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KANSAS

Motorcyclists gather for Blessing of the Bikes

FRONTENAC — Rumbles of thunder and heavy rains were replaced by the rumbles of motorcycles and a sprinkling of holy water.

Leading the gang and wearing riding boots beneath his vestments was the Rev. Robert McElwee, who offered prayer during the annual Blessing of the Bikes in downtown Frontenac.

“Did I get you?” he asked Sunday, weaving through a cordon of more than 1,500 brightly painted motorcycles from as far away as Utah and Idaho.

Father McElwee, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church and an avid motorcyclist, has seen the event grow in the past eight years from an informal gathering after Sunday Mass to a regional affair in this town of 3,000.

CALIFORNIA

Teacher charged with hate crime hoax

POMONA — A psychology professor who said someone vandalized her car with racist and anti-Semitic slurs while she was speaking at a forum on racism was charged yesterday with fabricating the story.

Kerri Dunn, who was teaching on a one-year appointment at Claremont McKenna College, could receive up to six years in prison.

Miss Dunn told police in March that her car was spray-painted with racist, anti-Semitic and sexist epithets during a forum on campus. The incident prompted students to stage sit-ins and rallies.

But police said witnesses reported seeing Miss Dunn vandalizing the car.

ALABAMA

Developers solicited for hotel complex

GULF SHORES — Alabama’s vision of replacing the Gulf State Park hotel and convention center with a top-quality complex has passed through several administrations without any construction. Now Republican Gov. Bob Riley’s administration is preparing to solicit proposals from private developers for building a new hotel.

A developer would build and own the hotel and pay rent to the state for use of the land.

CALIFORNIA

Jackson wants lawyer’s full attention

LOS ANGELES — Michael Jackson dropped the two high-profile lawyers leading his defense in a child molestation case, declaring yesterday that his life is at stake and that he deserved their full attention.

“It is imperative that I have the full attention of those who are representing me. My life is at stake,” Mr. Jackson said. “Therefore, I must feel confident that my interests are of the highest priority. I am innocent of these false charges, and will aggressively seek to clear my name.”

The statement suggested that Mr. Jackson was concerned that attorney Mark Geragos is also representing Scott Peterson, who is accused of killing his pregnant wife, Laci. Benjamin Brafman, a top New York lawyer, had to travel cross-country for court appearances.

The pop star has hired Thomas Mesereau Jr. as his new lead attorney.

COLORADO

Share of water starts to dry up

DENVER — A five-year drought has forced state officials to consider the once-unthinkable: surrendering some of its share of Colorado River water to California.

Lake Powell has stored enough water to give California its due under the Colorado River Compact. But Lake Powell is down to 42 percent of capacity. It could drain completely if the drought continues for two or three more years.

FLORIDA

Immigrant leaves money to IRS

WEST PALM BEACH — Most people do whatever they can to keep their money away from the Internal Revenue Service. Not Maria Woods, a German immigrant with a passion for her adopted country.

When Miss Woods died in September at age 80, she left 70 percent of her estate to the U.S. Treasury as a way of showing her gratitude to the nation that took her in.

The total wasn’t significant — in her final years, medical costs had shrunk the one-time $500,000 estate to about $98,000 — but friends said the principle was more important than the principal.

After making small bequests to friends, the rest of Miss Woods’ estate went to the Arthritis Foundation to help find a cure for an ailment that disabled her.

IDAHO

Web pages barred in terrorism trial

BOISE — Prosecutors in the terrorism-related trial of a Saudi graduate student may not show jurors Web pages and e-mails that purportedly encourage terrorism unless they prove the defendant created them or embraced their content, a judge ruled yesterday.

Judge Lodge said the material could be prejudicial to Mr. Al-Hussayen, and “there’s no way the court can strike from jurors’ minds evidence that is not tied up.”

Mr. Al-Hussayen, 34, a computer science student at the University of Idaho, is accused of setting up and running Web sites that were used to recruit terrorists and support the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

KENTUCKY

Mayor proposes swapping parks

LOUISVILLE — State officials are considering a proposal by Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson to swap management or even ownership of Otter Creek Park in Meade County for Sawyer State Park in Jefferson County.

