Nation & World Briefs 08-15-14 Trash pickers source of frustration, anger along flooded area

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CENTER LINE, Mich. -- Opportunists picking through flood-damaged belongings placed along streets in the Detroit area have become a source of frustration and anger for residents trying to clean up their homes.

Tyler Scott, 20, of Center Line, whose basement flooded in heavy rains Monday, said trash pickers looking for scrap metal to sell or anything else of value are preying on the misfortune of others.

It has led to street-side arguments and attracted police attention.

"This is our life," Scott said. "It's not right."

Paul Myszenski, the Center Line public safety director, told the Detroit Free Press he was investigating complaints about trash-pickers from residents whose emotions are already frayed by the unexpected deluge.

Jerry Holstine, 68, was among those checking out items placed along the roadside for trash collection, such as metal chairs. Holstine said he is a retired Chrysler worker and that he picks through trash for metal to sell and that it keeps him busy.

"I'm just taking metal, not taking anything but metal," said Holstine, of Sterling Heights.

Accused of being drunk in class: Kathleen Jardine, an Arizona high school teacher who feared she was too inebriated to drive took a cab to work, then continued drinking throughout the day until students alerted administrators that she was cursing and yelling at them, authorities said Thursday. Students at Poston Butte High School in San Tan Valley, about 35 miles southeast of Phoenix, called the school's main office Wednesday afternoon to report the behavior by Jardine. The math teacher had a blood-alcohol level of 0.205 percent, which is 21⁄2 times the legal limit for drivers. A school security officer found a bottle of vodka, a bottle of white wine and a bottle of Sunny D orange drink in her classroom.

Failed to do background checks: The IRS failed to do background checks on some private contractors who handled confidential taxpayer information, exposing more than a million taxpayers to an increased risk of fraud and identity theft, a government investigator said Thursday. In one case, the IRS gave a printing contractor a computer disk with names, addresses and Social Security numbers of 1.4 million taxpayers, but didn't require a background check for anyone who worked on the job, said a report by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration.

Outbreak fueling new efforts: Scientists are racing to begin the first human safety tests of two experimental Ebola vaccines, but it won't be easy to prove that the shots and other potential treatments in the pipeline really work. There are no proven drugs or vaccines for Ebola, a disease so rare that it's been hard to attract investments in countermeasures. But the current outbreak in West Africa -- the largest in history -- is fueling new efforts to speed Ebola vaccine and drug development.

Study blames humans: More than two-thirds of the recent rapid melting of the world's glaciers can be blamed on humans, a new study finds. Scientists looking at glacier melt since 1851 didn't see a human fingerprint until about the middle of the 20th century. Even then only one-quarter of the warming wasn't from natural causes. But since 1991, about 69 percent of the rapidly increasing melt was man-made, said Ben Marzeion, a climate scientist at the University of Innsbruck in Austria.

Holding bad employees accountable: The Veterans Affairs Department is in the process of holding bad employees accountable amid a scandal about long wait times for patients and other problems, VA Secretary Robert McDonald said Thursday, but he declined to say how many people were being fired and who they were. McDonald visited with veterans and employees at the Memphis VA hospital on Thursday, a day after addressing the American Veterans national convention.

May be alien visitors: There may be itsy-bitsy aliens among us. Scientists say seven microscopic particles collected by NASA's comet-chasing spacecraft, Stardust, appear to have originated outside our solar system. If confirmed, this would be the world's first sampling of contemporary interstellar dust. "They are very precious particles," the team leader, physicist Andrew Westphal of the University of California, Berkeley, said in a statement Thursday.

Iraq's al-Maliki steps aside: Embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced late Thursday that he was relinquishing his post to his nominated replacement, ending a political deadlock that has plunged the country into uncertainty as it fights a Sunni militant insurgency. Standing alongside senior members of his party, including rival Haider al-Abadi, al-Maliki said he was stepping aside in favor of his "brother," in order to "facilitate the political process and government formation."

Promises expanded relief: President Barack Obama on Thursday promised to expand U.S. humanitarian relief to Iraqis threatened by the advancing army of the Islamic State militants. He took credit for alleviating the genocide threat to thousands trapped on a mountaintop but said the situation "remains dire" throughout the country. Obama also said U.S. airstrikes would continue to protect Americans and U.S. facilities in Iraq, and he said Washington has increased its delivery of military assistance to Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State.

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