- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 19, 2003

ARIZONA

Homes evacuated as wildfire burns

TUCSON — Homes and businesses were evacuated in a mountain community because of a wildfire feeding on a pine forest ravaged by drought and bark beetles.

About 150 acres had burned by yesterday near the town of Summerhaven, on Mount Lemmon outside Tucson, fire information officer Marylee Peterson said. The fire started Tuesday.

By midmorning, flames were within one to 1 miles of the community, said Forest Service spokesman Randall Smith.

All residences and businesses in Summerhaven were evacuated late Tuesday. About 20 firetrucks were posted in the southern Arizona community yesterday morning, Miss Peterson said.

MICHIGAN

Police order curfew after riots

Police yesterday ordered a curfew on the Michigan town of Benton Harbor after two nights of racially charged rioting.

Tensions have erupted in the predominantly black town of 12,000 people since a black motorbike rider was killed in a police chase.

A curfew starting at 10 p.m. was ordered after the latest night of disturbances. An extra 150 state police also were sent to the town, officials said.

Twelve persons were stabbed and beaten, five buildings torched and five cars — including several police cars — set ablaze in Benton Harbor, according to Michigan State Police.

At least 20 persons were injured, and there were seven or eight arrests, according to news reports quoting the county sheriff’s department.

ALASKA

Russians poach bears at alarming rate

JUNEAU — Russian hunters are killing an increasing number of polar bears, say U.S. biologists who are worried the trend eventually could decimate the species.

Citing estimates that Russian hunters are taking an estimated 100 to 250 bears a year in the Chukchi Sea, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study concludes the increased hunting could imperil the bear population in much the same way hunters did in Alaska during the 1960s and 1970s.

Natives around the sea, which separates Alaska and Russia, have killed bears for food for generations. But the need for money may be driving the recent increase, said Scott Schliebe, polar bear project leader for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage.

ARIZONA

Bishop resigns after hit-and-run

PHOENIX — Bishop Thomas O’Brien, who has admitted he concealed sex-abuse accusations against priests and now has been charged in a fatal hit-and-run accident, resigned yesterday.

The Vatican appointed Santa Fe, N.M., Archbishop Michael Sheehan as interim administrator of the diocese with full authority over the Diocese of Phoenix until the Vatican appoints a new bishop, the Santa Fe archdiocese said. He also will keep his post in New Mexico.

In a two-line announcement yesterday, the Vatican said Pope John Paul II accepted the resignation under a clause of church law allowing a cleric to resign for illness or “some other grave reason” that makes him “unsuited for the fulfillment of his office.” It did not specify why Bishop O’Brien offered his resignation.

CONNECTICUT

Ex-mayor enters plea in assault case

WATERBURY — Former Waterbury Mayor Philip Giordano pleaded not guilty yesterday to state charges that he sexually assaulted two girls.

The pleas came five days after Giordano was sentenced in federal court to 37 years in prison for violating the civil rights of the girls, who were 8 and 10 years old at the time, by repeatedly forcing them to perform oral sex with him in City Hall, his law office and home while he was mayor.

During the brief appearance in state court, Giordano pleaded not guilty to six counts each of sexual assault, risk of injury to a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual assault.

FLORIDA

Sheriff’s purchase of car questioned

DELAND — Visitors often compare downtown DeLand to Mayberry, N.C., the city made famous by “The Andy Griffith Show.” Now they will look even more similar.

Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson, a fan of the show, is spending about $10,000 of seized drug money to purchase and restore a 1962 Ford Galaxie just like Andy and Barney used to drive.

But at least one County Council member and the president of a state tax watchdog organization questioned Sheriff Johnson’s decision to buy a “prop” in a tight budget year.

He justifies the purchase as a crime-prevention tool, which he says is allowed under laws governing cash forfeiture use. He plans to show off the car in holiday parades, recruiting fairs and drug-prevention programs for children.

GEORGIA

Rural area faces smog regulations

ATLANTA — People in the rural mountains of north Georgia may be forced soon to follow the same air pollution rules as bustling metro Atlanta.

Forty-eight counties in the upper half of the state are being reviewed by state environmental regulators who want to reduce smog and other air pollution.

As a result, places like Ellijay in Gilmer County or Cedartown in Polk County could have restrictions similar to those in Atlanta — emissions testing on all vehicles, more expensive clean gasoline and power-plant controls.

The air protection branch chief of the state Environmental Protection Division, Ron Methier, said the state probably will decide that more than 20 out of the 48 counties being reviewed need pollution restrictions.

