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Sept. 14, 2005 at 10:59 PM
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Hurricane Ophelia ready to pound N.C.

MIAMI, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Hurricane Ophelia is moving "erratically" east-northeast at 7 mph and the center was expected to hit North Carolina overnight Wednesday.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami reports the category 1 storm was 35 miles south-southeast of Cape Lookout, N.C., at 9 pm EDT, with winds topping 85 mph and strengthening overnight.

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the entire North Carolina coast for the next 24 hours.

The center warns of of dangerous waves and tides 5 to 7 feet higher than normal on the Atlantic Ocean.

At 9 p.m., 4 to 8 inches of rain was expected in east North Carolina over the next 24 hours with total storm accumulation of 15 inches.

Ophelia may produce tornados in northeastern North Carolina, the center said.


Delta, Northwest file for bankruptcy

PHILADELPHIA, Pa., Sept. 14 (UPI) -- The third and fourth largest U.S. airlines filed for bankruptcy Wednesday as the industry reels under record high jet fuel costs.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, staggering under some $19 billion of debt, filed late Wednesday afternoon for protection from its creditors in a New York court. About an hour later, Minneapolis-based Northwest Airlines did likewise.

Both moves were expected.

In recent days, Delta had arranged about $1.7 billion in financing to help it get through its reorganization. The No. 3 carrier was spending $1.35 billion more on fuel this year than it did last year.

Northwest also cited fuel costs. "Northwest expects that its fuel bill for 2005 will be approximately $3.3 billion. This compares to $2.2 billion for 2004 and $1.6 billion for 2003," the company said in a statement.

Both airlines emphasized that they will continue operating routes normally.

With Wednesday's filing, four of the seven biggest U.S. airlines are in bankruptcy. United Airlines and US Airways also are operating without paying their debts.

Federal bankruptcy laws become much stricter Oct. 17 so companies that file before then can expect more generous treatment in bankruptcy court.


Court: 'Under God' pledge unconstitutional

SACRAMENTO, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- A U.S. judge in California ruled Wednesday the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional.

For the moment, the judge's ruling applies only to three Sacramento-area school districts. If the case reaches the U.S. Supreme Court, any high-court ruling would be nationwide.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton said an earlier ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals -- in a lawsuit brought by atheist Michael Newdow -- was binding. The Supreme Court ruled in a review of the earlier decision that Newdow lacked standing to bring the suit -- as the non-custodial parent of an elementary school child, he had no right to file -- but did not address the constitutional question of whether the phrase "under God" violates the constitution.

In Wednesday's ruling, Karlton said he was therefore bound by the earlier 9th Circuit ruling -- that the Elk Grove, Calif., school district policy "impermissibly coerces a religious act" by putting students in "the untenable position of participating in an exercise with religious content or protesting."

Karlton ruled against Newdow on the question of standing, but he found that three other atheist parents who joined Newdow in filing a new complaint against school officials have legal standing the bring the case.

Karlton said he would issue a restraining order, if an "appropriate motion" were brought, banning teacher-led recitation of the Pledge at schools the unidentified plaintiffs' children attend.

The judge upheld the pledge at school board and other governmental meetings attended by adults.


Judge: Ten Commandments display can stay

EVERETT, Wash., Sept. 14 (UPI) -- A Washington judge has ruled against a lawsuit that called for the removal of a Ten Commandments display outside a local police station.

Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik wrote the display does not violate the U.S. Constitution's separation of church and state clause, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.

The 6-foot granite display has been at the Everett, Wash., police station for 45 year. It was a gift from filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille, as part of his nationwide promotion for the 1956 film epic "The Ten Commandments."

Jesse Card had sued in 2003 to have the monument removed. He said having it there gave an impression that the government only supported those beliefs.

His attorney, Marc Slonim, said they haven't decided whether to appeal.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a similar monument in Texas was constitutional.

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