Nation, World Briefs: Tropical Storm Fay brings some relief to dry Florida

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Tropical Storm Fay brought some good news to the state’s parched Everglades and its liquid heart, Lake Okeechobee — lots and lots of water. The lake, a backup drinking water source for 5 million people, rose more than 2 feet in a single week. That’s about 288 billion gallons, equivalent to about 84 days worth of water used in South Florida for drinking, watering lawns and other purposes. It was the first time since record-keeping started in 1931 that the lake saw such a dramatic rise, officials said.

New York: City leads AIDS cases

New data show New York City residents are contracting the virus that causes AIDS at three times the national rate. The city health department said Wednesday that almost 4,800 New Yorkers were infected with HIV in 2006. That number represents 72 of every 100,000 residents, compared to a national rate of 23 per 100,000. Health officials attribute the city’s relatively high rate of new infections to its large populations of gay men, blacks and other groups on whom HIV has traditionally taken a heavy toll.

Ohio: 25 years for Enzyte scam

A business owner convicted of defrauding customers seeking male sexual enhancement products and a variety of herbal supplements was sentenced in Cincinnati Wednesday to 25 years in prison. Steve Warshak, 42, founder of Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, also was ordered to pay $93,000 in fines. He was convicted in February on 93 counts of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering. Berkeley distributes various products alleged to boost energy, manage weight, reduce memory loss and aid sleep. The company’s main product, Enzyte, promises sexual enhancement.

New Mexico: Four inmates escape

Four jail inmates who authorities say helped eight others make a brazen escape were charged Wednesday, as officials kept up the search for the five prisoners who remain on the loose, including a convicted murderer. Authorities believe it took the inmates seven hours to cut through the roof of the Curry County jail, apparently the culmination of a two- or three-day planning effort. Authorities believe the men used handmade instruments to cut a hole near a skylight, then climbed plumbing pipes to get to the roof.

Massachusetts: Pot benefactor

A measure that would decriminalize minor marijuana-possession cases is on the ballot in Massachusetts largely because of one man: billionaire financier and liberal activist George Soros. Of the $429,000 collected last year by the group advancing the measure, $400,000 came from Soros, who has championed similar efforts in several states and spent $24 million to fight President Bush’s 2004 re-election bid. The Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy needed about $315,000 of that just to collect the more than 100,000 signatures that secured a spot on the ballot, according to campaign finance reports.

California: Mansion rammed twice

A Southern California man has rammed his car into the gates of the Playboy Mansion twice in the last two weeks, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The latest incident occurred Tuesday night, when the man allegedly drove his car into a front gate of the famous home of Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner. Police said detectives are still investigating but believe both incidents involve an “ongoing dispute.” Authorities allege that the man also crashed into the gate last week.

India: Dalai Lama cancels trips

The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, was suffering from exhaustion and has canceled two planned international trips to undergo medical tests, his office said Wednesday. The 73-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner had been “experiencing some discomfort in the past couple of days,” a statement from his office said, adding that his doctors had diagnosed “exhaustion.”

Mexico: Justices support abortion

Mexico’s Supreme Court was poised Wednesday to uphold legal abortion in the capital despite deep opposition elsewhere in the heavily Catholic country. Seven of the 11 Supreme Court justices said during deliberations that they would vote against declaring the law unconstitutional. Eight votes would be needed to strike it down. The justices were expected to take a formal vote within the next couple of days. “To affirm that there is an absolute constitutional protection of life in gestation would lead to the violation of the fundamental rights of women,” one justice said.

Iraq: Huge Baghdad Ferris wheel

Iraq is calling on companies to submit designs to build a giant Ferris wheel in Baghdad — the latest in a string of lavish proposals painting the capital as a leisure-friendly city. The Ferris wheel, dubbed the Baghdad Eye, will soar more than 650 feet over the city and feature air-conditioned compartments that would each carry up to 30 passengers, a Baghdad municipal spokesman said Wednesday. He said the wheel would be taller than the iconic London Eye, which sits on the banks of the River Thames and reaches a height of about 450 feet over the British capital.

From Herald news services

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