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POSTED May 25, 2012 10:41 p.m.

50 YEARS ON, FIRE STILL BURNS UNDERNEATH PA. TOWN: CENTRALIA, Pa. (AP) — It's an anniversary the few remaining souls who live here won't be celebrating.

Fifty years ago on Sunday, a fire at the town dump ignited an exposed coal seam, setting off a chain of events that eventually led to the demolition of nearly every building in Centralia — a whole community of 1,400 simply gone.

All these decades later, the Centralia fire still burns. It also maintains its grip on the popular imagination, drawing visitors from around the world who come to gawk at twisted, buckled Route 61, at the sulfurous steam rising intermittently from ground that's warm to the touch, at the empty, lonely streets where nature has reclaimed what coal-industry money once built.

It's a macabre story that has long provided fodder for books, movies and plays — the latest one debuting in March at a theater in New York.

Yet to the handful of residents who still occupy Centralia, who keep their houses tidy and their lawns mowed, this borough in the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania is no sideshow attraction. It's home, and they'd like to keep it that way.

"That's all anybody wanted from day one," said Tom Hynoski, who's among the plaintiffs in a federal civil rights lawsuit aimed at blocking the state of Pennsylvania from evicting them.

PRIEST APOLOGIZES FOR UNHOLY LANGUAGE ON FACEBOOK: LONDON (AP) — A British priest has apologized for some unholy language on his Facebook page, his bishop says.

Canon Paul Shackerley, Vicar of the Minster Church of St. George in Doncaster in northern England, raised eyebrows by using the f--- word and remarking that "alas, I have religion tomorrow" in some Saturday evening postings.

Peter Burrows, the bishop of Doncaster, met with Shackerley on Friday and later said the priest regretted the inappropriate language and had removed it. Bill would require digital textbooks in California

LAW WOULD REQUIRE DIGITAL TEXTBOOKS: SACRAMENTO  (AP) — A bill that would require textbook publishers to make the same content available to California school districts in digital format has passed unanimously in the state Senate.

Lawmakers approved SB1154 by Republican Sen. Mimi Walters of Lake Forest on Friday.

Walters says her bill addresses the technology gap between California schools and those in the rest of the country. It also requires publishers to offer their content in sections so districts can buy only the parts they want.

The bill also allows school districts to create online digital textbook databases that students could access from anywhere.

Small publishers with fewer than 100 employees would be exempt from the requirement. The Association of American Publishers is the only listed opponent of the legislation.

"Whilst meant in a jocular sense, he recognizes that some of the language was unfitting. He has apologized unreservedly," Burrows said in a statement posted on the diocesan website. "I have received Paul's letter of apology and have been assured that this will not happen again."

Stories of priestly waywardness are a favorite subject of British newspapers, and the comments drew attention far and wide. With facial piercings and one piercing in his tongue, Shackerley cuts an unconventional figure.

MAN ARRESTED FOR ALLEGEDLY POINTING LASER: PASADENA (AP) — A man has been arrested for allegedly pointing a laser at a Pasadena police helicopter, injuring an officer on board.

A Pasadena police statement says 23-year-old Rafael Juarez of San Gabriel was taken into custody Thursday and booked on suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft and possession of a controlled substance.

Police say the incident occurred about 9:30 a.m. Thursday as the helicopter flew over the city of San Gabriel. The helicopter crew was not wearing their protective eyewear at the time, but identified the suspect's location. With the help of San Gabriel police ground units, Juarez was arrested without incident.

The flight crew landed safely at the Pasadena Heliport and the injured officer was taken to a hospital for evaluation. His condition is not known.

 

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