Gas blast destroys buildings; many hurt
A natural-gas explosion in one of New England’s biggest cities Friday destroyed two buildings, including one housing a strip club, and damaged others beyond repair but didn’t kill anyone, authorities said.
Firefighters, police officers and gas company workers in the area because of an earlier gas leak and odor report were among more than a dozen people injured, authorities said.
The explosion in a downtown area of Springfield, 90 miles west of Boston, blew out all windows in a three-block radius, leaving three more buildings irreparably damaged.
Officials at two nearby hospitals said at least 18 victims were transported there with injuries but none was critical.
Firefighters responded to the scene at 4:20 p.m. and were investigating the gas leak when the blast happened shortly after 5 p.m.
The cause of the explosion hadn’t been identified but was under investigation, they said.
Iran criticizes Turkey over missile request
Iran lashed out Friday at Turkey for requesting that NATO supply it with Patriot surface-to-air missiles to deploy along the border with Syria, denouncing the step by Ankara as counterproductive.
Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani made the remarks after a visit to Damascus, a show of support by Tehran to its increasingly diplomatically isolated ally.
Turkey’s request earlier this week follows incidents in which violence has spilled across the border from the civil war in Syria, frequently mortar rounds falling a short distance inside.
Patriots would be useful in intercepting ballistic missiles — a much more serious but still hypothetical threat.
Cops: Shopper took home TV but left tot
Police say a Massachusetts man left his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son in a car while he went shopping for Black Friday bargains, then went home with his new 51-inch flat screen television and left the toddler behind.
Police, alerted by store security, found the boy asleep in the vehicle in a Kmart parking lot at 1:30 a.m. Friday. They forced their way into the car and took the boy to the hospital as a precaution.
Meanwhile, they tracked the man to his Springfield home.
He told police he lost the boy while shopping, panicked and called someone else for a ride. The boy’s mother was working.
The 34-year-old man was not arrested and not immediately charged, but police say they expect to charge him with reckless endangerment to a child.
House to mull GOP immigration bill
House Republicans still smarting from their poor showing among Hispanics in the presidential election are planning a vote next week on immigration legislation that would expand visas for foreign science and tech-nology students and make it easier for those with green cards to bring their immediate families to the U.S.
Republican leaders made it clear after the election that the party was ready to get serious about overhauling the nation’s dysfunctional immigration system, a top priority for Hispanic communities.
Taking up what is called the STEM Jobs Act during the lame-duck session could be seen as a first step in that direction.