National briefs

Doctor altered fingertips, officials say

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A Mexican doctor surgically removed drug traffickers' fingerprints, substituting skin from the soles of their feet, to help the traffickers avoid arrest, authorities said Friday.

The doctor, Jose Covarrubias, was arrested at the border as he tried to enter the United States on Wednesday, the same day he was indicted in connection with a Harrisburg-based marijuana-dealing ring.


Legislature approves pipeline incentive act

JUNEAU - Both houses of the A laska Legislature on Friday approved a bill establishing a path for a multibillion-dollar natural gas project designed to tap a huge heating fuel supply and transport it to the rest of the country.

Under the Alaska Gasoline Inducement Act, producers and independent pipeline companies can vie for rights to build the pipeline that lawmakers hope will ship trillions of cubic feet of North Slope natural gas to market.


No counseling could mean higher fee

AUSTIN - Legislation to double marriage license fees to $60 unless couples undergo pre-nuptial counseling flew through the Texas Senate on Friday with unanimous approval.

Critics in the lower chamber derided House Bill 2685 as a marriage tax, a punishment for falling in love and even an intrusion into the bedrooms of ordinary Texans, but the Senate adopted the measure with little explanation and no debate.

And, while the House stripped the bill of the marriage license fee increase, leaving it at $30, the Senate adopted the increased rate for those who refuse to take a pre-marriage class. Couples who take the class would get a free marriage license.

New York

Giuliani clarifies his abortion stance

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, seeking to quell a growing controversy over abortion that has disrupted his presidential campaign, restated his support Friday for abortion rights while asking Republican voters to look beyond that issue to the totality of his platform and record.

Giuliani called abortion "morally wrong" but said he nonetheless favors a woman's right to choose. "I am open to seeking ways of limiting abortions and I am open to decreasing abortions," he told an audience at Houston Baptist University. "But I believe you have to respect their (women's) viewpoint and give them a level of choice. I would grant women the right to make that choice."


Fire crews save island town

AVALON - Water-dumping planes and helicopters helped beat back soaring flames that threatened this quaint Santa Catalina Island town Friday, giving firefighters a victory that allowed nearly 4,000 evacuated residents to start coming home.

Avalon's cobblestone streets, brightly painted bungalows, landmark casino and tourist hotels were mostly spared, with only one home and several outbuildings burned. No one was seriously injured.


Residents brace for floodwater's peak

WOOLDRIDGE - Levee breaks along the Missouri River flooded homes, farms, highways and railroad tracks as floodwaters that have inundated the region were expected to peak in some spots this weekend.

Near-record flood levels dropped in some places but rose in northwest and central Missouri, as worried residents removed valuables from their homes and filled sandbags to protect river communities.


FAA: Three dead in airplane collision

SHARONVILLE - Two small planes collided Friday over suburban Cincinnati, raining debris onto roads and backyards and killing three people on board, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

No injuries were reported on the ground. Several roads were closed because of the debris.