Nation Briefly July 2

Gas is 24 cents cheaper than Memorial Day

NEW YORK (AP) - Call it an Independence Day discount.

Gasoline prices usually peak in the summer. This year, however, they peaked a little earlier, on May 5. The subsequent slide has made gas about 24 cents per gallon cheaper than it was on Memorial Day.

The national average now stands at $3.55 per gallon. That's the cheapest gasoline has been since late March. Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service, expects the national average to drop another 25 to 30 cents per gallon this year.

Fourth of July fireworks banned in drought-stricken states for fear of wildfires

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - From Arizona to Florida, there will be fewer oohs and aahs at the rockets' red glare this Fourth of July: Many cities and counties across the nation's drought-stricken southern tier are banning fireworks because of the risk of wildfires.

New Mexico's governor prohibited fireworks on state and private wildlands and pleaded with people not to buy or set off pyrotechnics. Authorities in the lone Georgia county that banned sales shut down roadside vendors and made sure fireworks were off store shelves. Dozens of Texas cities have canceled shows, from large events in Austin and San Antonio to small-town celebrations where folks usually sit on blankets at parks and lakes.

"People are, of course, disappointed, but they know what could happen if the fireworks show did go on," said Sherri Davis, a city clerk in Saint Jo, a 1,000-resident farming community about 70 miles north of Fort Worth.

Parts of nearly a dozen states, from the Southeast to the West, are in a severe drought. And wildfires have charred thousands of square miles in recent months.

Some parts of the affected region already ban the sale or use of fireworks - or at least the types that explode or scatter fireballs, such as bottle rockets and Roman candles. This Independence Day, more expansive restrictions are in place, with many areas outlawing even sparklers.

Gadhafi warns that Libya could strike in Europe unless NATO bombings halted

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) - A defiant Moammar Gadhafi threatened Friday to carry out attacks in Europe against "homes, offices, families," unless NATO halts its campaign of airstrikes against his regime in Libya.

The Libyan leader, sought by the International Criminal Court for a brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters, delivered the warning in a telephone message played to thousands of supporters gathered in the main square of the capital Tripoli.

It was one of the largest pro-government rallies in recent months, signaling that Gadhafi can still muster significant support. A green cloth, several hundred meters long and held aloft by supporters, snaked above the crowd filling Tripoli's Green Square. Green is Libya's national color.

A series of powerful explosions later rattled the heart of the capital, apparently new NATO airstrikes, as Gadhafi supporters cheered, honked horns and fired into the air in the street. Black smoke could be seen rising from the area near Gadhafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound.

Gadhafi spoke from an unknown location in a likely sign of concern over his safety. Addressing the West, Gadhafi warned that Libyans might take revenge for NATO bombings.


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