As cold front approaches, temperatures ease slightly

The heat that blanketed much of the U.S. began to ease up Sunday as temperatures from the Midwest to the East Coast dropped from highs above 100 degrees down to the 90s.

Cooler air swept southward in the eastern half of the country, bringing down some temperatures by 15 or more degrees from Saturday’s highs, which topped 100 in cities including Philadelphia, Washington, St. Louis, Indianapolis and Louisville, Ky.

For many areas, the cooler temperatures were ushered in by thunderstorms that knocked out power to thousands. In New Jersey, strong, fast-moving storms knocked out power to nearly 70,000 on Saturday night.

The heat of the past several days has also been blamed for at least 35 deaths. A 4-month-old girl died and a 16-month-old girl was hospitalized in suburban Indianapolis after both were found trapped in cars during 105-degree heat Saturday.

Deaths have also been reported by authorities in Illinois, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

KRYMSK, Russia

President orders inquiry into deaths caused by flood

Russia’s president moved quickly to address anger over the deaths of at least 171 people in severe flooding Saturday in the Black Sea region.

Vladimir Putin flew to the region and ordered the head of Russia’s investigative agency to establish whether enough had been done to warn people about the floods. Federal prosecutors also said they were investigating whether the population had been properly protected from “natural and technological catastrophes.”

Russia has seen a series of natural and man-made disasters in recent years, many of them blamed on aging infrastructure or lax safety rules.

Torrential rains dropped up to a foot of water in less than 24 hours.

The water rushed into Krymsk with such speed and volume that residents said they suspected water had been intentionally released from a reservoir in the mountains above.

Local officials denied this. Federal investigators, however, acknow-ledged Sunday that water had been released naturally from the reservoir, but they insisted it did not cause the flooding and the dam had not been breached. They said the problem was the heavy and sudden rainfall.


Russian leaders rebuked over lawyer-crusader’s death

An international body devoted to security and democracy chided Russia — one of its 56 members — on its human rights record Sunday and urged governments to impose sanctions by banning visas and freezing the assets of Russians connected to the death of a crusading lawyer.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., representing the United States at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which was convened in Monaco, spoke urgently in favor of the resolution approved Sunday, calling Sergei Magnitsky’s death an example of pervasive and systemic corruption in Russia.

Magnitsky was working for an American law firm in Moscow, advising the Hermitage Capital investment company on tax issues, when he uncovered a $230 million tax fraud.

After he accused tax officials and police investigators of the crime, Magnitsky was arrested and charged. He died in 2009 at the age of 37 after a year in pretrial detention, having been denied medical care and showing signs of having been beaten. “Not one person has been held responsible,” McCain said.

Russia argued that an investigation of Magnitsky’s death was very much under way and that the sanctions amounted to conviction by public opinion rather than by a court of law. But an overwhelming show of hands supported the resolution.

— From news service reports