- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2003

ARKANSAS
House leader doesn't warm to school bill
LITTLE ROCK Details of Gov. Mike Huckabee's school-consolidation plan were revealed in a draft bill on Monday and got an immediate cold shoulder from House Speaker and Democrat Herschel Cleveland, the Arkansas News Bureau reports.
The governor's plan sets a 1,500-student minimum school-district size, with some exceptions for high-performing or isolated districts.
The plan would also reduce the number of districts from 310 to somewhere between 107 and 116.
The 103-page draft bill, Mr. Cleveland noted, does not tell lawmakers which schools will be closed and where to find the new district boundaries, but would leave such decisions to districts and the state Board of Education.

NEW YORK
Helmsley ordered to pay ex-employee $11.2 million
NEW YORK Real estate magnate Leona Helmsley was ordered yesterday to pay her former hotel manager $11.2 million after a jury found her guilty of firing him because he was homosexual.
Taking less than a day to decide the $40 million gay-bias lawsuit filed by Charles Bell, 48, the jurors awarded the former Park Lane Hotel manager $1.2 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages.
Mr. Bell claimed Ms. Helmsley fired him from his $110,000-a-year job at the hotel on Central Park South after four months because of his sexual orientation.
Helmsley, the owner of five upscale hotels in New York and another in Sarasota, Florida, denied Mr. Bell's charges and said she fired him because he had used drugs and gave out free rooms to his friends for wild parties

ALASKA
Salmon price fixing charged in lawsuit
ANCHORAGE A trial in a class-action lawsuit charging salmon price fixing opened Monday in Alaska state Superior Court, 12 years after fishermen in Alaska's Bristol Bay moored their boats to protest low prices offered by seafood processors.
About 4,500 fishermen are seeking at least $1 billion in compensation and penalties for a reported price-fixing arrangement they say was in force from 1991 to 1995. They say the processors and traders nearly drove them out of business.
The 1991 strike came after processors offered 50 cents a pound for sockeye, a fish that had drawn more than $2 a pound three years earlier.

FLORIDA
Fishing boat explodes; 1 killed, 4 rescued
JACKSONVILLE An explosion and fire destroyed a private fishing boat, forcing five men to leap into the frigid Atlantic Ocean, and one of the men died after treading water for more than two hours, officials said.
The Jacksonville men were fishing more than 60 miles east of St. Augustine on Sunday when there was an explosion in the engine compartment of the 25-foot vessel, Navy and Coast Guard officials said.
John Porcella said he and boat owner James Cooksey Jr., 59, clung to each other's shirts and tread water for about two hours until Navy helicopters arrived from the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which was on maneuvers in the area.

HAWAII
Boom seen in retirement housing
HONOLULU Hawaii is seeing a boom in senior housing projects that offer hotel-like services and care options in a community setting.
Four such projects with a total of 700 units are under construction on Oahu for $230 million.
Six more projects, including an 850-unit retirement campus in Kapolei and two on the neighbor islands, are also expected.

IDAHO
Bill for prisoners' DNA samples stalls
BOISE A bill to collect genetic samples from all felons was held by the House Judiciary and Rules Committee, the Idaho Statesman reports.
But Rep. Jim Clark said clearer legislation with similar intent could be drawn up "overnight" and introduced into committee again. House Bill 48 would have required DNA samples to be taken from convicted thieves for identifying suspects in future crimes.
Current state law requires those convicted of violent crimes, such as aggravated battery, murder and rape, to provide a DNA sample and right thumbprint. The state law does not include burglary.

KANSAS
Farmers favor cotton to water-hog crops
ULYSSES Cotton might soak up a lot of water once it's turned into a bath towel, but as a crop it's not as thirsty as others.
That makes it an increasingly attractive alternative for southwest Kansas farmers looking to conserve the groundwater in the giant Ogallala Aquifer as the water table drops.
One farmer, Jay Garetson of Copeland, shifted some of his family's corn acreage to cotton two years ago and plans to continue and expand that practice.
"We were looking for an alternative crop that had the same or better economic viability of corn but uses less water," Mr. Garetson told irrigators at the Southwest Kansas Irrigation Association annual meeting last week.

KENTUCKY
Uranium-enrichment plant workers strike
PADUCAH Hourly workers at the nation's only plant that enriches uranium for commercial nuclear power went on strike yesterday morning over wages, health care and pension issues.
The strike affects about 620 workers, about half of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant work force. Managers now run the plant.
United States Enrichment Corp. operates the plant for the Energy Department.
The contract of Local 5-550 of Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International expired Friday but had been extended to give the union time to vote on the latest offer from USEC.
About 97 percent of the membership voted Friday to reject the offer.

MINNESOTA
Golf course allows Snoopy on lawn
ST. PAUL St. Paul's Highland 18 Golf Course has allowed the presence of a famous dog on the lawn.
Golfers on the 15th hole will encounter a large fairway bunker with the outline of Snoopy, the "Peanuts" comic strip character created by the late St. Paul native Charles Schulz.
The idea for the Snoopy outline started as a joke. But Mr. Schulz's widow, Jean Schulz, liked the idea.
While touring some of the St. Paul sites last year where her late husband spent his childhood, she spotted Snoopy in a course design posted in the Highland clubhouse.
Mrs. Schulz said the "Snoopy" image was wonderful, and she thinks it will produce laughs for passing golfers, either in or out of the sand.
"I hope to get out and play the course," Mrs. Schulz said.

