- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2003

ILLINOIS
Top Ryan aide found guilty of corruption
CHICAGO A top aide to former Gov. George Ryan was found guilty on all counts by a federal court jury yesterday of corruption charges stemming from the eight-year period when Mr. Ryan was Illinois secretary of state.
Scott Fawell, 45, is the top official charged thus far in the five-year federal investigation of events that took place while Mr. Ryan was secretary of state before his election as governor in 1998.
Fawell was chief of staff to Mr. Ryan in the Secretary of State's Office and his 1998 campaign manager.
The jury also found Mr. Ryan's campaign committee guilty on all counts.


CALIFORNIA
'Spider-Man' actor may be replaced
LOS ANGELES Tobey Maguire is doing yoga and lifting weights and maybe looking over his shoulder a bit as he prepares to reprise his role as Peter Parker in the "Spider-Man" sequel.
The actor is expected to get $17 million to put his "Spidey" costume back on beginning April 12 to shoot "The Amazing Spider-Man." But if he isn't ready when filming begins, Jake Gyllenhaal of "The Good Girl" is under consideration to replace him, according to the trade publications Variety and the Hollywood Reporter.
The 27-year-old actor is still healing from back soreness linked to physically demanding roles in the first "Spider-Man" movie and the racehorse film "Seabiscuit," said his spokeswoman, Kelly Bush.ARIZONA

Two injured in blast at apartment building
PHOENIX A fiery explosion leveled an eight-unit apartment building early yesterday, seriously injuring at least two persons. One person was unaccounted for.
Authorities had not determined the cause of the 1 a.m. blast but wanted to question a resident facing eviction. A search for the man was under way.
The injured, a man and a woman, were taken to Maricopa Medical Center. A nursing supervisor said the man was listed in critical condition with trauma injuries and burns, and the woman was listed in serious condition with trauma injuries.
The blast shattered 50 to 60 windows in other nearby apartment buildings and catapulted bricks onto cars in the parking lot.

CALIFORNIA
Apparent protester dies in bridge leap
SAN FRANCISCO A man who may have been protesting the looming U.S. war on Iraq plunged to his death from San Francisco's famed Golden Gate Bridge yesterday, officials said.
The unidentified man, who handed authorities a statement before jumping, survived the initial fall into the frigid San Francisco Bay but died soon after Coast Guard rescuers scooped him up and rushed him to shore for treatment, police said.
"He jumped, he wasn't pushed," said California Highway Patrol spokesman Wayne Ziese, who called the death a suicide. "Apparently he had a statement to give to police and jumped."
Authorities had initially said the man slipped or jumped while hanging a banner on one of the bridge towers protesting a U.S. war on Iraq.

CONNECTICUT
Mayor convicted of racketeering
NEW HAVEN Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim, who was praised for reviving Connecticut's largest city and dreamed of becoming governor, was convicted of racketeering and other charges yesterday in the largest corruption case in recent state history.
He was convicted on 16 of 21 charges, including racketeering, extortion and bribery. No verdict was returned on four counts of mail fraud and one count of extortion.
The three most serious charges, racketeering, racketeering conspiracy and extortion, each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Sentencing was set for July 1 and Ganim was allowed to remain free on bond. He is still serving as mayor.

FLORIDA
Judge throws out murder conviction
MIAMI A federal judge yesterday threw out a murder conviction against a retarded man in the 1990 killing of a sheriff's deputy, ordering the state to either retry the inmate or set him free him within 90 days.
U.S. District Judge Donald Graham found fault with the way Broward County sheriff's detectives got Timothy Brown to waive his right to remain silent as they doggedly pursued suspects in the slaying of one of their own.
The ruling eliminated a confession the judge called "the only meaningful evidence" against Brown, who was 15 at the time of the killing, and had a mental age of 7 or 8.
Brown is serving a life sentence.

