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NATIONAL BRIEFS


CALIFORNIA: More than he bargained for

The used Chrysler minivan came fully loaded, with power steering, tinted windows -- and half a million dollars' worth of cocaine. San Jose psychologist Charles Preston had no clue about the cellophane-wrapped stash of "snow" inside the frame when he bought the 2008 van last year in Santa Clara. The windows wouldn't roll down all the way, but he figured he could live with it. He bought the van for a bargain, $14,000 -- and uses it to haul food to feed people living on the street. When he went to get his brakes checked 15 months later, a manager offered to check out the window problem. "This insulation isn't supposed to be here," he said, digging behind the panel. It soon became clear the tablet-sized objects wrapped in cellophane weren't installed by the manufacturer. Now he's terrified a drug cartel still may be gunning for it. "Honestly, I've never been so scared in my life, even when I was mugged in New York." Police found 14 packages of cocaine in the doors and five more above the wheels. They told Preston something chilling: Get the van checked for tracking devices, because somebody is probably looking for it. Then get rid of it.


UTAH: Skier dies in avalanche

A professional skier died in an avalanche while on a steep slope at a closed resort. Jamie Pierre, 38, was swept over a cliff Sunday at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort in the Wasatch mountains, 30 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. Pierre was snowboarding with a friend when he was sent cartwheeling over a cliff after he triggered the slide, the Utah Avalanche Center said.


Mystery of medals solved

When Tom Harrison, 93, received a box with seven World War II medals Nov. 4, he couldn't figure out why they had been delivered 66 years after his discharge. But Harrisonhad submitted a request for military records himself. He was surprised when the medals showed up without any note of explanation. It's understandable, said Niels Zussblatt of the National Personnel Records Center, when "months later they just show up in a box."

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