SAN DIEGO

Investigators look for cause behind outbreak of wildfires

Investigators worked to determine whether an unusually early and intense outbreak of wildfires in Southern California this week was ignited by something as ordinary as sparks from cars or something as sinister as an arsonist.

State fire officials said the first of at least 10 blazes that broke out between Tuesday and Thursday was found to have been caused by a spark from malfunctioning construction equipment. But it could take months to get to the bottom of the rest of the fires.

Altogether, the fires burned through more than 10,000 acres in the San Diego area, killing one person and causing more than $20 million in damage.

MONTEREY, Calif.

Marine biologists release entangled humpback whale

Marine biologists managed Thursday to free a humpback whale that had become entangled with a steel rope attached to a 300-pound crab trap.

The whale was freed off the coast of Santa Barbara after it was found on April 27 in Monterey Bay dragging the heavy fishing gear, according to KSBW-TV.

Rescue efforts began on April 28, when a team of marine biologists found the whale with blue steel rope around its tail and began working to cut it free. The heavy crab pot was preventing the whale from diving to feed.

WASHINGTON

Trade groups urge ending ban on in-flight phone calls

Makers of smartphones and networking gear urged U.S. regulators to end a ban on in-flight calls, adding their voices to an issue that’s brought public cries against noisy airplane seatmates.

The Federal Communications Commission should end its ban so text, data “and even voice connectivity” can be available to airborne passengers, including those on long-haul international flights, three trade associations said in a joint filing to the agency Friday. Airlines could decide what services passengers could use, the trade groups said.

PHOENIX

Arias returns to courtroom for second penalty phase

Jodi Arias has returned to an Arizona courtroom as lawyers prepare for a second penalty phase in her murder trial.

Arias was convicted last year in the 2008 killing of her lover, but jurors couldn’t reach a decision on a sentence.

Under state law, her murder conviction stands, but prosecutors have the option of putting on a second penalty phase with a new jury in an effort to secure a death sentence.

If the second panel fails to reach a unanimous decision, the death penalty will be removed from consideration. The judge then would sentence Arias to spend her life behind bars or be eligible for release after 25 years.

– From news service reports