IDAHO
Snowmobilers to thank rescuers at party
BOISE A couple rescued last week after becoming lost snowmobiling near Idaho City will hold a thank-you party for the friends and strangers who searched or prayed for them during their five-night ordeal.
"The company I worked for, Kelly-Moore Paints, wanted to say to thank you to all the people who prayed for us and searched for us," Jim Shemwell said.
"The company was just astounded we did this that we survived," Mr. Shemwell said.
Jim and Suzanne Shemwell became lost after taking a wrong turn while snowmobiling near Mores Creek Summit. Their machines became stuck in snow in a deep ravine.

INDIANA
Deputy's killer gets life in prison
INDIANAPOLIS The man who gunned down Marion County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Baker was sentenced today to life in prison without parole plus 100 years, the Star reports.
Michael Shannon, 21, avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty on the morning of his trial last month.
Shannon confessed to murder, two counts of attempted murder and resisting arrest and described how he fired at the pursuing officers, reloaded and fired again.
"It is truly fortunate that no other individuals were killed or injured as a result of this defendant's senseless act," Superior Court Judge Robert Altice said.

KANSAS
Democrats want to amend resolution
TOPEKA Democrats in the Kansas House expressed concerns about a planned resolution expressing "unified and absolute" support for President Bush and war against Iraq. The resolution would also show support for America's armed forces. Democrats want to amend the resolution to reflect that not everyone in the House is absolute in their support of the Republican president.

LOUISIANA
Waterways named Gulf sturgeon habitat
NEW ORLEANS Waterways from Florida to Louisiana have been named critical habitat for the threatened Gulf sturgeon, giving additional protection to one branch of the oldest living line of fish.
Gulf sturgeon were nearly exterminated and are coming back slowly, said David Guest, attorney for EarthJustice, one of the groups that sued to make the government declare certain waterways essential for the fish.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service announced the designation yesterday.

MINNESOTA
Suspicious envelope holds rotten potato
Many official eyes were trained on a stained white envelope in the basement of the downtown Minneapolis post office. It looked suspicious and emitted a foul odor.
A postal worker who handled it had complained of a headache and a burning sensation when he stopped at a hospital on the way home after his night shift.
Hospital officials notified the FBI and the FBI activated its Joint Terrorism Task Force. Postal inspectors were called. Two agents descended into the post office basement and gently opened the small envelope to find a slice of rotten potato.
"We do have the potato in our office and it is definitely rotten," said Paul McCabe, FBI spokesman in Minneapolis. He said it was found to be a prank and that the investigation is over.
The envelope was addressed to U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican. Inside was a Post-it note reading, "Have a french fry," Postal Service spokesman Jim Ahlgren told the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.

MISSISSIPPI
Shuttle disaster solution may never be found
BAY ST. LOUIS Investigators may never find a single definitive cause for the destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia, NASA chief Sean O'Keefe said yesterday.
Contributing factors could include hardware failure, failures of processes and procedures during the flight or bad judgment calls, Mr. O'Keefe told the NASA Advisory Council at Stennis Space Flight Center. He did not elaborate on those factors.
"I bet it's going to be a combination of all three," Mr. O'Keefe said during an address to the council, which is composed of private professionals who advise NASA on various issues.
However, Mr. O'Keefe said he does expect answers that will enable the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to return the shuttle to flight.

NEVADA
Students forgo spring break trips
RENO Students at the University of Nevada at Reno, are forgoing sun-drenched beaches and margaritas for study and work. Officials estimate 1,500 students will remain on campus during spring break. Travel agents are reporting a downturn in the number of trips booked this year.
Many students cite rising gas prices, tight finances, war worries and schoolwork.

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Bishop's house to be closed
MANCHESTER The Diocese of Manchester will close the home of Roman Catholic Bishop John McCormack by June 30 as an expense-cutting move brought on in part by sex-abuse lawsuits.
The diocese, which covers all of New Hampshire, also will shut down Emmaus House, a youth retreat center, and eliminate 17 jobs. Two part-time housekeeping positions at Bishop McCormack's home also will be eliminated.
The Diocesan Finance Council recommended the diocese trim at least $500,000 from its $2.5 million operating budget.
Patrick McGee, spokesman for the diocese, said the church wiped out its savings of roughly $2.2 million in payments to people who claimed they were sexually abused by priests.

