- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2003

GEORGIA
Virus linked to mystery disease

ATLANTA A new strain of a virus that causes the common cold may be responsible for the emergence of a mysterious respiratory disease that has killed 17 persons and sickened hundreds around the world, health experts said yesterday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said tissue samples taken from two patients infected in a recent global outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) had tested positive for a new form of coronavirus.
The same strain of the virus has been found in lung secretions and other genetic material taken from seven other patients, the CDC said.

NORTH DAKOTA
Legislature can be junk-food festival

BISMARCK Spinach dip, tortilla chips, cheesecake bars, brownies, grapes, a few bananas, a couple of boxes of wheat crackers.
A party menu? No, it's the spread for a meeting of the North Dakota House Education Committee, where the larder is stocked with lawmakers' favorite munchies and the clerk prepares some of the goodies herself.
During the legislative session, most committees have an array of snacks and drinks, and lobbyists often provide free meals and desserts, sometimes served up in the Capitol's Great Hall.
Announcements on the House and Senate floors sometimes even herald food breaks. On one occasion, the Senate took a break so lawmakers could wander into the hall for carrot cake offered by an optometric association.
"I've always said that anyone who said there's no such thing as a free lunch, they've never been a legislator," Rep. Pam Gulleson said.


ALABAMA
City approves signs for 'salamander crossing'
HOMEWOOD This city is serious about maintaining its spotted-salamander community.
City leaders last week granted a resident's request to install salamander-crossing signs on each end of a road where the spotted salamander crosses on its annual migration to mate and lay its eggs.
Don Stewart asked the city to install the signs to make travelers on the road between the National Guard armory and Homewood High School more aware.
It's unusual that the spotted salamander has survived in an urban environment such as Homewood, a bedroom community of 25,000 adjoining Birmingham, Mr. Stewart said. The amphibians are common from Canada to Mississippi and are inky black with orange or yellow spots and gray bellies.

ARKANSAS
Spanish-language weekly bought by media group
SPRINGDALE Stephens Media Group said March 18 that it has acquired a Spanish-language weekly in northwestern Arkansas, where the Hispanic population has more than tripled since 1990.
The Las Vegas-based media group bought La Prensa Del Noroeste de Arkansas from Eddie Vega, who established the newspaper in 1998. The purchase price was not disclosed.
Mr. Vega will remain as general manager of La Prensa, said Sherman Frederick, the president of Stephens Media.
Stephens Media Group operates 12 dailies, including the Las Vegas Review-Journal and three in Arkansas at Fort Smith, Pine Bluff and Springdale.

CALIFORNIA
Grandfather gets life for '57 cop killings
LOS ANGELES A 69-year-old grandfather who was arrested nearly half a century after he fatally shot two police officers in 1957 tearfully pleaded guilty yesterday to murder charges and was sentenced to life in prison.
George Mason, who lived quietly in South Carolina for much of the past 45 years as the case went cold, entered the pleas as part of a deal with prosecutors that spared him rape, robbery and kidnapping charges.
Superior Court Judge David Wesley sentenced Mason, a retired gas station owner who reportedly never disclosed his criminal past to family members, to two life prison terms for the murders of El Segundo police Officers Milton Curtis and Richard Phillips.
Prosecutors say Mason confronted two teenage couples at a dark lovers' lane, stripped and bound them, raped one of the girls and stole their money and valuables before fleeing in a 1949 Ford belonging to one of the boys. Officers Curtis and Phillips were shot after pulling over the Ford for running a red light.


FLORIDA
Iraq war seen as keeping bases open
TALLAHASSEE A flurry of pro-military legislation inspired by the war with Iraq could have an unintended effect of helping to protect Florida bases from closure, some lawmakers said.
One bill would let deployed military personnel break apartment leases and cancel automobile insurance without penalty. Another would require local governments to let military officials know about plans to change land use near bases.

