, have arrested a Catholic priest on drug charges after they found marijuana plants growing in the church rectory, officials said.

Following a search of the residence and office of the Rev. Richard Arko, police arrested the 40-year-old pastor on a charge of illegal cultivation of marijuana.

A second man, Jensen J. Powell, 24, who is unemployed and living at the four-bedroom Shannon Avenue rectory, was charged with trafficking in marijuana.

Police confiscated 35 marijuana plants ranging from 6 inches to 4 feet, grow lights, electric transformers and air purifiers, all from a room that police said was being used to grow marijuana.

[Last modified January 23, 2004, 01:32:51]

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