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Nation in brief

Storms spawn flooding in Midwest, leave one dead in North Dakota

By wire services
Published April 2, 2006

FARGO, N.D. - Volunteers filled and stacked sandbags Saturday to protect homes in North Dakota and Minnesota from the rising Red River and its tributaries, swollen by a combination of melting snow and heavy rain.

Mayor Bruce Furness said Fargo was preparing for a flood crest next week of 37 to 38 feet, well above the official flood stage of 18 feet. However, he has said that would threaten only about 30 homes - compared with about 130 flooded in 1997.

Along with the sandbagging, the mayor said there were signs the river's rise is slowing.

However, one woman died in a water-filled ditch, where she apparently fell while trying to walk home after her car stalled on a flooded road, authorities said.

The rain was part of a line of damaging thunderstorms that rolled across the middle of the nation with large hail and tornadoes.

The severe weather reached Indiana on Friday, and authorities were trying to determine if tornadoes were responsible for damaging homes and businesses in the Indianapolis suburb of Greenwood.

Minuteman volunteers return to Arizona border

THREE POINTS, Ariz. - Minuteman volunteers concerned about the continued flow of illegal immigrants across the border from Mexico gathered Saturday with lawn chairs, binoculars and cell phones for a new monthlong campaign aimed at raising public awareness of the issue.

A year after their first watch-and-report operation along the border in southeastern Arizona, members of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps embarked on a much larger effort in the busy migrant-smuggling corridor.

At a rally kicking off the effort at a remote southern Arizona ranch Saturday afternoon, politicians and activists opposing illegal immigration called for more border control.

Each month, thousands of illegal immigrants cross into Arizona. So far this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, agents have captured more than 48,000 in the area staked out this weekend, an increase of 53 percent from the same period a year earlier.

The group says it plans similar exercises along the border in California, New Mexico and Texas.

Washington sniper preps to defend himself

ROCKVILLE, Md. - His attorneys once urged him to pass the time by reading newspapers or magazines in his cell as he awaits trial for six of the 2002 Washington-area sniper killings. But John Allen Muhammad ignored that and other advice.

Allowed to act as his own lawyer, Muhammad is intently poring over thousands of pages of court records, police reports and other documents stored in seven boxes at the jail. He has been given a DVD with another 30,000 pages of files but complains that he can't access them on prison computers. He badgered his lawyers for legal texts on issues such as Maryland's evidence rules.

Muhammad is due to go on trial May 1 for six Maryland killings in October 2002, part of a three-week shooting rampage in the Washington area that killed 10 people and wounded three. He already has been convicted and sentenced to death in Virginia, where his accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, has been sentenced to life.

This past week, Montgomery County Circuit Judge James L. Ryan reluctantly granted Muhammad's wish to represent himself, and on Thursday the Maryland public defender's office bowed out of the case. Ryan said he would try to find Muhammad a standby attorney who could help him prepare his case.

Muhammad has a "secret plan" to defend himself, according to a psychiatrist who interviewed him for his defense attorneys.

Vandals damage dinosaur tracks at Texas site

DALLAS - They survived as much as 95-million years of floods, droughts and tectonic tremors. But the dinosaur tracks couldn't withstand a quick strike by thieves and vandals on Grapevine Lake.

Clay Church, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said officials discovered the destruction Friday. Two of the smaller prehistoric impressions at the site had been dug up, with two others ruined by amateurs trying to make molds.

The site, discovered in 1982 and recently exposed by low lake levels, contains about 15 large tracks and dozens of smaller impressions left by hadrosaurs, common herbivores.

He called the prospect of catching and prosecuting the violators "so very remote." The tracks sit on federal land, and federal regulations prohibit their unauthorized defacement or movement.

Officials covered the remaining tracks with soft clay and dirt to mask their location until a more permanent preservation strategy can be devised.

Event pays tribute to late Wisconsin Sen. Proxmire

WASHINGTON - Former Vice President Walter Mondale and Sen. Ted Kennedy on Saturday joined in saluting the late Wisconsin Sen. William Proxmire, who was best known for his mocking "Golden Fleece" awards.

Proxmire, a Democrat, died in December at the age of 90 after battling Alzheimer's disease.

At a memorial service at Washington National Cathedral that was attended by about 350 people, Mondale called Proxmire a tireless "checks-and-balances machine."

Mondale, a Minnesota Democrat who served in the Senate with Proxmire from before becoming vice president in 1977, said he always admired Proxmire's work ethic.

"Wisconsin loved him," Mondale said.

[Last modified April 2, 2006, 01:25:16]

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