Anxiety rises along the flood-swollen Mississippi

Posted May 04, 2011, at 9:04 p.m.
Last modified May 04, 2011, at 9:42 p.m.

HICKMAN, Ky. — People along the lower Mississippi River and its tributaries packed their belongings and emergency workers feverishly filled sandbags as high water pushed its way downstream Wednesday in a slow-motion disaster that could break flood records dating to the 1920s.  

From Illinois to Mississippi, thousands of people have already been forced from their homes, and anxiety is rising along with the mighty river, even though it could be a week or two before some of the most severe flooding hits.  

Forecasters and emergency officials said some of the high-water records set during the great floods of 1927 and 1937 could fall. On Wednesday, for example, the Mississippi eclipsed the 46-foot mark set in 1937 in Caruthersville, Mo., and the water was still rising, with a crest of 49.5 feet forecast for Sunday.  

Tributaries that flow into the Mississippi are, in turn, backing up because the river itself is so high. And they account for some of the worst of the flooding so far.  

But because of the system of levees and locks built since the disasters of more than 70 years ago, the flooding this time is unlikely to be anywhere near as devastating as it was back then.  

The great flood of the lower Mississippi River Valley in 1927 was one of the biggest natural disasters in U.S. history. More than 23,000 square miles were inundated, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced and about 250 died.  

House Oks limits on tax breaks for abortions

WASHINGTON — The House has approved a bill that would limit tax breaks for insurance policies that cover abortions.

The 251-177 vote Wednesday sent the bill to the Democratic-led Senate. The White House this week threatened to veto it.

The legislation is the Republicans’ latest attempt to chip away at President Barack Obama’s signature health care overhaul. It would prevent people from deducting the cost of an abortion from their taxable income, except when the procedure is performed in cases of rape, incest or when the woman’s life is at risk.

Opponents of abortion rights say the bill would close loopholes in the new health law. Abortion rights supporters say the bill is really about discouraging insurance companies from covering the procedure.

NY suspects caught when cell phone ‘pocket dials’ 911

CLAY, N.Y. — An ill-timed, inadvertent 911 call led police to three larceny suspects overheard planning break-ins in upstate New York.

Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh says police already looking for a suspicious person got the unlikely assist when one of the men “pocket dialed” his cell phone’s emergency number while driving near the scene of an earlier heist.

As a dispatcher relayed the conversation to deputies, the men discussed their plans, described their surroundings and even commented, “There go the cops now.”

Walsh says that was enough for a deputy to turn around and stop the Kia Sportage full of tools stolen from a business in the Syracuse suburb of Clay. The dispatcher then heard the driver being asked for his license and registration.

The men arrested April 26 face grand larceny and stolen property charges.

Palestinian deal ends rift, hurts peace prospects

CAIRO — Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas signed a landmark reconciliation pact on Wednesday, ending a four-year rift that had divided the territory envisioned for a future Palestinian state. The deal plunged Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking deeper into uncertainty as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “mortal blow to peace.”

The agreement, which followed years of bitter acrimony between the two Palestinian movements, was made possible in large measure by the political changes sweeping the Arab world and the deadlock in U.S.-brokered peace talks with Israel.

A unity government foreseen by the accord would also allow the Palestinians to speak with a single voice if they go ahead with plans to ask the United Nations to recognize Palestine as a state during the annual General Assembly session in September.

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