MISSOURI
Child deaths traced to abusive families
JEFFERSON CITY At least 103 of the 147 Missouri children who died of abuse in the past five years were from households that had been reported to state workers for abuse, said a state auditor.
In 70 percent of the fatalities, the child's family had been contacted by the child-welfare system more than once.
A commission is looking at potential reforms.

MONTANA
Students tell legislators effects of cuts
HELENA For more than an hour on Friday, legislators heard students and officials from Montana State University's four campuses testify that cutting funding will hurt the quality of education and students' ability to afford it.
The Gazette reports that if the joint appropriations subcommittee on education adopts the Jan. 7 rollback to start budgeting at 2000 levels, the Bozeman campus alone would face a shortfall of almost $10 million in 2004 from the 2002 base, which is where budgeting would normally begin. On top of that, the governor's budget calls for a $6 million cut from the 2002 base.
At MSU-Billings, the rollback would mean an almost $2 million shortfall in 2004.

NEBRASKA
Homeless man gets loving eulogy
OMAHA In poem, prayer and song, a small group of worshippers bade a final farewell to Mark Kevin Hammons, who died two days after police found him sleeping on a park bench outside Gene Leahy Mall.
"We shared a care; we shared a room," Victor Hammons said, now 15 years after he last saw his brother. "I'm his oldest brother. I'm going to miss him."
For family members in from several states, the simple but lovely ceremony at Benson's Kremer Funeral Home, followed by burial at Mount Hope Cemetery, closed a chapter of worry and uncertainty.
Mark Hammons had left his family in Phoenix long ago, choosing instead to follow a solitary life in Omaha. The 44-year-old died Jan. 25.

NEW MEXICO
Senate panel kills cockfighting ban
SANTA FE A Senate committee yesterday narrowly quashed a bill to outlaw cockfighting in New Mexico, one of two states that still allow the blood sport.
The Senate Conservation Committee voted 5-4 against the legislation after hearing nearly three hours of testimony from both sides. Louisiana is the only other state where cockfighting is legal.
"This is an example of the Legislature continuing to ignore the will of the people of New Mexico," said Danielle Bays of Animal Protection Voters.
Most proponents of keeping cockfighting legal in New Mexico contend it's part of the state's Hispanic culture and that it provides much-needed income for families in rural areas.

NORTH DAKOTA
Bill would hold seed companies liable
BISMARCK A state lawmaker wants to hold seed manufacturers financially responsible if pollen from their biotech wheat drifts to neighboring organic fields.
The state Senate's Judiciary Committee listened to witnesses Monday during an initial hearing on state Sen. Bill Bowman's bill.
"I'm not saying you can or can't plant [biotech wheat]," Mr. Bowman said. "But if you do, liability concerns have to be addressed."
Critics of the bill have denounced it as an obstacle to technology.
Monsanto is developing a wheat variety that is resistant to the company's Roundup herbicide. The genetic changes will allow a farmer to spray the herbicide without harming the wheat plants, the company says.

RHODE ISLAND
Housing project to be torn down
NEWPORT A few miles from historic seaside mansions, this city's largest public-housing project is being razed.
The 17 buildings of the Tonomy Hill development will be replaced with a $15.5 million modern, affordable-housing project.
The Navy built it in 1940 as temporary housing for workers during World War II.

TEXAS
Airline seeks penguin approval
DALLAS Southwest Airlines is seeking the government's approval to bring back its popular SeaWorld penguin tours.
The tour consists of flying the tuxedoed waddlers on Southwest jets to promote the amusement park as a summer destination.
The promotion was shut down after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Some security concerns must be addressed before the promotion can restart.
SeaWorld and Southwest Airlines have worked since the 1980s to lure business to parks in San Antonio, San Diego and Orlando, Fla. SeaWorld officials say the penguins travel well and are used to being handled.
"We feel like they really brighten people's days," said Fran Stephenson, SeaWorld's spokeswoman in San Antonio. "Besides, they don't have any pockets to empty."

WASHINGTON
School remembers namesake after disaster
AUBURN Principal Greg Brown led students at Dick Scobee Elementary in Auburn through the school's annual assembly commemorating its namesake on Friday.
There was a slide show about the life of Mr. Scobee, the Auburn boy who grew up to become the commander of the Challenger Space Shuttle on its fatal 1986 flight.
The children of Scobee Elementary, where a fascination with space travel is as much a part of the culture as morning recess, also took the time to honor the space crew who died aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia Saturday.
The children left flowers, candles, flags and letters for the Columbia crew at a makeshift memorial set up on concrete benches near the school entrance.
Monday morning, Mr. Brown counseled several tearful pupils and held a somber ceremony outside the building, lowering the school's flag to half-staff.

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