Stranded motorists saved from storm

About 180 people, including some who spent more than 12 hours stuck in deep snow in the San Bernardino Mountains, were rescued Saturday as the latest in a series of storms struck California.

The storms quickly moved eastward, closing all three major highways over the Sierra Nevada.

Up to 10 feet was expected over the weekend at the Sierra’s higher elevations, according to the National Weather Service.

Snow piled up three to four feet deep along a 15-mile stretch of highway between the Snow Valley ski resort and Big Bear dam, said Tracey Martinez, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County fire department.

Rescue crews used tracked vehicles to pick up the snowbound motorists in the mountains about 90 miles east of Los Angeles. Many of the vehicles remained abandoned while the roads were being cleared of snow.

“People were panicking and calling 911 on their cell phones,” Martinez said. “Most of them are elated to be out of there. But some continued on and said they were going skiing.”

No serious injuries were reported.



U.S. troops mistakenly kill Iraqi civilians

U.S. troops opened fire near a checkpoint after their convoy was hit by a roadside bomb, and a hospital official said yesterday at least eight people were killed in the second mistaken American attack in two days to have deadly results.

South of Baghdad, seven Ukrainian soldiers and one from Kazakhstan were killed in an apparently accidental explosion at an ammunition dump.

U.S. officials said they had no information about the shooting at the checkpoint, which occurred overnight Saturday. Interior Ministry spokesman Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman said a U.S. convoy was hit by a roadside bomb near a police checkpoint in Yussifiyah, nine miles south of Baghdad, and troops opened fire, killing two police officers and three civilians.

Anmar Abdul-Hadi of the al-Yarmouk hospital said eight people were killed in the attack and 12 were wounded.

American commanders recently said they were changing tactics in the way they respond to roadside bombings. Rather than pushing on after the blast, they now stop and try to engage the perpetrators, who may have detonated the explosives remotely.



Prison camp to get face lift with new facility

The U.S. prison camp for terror suspects is taking on a look of permanence as the mission marks its third year tomorrow, with plans for a new $25 million prison facility, $1.7 million psychiatric wing and a permanent guard force.

Most of the 550 prisoners from 42 countries no longer are considered of significant intelligence value, but many swept up in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan aren’t expected to be freed anytime soon, some because of stalled legal proceedings, others because they allegedly still pose a threat to the United States or its allies.

“Where this will go four or five years down the road, I don’t know,” said Army Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, who has commanded the mission for nine months.

Such uncertainties, coupled with multiplying allegations of abuse, are under attack from lawyers and human rights groups who say the camp is an affront to American values.



Bush plans crackdown on piracy in China

The Bush administration wants China to crack down on the rampant piracy of U.S. movies, music and computer programs and will not be satisfied until copyright violators get stiff prison sentences, Commerce Secretary Donald Evans said.

Evans, who today is leaving on his fourth and final trip to China as a member of President Bush’s Cabinet, said in an Associated Press interview that he wanted to learn firsthand what China was doing to fulfill promises to better enforce its intellectual property laws.

Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi led a 70-person delegation to Washington last April for economic talks that resulted in a number of pledges by the Chinese on trade, including protections for U.S. copyrights.

The Motion Picture Association estimates that its members lost up to $3.5 billion last year from movie pirates.

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