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POSTED January 31, 2012 8:10 p.m.

ALASKA VOLCANO LAVA DOME FORMS, ALERT LEVEL RAISED: ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The warning level for a remote Alaska volcano has been raised after a new lava dome began forming, indicating the mountain could explode and send up an ash cloud that could threaten aircraft.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory on Tuesday elevated the alert status for Cleveland Volcano.

Officials say the new lava dome was spotted in the summit crater. The observatory says as of Monday, the dome was about 130 feet in diameter.

There have been no eruptions since Dec. 25 and Dec. 29, which destroyed the earlier lava dome built up over the fall.

Cleveland is a 5,675-foot peak on an uninhabited island 940 miles southwest of Anchorage.

Authorities say sudden eruptions could occur at any time, and ash clouds 20,000 feet above

CRUISE BOOKINGS FALL AFTER CONCORDIA SHIPWRECK: NEW YORK (AP) — The frightful images of a sinking Italian cruise ship have scared off some cruise passengers, at least temporarily, during the industry's peak booking season.

Travel agents — who book more than two-thirds of cruise passengers worldwide — have been nervously watching bookings ever since the Costa Concordia, which is owned by Carnival Corp, ran aground on Jan. 13.

On Monday, they got a new reason to be nervous: bookings fell significantly for Miami-based Carnival Corp. following the Costa accident. Attention is now focused on Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., which reports earnings on Thursday. An increase there could show that passengers are fleeing Carnival over safety fears. A decrease could indicate an overall distrust of all cruise lines.

BOY ARRESTED AFTER POINTING REPLICA GUN AT WOMAN: BURBANK  (AP) — Police say a 10-year-old Southern California boy has been arrested for pointing a toy gun at a Burbank grandmother who believed the weapon was real.

Investigators say the boy knocked on the 67-year-old woman's front door on Sunday and pointed the black air gun, which shoots soft pellets, at her and yelled, "You suck." He then ran away.

Sgt. Darin Ryburn says the boy picked the house because the woman's grandson reportedly beat up his friend at school.

The boy was arrested for investigation of misdemeanor brandishing a weapon and he was issued a citation before being turned over to his parents. He must appear in Pasadena Juvenile Court within 30 days.

IRS SAYS 105 TARGETED IN IDENTITY THEFT SWEEP: WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government has swooped down on 105 people in 23 states in the past week as part of a nationwide crackdown on identity theft and tax refund fraud that was timed to warn cheats to beware this tax season, the Internal Revenue Service said Tuesday.

The sweep ranged from Alaska to Florida and included 80 complaints and indictments and 58 arrests, and has already produced a handful of guilty pleas and sentencings. Besides the IRS, the Justice Department's Tax Division, the Postal Service and local U.S. attorney's offices were involved after investigations that lasted months and, in some cases, years.

IRS officials say the use of stolen identities to fraudulently file for tax refunds, generally involving stolen Social Security numbers, is a growing problem. Last year the agency says it found 260,000 income tax returns with confirmed attempts at identity fraud and blocked the payment of $1.4 billion worth of refunds. In 2010, the IRS says it detected identity fraud in 49,000 returns and prevented the payment of $247 million worth of bogus refunds.

"The timing is not coincidental," Steven Miller, the IRS's deputy commissioner for services

 

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