Man arrested in connection with LA arson spree

Posted Jan. 02, 2012, at 9:11 p.m.

LOS ANGELES — Authorities arrested a man Monday in connection with dozens of suspected arson fires that destroyed parked cars, scorched buildings and rattled much of the nation’s second-largest city over the New Year’s weekend.

The suspect resembled a “person of interest” captured on surveillance video near a carport. The man, believed to be 20 to 30 years old, had a receding hairline and a shoulder-length ponytail and was seen emerging from an underground parking garage on Hollywood Boulevard where a car fire was reported.

He was stopped early Monday in a van that matched a description given by witnesses.

Police declined to identify the suspect, but said he was to be booked later on arson charges arising from more than 50 blazes that have flared since Friday in Hollywood, neighboring West Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley.

Firefighters have not responded to any other suspicious fires since the man was detained, Capt. Jamie Moore said.

The blazes caused an estimated $2 million in damage and forced many apartment dwellers from their homes. There were no serious civilian injuries.

Texas remains No. 1 in executions

FORT WORTH, Texas — With six executions scheduled for the first three months of 2012 — and more than twice as many executions as any other state last year — Texas continues to lead the nation in executions.

Despite dropping to a 15-year low in 2011, Texas led all states with 13 executions even as questions are raised nationwide about the wrongful conviction of inmates and petitions call on the U.S. to abolish capital punishment. Last year, 43 prisoners were executed nationwide.

“Clearly, Texas is known as the capital of capital punishment,” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center.

Alabama, which had the second-most executions, put six to death in 2011. Other states with more than one execution were Ohio with five, Georgia and Arizona each with four, and Oklahoma, Florida and Mississippi each with two, center statistics show.

The numbers are down from 2010, when there were 46 executions nationwide (17 in Texas) and from 2009, when there were 52 (24 in Texas), according to the center.

Christchurch hit by 17 quakes in 18 hours

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s quake-ravaged city of Christchurch was rocked Monday by 17 earthquakes in 18 hours.

No serious damage was reported from the swarm, which included two shakes stronger than magnitude 5 and another six between magnitude 4 and 5. The City Council issued a statement asking the “community to look after neighbors, friends and family and take care during this difficult time.” The South Island’s largest city has been racked by quakes since September 2010, including one in February that killed 181 people.

The first tremor, measuring 3.9, hit at 1:27 a.m., and the city kept shaking with a significant tremor of magnitude 4.8 just before 7 p.m., the state GeoNet organization, which monitors quakes, reported.

A double shock 12 seconds apart with the biggest of magnitude 5.5 struck before dawn and triggered an automatic power shutoff to 10,000 homes, but electricity was restored by 8 a.m.

All the quakes were relatively shallow at depths of 8 to 20 kilometers and centered close to the city.

Saudi to apply law for women only to sell lingerie

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia said Monday it will begin enforcing a law that allows only females to work in women’s lingerie and apparel stores, despite disapproval from the country’s top cleric.

The 2006 law banning men from working in female apparel and cosmetic stores has never been put into effect, partly because of view of hard-liners in the religious establishment, who oppose the whole idea of women working where men and women congregate together, like malls.

Saudi women — tired of having to deal with men when buying undergarments — have boycotted lingerie stores to pressure them to employ women. The government’s decision to enforce the law requiring that goes into effect Thursday.

The country is home to Islam’s holiest site in the city of Mecca and follows an ultra-conservative form of the religion known as Wahhabism.

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