- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 3, 2004

FLORIDA

Swamp wildfire burnsFlorida firefighters built containment lines yesterday to protect nearby homes, despite getting some help on Wednesday evening from about four-tenths of an inch of rain.

The 4,050-acre fire was not contained and inched as close as “a few hundred yards” to some homes, said Gene Madden, a Florida Division of Forestry spokesman.

HAWAII

Remains of MIAs return to U.S. soil

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE — Remains of 21 American servicemen missing in action in Vietnam and North Korea were returned to U.S. soil Wednesday by a former prisoner of war flying the same plane that carried him home from North Vietnam in 1973.

Air Force Reserve Maj. Gen. Edward Mechenbier piloted the C-141 transport plane for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, which is charged with searching out troops unaccounted for in American wars.

The 21 sets of remains — in aluminum containers draped with American flags — were brought off the plane and onto the tarmac before a military honor and color guard. They then were taken to the command’s forensics laboratory, where experts will try to identify them.

ALASKA

Cruise passengers hit by stomach virus

ANCHORAGE — Nearly 350 passengers and crew aboard a Princess Cruises ship in southeast Alaska fell ill with a virus this week, cruise line officials said.

As of Wednesday, 308 passengers and 40 crew members aboard the Island Princess complained of Norwalk viruslike symptoms. Altogether, 2,018 passengers and 896 crew members were making the weeklong voyage from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Whittier.

The vessel was in Skagway on Wednesday and probably will continue on schedule, said Dean Brown, chief excutive of Princess Tours Division, which oversees Alaska operations. He said ill passengers and crew members were recovering in isolated rooms.

Mr. Brown said the source of the outbreak hasn’t been determined.

MAINE

Socialist to run for Congress

BANGOR — Carl Cooley, 77, a former teacher and sheep farmer, won a spot on the November ballot as the Socialist Equality Party candidate for the state’s 2nd Congressional District. He’ll be the first socialist to run for Congress in Maine, officials said.

Mr. Cooley faces Democratic incumbent Michael Michaud and Republican Brian Hamel. Mr. cooley credited his antiwar stance for success in gathering voter signatures.

CALIFORNIA

County to pull cross from its seal

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County will remove a tiny gold cross from its official seal after the American Civil Liberties Union threatened to sue over the Christian symbol.

Advised by lawyers that the cross might not withstand a court challenge, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to seek a compromise with the ACLU, perhaps by replacing the cross with images of a Spanish mission and American Indians, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday. The supervisors held an emotional debate before deciding to replace the cross.

“Where does it all end?” lamented Supervisor Don Knabe, who says changing the county seal is tantamount to “rewriting history” in a region shaped by Catholic missionaries. “I do not think we should capitulate,” he said. “As the largest county in America, if we roll over, what’s next?”

The ACLU argued the Christian symbol that reflects “an impermissible endorsement of Christianity by the county government.”

MICHIGAN

17 cities to get grants under initiative

LANSING — Twenty projects in 17 Michigan cities will get $100,000 each in state grants and have access to $100 million in other development resources under a program to develop vibrant, attractive downtowns and urban areas.

Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm announced the grants as part of her Cool Cities initiative. It’s aimed at keeping young, college-educated people in Michigan.

MINNESOTA

2 boys go on wild ride at construction-site

MINNEAPOLIS — One can only imagine what goes on in the minds of 10-year-old boys. It’s a Sunday afternoon. You somehow get into a fenced construction site filled with big cranes and bulldozers. You manage to find some ignition keys, hop up on the seat, start the engine and away you go. You knock out power to a radio station, seriously damage construction equipment and level a trailer.

To the two 10-year-olds, it may have seemed like a romp in a giant sandbox full of toys. But Minneapolis police say the romp did more than $500,000 worth of damage.

Police say one of the boys drove several hundred feet in a 100,000-pound excavator during the demolition derby. The boys snapped a power pole in half, knocking out power to KMOJ-FM radio for 17 hours. They confessed to police after they were arrested yesterday evening.

The boys, who won’t be identified because they are minors, could be charged with a felony-level crime in juvenile court, according to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.

OHIO

Voter-registry staff fired for fraud

COLUMBUS — Two workers with a community activist group’s voter-registration campaign were fired after authorities determined they submitted fraudulent forms to election officials.

The workers were collecting voter registrations for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, when they turned in the forms, which were duplicates or contained false information.

The group agreed Wednesday to perform extra checks on its paperwork. “This just makes it harder for everybody,” organizer Katy Gall said. “We definitely are glad we were able to catch it at this stage.”

Matthew Damschroder, director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, blamed a bonus paid to workers based on the number of new registrations they collected.

TEXAS

Thousands powerless after storms

DALLAS — More than 400,000 homes and businesses in Texas and surrounding states remained without power yesterday, after deadly storms that brought hurricane-force wind and hail as big as tennis balls.

About 300,000 of the cutoff customers were in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where back-to-back storms caused an estimated $100 million damage. Tens of thousands also were affected in Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

TXU Electric Delivery said it could take until midday today to restore all power in northern Texas.

WASHINGTON

Climber dies on Mount Rainier

MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK — One of two climbers stranded on Mount Rainier died yesterday before the other was plucked from the mountain by a helicopter, officials said.

The climber had died by the time a party of five rangers reached the two, who were stranded at 11,300 feet, according to a county medical examiner’s investigator.

The climber evacuated by an Oregon National Guard chopper had a wrist injury, said Guard spokeswoman Kay Fristad. He was being flown from the mountain to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Neither was identified, pending notification of their families.

WISCONSIN

Man, 93, planning high school reunion

FOND DU LAC — Gene Noe fears that he may be the only one who shows up for his high school class reunion. Mr. Noe, 93, is planning a 75-year reunion for the class of 1929.

“It’s kind of funny,” Mr. Noe said. “I hope we can find seven or eight, if we’re lucky.”

Mr. Noe, a former assistant postmaster, graduated from Fond du Lac Senior High School with about 270 students.

His class last met 10 years ago. Since then, many of Mr. Noe’s classmates have died or can no longer get around. He doesn’t know how many are living and can attend.

Mr. Noe’s son is helping to throw the party at a restaurant at the end of the month.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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