Northwest Digest

Posted: Monday, November 12, 2007

Protesters attempt to block military gear

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OLYMPIA, Wash. - At least a dozen people were arrested as demonstrators rallied to protest military cargo shipments arriving from Iraq at the port in the state capital.

The arrests Saturday came a day after protesters were able to stop two trucks from removing military equipment that had been unloaded from a ship coming from Iraq. The equipment was bound for Fort Lewis, an Army base about 15 miles northeast of Olympia.

Nine protesters were arrested Saturday for investigation of violating the city's pedestrian interference ordinance, but all were later released without being cited, said police Sgt. Ken Carlson.

Protesters on foot blocked traffic downtown at about noon Saturday by jumping in front of large trucks towing cargo containers carrying equipment. But police in riot gear moved in quickly, spraying pepper spray in protesters' faces, pushing them with their batons and dragging them away from the road.

At least three people were arrested at that location, and at least nine more were arrested when they tried to block an entrance to Interstate 5 as scores of protesters deployed to several different locations.

The protest was part of a week of demonstrations by Olympia Port Militarization Resistance, which has protested the port's use by the USNS Brittin, which landed Monday to unload equipment that was used in Iraq by the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

Coast Guard: Cargo ship's crew detained

SAN FRANCISCO - The entire crew of the cargo ship that sideswiped a bridge, causing San Francisco Bay's worst oil spill in nearly two decades, has been detained as part of a criminal investigation, a Coast Guard official said Sunday.

Capt. William Uberti said he notified the U.S. attorney's office on Saturday about issues involving management and communication among members of the bridge crew: the helmsman, the watch officer, the ship's master and the pilot.

The entire crew of the Cosco Busan, which disgorged 58,000 gallons of oil into the Bay on Wednesday, is being detained on the ship for questioning, said Uberti, head of the Coast Guard for Northern California.

Uberti declined to specify what problems he reported. Federal prosecutors did not return a call seeking comment on Sunday.

Darrell Wilson, a representative for Regal Stone Ltd, the Hong Kong-based company who owns the ship, would not talk about the federal probe. "I really don't have anything I can comment on," he said.

A preliminary Coast Guard investigation found that human error, not mechanical failure, caused the ship to crash into a support on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

The wreck left a gash nearly 100 feet long on the side of the 926-foot vessel and ruptured two of the vessel's fuel tanks, causing heavy bunker fuel to leak into the bay. The spill has killed dozens of sea birds and spurred the closure of nearly two dozen beaches and piers.

Investigators were focusing on possible communication problems between the ship's crew, the pilot guiding the vessel and the Vessel Traffic Service, the Coast Guard station that monitors the bay's shipping traffic.

Thrown rock helps nab escaped convict

HELENA, Mont. - A Helena Prerelease Center employee, hearing something rustling in the bushes, threw a rock at a shrub.

To his surprise, he heard someone say "Hey, you hit me in the head," said Helena Police Cpl. Bill Tompkins.

The rock had hit a 22-year-old escaped convict the center was searching for.

The convict was being transferred by bus from a prison in Seattle to one in Great Falls when he got off at the wrong stop in Helena on Friday, Tompkins said. It wasn't clear if the man meant to get off the bus in Helena or if it was a mix-up, Tompkins said.

The convict contacted the Helena Prerelease Center, which brought him from the bus stop to the center, Tompkins said.

Hours later, center employees noticed the convict was missing and alerted police, Tompkins said. They later called back saying the convict was hiding in bushes outside the center.

Police found the man hiding behind some barrels, and took him into custody for probation violation, Tompkins said.

Alaska license plates rank 13th most vain

RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia, URSOVAIN.

You, too, New Hampshire, Illinois, Nevada and Montana.

A state-by-state survey of the popularity of vanity license plates has found that car and truck owners in Virginia are the vainest of them all.

Out of the 9.3 million personalized plates on the roads of America, about one in 10 are in Virginia, according to rankings provided to The Associated Press by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.

That's 16 percent of the plates issued by Virginia. New Hampshire came in second with nearly 14 percent. Illinois had about 13.4 percent, but that amounted to nearly 1.3 million plates, the most of any state.

Alaska came in 13th with 34,068 out of 682,892 plates personalized, for an average of 5 percent.

"If you've got 9.3 million people across the U.S. sporting vanity plates, you've got a cultural phenomenon," AAMVA spokesman Jason King said.

Alaska ranked 13th with just under 5 percent of its plates personalized.

Texas had the fewest, with only about a half percent of drivers personalizing their plates.

Kathy Carmichael drives around with the plate COFENUT, although she is down from eight to 10 cups of java a day to just three.

"It's a personality thing," said Carmichael, 58, a real estate agent in Mechanicsville. "You get to know something about the person in front of you or who passes you."

Stefan Lonce calls it "minimalist poetry in motion" - telling a story in eight or fewer characters.

Lonce - author of the upcoming book "LCNS2ROM-License to Roam: Vanity Plates and the Stories they Tell" - worked with AAMVA to survey vehicle licensing agencies in each state.

"I think a lot of people have stories to tell and they really want pieces of those stories out there," Lonce said.



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