- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 28, 2004

CALIFORNIA

Steinbeck hometown to shutter its libraries

SALINAS — Mary Jean Gamble organized the John Steinbeck historical archives, supervised the Steinbeck literature collection and ranks as an authority on Salinas history and genealogy.

After nearly 23 years with the Salinas Public Library, she may know more about the “Grapes of Wrath” or “Cannery Row” than anyone else in the author’s hometown.

So how would Steinbeck have reacted to the news that the cash-strapped city is closing its libraries in the spring?

“He’d obviously be upset. He knew that literature can lift and elevate the spirit and enable humans to rise above any situation,” Miss Gamble said.

Facing record deficits, the City Council voted Dec. 14 to shut all three of Salinas’ libraries, including the branch named after Steinbeck.

MASSACHUSETTS

Weather strands returning travelers

BOSTON — A storm that dumped freezing rain and as much as 18 inches of snow on the East Coast snarled post-holiday travel yesterday, stranding hundreds of drivers on slick roads and reducing Boston’s Logan International Airport to a single, major runway.

The powerful storm had skimmed the East Coast on a northeasterly track starting Sunday, spreading ice and more than 9 inches of snow in North Carolina and 14 inches in Virginia, then walloping New York City before dropping a foot and a half on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod.

ALABAMA

Newspaper ad errors delay road projects

MONTGOMERY — Newspaper mistakes in advertising state highway construction projects have delayed road projects five times since late 2003 and cost the state $202,354, state transportation officials said.

State law requires the projects to be advertised once a week for three weeks before bids are opened. If not, the bid process must start over.

COLORADO

Former coach found dead in jail cell

CASTLE ROCK — A girls basketball coach charged with having sex with three of his underage players was found dead in his jail cell of an apparent suicide.

Rick Lopez, 37, former coach of the Colorado Hoopsters, was discovered hanging Sunday in a cell he had to himself at the Douglas County Detention Facility, police said. A note was found nearby, but officials would not discuss its contents.

Mr. Lopez was charged in August with 59 counts of sexual assault and child abuse. He had an arraignment hearing scheduled for Feb. 11.

Officials said his death was under investigation.

Prosecutors said Mr. Lopez admitted having sexual relationships with three former players in the traveling girls basketball club, beginning when they were 13 or 14 years old. Other players have also accused him of making sexual advances toward them.

Mr. Lopez had denied the claims of misconduct.

FLORIDA

Ex-Cali drug boss to be indicted

MIAMI — Once one of the world’s most powerful criminals and a founder of Colombia’s infamous Cali cartel, Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela is to be indicted today in Miami on drug smuggling and money laundering charges.

His attorney said Rodriguez Orejuela, 65, who was extradited from Colombia earlier this month, would plead not guilty to the charges.

The Colombian is expected to remain in a Miami jail pending trial, which is not likely to start until April.

U.S. authorities are also seeking the extradition of his brother, Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, 61, with whom he led the Cali drug cartel. At the height of its power in 1995, the cartel was believed to control 80 percent of the global cocaine trade.

GEORGIA

Fines eyed for club’s excluding gay benefits

ATLANTA — The mayor is threatening a country club with up to $90,000 in fines for refusing to extend spousal benefits to the partners of homosexual members.

Mayor Shirley Franklin said last week in a letter to the Druid Hills Golf Club that the club violated Atlanta’s human rights ordinance, which requires businesses to treat domestic partners registered with the city as married couples.

Mrs. Franklin said she is ordering the city solicitor to fine the club $500 a day for up to six months — a total of $90,000 — unless the rule is changed. The solicitor will decide when the fines will begin.

“Atlanta has a very proud history of promoting and celebrating diversity,” she wrote. “Given the club’s failure to address the issues internally, I am compelled to act.”

The club’s board said in an e-mail to members that Mrs. Franklin has no right to impose a fine.

HAWAII

Holidays brings locks of gifts to salon

HONOLULU — The holidays can get a little hairy for everyone, and at the Salon Bobbi N’ Guy, that’s a good thing.

An inmate jailed on drug charges sent his long locks to the salon, an official collection site for a nonprofit that makes wigs for financially disadvantaged children suffering from hair loss because of illness.

The salon collected more than 300 hair donations this year for Locks of Love, but the inmate’s donation was the most hair he has ever received at one time, Salon Vice President Alex Choi said.

The black hair — enough for about five wigs — arrived on Christmas Eve from a male inmate at the Waiawa Correctional Facility.

The package included a letter dated Dec. 11.

“To change my life completely means I need to sacrifice everything and anything that could stand in my way to a better life, so even though cutting hair may not seem to have the slightest thing to do with recovery, for me it has,” the unidentified inmate wrote.

LOUISIANA

Officers issuing fewer tickets on bridge

METAIRIE — Officers have issued one-third fewer speeding tickets on the bridge across Lake Pontchartrain since October, when the speed limit was raised from 55 mph to 65 mph. Officials with the Causeway Commission, which oversees the bridge, said more motorists are obeying the new limits. About 900 speeders were caught in August; 595 were ticketed in November.

MICHIGAN

Study shows port possible for city

ESCANABA — Few physical barriers would prevent the creation of a deep-water Lake Michigan shipping port, a recent study found. The study shows infrastructure requirements such as railways, utilities and electricity are all in place to accommodate a deep-water port in Escanaba.

Two companies interested in investing in the project have submitted proposals to the city.

MISSISSIPPI

Trail of paper leads to suspects

COLUMBUS — It wasn’t tough for police to thwart two would-be Grinches — they just followed the telltale trail of wrapping paper.

Two unidentified boys, ages 14 and 12, were charged with burglary after they were accused of stealing Christmas presents from a family home, police said.

Authorities say Stanley Adams discovered someone had broken into his Columbus home late Friday. Two juveniles who lived nearby were suspected.

Police followed a trail of paper, ribbons and gift tags that led them to one of the boys’ houses. One boy told authorities that he stole the presents. The gifts — which included an E-Z Bake oven, a set of Legos and a Pac-Man video game — were returned.

“It being Christmas and all, I took this kind of serious,” Officer L.C. Cockrell said. “It just didn’t seem right for this family not to have their Christmas.”

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Board considers seat belts on buses

EXETER — A regional school board that represents six area towns is considering seat belts on school buses. If the policy is adopted, it would represent a first among the state’s public schools. The board is reviewing the cost after several parents sought seat belts.

“We teach our children from Day One to buckle up,” Jaye Jennings Garnett said. “And then we put them on a school bus without one?”

Once the cost is known, the board plans to put the issue before voters.

NEW JERSEY

Motorists to lose some E-ZPass discounts

TRENTON — Motorists who use E-ZPass on the New Jersey Turnpike will lose their 15 percent discount for rush hour and weekend tolls beginning Jan. 1, 2006. The move is expected to generate as much as $17 million and will allow officials to borrow more money for highway improvements without paying higher interest rates. Toll discounts during off-peak hours will remain in effect.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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