IDAHO
Nez Perce tribe holds peace ceremony
LAPWAI The Nez Perce tribe held a peace ceremony during a weekend powwow to bless American soldiers now fighting in Iraq.
Nez Perce veterans passed pipes while 13 women stood evenly spaced around the circle. As the men sang, the women danced in a circle. American and Nez Perce Nation flags stood by the circle.
Prayers were said for the safe return of soldiers.

ILLINOIS
Authorities arrest fugitive Jordanian
CHICAGO A missing Jordanian air marshal was arrested in Florida yesterday, ending a national manhunt for the Middle Eastern native, the FBI said.
Agents for the Drug Enforcement Administration spotted Ali Ahmad Al-Omari on an Amtrak train during a routine drug sweep and detained him in Jacksonville, Fla., after identifying him as an individual sought by the FBI.
The 30-year-old man told U.S. officials that he planned to visit friends in Miami and seek asylum in the United States, according to an FBI statement.
FBI agents had been seeking to interview Mr. Al-Omari about his immigration status after security agents with Royal Jordanian Airways reported him missing late Saturday.

IOWA
Police find suspect hiding in refrigerator
BURLINGTON Police officers were surprised to find a drug suspect stashed in a refrigerator.
"I definitely heard comments that this was a first," said Greg Hoffer, an investigator with the Southeast Iowa Narcotics Task Force.
Police went to a house on a tip that the suspect might be living there. The homeowner told police the man wasn't there, but gave them permission to search the house.
After a short search, police found Jerome Anthony Dobbey hiding inside a refrigerator with the door shut. Mr. Hoffer said items had been stacked in front of the refrigerator, which was not plugged in.
Mr. Dobbey, 24, was arrested and jailed Friday on several charges, including possession and intent to deliver crack cocaine.

KENTUCKY
Rural communities still lacking 911 service
BARBOURVILLE When her 85-year-old father became ill, Brenda Campbell grabbed a telephone book and looked up the number for a local ambulance service. For her, dialing 911 wasn't an option.
"We just don't bother," said Miss Campbell, who didn't want to be routed to emergency dispatchers up to 100 miles away. "It's quicker to look up the number you need."
Despite a mandate from Congress that residents of every community have 911 service by last November, more than 400 U.S. counties have minimal emergency-calling capability, according to the National Emergency Number Association.
That means thousands of Americans do not have quick access to police or paramedics, said Roger Hixson, an official with the organization that promotes improvements to America's 911 system.

MAINE
Amtrak service drops sharply
PORTLAND After a highly successful inaugural year, Amtrak's Downeaster passenger service between Portland and Boston experienced a sharp drop during the first two months of 2003.
Officials attributed a 22 percent drop in January and a 32 percent drop in February to the economy, bad weather, terrorism alerts and prospects of war.

MICHIGAN
Officials keepingdraft system on standby
DETROIT The names of 387,110 Michigan men ages 18 to 26 are on record at a federal computer center in suburban Chicago, just in case the United States resumes the military draft.
In all, the computer contains records on 11.2 million young men.
The United States hasn't conscripted people since 1973.

MINNESOTA
Bird may help solve sex-assault case
MINNEAPOLIS During a sexual assault on a woman, her pet bird bit the assailant, apparently drawing blood that authorities will try to use to convict their suspect.
Police found what appeared to be blood on the bird's feathers and recovered a sample that they hope contains the attacker's DNA.
Harold K. Kaai, 39, of Little Canada, Minn., appeared last week in Ramsey County District Court on a charge of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was arrested after police found him leaving the woman's apartment.
Deputies got a court order to take a blood sample from Mr. Kaai for comparison with the blood found on the bird.
"The beak on this bird looks to be pretty sharp. I wouldn't want it biting me," investigator Stan Johnson said.

MISSOURI
Teenagers charged in temple firebombings
CLAYTON Two 17-year-old boys are charged with firebombing attacks at a Hindu temple in suburban St. Louis, investigators said yesterday.
Paul Laird and Nathaniel Conner are charged with second-degree arson and criminal possession of a weapon in the attacks on the temple.
Lt. Ken Schmelig of the St. Louis County police said temple officials initially wondered whether the attacks were crimes committed by ill-informed people who thought they were attacking a Muslim mosque.
Lt. Schmelig said although police looked into the possibility of a hate crime, the attacks apparently stemmed from boredom.
The FBI is conducting its own investigation into the late-February firebombings, which damaged the temple but caused no injuries.

