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Feb. 15, 2013 at 10:00 PM   |   Comments

Meteorite fragments hit Siberia; 950 hurt

MOSCOW, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- A hail of meteorite fragments hit Russia's Chelyabinsk region Friday, injuring at least 950 people, officials said.

The meteorite, which weighed about 10 tons, broke through the atmosphere around 9:20 a.m., traveling at a speed of 33,000 mph, ITAR-Tass reported.

At least 750 of the injured were in the city of Chelyabinsk, Der Spiegel reported.

Reports indicated most of the injuries were caused by broken glass and flying objects.

A state of emergency was declared.

A spokeswoman for the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations told The New York Times the meteorite broke apart and fell in several places.

"I saw a flash in the window, turned toward it and saw a burning cloud, which was surrounded by smoke and was going downward," said Maria Polyakova, 25, of the Park-City Hotel in Chelyabinsk, 90 miles east of Moscow.

Gas supplies were cut off to hundreds of homes as a safety precaution and about 20,000 emergency response workers were called out, RIA Novosti reported.

Russia's national space agency, Roscosmos, confirmed that the strike involved one large object and not several smaller ones.


Charges filed against Jesse Jackson Jr.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- The U.S. government Friday filed charges against former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. for allegedly misusing campaign funds.

Jackson, who resigned from Congress in November, was said to be in negotiations with federal prosecutors for a plea deal.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Jackson was charged with conspiracy, making false statements, and mail and wire fraud. The charges were filed in U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia.

Charges of filing false tax returns were filed against Jackson's wife, former Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson, who signed tax returns for Jackson's campaign, the Sun-Times said.

Attorneys for Jesse Jackson Jr., who represented a congressional district on Chicago's South Side and southern suburbs, issued a statement in which the former congressman accepted responsibility for "the mistakes I made" and apologized for his actions.

Politico reported the Jacksons allegedly spent $750,000 for personal items.

Jackson is expected to plead guilty and be sentenced to 46-to-57 months in prison and pay a fine of as much as $100,000, Politico said. He also would be required to return some of the $750,000.


High-volt short 2 weeks before ship fire

MIAMI, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Carnival Cruise Lines and the U.S. Coast Guard Friday declined to tie a high-voltage generator short to an engine room fire that crippled the Triumph.

"I don't have details" about the cable-damaging short in a high-voltage connection box the Triumph reported to the Coast Guard two weeks before the Sunday fire that disabled the ship, Carnival Public Relations Director Lanie Morgenstern in Miami told United Press International.

The short may not have been fixed before the fire, the Coast Guard report indicated.

Coast Guard Deputy Chief of Media Carlos Diaz told UPI his armed-forces branch and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating "the circumstances surrounding a fire."

Until the investigation is completed, "it would be speculative," Diaz said, to make a connection between the electrical short and the Sunday fire that knocked out the ship's propulsion system, power, and the sewage, heating and air-conditioning systems.

The 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members -- who left the Port of Galveston in Texas Feb. 7 for what was supposed to be a four-day cruise to Cozumel, Mexico -- spent five days living and sleeping on sewage-soaked carpets and open decks, with food so limited some passengers said they were reduced to eating candy and ketchup on buns.

The ship limped into the Alabama Cruise Terminal in Mobile with Coast Guard tugboat and cutter assistance Thursday night.

The Jan. 28 Coast Guard report examined by UPI indicated during a so-called Port State Control inspection of a foreign ship, the Triumph reported "a short in the high-voltage connection box of one of the ship's generators, causing damage to cables within the connection box."

The Texas City, Texas, Coast Guard marine safety unit on the southwest shore of Galveston Bay ordered the problem fixed by Feb. 27, noting: "The condition of the ship and its equipment shall be maintained to conform with ... regulations to ensure that the ship in all respects will remain fit to proceed to sea without danger to the ship or persons on board," the report said.

The report did not say whether the short was corrected before Sunday's fire. The report had the word "False" under a "Resolved" heading and a blank space under a "Resolved Date" heading late Friday.

The Triumph is a Bahamian-flagged vessel and the Bahamas Maritime Authority is the primary investigative agency.

Chris Dowty, the maritime authority's technical-compliance officer in London, told UPI Friday evening he would provide a statement.

Morgenstern told UPI the Triumph "previously experienced an electrical issue with one of the ship's alternators," but it was fixed Feb. 2.

She didn't say what the issue was.

An alternator converts mechanical energy to alternating-current electrical energy.


Obama: 'Wish I had had a father'

CHICAGO, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama, promoting his gun control and economic proposals in Chicago, said Friday he wishes he had had a father in his life while growing up.

Obama, making his third campaign-style trip in as many days to push the proposals he made in his State of the Union address, said guns aren't the only reason behind violence in the countries.

"This is not just a gun issue. It's also an issue of the kind of communities we are building," he told an audience at Hyde Park Academy, near his South Side home.

The audience included the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old shot to death in a Chicago park just days after she participated in Obama's second inauguration.

"Too many of our children are being taken away from us," Obama said, comparing the number of children killed in Chicago to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in which 20 children died Dec. 14.

Obama noted an equivalent number die every four months in Chicago and said the United States should do more as a nation to promote strong, stable families.

"Don't get me wrong. As the son of a single mom ... I turned out OK," he said, calling single mothers "heroic."

"I wish I'd had a father who was around and involved."

Obama said gun control proposals "deserve a vote in Congress, they deserve a vote," recognizing attitudes toward guns varies from region to region.

He also promoted his proposals for expanding quality preschool education and providing opportunities for higher education.

From Chicago, Obama traveled to West Palm Beach, Fla., for the weekend.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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