NEW YORK — A cooler holding bottled water and books and left on a Times Square sidewalk prompted police to clear thousands of people and call in the bomb squad Friday, less than a week after a Pakistani-born man claiming to have terrorist links tried to blow up an SUV a block away. Three blocks were closed to pedestrians and traffic for a little over an hour, starting at about 1:15 p.m., after someone noticed the cooler near 46th Street and Broadway. The area was crowded with people enjoying lunch outside on the warm afternoon. An investigation of the cooler, including an X-ray, showed no danger.
D.C.: Finance director out
The Republican National Committee’s finance director and his deputy were forced out Friday as the organization still reels from reimbursements for donors to attend a lesbian bondage-themed nightclub in Los Angeles. RNC chief of staff Michael Leavitt sent an e-mail message to committee members telling them of the changes in the fundraising department and promising a strong strategy heading into crucial midterm elections in November. A replacement for finance director Rob Bickhart and deputy Debbie LeHardy was to be announced soon.
California: New rent control
The Los Angeles City Council has approved a plan to draft a four-month ban on rent increases for hundreds of thousands of apartments. The council approved the move 8-6 Friday, but at the last minute exempted apartments with four units or less. It was not immediately clear how many of the city’s 630,000 rent-controlled apartments would be affected. Housing officials say well over half the city’s 118,000 rent-controlled buildings have fewer than four units.
Michigan: Lexus approved
Consumer Reports magazine is lifting a “Don’t Buy” recommendation for a Lexus sport utility vehicle that failed an emergency handling test. The magazine said Friday that the 2010 Lexus GX 460 luxury SUV passed the test after a dealership updated software that runs its electronic stability control system. Toyota Motor Corp. recalled about 10,000 of the SUVs in the United States in April after the magazine told readers not to buy them. The automaker also stopped selling them.
Pensylvania: Landlord peeps
A Philadelphia-area landlord who admitted he used hidden cameras to spy on 34 female tenants is heading to prison. A Montgomery County Court judge sentenced 47-year-old Thomas Daley to four to 10 years behind bars Friday. Daley pleaded guilty last year to hiding cameras behind mirrors or in ceiling fans to spy on tenants. Prosecutors say Daley taped the women or watched them live on his computer. They say it began in 1989 and continued until September 2008 at five apartment buildings he owned in Norristown.
Venezuela: Heat on butchers
It’s getting harder to put meat on the table in Venezuela and the government has been blaming the butchers, arresting dozens on charges of flouting price controls. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Friday night, however, that he disagrees with the tactic of putting butchers behind bars. “Don’t mess with the butchers,” Chavez said. He called on officials to instead scrutinize distributors and big players in the beef business, saying if they’re violating price controls “what must be done is expropriate everything from them.”
Germany: National ‘liberation’
The Allied victory in World War II 65 years ago was a “liberation for all,” even though it took many Germans some time to acknowledge that, German parliament president Norbert Lammert said Friday. It was only those who suffered directly from the Nazi terror who realized immediately they had been freed, Lammert said in a tribute in parliament to the end of the war in Europe on May 8, 1945 — known as Victory Europe Day. “For many others it took a long time for the certainty to come through: It was a day of liberation for all,” he said.
Lithuania: Gay pride parade
An appeals court said Friday that the country’s first gay pride parade can go ahead as planned, overturning a ban imposed by a lower court that had warned of violent protests. The procession today in the Lithuanian capital is expected to draw hundreds of participants and an even larger crowd of opponents. A Vilnius court Wednesday banned the event, saying authorities would be unable to guarantee the safety of the participants. But the Supreme Administration Court said the government is obligated to defend the rights to assembly and expression.
From Herald news services