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Nation & World briefs, June 14

Colorado

Wildfire kills two, destroys 360 homes

A voracious wildfire driven in all directions by shifting winds has killed two people and destroyed at least 360 homes – a number that was likely to climb as the most destructive blaze in Colorado history burned for a third day through miles of tinder-dry woods, a sheriff said yesterday.

The destruction northeast of Colorado Springs has surpassed last June’s Waldo Canyon fire, which burned 347 homes, killed two people and caused $353 million in insurance claims just 15 miles to the southwest. The heavy losses were blamed in part on explosive population growth in areas with historically high fire risk.

Massachusetts

Jurors in Bulger trial shown weapons

Jurors in James “Whitey” Bulger’s racketeering trial yesterday were shown machine guns and other weapons from a massive arsenal that investigators said he and his gang owned, as prosecutors attempted to show that Bulger ran a criminal enterprise through violence, intimidation and fear.

Retired state police Col. Thomas Foley identified weapons hidden in several locations during a 2000 investigation, including in a shed behind a South Boston home owned by the mother of Bulger’s partner, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi. When investigators searched the shed, they found just one handgun, but later, Flemmi’s son led them to a house in Somerville and a storage facility in Florida where investigators say the guns had been moved.

Foley slowly and methodically identified dozens of guns through photographs.

Idaho

Grocers: Potato group illegally raised prices

A U.S. wholesale grocer says America’s potato farmers have run an illegal price-fixing cartel for a decade, driving up spud prices while spying on farmers with satellites and aircraft fly-overs to enforce strict limits on how many tubers they can grow.

Kansas-based Associated Wholesale Grocers’ lawsuit against United Potato Growers of America and two dozen other defendants was shifted this week to U.S. District Court in Idaho, America’s top potato-producing state at 30 percent of the nation’s supply.

The grocery group contends that the potato growers banded together in 2004 to illegally inflate prices in a scheme akin to the petroleum-producing OPEC cartel, reducing planting acreages and destroying potatoes, all to restrict what was available for sale.

The Associated Press

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