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Digest

Three charged with enslaving Chinese acrobats

By TIMES WIRES
Published July 5, 2007


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LAS VEGAS

Three men enslaved more than 20 members of a Chinese acrobatic team, feeding them little, paying them next to nothing to perform and confiscating their passports and visas, federal authorities said. The men, 43, 38 and 21 years old, were arrested this week on slavery charges. A woman who worked as an interpreter for China Star Acrobats escaped late last month and contacted authorities, the FBI said. She told police she and 20 other teammates were being held against their will. Social workers interviewed 14 residents at the home Friday, including five ages 14 to 17, according to a criminal complaint. "They literally hugged the investigators when they arrived, " said FBI spokesman David Staretz. Prosecutors said up to six acrobats were forced to stay in a bedroom. The acrobats told authorities they were fed minimal amounts of instant noodles, rice and vegetables twice a day. They said they sometimes had to perform twice a day, were awakened early and didn't get to go to sleep until very late. According to the complaint, the men confiscated visas and passports and told them their phone calls home would be monitored.

FLINT, MICH.

Airport evacuated after bomb threats

Bishop International Airport and two airplanes on the ground were evacuated for several hours Wednesday after nine bomb threats were phoned in, authorities said. The evacuation began shortly after the threats were called in to the airport's rescue department around 5 p.m., said an official for AirTran Airways, the airport's biggest carrier. The Transportation Security Administration said shortly before 9 p.m. that operations at the airport had returned to normal. The TSA did not know whether any bombs were found or whether there were any suspects or arrests.

LOS ANGELES

Discrimination suit wins $6.2-million

A jury awarded $6.2-million to a firefighter who said she was harassed by colleagues because she is black and a lesbian, harassment she says included someone mixing urine with her mouthwash. Brenda Lee's lawsuit against the Los Angeles Fire Department also said her superiors made derogatory comments about her and forced her to perform strenuous exercises without proper safety precautions because of her race and sexual orientation. The jury payout was the largest in a string of recent settlements of cases alleging discrimination and retaliation against women and minorities within the Fire Department.

Elsewhere

Columbia, Tenn.: Someone spray-painted graffiti on the home of President James K. Polk, authorities said. The words "meat, " "glue" and "SMR" were written around the front door of the home, built in 1816 by the president's father about 45 miles south of Nashville. The home's curator discovered the vandalism Monday, and it was cleaned the same day.

Bridgeport, Conn.: A van rolled into a pond Wednesday after the driver got out to ask directions to a Fourth of July barbecue, killing a woman and two children and leaving a third child in critical condition, authorities said. The victims were in 15 to 20 feet of water for 20 to 25 minutes, officials said.

Salt Lake City: An evacuation order was lifted for a string of small northeastern Utah communities on Wednesday while firefighters worked to tame a wildfire that has burned more than 62 square miles.

[Last modified July 5, 2007, 00:32:25]


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