KANSAS

Reports ordered for underage abortions

TOPEKA — Doctors who perform abortions on girls younger than 16 must report the pregnancies to authorities as instances of suspected child abuse, the state attorney general said yesterday.

Kansas law prohibits sex with a child younger than 16, making a pregnancy evidence of child abuse, said Attorney General Phill Kline. Another state law requires doctors to report suspected abuse.

He said doctors who fail to report such cases could face misdemeanor charges punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,000.

KENTUCKY

Girl survives flash flood

LORETTO — A 12-year-old girl was rescued in fair condition after a flash flood destroyed her home and swept her about a mile downstream.

Teresa Hartley was found clinging to a tree Tuesday night, after her journey down Prather Creek.

Authorities were called after the flash flood, caused by some 5 inches of rain, struck her family’s mobile home.

Teresa was ejected from the mobile home before it smashed into a bridge, authorities said.

Her mother was not hurt.

MASSACHUSETTS

Keeping mentally fit wards off dementia

BOSTON — An absorbing book or a challenging crossword puzzle may keep your mind more than busy. It may keep it healthy, too, says a 21-year study of mental breakdown in old age.

The study adds to the evidence that stimulating the mind can ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia.

The study was led by Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and published in today’s New England Journal of Medicine. It was funded by the National Institute on Aging.

About 10 percent of people develop dementia between ages 60 and 70.

MINNESOTA

Wounded duck escapes capture

VIRGINIA — A mallard swimming on Silver Lake isn’t letting a dart in its head stop it from eating, swimming, socializing or paddling away from rescue attempts.

Authorities don’t know who shot the duck with a metal blowgun dart, but the bird hasn’t been able to remove the shaft from its left cheek behind its bill.

Department of Natural Resources personnel have tried without success to capture the mallard, an agency spokeswoman said.

NEBRASKA

Police dog hangs up the leash

GRAND ISLAND — One member of the Hall County sheriff’s department compiled quite a pedigree before hanging up the leash Tuesday.

Police dog Ringo helped his handler seize 17 pounds of methamphetamine and more than $93,000 in drug money. Police said he helped find 16 criminals in his 8 years, which roughly translates to 60 human years.

He liked to chase burglars, said his handler and partner, Sgt. Bryan Simonson.

The 12-year-old Belgian Malnois was deployed more than 500 times to assist 82 law enforcement agents from 10 different agencies, Sheriff Jerry Watson said.

PENNSYLVANIA

Teens charged in beating death

PHILADELPHIA — Four teenagers charged with beating a 16-year-old boy to death plotted the killing for weeks and listened to the Beatles song “Helter Skelter” 42 times before the murder, according to a confession read in court.

Edward Batzig Jr., 16; Justina Morley, 15; Dominic Coia, 18; and Mr. Coia’s 16-year-old brother, Nicholas, were ordered Tuesday to stand trial as adults on murder charges.

The four are accused of killing Jason Sweeney to rob him of $500 in a vacant lot on May 30. Police contend that Miss Morley promised sex to lure Jason to the lot, where the other three beat him with a hatchet, a hammer and a brick.

According to Mr. Coia’s confession, the youths had a “group hug” immediately after the killing and used the money to buy drugs.

TENNESSEE

Pacemaker used to ID disoriented man

GATLINBURG — Hospital radiologists used the number imprinted on a pacemaker to identify a disoriented man found in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Park officials said yesterday that Jack Bowles, 82, of Princeton, W.Va., was the man found June 12 crawling up an embankment.

Fatigued and dehydrated, Mr. Bowles could not recall his name or where he lived. He told authorities he was taken against his will, driven three to four hours and dropped off at the trail. He remained in the Fort Sanders Medical Center in Sevierville yesterday.

TEXAS

Jury selection starts in windshield death

DALLAS — Jury selection started yesterday for the trial of a woman accused of hitting a homeless man in Texas with her car and letting him bleed to death while he was lodged for days in the windshield, a court clerk said.

Former nurse’s aide Chante Mallard, 26, is scheduled to face trial next week on charges of murder and tampering with evidence. Police said she struck Gregory Biggs in October 2001 in Fort Worth. If convicted, she could face up to life in prison.

Police said Mr. Biggs was hurled head-first through the windshield of Miss Mallard’s car, with his broken legs lying across the car’s hood. Miss Mallard told investigators she panicked and drove to her nearby home, where she closed the garage door while Mr. Biggs bled to death over the next two days, police said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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