SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s growing tourism industry and the star-studded Sundance Film Festival are being targeted for a boycott by bloggers, gay rights activists and others seeking to punish the Mormon church for its aggressive promotion of California’s ban on gay marriage. It could be a heavy price to pay. Tourism brings in $6 billion a year to Utah, with world-class skiing, a spectacular red rock country and the film festival founded by Robert Redford, among other popular tourist draws. “The main focus is going to be going after the Utah brand,” said blogger and gay rights activist John Aravosis. “At this point, honestly, we’re going to destroy the Utah brand. It is a hate state.”
Nebraska: 29th child abandoned
Nebraska authorities say an 11-year-old girl has become the 29th child to be left at a hospital under the state’s much-criticized safe haven law. The state child and families division chief said the girl was left Friday morning at Bergan Mercy Hospital in Omaha. She’s from Douglas County. He said the girl was dropped by her mother. Nebraska’s law says anyone can leave a child at a hospital without fear of prosecution for the abandonment.
Massachusetts: Obama’s aunt
President-elect Obama’s aunt intends to fight a deportation order and hopes to remain in the United States, her immigration lawyer said Friday. Zeituni Onyango, 56, is staying with relatives in Cleveland after fleeing her public housing apartment in Boston. She had been living there five years. Onyango, who is Obama’s father’s half-sister, was ordered to leave the country in 2004 by an immigration judge who rejected her request for asylum from her native Kenya. Obama’s campaign said previously he did not know about his aunt’s status but believes she should obey the law.
California: Elephant appeal fails
A City Council committee has rejected a move to stop work on a $40 million elephant enclosure at the Los Angeles Zoo. The panel’s decision came Thursday despite pleas from celebrities such as Lily Tomlin and Bob Barker to instead fund a 60-acre elephant sanctuary in the San Fernando Valley. Celebrities who want to remove the elephants from the zoo say living there can harm their health and shorten their lives. Tomlin says she thinks “the word zoo is elephant-speak for Guantanamo.”
50 years for AA meeting slaying
A California man was sentenced Thursday to 50 years to life in prison for shooting to death his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor at a meeting. Jurors in Long Beach convicted Scott Gordon Reynolds, 29, of first-degree murder in the slaying of 33-year-old Uriel Noriega. Reynolds testified he snapped after Noriega told other members at an AA meeting two years ago that Reynolds is gay. It’s a secret Reynolds had confided only to his mother and his AA sponsor.
Haiti: School collapses on children
A hillside school where roughly 500 students usually crowded into several floors collapsed during classes on Friday, killing at least 30 people and injuring many more. Rescuers used bare hands to pull bleeding students from the wreckage. More children were believed buried in the rubble of the concrete building, and the death toll was likely to go higher, a civil protection official said. A police commissioner said the minister who runs the church-operated school could face criminal charges.
Britain: Blinded pilot lands safely
A British pilot who was suddenly blinded by a stroke during a solo flight was talked safely down by a military pilot, the Royal Air Force said Friday. Jim O’Neill asked for help after he was went blind 40 minutes into a flight from Scotland to southeastern England last week. The BBC reported that O’Neill, flying a small Cessna aircraft, lost his sight 5,500 feet in the air. “It was terrifying,” O’Neill said. “Suddenly, I couldn’t see the dials in front of me.” An RAF Wing Commander who was just finishing a flight nearby was asked to help the stricken pilot. He located the plane, began flying close to it and radioed directions.
Mexico: Huge arms cache seized
The Mexican army on Friday announced that it has made the largest seizure of drug-cartel weapons in Mexico’s history. The cache of 540 rifles, 165 grenades, 500,000 rounds of ammunition and 14 sticks of TNT were seized on Thursday at a house in Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas, an official said. She said the largest previous bust involved a cache of 280 weapons found in 1984. The weapons in this latest seizure belonged to the Gulf drug cartel, another official said.
Cayman Islands: Hurricane Paloma
Late-season Hurricane Paloma strengthened into a Category 3 storm as it lashed the Cayman Islands with wind and rain Friday, knocking down trees and signs. The storm was expected to lose some strength overnight before punching Cuba’s midsection today, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Cuba already is suffering from billions of dollars in damage from two previous hurricanes this season. Paloma’s top winds Friday night were near 115 mph, and it was centered about 25 miles south of Grand Cayman, heading northeast at 7 mph.
From Herald news services