Mr. Abramson said that the state has expertise in running large parks such as Otter Creek, which offers camping and lodging, while Metro Parks has experience in running urban parks such as Sawyer.

MASSACHUSETTS

School funding ruled insufficient

BOSTON — A Superior Court judge ruled yesterday that Massachusetts still is failing to adequately educate students in poorer school districts, and recommended the state’s highest court order education officials to change the state school funding formula.

The 300-page advisory ruling by Judge Margot Botsford in a lawsuit filed by 19 school districts sets the stage for the Supreme Judicial Court again to dictate the future of education in Massachusetts. If the high court agrees with her findings, it could radically change the way the state spends money to educate its nearly 1 million public school students.

A 1993 ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court, the state’s highest court, found that the state hadn’t met its constitutional duty to fund education. That led to the passage of a reform law that overhauled school funding in the state, establishing mandatory or “foundation” levels of funding. But the 1993 ruling left the case open for review, and the lawyers who won that case returned to court in June, arguing that the state Department of Education still shortchanges poor districts.

NEW YORK

KANSAS

Motorcyclists gather for Blessing of the Bikes

FRONTENAC — Rumbles of thunder and heavy rains were replaced by the rumbles of motorcycles and a sprinkling of holy water.

Leading the gang and wearing riding boots beneath his vestments was the Rev. Robert McElwee, who offered prayer during the annual Blessing of the Bikes in downtown Frontenac.

“Did I get you?” he asked Sunday, weaving through a cordon of more than 1,500 brightly painted motorcycles from as far away as Utah and Idaho.

Father McElwee, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church and an avid motorcyclist, has seen the event grow in the past eight years from an informal gathering after Sunday Mass to a regional affair in this town of 3,000.

CALIFORNIA

Teacher charged with hate crime hoax

POMONA — A psychology professor who said someone vandalized her car with racist and anti-Semitic slurs while she was speaking at a forum on racism was charged yesterday with fabricating the story.

Kerri Dunn, who was teaching on a one-year appointment at Claremont McKenna College, could receive up to six years in prison.

Miss Dunn told police in March that her car was spray-painted with racist, anti-Semitic and sexist epithets during a forum on campus. The incident prompted students to stage sit-ins and rallies.

But police said witnesses reported seeing Miss Dunn vandalizing the car. Officials study swimming places

ALBANY — Environmental officials are completing a study on adding new swimming spots along the Hudson River.

The study aims to examine the feasibility of creating more public swimming spots along a waterway where open riverfront is relatively rare. Gov. George E. Pataki, a Republican, has pledged to try to make the entire river swimmable by 2009.

OKLAHOMA

FBI agent links plastic to Nichols

McALESTER — Charred bits of plastic that fell from the sky after the Oklahoma City bombing are chemically similar to plastic barrels found at the home of Terry Nichols, a federal investigator testified yesterday at Nichols’ murder trial.

Four of the 55-gallon barrels sat within arm’s length of Nichols’ jury as FBI Agent Richard Buechele, who worked at the agency’s crime lab in Washington when the bombing of the federal building occurred, testified about their chemical composition.

Mr. Buechele said the plastic shards and the barrels found at Nichols’ Kansas home days afterward were both high-density polyethylene plastic.

FBI Agent Gregory Carl said investigators found the small pieces of plastic in debris on top of the Journal Record Building, located across a parking lot from the federal building, four days after the bombing.

TENNESSEE

Stool’s stuffing is shredded money

CLEVELAND — When Darlene Hall first saw the mess on her front porch, she wanted to kill her puppy.

Now she is calling him her “money dog.”

The stuffing that Cha-Cha, an Australian shepherd/blue heeler mix, had yanked from a recently purchased old brown vinyl ottoman turned out to be, in fact, shredded money.

Miss Hall may get some unshredded bucks back from the federal government for turning it in.

“They said to put it in a box and mail it to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C., and they would send me a check,” said Miss Hall, who bought the ottoman for $1 at a yard sale last year.

Miss Hall said she has no idea how much money was in the foot stool, but identified pictures of Washington ($1 bills), Lincoln ($5 bills) and Grant ($50 bills.)

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