Blast in Las Vegas casino garage was homicide, not terror, cops say

LAS VEGAS - A device left on the top of a car in a casino parking garage exploded early yesterday, killing a man who tried to pick it up, authorities said.

The blast on the second floor of the garage behind the Luxor hotel-casino was not considered a terrorist act, police said.

"This appears to have been a small device that was constructed in such a way to target a single individual victim," Deputy Police Chief Ted Moody said. "It was successful in doing that, unfortunately."

The victim, who was pronounced dead later at a local hospital, worked at a business inside the hotel, police said. They added that the case was being investigated as "a homicide with an unusual weapon." Another person narrowly escaped injury and was cooperating with investigators, police said. Their names were not released.

A police spokesman, Officer Bill Cassell, declined to describe the device, but said initial reports that it was inside a backpack were wrong. No threat had been made against the Luxor, Cassell said.

Congress seeks more testimony

as it expands Justice Dept. probe

WASHINGTON - The Senate Judiciary Committee has asked Bradley Schlozman, a former senior civil rights attorney and U.S. attorney, to speak with investigators looking into the politics of Justice Department decision-making.

Lawmakers want to question Schlozman about a voter-fraud lawsuit he filed against Missouri in November 2005. Committee members said they wanted to know whether U.S. Attorney Todd Graves of Kansas City, Mo., was forced out for not endorsing that lawsuit, which was ultimately dismissed. Graves resigned in March 2006 and Schlozman replaced him as interim U.S. attorney.

Five days before the November 2006 election, Schlozman filed another lawsuit, this time accusing members of a liberal activist group of voter registration fraud. Justice Department policy discourages such lawsuits so close to the election.

Ford has bad news for Ohio:

1 plant closing, 1 on furlough

DETROIT - Ford Motor Co.'s financial troubles claimed more victims yesterday when the struggling company said it will close a casting plant near Cleveland in 2009, costing 1,100 hourly workers their jobs.

The nation's No. 2 automaker also said it will mothball the nearby Cleveland Engine Plant 1 for at least a year starting in two weeks due to lower-than-expected demand for its products.

The future of that plant's 530 hourly workers is under negotiation with the United Auto Workers union, but a company official said the plant would reopen with fewer than 500 production workers because it would be more efficient.

The closure is the 10th plant slated to be shuttered as part of a restructuring plan in which Ford said it would close 16 facilities by 2012. Nine of the closures had already been announced.

Math prof found burned, bound;

Nebraska ranching town puzzled

CHADRON, Neb. - When Steven Haataja came to this remote corner of Nebraska, where cowboy hats are still worn for work and rodeo trophies greet visitors to the local college, it was supposed to be a new beginning for the mathematician who had just earned his doctorate.

But just seven months later, in March, the man colleagues say had astounding intelligence was found burned to death in fire-scarred hills just south of the small school where he taught.

Haataja, with his large frame and fedora hat, disappeared from this city of 5,600 in December. Police saw no signs he planned on leaving and have acknowledged they did little to search for him.

Students wondered whether their professor was singled out because of his effeminate mannerisms. Haataja's best friend, Tim Sorenson, said he was not gay, and police wouldn't say whether they believe it was a hate crime.

Others suggest that Haataja, who had been hospitalized early last year for depression, committed suicide.

After months of near-silence about the case, more information was expected today at a news conference.

Death toll 10 in Kansas tornado;

20-minute warning saved many

GREENSBURG, Kan. - The death toll from a tornado that nearly obliterated this farming town climbed to 10 yesterday, but residents said it could have been far worse if not for a 20-minute warning that gave them time to take shelter in storm cellars and basements.

"We had plenty of warning," said Gary Goodheart, whose house was gutted with only a few walls left standing. "If people paid attention to sirens they should have been able to get to a safe place."

Cadaver dogs worked alongside residents, who were allowed back in to scour the rubble for whatever belongings could be salvaged. Two bodies were found Monday - one in the debris and another in the Kiowa County State Fishing Lake. Two survivors were found late Sunday night when a passer-by heard the women yelling from the basement of a church. *

- Associated Press