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POSTED June 19, 2012 7:29 p.m.

SOUTHERN BAPTISTS ELECT 1ST BLACK PRESIDENT : NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Southern Baptist Convention voted Tuesday to elect its first African-American president in one of its biggest steps yet to reconcile the 167-year-old denomination's troubled racial past and appeal to a more diverse group of believers.

The Rev. Fred Luter Jr. was unopposed in being elected by thousands of enthusiastic delegates on Tuesday at the annual meeting of the nation's largest Protestant denomination in his hometown of New Orleans.

Pastor David Crosby of First Baptist New Orleans nominated Luter, calling him a "fire-breathing, miracle-working pastor" who "would likely be a candidate for sainthood if he were Catholic."

Crosby recalled how Luter built the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church from a tiny congregation to a megachurch of nearly 8,000 before the buildings were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Members of Luter's mostly black church came to worship at Crosby's mostly white church, and the pastors worked together for 2½ years as Luter rebuilt Franklin Avenue. Today, with a Sunday attendance of 5,000, Luter's church is once again the largest Southern Baptist church for attendance in the state.

GOP SENATORS WON'T SAY IF OBAMA PLAN IS AMNESTY : WASHINGTON (AP) — When it comes to President Barack Obama's new immigration policy, Senate Republicans are quite sure they don't like it. They just don't want to say if it amounts to amnesty, at least not yet, while they await guidance on the politically charged issue from presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

"If it leads to citizenship as a reward for some kind of illegal entry, I think it could be argued" to be amnesty, said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who normally is one of Obama's most plainspoken critics.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia said the president's announcement last Friday could be called "amnesty light," if not the real thing.

JUDGE: US CAN SEIZE DINOSAUR SKELETON: NEW YORK (AP) — One of the more unusual arrest warrants in U.S. history was issued Tuesday when a federal judge authorized the Department of Homeland Security to seize a dinosaur from an art storage company. There's no need for handcuffs though. It's been dead for 70 million years.

U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel signed the warrant after finding there was "probable cause to believe" that the nearly complete Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton is subject to forfeiture under U.S. laws. The U.S. filed a lawsuit against the skeletal property a day earlier, seeking to seize it for an eventual return to Mongolia.

It is typical in government seizure cases for the object to be seized to be named as a defendant. But it's not so common for an object to have an alias, in this instance "One Tyrannosaurus Bataar Skeleton" is also known as "LOT 49315 listed on Page 92 of The Heritage Auctions May 20, 2012 Natural History Auction Catalog."

OFFICIALS DISCUSS HAWAIIAN ISLAND'S POTENTIAL SALE: HONOLULU (AP) — The sale of Hawaii's smallest publicly accessible inhabited island is imminent, and local leaders are anticipating what new ownership could mean for the island's some 3,200 residents.

A potential buyer of Lanai, part of Maui County, was revealed to Gov. Neil Abercrombie and the county's mayor at a meeting last week with representatives from landowner Castle & Cooke Inc. Self-made billionaire David Murdock's Castle & Cooke owns 98 percent of island's 141 square miles.

The asking price is reportedly between $500 million and $600 million, the Maui News reported. Castle & Cooke did not immediately comment Tuesday.

In 2000, Murdock bought out fellow Castle & Cooke shareholders for nearly $700 million and took the company private.

The island is still known as the "pineapple island," even though Murdock has closed its pineapple operations to make way for luxury resort and home development. The island boasts unspoiled charm with 30 miles of paved roads, 400 miles of unpaved roads and no stoplights. According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, more than 26,000 people visited the island this year as of April, a 6 percent decline from the same period last year. Niihau is Hawaii's smallest inhabited island, but permission is required to visit.

 

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