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NEWS IN BRIEF

Cuban man asks judge for asylum

U.S. Immigration Judge Philip S. Montante reserved decision Friday on a 24-year-old Cuban man's bid for political asylum.

During a closed-door proceeding, the man told Montante he fears returning to his homeland, where he and three women in their 20s also seeking asylum have been branded defectors, according to sources close to the immigration proceedings.

The man, currently living with relatives in New Jersey, also told Montante he also was considered a counter-revolutionary because of his efforts at liberal reforms in Cuba.

Montante said he may issue a decision within the next month.

The four were part of a group of Cuban Catholics who sought political asylum in Western New York after traveling to Toronto in July for the visit of Pope John Paul II. Other asylum cases are being heard in Florida.

Man who was scalded taking bath dies

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. -- A 38-year-old man living in a St. Catharines community care home died Friday, one day after being scalded while taking a bath, Niagara Regional Police reported.

John Shach suffered second-degree burns over 30 percent of his body while bathing with the assistance of a care worker Thursday morning. The care worker recognized the injury and took Shach to St. Catharines General Hospital. He later was transferred to the Burn Unit in Hamilton General Hospital, where he died early Friday afternoon.

Police said that Shach, who was dependent on others for care, had been living in an off-site location for three days, while the community care home was being renovated. Niagara Regional Police have not released the names of the community care provider or the care worker.

A post-mortem exam has been scheduled for today.

Festival to feature arts and crafts gifts

Roycroft master artisans are preparing for the 21st annual Winter Festival in East Aurora, presenting distinguished arts and crafts gifts for the holidays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. next Saturday and Dec. 8.

Thirty-six artisans will exhibit at the festival in East Aurora Main Street Middle School, 430 Main St.

The festival will feature quarter-sawn oak furniture, handcrafted jewelry and copper pieces, hand-colored tiles, prints and wood carvings. Wooden puzzles, beaded jewelry and hand-woven articles also will be available.

The event will include holiday entertainment, refreshments and raffle tickets for baskets filled with artisans' donations, valued at more than $200.

Festival admission is $1.

3 adults, 2 kids hurt in 4-vehicle crash

Three adults and two children were taken to area hospitals Friday night, but none of the injuries was considered life-threatening, following a four-vehicle crash at North French and Transit roads shortly after 8 p.m., authorities said.

The rear-end collision that led to the chain-reaction crash involving an SUV and three cars sent two children to Children's Hospital and three adults to Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst, officials said.

Volunteers from the Swormville Fire Company responded to the scene, where initial reports suggested that some of the injured people would have to be cut out of their vehicles. But rescue workers were able to pull out the injured people without having to use any cutting tools.

Officers recover gun after stopping car

Two NFTA police officers recovered a loaded .22-caliber handgun after stopping a vehicle with dark-tinted windows on Michigan Avenue shortly before midnight Thursday.

Officers Charles Loubert and Mark Martinelli said they also detected a strong odor of marijuana when they approached the vehicle. One of the officers then saw the passenger in the vehicle drop the loaded handgun on the floor next to his feet.

The transit officers charged Hodari Wells, 23, of Newburgh Avenue, and Rashid Annoor, 24, of Southfield, Mich., with criminal possession of a weapon. Police said they confiscated crack cocaine and pills from Annoor and marijuana from Wells, and both face drug charges.

Wells also faces a charge of aggravated unlicensed operation, for driving with a suspended license, and an equipment violation, for driving with tinted windows, police said.

Institute gets grant for improvements

Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, a Buffalo Democrat, has presented the local chapter of the International Institute with a $50,000 check in state grant money to improve accessibility for the disabled and make other capital improvements, his office announced Friday.

The capital improvements will help safeguard the historical structural design of the building, located at 864 Delaware Ave.

The money will be used to install ramps, enlarge bathrooms and provide other improvements to make the building more user-friendly for the disabled, while also helping ensure that the building's historical design will be preserved.

The local chapter of the International Institute, which dates back to 1918, was set up to prevent the exploitation of women brought across the ocean to work here as domestics. It later expanded its mission to help the many ethnic groups settling here, offering them a range of services, including translation, language classes, resettlement, employment and immigration legal services.

The building, erected in 1888, has housed the institute since 1973.

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