Man wearing Santa suitburns Confederate flag
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A man wearing a black Santa suit set fire to the Confederate flag on the State House grounds Wednesday, reviving security concerns among legislators.
While reducing the cotton-silk blend banner to ashes, the fire also highlighted racial tensions that have simmered since lawmakers moved the flag from atop the State House dome to the front of the Capitol grounds two years ago.
Flag supporters called for an investigation into State House security and publicly criticized the Bureau of Protective Services, a branch of the Department of Public Safety, for what they called a slow and passive response.
Black lawmakers condemned the incident and said they feared a retaliation against the African-American History Monument, which stands yards away.
Legislators say they are puzzled that officers did not question a man sitting near the flag on an extension ladder and wearing a black Santa suit in near 90-degree weather.
"How this can happen with someone with a ladder out here is beyond me," said Republican Sen. John Courson, a flag supporter. "This is a total breakdown of security at the State House. I'm very angry about it."
LA city council refusesto help top cop keep job
LOS ANGELES -- Police Chief Bernard Parks' last-ditch appeal for appointment to a second five-year term was spurned by city council, which refused to reconsider a Police Commission vote to remove him.
The council voted 11-3 on Wednesday against intervening on Parks' behalf. The decision came a day after Parks argued that the mayor and police union had conspired against him in opposing his reappointment.
Last week, the city police commission rejected another term for Parks, citing low morale, understaffing and other problems in the 8,900-member department. The city council could have overridden the commission.
After Wednesday's vote, Nate Holden, the chief's most outspoken council supporter, urged Parks to consider a lawsuit to clear his name. Parks, who did not appear at the council meeting, conferred with his legal team Wednesday but declined to discuss a possible lawsuit.
Parks' attorney, Gloria Allred, said "all options" were being considered but she would not be specific.
Candidate questionsPataki's leadership
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination unleashed a barrage of criticism against Gov. George Pataki for his response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, saying he stood by Rudolph Giuliani's side while the mayor emerged as the real leader.
"Rudy Giuliani was the hero of 9-11," former federal housing secretary Andrew Cuomo said in an interview Wednesday as he traveled to Buffalo on a campaign bus. "There was a leader in 9-11, it was Rudy Giuliani."
Pataki "stood behind the leader," Cuomo said. "He held the leader's coat. He was a great assistant to the leader. But he was not a leader."
Appearing Wednesday at an Albany event to mark the cutting of welfare rolls, Pataki appeared taken aback as a reporter read Cuomo's comments.
"He actually said that?" Pataki asked. "There are things I can say, but I don't think it's appropriate. I'm not going to comment on that. I'm just stunned by the comments. I just think it's very sad."
Giuliani, a Republican, was sharply critical of Cuomo's comments.
"The reality is that the governor was a full and complete partner and I held his coat as often as he held mine," Giuliani said.
New order of insects
WASHINGTON -- Scientists have discovered a new order of insects, the first in nearly a century.
Three of the paperclip-size insects were identified in collections in museums in Europe by Oliver Zompro of the Max-Planck Institute for Limnology in Ploen, Germany.
Researchers later discovered a living population of the insects in the southwest African nation of Namibia.
The findings are being reported this week in the journal Science.
The insects, described as a predator which resembles a mix between a stick insect and a preying mantis, were placed in the new category "mantophasmatodea."
The discovery "tells us that there are places on Earth that act as protective pockets, preserving tiny glimpses of what life was like millions of years ago," said Piotr Naskrecki of the group Conservation International, which helped fund the expedition to Namibia that found the living insects.