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State news briefs
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WASHINGTON MOVES TO RECYCLE TRANSPORT FUNDS IN CA: LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Obama administration wants to recycle $43 million in unspent highway funds in California.

The state was allocated the money for a variety of projects in recent years but it was never used either because it was left over from a job or held up because of environmental reviews.

State officials say that in some cases the money will be used as planned, or in others it will be rolled over into other projects from high-speed rail to highways.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Friday that more than $470 million will be made immediately available nationally for projects such as repairing crumbling roads and bridges.

State Transportation Department spokesman Matt Rocco says California will not lose money, either way.

4 MEN ARRESTED IN CALIFORNIA GAS BUYING SCHEME : LOS ANGELES (AP) — The FBI has arrested four Southern California men accused in a scheme to use stolen credit card numbers to fraudulently purchase fuel at gas stations.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller says three of the suspects were arrested Thursday by agents with a task force that includes federal and local law enforcement officers. A fourth man turned himself in on Friday. They face fraud and conspiracy charges.

Eimiller says agents observed the men on various occasions buying fuel at several Los Angeles gas stations using credit card account numbers later determined to have been used fraudulently. The gas was pumped into large vans or utility trucks outfitted with storage tanks that could hold hundreds of gallons of fuel.

The scheme involved identity theft against 50 victims and losses of over $50,000.

10,000-TON DIRT PILE NEAR SCHOOL IS NEARLY GONE : SAN DIEGO (AP) — A San Diego County school district says it's just about finished removing a 10,000-ton pile of contaminated dirt that was mysteriously dumped near a campus.

KGTV-TV says Sweetwater Union High School District has nearly completed removing dirt containing low levels of lead and pesticides.

The dirt was dumped last year beside the sports field at Southwest High School in San Diego. The district says it's unclear who authorized the dumping or for what purpose.

It paid about $500,000 to have the dirt trucked to a landfill in Los Angeles County.



The NASA Mars rover Curiosity is preparing for its first laser target practice — zapping a Martian rock 10 feet away on Saturday night.

Since landing in an ancient crater Aug. 5, the car-size Curiosity has been getting a full health checkup. Scientists said Friday they have chosen a generic-looking rock near the landing site to aim the laser at and burn a small hole.

The laser is one of 10 tools Curiosity will use to study whether the environment was favorable for microbial life.

Engineers next week planned to command Curiosity to turn its wheels side-to-side and then take its first short drive that will involve rolling forward 10 feet, turning 90 degrees and then going in reverse.

After the checkups are done, the rover will head 1,300 feet east to a spot where three different types of terrain converge in a drive that will take about a month. By year's end, it will start its trek toward a mountain rising from the crater floor.


PIZZA HUT, HOME DEPOT DENY COPYING BLACK KEYS WORK: LOS ANGELES (AP) — Attorneys for Pizza Hut and The Home Depot are denying that a pair of ads improperly used music by The Black Keys.

The Grammy-winning band sued the companies in June, claiming they used the band's music to sell pizza and power tools. The companies separately denied the band's allegations in court documents filed Thursday and Friday in Los Angeles.

Each company is asking a judge to have the band pay their attorneys' fees if they win the case.

The Black Keys claim The Home Depot Inc. used elements of its hit "Lonely Boy" in an ad for power tools. The band accuses Pizza Hut Inc. of using elements of the song "Gold On the Ceiling" to sell a cheesy crust pizza.

Both songs appeared on the rock group's seventh album, "El Camino."

MAN, 83, CONVICTED OF KILLING ROOMMATE, 94: LAGUNA WOODS  (AP) — An 83-year-old man has been convicted in the beating death of his 94-year-old rehabilitation center roommate, an attack prosecutors say was triggered by the older man's singing.

A district attorney's statement says William Leo McDougall was convicted Friday in Orange County Superior Court.

McDougall and Manh Van Nguyen were both recovering from hip surgery at Palm Terrace Healthcare Center in Laguna Woods on Oct. 1, 2010.

Prosecutors said McDougall got mad because Nguyen was singing in Vietnamese so he took a wooden rod from the closet and hit his roommate repeatedly in the head.

A nurse stopped the attack, but Nguyen later died due to blunt force trauma.

McDougall will be sentenced Oct. 26.

CALIFORNIA'S JOBLESS RATE STEADY AT 10.7 PERCENT: SACRAMENTO  (AP) — California's jobless rate remained unchanged at 10.7 percent in July as the state saw slow employment growth, adding a little more than 25,000 jobs.

The figure released Friday by the state Employment Development Department is an improvement over California's 11.9 percent unemployment rate a year ago but also is a sign of the state's slow recovery. The national unemployment rate was 8.3 percent in July.

An accompanying federal survey of households shows a slight dip in the number of employed people compared to June. But the number of Californians who had jobs in July, 16.4 million, was 277,000 more than the same period a year ago.

Jobs were added in July to the government sector, financial and professional services, education, health care and the hospitality industry. The construction, manufacturing, transportation and information sectors saw job losses.