NEBRASKA
Circus pony takes show on the road
LINCOLN A Shetland pony with the Shrine Circus took his show on the road.
The 7-year-old pony named Fort Worth stopped traffic in downtown Lincoln and attracted a posse of police when he bolted through an auditorium back door during a Friday performance.
Locals and circus folk ran after him, calling to pedestrians for help.
Gary Boltz was driving to work when he saw the pony running against traffic down the middle of the street. He offered the pony's tuxedo-clad trainer a ride. The man jumped in the bed of his pickup, and off they went.
Pedestrians finally caught Fort Worth and held him for his trainer.
The pony was not injured.

OKLAHOMA
Federal agencies begin bioterrorism test
OKLAHOMA CITY A crop-duster plane flew over Oklahoma yesterday carrying a mixture of clay, water and alcohol for an Army bioterrorism test of whether radar would detect clouds of biological or chemical weapons.
The harmless materials were chosen to produce a mist resembling the airborne particles that might be produced by a bioterrorism attack.
The test, taking place in Oklahoma because of the state's advanced weather radar system, will help Army and Environmental Protection Agency scientists determine how well radar can detect such materials.
The EPA has conducted similar tests in Maryland, Utah and Florida since early 2001, before the September 11 attacks.

OREGON
Judge bars testimony on how-to-kill book
NEWPORT A judge ruled yesterday that a witness will not be allowed to testify about an online book on how to kill that was reportedly found on the computer of a man accused of murdering his family.
Christian Longo is accused of killing his wife and three children and dumping their bodies off the Oregon coast in 2001. His jury trial is in its third week.
Prosecutors say an online book found on Mr. Longo's abandoned computer gave step-by-step instructions on how to kill people and dispose of their bodies. They wanted an Oregon State Police computer specialist to testify about the book in an attempt to show Mr. Longo's state of mind prior to the deaths.
Judge Robert Huckleberry said the connection would be tenuous at best.

PENNSYLVANIA
Bulk of governor's budget survives
Gov. Edward G. Rendell signed off on most of the 2003-04 budget yesterday, but he struck $4.1 billion in education spending as he prepares to introduce new school-funding and tax-reform proposals.
While the Democrat aims to raise school spending this spring, the $16.9 billion budget he signed into law yesterday includes deep spending cuts in many other areas.
The budget slashes state aid for libraries, drug-and-alcohol treatment and some local government operations like mass transit and sewage treatment. It proposes a one-year salary freeze for more than 60,000 state employees.
Mr. Rendell will roll out his revamped education budget today . It will feature increased state funding for public schools and cuts in local property taxes.

TEXAS
Forecasters predict average hurricane season
HOUSTON Researchers predict the coming hurricane season will have fewer named storms than average but just as many hurricanes.
The Weather Research Center, a private firm based in Houston, yesterday forecast eight tropical storms, with six of those growing into hurricanes. The average is 10 tropical storms and six hurricanes per year.
According to the Orbital Cyclone Strike Index developed in 1985, the East Coast above Florida has the highest risk of a storm landfall this year at 64 percent.

WEST VIRGINIA
Writer to stage play in home state
CHARLESTON Actor-turned-writer David Selby is returning home to stage his second play, a coal-country drama focusing on mountaintop-removal strip mining.
The Charleston Stage Company will premiere "Final Assault" during six performances beginning April 10 at the Capitol Center Theater in Charleston.
Mr. Selby, 62, is known for his roles in the TV series "Dark Shadows" and "Falcon Crest."
The writer's mother was born in a coal town, his grandfather was crippled in the mines, and a great-grandfather died in the explosion at Monongah that killed 361 miners in 1907.
Jamison Selby, Mr. Selby's son, will direct the play.

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