ST. GEORGE, Utah — Thousands of migratory birds were killed or injured after apparently mistaking a Wal-Mart parking lot, football fields and other snow-covered areas of southern Utah for bodies of water and plummeting to the ground in what one state wildlife expert called the worst mass bird crash she’d ever seen.
Crews went to work cleaning up the dead birds and rescuing the injured survivors after the creatures crash-landed in the St. George area Monday night.
By midday Wednesday, volunteers had helped rescue more than 3,000 birds, releasing them into a nearby pond. There’s no count on how many died, although officials estimate it’s upwards of 1,500.
No human injuries or property damage were reported.
Officials say stormy conditions probably confused the flock of eared grebes, a duck-like aquatic bird likely making its way to the Mexican coast for the winter.
Throng of Occupy protesters appear in NY courts
NEW YORK — Nearly 200 people arrested during Occupy Wall Street-related protests were in New York courtrooms hundreds of miles apart Wednesday, answering charges that stemmed from a march on the Brooklyn Bridge and a demonstration in a Rochester park.
A Manhattan court plowed through arraignments of 161 people, most of them among the more than 700 picked up in an Oct. 1 march that marked the biggest mass arrest of the New York protest so far. Hundreds of other protesters arrested on the bridge and during other Occupy demonstrations in the city have already been to court, but this week’s numbers are some of the biggest.
Meanwhile, 28 Occupy Wall Street supporters asked a Rochester court to dismiss charges they violated a nighttime curfew at a park. A judge didn’t immediately decide and set another hearing for Jan. 12.
Teen drinking, cigarette smoking at lowest point in 30 years
LOS ANGELES — Fewer teens drink and smoke cigarettes than at any time in the past 30 years, but the widespread availability of medical marijuana appears to be fueling a rise in pot use, health experts said Wednesday.
One in four of the 47,000 teens surveyed for the 2011 Monitoring the Future report said they had used marijuana at some point during the past year, up from 21.4 percent in 2007. The survey, which polled students nationwide in the eighth, 10th and 12th grades, also found that one in 15 of the oldest students used pot on a daily or near-daily basis — the highest rate since 1981.
For the first time, researchers asked 12th grade students about synthetic marijuana, which contains cannabinoids and produces a high similar to pot but is thought to be more dangerous because it can be contaminated with unknown substances. The finding — 11 percent of all high school seniors had tried the substance — surprised researchers.
The survey also revealed that teens don’t think of marijuana as dangerous. Because of that, “we can predict that use of marijuana is going to increase,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which funds the annual study.
Egyptians begin second round of voting
GIZA, Egypt — Egyptians poured back into polling stations Wednesday to take part in a second round of voting that is expected to boost Islamist parties’ control over the soon-to-be-formed parliament.
Though no preliminary results were announced late Wednesday, many predicted that Islamist parties would consolidate their gains from the first round. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party led balloting last month with more than 40 percent of the vote, and the harder-line Salafi party Al Nour garnered 21 percent.
The final round of parliamentary voting is scheduled for January with a presidential poll to be held in mid-2012. They are the first elections conducted since the February toppling of former President Hosni Mubarak.