Modified: July 25, 2008 at 12:40 am •  Published: July 25, 2008
Oil cleanup closes river to 59 ships
NEW 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 torture
NEW 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 lights
CAPE 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.

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