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POSTED January 15, 2012 10:48 p.m.

BOXING GREAT MUHAMMAD ALI GETS 70TH BIRTHDAY BASH: LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — At 70, Muhammad Ali is "still the greatest" to friends and admirers worldwide.

The boxing champ basked in chants of "Ali! Ali!" as hundreds of supporters cheered him on Saturday night with a hearty rendering of "Happy Birthday" during his 70th birthday celebration in his Kentucky hometown. Never mind that Ali actually turns 70 years old on Tuesday: the private party in his hometown is the first of five planned in the next few months.

As party-goers mingled in a lobby of the Muhammad Ali Center before the festivities, Ali walked slowly to a second-floor balcony overlooking them. The crowd immediately began to clap, then broke into effusive chants and singing. The three-time world heavyweight champion, who is battling Parkinson's disease, leaned against a rail and raised his right hand to wave to the crowd. Then he joined his party out of view of the public and the press.

Former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis said his boyhood idol is "still the greatest."

The guest list numbered 350 for the private party, which doubled as a $1,000-per-person fundraiser for the Ali Center, a six-year-old cultural and education complex designed to be a legacy to his social activism. The six-story center also retraces Ali's career, including his epic bouts against Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Sonny Liston.

CRITICS SEEK TO CUT GAS CHAMBER AFTER CAT SURVIVES: WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (AP) — Animal advocates are calling for a Utah animal shelter to shut down its gas chamber after a cat survived being gassed twice.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports advocates favor euthanasia by lethal injection at the West Valley-Taylorsville Animal Shelter after the stray cat named Andrea survived two rounds in its gas chamber in October.

Advocates say gas chambers can take up to 30 minutes to end an animal's life, while lethal injection causes unconsciousness within seconds and death within minutes.

Early this month, West Valley City officials said they still plan to use the shelter's gas chamber.

Now, West Valley Councilman Corey Rushton says the gas chamber should be scrapped, and Taylorsville Mayor Russ Wall says he wants Animal Services to investigate complaints about the gas chamber.

TANKER CARRYING FUEL ARRIVES AT ICED-IN NOME: NOME, Alaska (AP) — Crews worked to build a path Sunday over a half-mile of Bering Sea ice for the final leg of a Russian tanker's mission to deliver fuel to a town isolated amid one of the most severe Alaska winters in decades.

The tanker was moored roughly a half-mile from Nome's harbor after a Coast Guard cutter cleared a path for it through hundreds of miles of a slow journey stalled by thick ice and strong ocean currents.

The tanker got into position Saturday night, and ice disturbed by its journey had to freeze again so workers could create some sort of roadway to lay a hose that will transfer 1.3 million gallons of fuel from the tanker to the harbor in Nome.

On Sunday, workers spent the morning walking around the vessel and checking the ice to make sure it was safe to lay the hose, which will take about four hours, said Jason Evans, board chairman of the Sitnasuak Native Corp.

With the tanker and the Coast Guard ice breaker sitting just offshore and poised to deliver the fuel, Evans said the bulk of the mission's biggest challenges were behind the crew, but a lot of work remained.

Still, the final job of transferring fuel from the ship to the town comes with its own hurdles: In addition to waiting for the ice to freeze, crews must begin the transfer in daylight, a state mandate. And Nome has just five hours of daylight this time of year.

1 OF EX-SYRACUSE ASSISTANT'S ACCUSERS ADMITS LYING: SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — A prison inmate who was one of four men to accuse a former Syracuse University assistant basketball coach of sexual abuse when they were children has admitted that he made up his claim.

The accuser, Floyd VanHooser, wrote in a letter that he lied to police and in December interviews with The Associated Press and The Post-Standard newspaper of Syracuse. He said he wanted to get back at the coach, Bernie Fine, because Fine did not hire a lawyer to help VanHooser fight a criminal conviction.

Fine had helped raise the 56-year-old VanHooser after his parents died.

Two other men, former Syracuse ball boys in the 1980s, accused Fine late last year of abusing them as children, but the statute of limitations has expired. Fine was fired Nov. 27 after they came forward, ending his 35-plus years as an assistant at Syracuse.

Fine, 66, has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged. Fine's attorney, Karl Sleight, declined to comment on Sunday. A federal investigation is ongoing.

DELTA FLIGHT MAKES FLA. STOP FOR UNRULY PASSENGER: ATLANTA (AP) — A Delta Air Lines flight from Atlanta to Costa Rica has been diverted to Tampa after a passenger became unruly.

Delta spokeswoman Chris Kelly Singley said Flight 414 left Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport at about 6 p.m. Sunday and landed at the Tampa airport at 7:34 p.m.

She said the flight's captain made the decision to stop in Tampa after the passenger became unruly.

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