Oil cleanup closes river to 59 shipsNEW ORLEANS — Dozens of cargo ships, petrochemical tankers and smaller vessels stacked up Thursday near a closed stretch of the Mississippi River, a day after a collision between a barge and tanker spilled more than 400,000 gallons of fuel oil into the waterway. The Coast Guard said reopening nearly 100 miles of river to ship traffic could take days, and cleanup efforts by hundreds of workers trying to remove the oily sheen could take weeks. Many of the ships waited at the river's Gulf of Mexico outlet to head upriver to grain and petrochemical terminals above New Orleans, one of the world's busiest ports. Only about 6,900 gallons of oil had been cleaned from the fast-flowing river by midday Thursday, a fraction of the 419,000 gallons stored aboard the barge that split open early Wednesday in the collision with the Liberian-flagged tanker Tintomara.
Life sentence given in woman's tortureNEW YORK — An ex-convict has been sentenced to life in prison for the sadistic, 19-hour rape and torture of a Columbia University graduate student. Robert Williams was convicted last month in Manhattan of attempted murder, rape, kidnapping and arson. The victim testified about her ordeal. Her tormenter scalded her with boiling water and tried to blind her with bleach. She was forced to swallow fistfuls of painkillers and ordered to gouge out her eyes with scissors. The attacker glued her lips shut and gagged her with duct tape before torching her apartment.
Scientists explain northern lightsCAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Scientists have exposed some of the mystery behind the northern lights. On Thursday, NASA released findings that indicate magnetic explosions about one-third of the way to the moon cause the northern lights, or aurora borealis, to burst in spectacular shapes and colors, and dance across the sky. The findings should help scientists better understand more powerful but less common geomagnetic storms. Those geomagnetic storms can knock out satellites, harm astronauts in orbit and disrupt power and communications on Earth, scientists have said. Also in the nation ... •SALT WATER SHOT: Amber Brewington, a mother accused in Pittsburgh of deliberately injecting her 4-month-old son with salt water, will be sent to a mental hospital after a psychiatrist determined she had a syndrome in which a caregiver fakes or induces illness in others to generate sympathy. •BAYLOR PRESIDENT: Baylor University regents on Thursday fired school President John M. Lilley, the second leader in three years to leave amid clashes with the faculty at the world's largest Baptist university.
Sudanese president to work for peaceEL GENEINA, Sudan — Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, charged with genocide and war crimes in Darfur, vowed Thursday to work for peace in the war-wracked desert region and the return of hundreds of thousands of people forced by attacks to flee their homes. The longtime Sudanese leader has been casting himself as a peacemaker since arriving in Darfur, nine days after an international prosecutor filed genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity charges against him. "We don't need anyone to show us how to make peace,” he told the cheering crowd. "Because we know better. … We are with you until we achieve peace and the refugees return to their homes.”
Mother watches family's fatal fallMILAN, Italy — A Dutch woman watched her husband and three children fall to their deaths Thursday while climbing near Mont Blanc, Italian rescuers said. The 56-year-old man, who was roped to his son and two daughters, plunged 1,600 feet down a slope of rock, ice and snow as their mother watched from below, said Oscar Tajola, head of the mountain rescue corps in the nearby town of Courmayeur.
Brazilian boy bites dog during attackSAO PAULO, Brazil — An 11-year old boy is in Brazil's media spotlight after sinking his teeth into the neck of a dog that attacked him. Local newspapers reported on Thursday that Gabriel Almeida was playing in his uncle's back yard in the city of Belo Horizonte when a pit bull terrier lunged at him and bit him in the left arm. Gabriel grabbed the dog and bit back — biting so hard that he lost a tooth. Also in the world ... •HIJACKER GOES HOME: A Croatian news agency says Zvonko Busic, a convicted plane hijacker, returned Thursday to Croatia after serving 30 years in jail in the U.S. •PERUVIAN PRIDE? Lacey Zamudio, a Peruvian model and showgirl, is facing a criminal investigation for posing naked sitting atop the country's red-and-white flag.