NEW JERSEY
Propane fire out after nearly a week
NEWTON A propane truck fire that started nearly a week ago is finally out, but the 1,000 persons forced from their homes while it burned were still unsettled yesterday.
Schools were closed for a third straight day, and evacuees had not yet been told when they would be allowed to return.
The March 14 explosion at Able Energy Inc. damaged 67 homes and county officials estimated the cost would reach more than $7.1 million. Some residences will not be habitable.
Authorities believe the blast occurred when a fueling hose became dislodged while a 10,000-gallon tanker truck was fueling two smaller, 3,000-gallon tanker trucks.

NEW MEXICO
New office to focus on retaining bases
SANTA FE State lawmakers have created a new Office of Military Base Planning and Support to try to fend off the next round of military base closings.
The group will focus on retaining military installations.
Members will include the lieutenant governor and the secretary of the state Economic Development Department.
The state's military bases are estimated to have an annual economic effect of $5 billion.

NEW YORK
Potential jurors blame parents for obesity
NEW YORK A majority of potential U.S. jurors believe that parents, not fast-food restaurants such as McDonald's Corp., are to blame for obesity in children, according to results of a survey released yesterday.
The poll was conducted by the litigation research firm Bowne DecisionQuest from March 14 to March 16, shortly after a lawyer refiled a lawsuit against McDonald's claiming that customers are unaware of the dangers of eating its products. McDonald's called the suit "senseless."
The study of attitudes toward health claims against fast-food restaurants was based on responses of 1,000 adults.

NORTH CAROLINA
State bill of rights found after 138 years
RALEIGH North Carolina's original Bill of Rights document was recovered in a sting operation 138 years after it was stolen by Union soldiers during the U.S. Civil War, the governor said yesterday.
Someone offered to sell the rare historic document in February for $5 million to an organization in Philadelphia, which tipped off law enforcement, Gov. Michael F. Easley said.
The document was recovered Tuesday in Philadelphia through a sting operation set up by Pennsylvania, North Carolina and federal authorities. Investigators said it was worth at least $20 million.

OHIO
FedEx facility evacuated after package explodes
COLUMBUS A package labeled as containing the West Nile virus exploded at a Federal Express facility, and about 50 workers were evacuated.
Fire officials said dry ice used to preserve tissue samples containing live virus may have caused the shoebox-sized package to burst late Tuesday at the FedEx office near Port Columbus International Airport.
The package contained brain and kidney tissue from a bird that had tested positive for the virus, said Jay Carey, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Health. The department was sending the material to a researcher at the University of Texas.
The virus was alive but the samples were frozen and unlikely to become airborne, Mr. Carey said.

PENNSYLVANIA
Veteran to return French medal
EASTON A World War II veteran says he is so angry with France that he plans to return the Normandy Medal given to him by the French government for his actions on D-Day.
"I don't want it," said George Wilson, 80. "I can't honor it anymore. To me, it's a joke."
Mr. Wilson said he is angry at the French government for opposing the position taken by the United States in the conflict against Iraq. He said American soldiers lying in cemeteries in France "turned over in their graves" when they heard about the French opposition.
"[French President Jacques] Chirac is old enough to remember what we did on his behalf against Hitler," Mr. Wilson said.
He said he wants to start a national movement.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Students suspended for flag T-shirts
BEAUFORT Four Beaufort High School students were suspended for wearing T-shirts with Confederate flag designs. Principal Bill Evans said the students violated a school district rule that forbids clothing that can interfere with the school environment. Shirts with rock band, cigarette, alcohol and drug logos, or shirts with sexual innuendoes, also are banned.

VERMONT
Sub crew enters rotten sneaker contest
MONTPELIER An annual rotten sneaker contest included a little far-off competition when an entry came in from the crew of the USS Montpelier submarine.
The sneaker arrived double-bagged from an undisclosed location in the Persian Gulf where the submarine is currently deployed. But the shoe arrived with an unmistakable odor of fish.
Contestants are required to be under the age of 15, but contest organizers still gave the military shoe an honorary title of "most rotten sneaker."
"That's a weapon of mass destruction right there," said moderator Dave Moody.

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