- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 2, 2004

ALABAMA

State to crack down on gambling

MONTGOMERY — After a five-month review of electronic gambling, Attorney General Troy King announced that he will try to shut down the newest gambling site, in rural White Hall. He also warned two dog tracks to replace electronic machines that he considers illegal.

Mr. King, who said he opposes gambling, said he could not ban all electronic bingo games, as some gambling foes wanted

ILLINOIS

Humor turned on when tree lights fail

CHICAGO — Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich turned on the humor after the lights on the city’s giant holiday tree failed to turn on.

Mr. Blagojevich, Democrat, made light of the situation on Wednesday, explaining to about 100 people gathered why nothing happened after a 10-second countdown and the flip of a switch by Mr. Blagojevich, his wife, Patti, and their daughter, Annie.

“These are difficult budget times. We’re cutting everywhere, including Christmas lights,” Mr. Blagojevich joked.

The lights came on after a couple of minutes. Mr. Blagojevich’s spokeswoman, Abby Ottenhoff, later said the culprit was the circuit breaker.

KANSAS

Dog rings bell for Salvation Army

OLATHE — The Salvation Army’s 20,000 shiny red kettles and trademark bell-ringers are easy to spot, but one helper stands out — on four legs.

Providence, a 6-year-old German wirehaired pointer, is in her third season as a Salvation Army volunteer. She’s able to do all the tasks her colleagues do. Providence rings a bell with her mouth and also has learned to take donations and put them into the kettle.

MASSACHUSETTS

Church files suit over school rental

BOSTON — A conservative legal group has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Peabody on behalf of Living Hope Church of the Nazarene, which was denied use of a public school.

The lawsuit says it was unconstitutional to deny the church’s request to continue renting space for Sunday services when other community organizations are allowed to use schools.

“Either the school committee is hostile to religion, or they don’t know about the Supreme Court decisions,” said Vincent P. McCarthy of the American Center for Law & Justice.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2001 Good News Club ruling said schools in Milford, N.Y., must grant religious groups that contribute to the “general welfare” access to facilities on the same basis as nonreligious community groups.

MICHIGAN

Same-sex benefits pulled from contracts

LANSING — Democratic Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm will remove same-sex partner benefits from contracts negotiated with state workers, said an aide, citing a voter-approved amendment to the Michigan Constitution that not only bans same-sex “marriage” but also prohibits state recognition of “similar unions.”

Michigan voters approved the amendment on Nov. 2.

On Wednesday, Granholm aide David Fink said negotiated contracts scheduled for adoption by the state Civil Service Commission on Dec. 15 will be stripped of the same-sex domestic-partner benefits.

Mr. Fink said the Granholm administration decided to eliminate the benefits because of the passage of Proposal 2, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman and bans same-sex “marriage” and “similar unions for any purpose.”

MINNESOTA

Fire melts butter at packaging plant

NEW ULM — An intense fire consumed half of the roof of the Associated Milk Producers Inc. butter-packaging plant, sending melted butter flowing out of the facility.

There were no immediate reports of injuries. A plant employee discovered the fire in a utility area, and the 30 workers in the butter packaging plant were evacuated.

NEW JERSEY

Thousands to get insurance rebates

TRENTON — More than 360,000 New Jerseyites will receive rebates from the state’s second-largest auto insurer, the Department of Banking and Insurance announced. New Jersey Manufacturers (NJM) is issuing a $59 million special dividend to state policy-holders.

The average rebate for people who have held the company’s policies since 2001 or before is $173, NJM said. Policy-holders who enrolled after 2001 will get an average rebate of $94.

NEW YORK

Two named to Pulitzer Board

NEW YORK — Columnist Thomas Friedman of the New York Times and Denver Post editor Gregory Moore have been elected to the Pulitzer Prize Board, Columbia University announced yesterday.

Mr. Friedman, 51, the Times’ foreign affairs columnist, has won the Pulitzer three times, for commentary and international reporting. Mr. Moore, 50, has been editor of the Denver Post since June 2002.

Mr. Friedman and Mr. Moore are filling vacancies created by the departures of Times columnist William Safire and Rena Pederson, editor at large of the Dallas Morning News. Their additions bring the number of board members up to 19.

The 2005 Pulitzer Prizes will be announced April 4 and presented May 23 at Columbia University.

OREGON

Portland police hurt in chase, shooting

PORTLAND — Two police officers were wounded here early yesterday when a pursuit ended with a shootout in which a car-theft suspect was killed.

The Portland Police Bureau said the two officers suffered injuries that were not life-threatening as they exchanged gunfire with a suspect who led them on a foot chase after crashing his vehicle.

A witness told KATU-TV that he heard about a dozen shots during the final confrontation, and police reported that they found a handgun near the suspect’s body.

The suspect remained unidentified yesterday.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Thurmond resigns as U.S. attorney

COLUMBIA — Strom Thurmond Jr. announced he will step down as U.S. attorney for South Carolina early next year, the State newspaper reported yesterday.

The son of former South Carolina Gov. and U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, the younger Mr. Thurmond was just 29 when President Bush picked him for the job. Now, at 32, he is leaving government service to become a private lawyer in Aiken, S.C., because “the time is right” to return to the family home, he said.

Mr. Thurmond said he was “undecided” about following his father, who died shortly after leaving office in 2001, into electoral politics.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Judge strikes down hunting law

PIERRE — A judge struck down a new state law that let road hunters shoot at pheasants after they leave the roadway and fly over adjacent private land.

Two ranch couples argued that the 2003 law was unconstitutional because it made private property available to the public without compensation. The state has said the law doesn’t take private property for public use.

WEST VIRGINIA

Court vetoes governor’s bonds sale

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Supreme Court says the state can’t sell $3.9 billion in bonds to shore up its pension funds without voter approval.

The justices say the bond sale would violate the state constitution, which requires a voter-approved amendment before the state takes on new debt. Gov. Bob Wise, a Democrat, argued that the bonds would refinance existing debt and not constitute new debt.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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