TRIAL SET TO OPEN IN NIGHTCLUB FIRE CASE
Trial set to open innightclub fire case
WEST WARWICK, R.I. -- The man whose fireworks display set off a 2003 blaze that killed 100 concertgoers is sitting in prison, but for many victims' relatives, the first of the two most important trials in the case is only now about to begin. Jury selection begins today for Michael Derderian, who with his brother owned The Station, the one-story, wooden nightclub that quickly became a deathtrap when stage pyrotechnics ignited the soundproofing foam that covered its walls and ceiling. Still fiercely angry more than three and a half years after the fire, victims' relatives see the Derderians as penny-pinchers who created unsafe conditions in the club and have never shown the same remorse as the man whose pyrotechnics started the fire. Daniel Biechele, now serving four years in prison, was tour manager for the band Great White, which was on stage when the fire started and lost guitarist Ty Longley, formerly of Sharon, Pa., to the fire. Biechele pleaded guilty and tearfully apologized in court in May.
Tropical depression nearsstorm strength in Atlantic
MIAMI -- A tropical depression brewing over the open Atlantic was nearing tropical storm strength Monday, forecasters said. At 5 p.m. EDT, the depression had sustained winds near 35 mph, 4 mph shy of becoming a tropical storm and the sixth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. It was centered about 1,165 miles east of the Lesser Antilles and moving northwest at near 12 mph, a path forecasters said they expected to continue for the next day, according to the National Hurricane Center. The depression would be named Florence if it reaches tropical storm strength. Forecasters said it could become a tropical storm later today. It comes on the heels of Tropical Storm Ernesto, which was briefly the season's first Atlantic hurricane. Ernesto hit the U.S. mainland at tropical storm strength, first moving over Florida, then swinging out to sea before hitting the Carolinas just short of hurricane strength last week.
Space shuttle launch
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- After more than a week of storm delays, NASA may be getting its best shot weather-wise for launching space shuttle Atlantis, officials said Monday. There was only a 20 percent chance that weather would prohibit the shuttle from blasting off at 12:28 p.m. Wednesday as planned, said Kathy Winters, shuttle weather officer. Unlike last week's planned launch attempts, the window Wednesday opens before Florida's afternoon summer thunderstorms normally blow through, and a tropical depression brewing in the Atlantic wasn't expected to interfere. "I feel better that we're launching around noontime than around 4:30 in the afternoon, as we first started off trying to do," said launch director Mike Leinbach, referring to the original launch time more than a week ago. If Atlantis doesn't lift off Wednesday, NASA will try again Thursday and also Friday if necessary.
Hunters in New Yorkurged to avoid woods
FREDONIA, N.Y. -- A state police official said Monday that "the noose is tightening" in the manhunt for an escaped inmate accused of a deadly police ambush and warned hunters to stay out of the woods where the fugitive may be hiding. Hunters in rural and wooded Chautauqua County are "interfering" with the search and face danger from Ralph "Bucky" Phillips and authorities pursuing him, state police Maj. Michael Manning said. "They can certainly be mistaken for the wrong individual," Manning said. Many officers are scouring the western New York woods for Phillips, the prime suspect in Thursday's ambush of troopers Donald Baker Jr., 38, and Joseph Longobardo, 32, who died Sunday. Baker remained in serious condition at a hospital Monday, police said. Phillips, 44, wounded another trooper near Elmira in June and has eluded police since his April 2 escape from an Erie County jail.
Olmert: Israel must renewtalks with Palestinians
JERUSALEM -- Prime Minister Ehud Olmert signaled a need Monday to pursue talks with the Palestinians, an official said, apparently edging away from a unilateral West Bank pullback plan that swept him to power in March. There have been no official contacts between Israel and the Palestinians since the militant Hamas group, which is sworn to Israel's destruction, won Palestinian parliamentary elections in January. But with Israel's recent war against Lebanese guerrillas putting a chill on Olmert's program -- to uproot Jewish settlements and unilaterally draw Israel's border with the West Bank -- the Israeli leader again broached the idea of talks. "We have no more urgent problem than that of the Palestinians," Olmert told parliament's influential Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, a meeting participant said.