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National news briefs — compiled Sept. 19

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WASHINGTON

Senate OKs helium bill

Congress moved a step closer Thursday to averting an impending shutdown of the federal helium reserve, a key supplier of the lighter-than-air gas used in a products ranging from party balloons to MRI machines. The Senate approved a bill Thursday, 97-2, to continue the helium program, following action in the House this spring. The Senate bill approved Thursday differs slightly from the House’s. President Barack Obama favors the Senate version.

SHIRLEY, N.Y.

House filled with snakes

A Long Island animal control officer had hundreds of snakes, including two 6-foot Burmese pythons, at his home, where he ran an illegal side business selling the animals, authorities said Thursday. Officials said there were 850 snakes in two garages at the home of Richard Parinello, 44, including the Burmese pythons, which are illegal in New York state. Parinello faces multiple charges of owning the pythons and violating town codes.

GARY, IND.

Severe storms rake state

Severe thunderstorms raked much of the northern half of Indiana on Thursday, packing lightning blamed for two deaths in Gary and fires across the state. The storms also brought heavy rains that broke a record in South Bend. Local media outlets reported a man working on a Gary billboard died at a hospital after being struck by lightning. Also, a house fire believed caused by a lightning strike killed a second man and injured a child.

AUSTIN, TEXAS

DeLay conviction tossed

A Texas appeals court tossed the criminal conviction of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on Thursday, saying there was insufficient evidence for a jury in 2010 to have found him guilty of illegally funneling money to Republican candidates. Prosecutors alleged that DeLay illegally channeled $190,000 in corporate donations though his political action committee and into Texas legislative races, where corporate money is barred. State prosecutors said they would appeal to Texas’ highest criminal court.

Compiled from wire reports.


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