- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2004

CALIFORNIA

Priest is cremated in morgue mix-up

SAN FRANCISCO — An Episcopal priest who wanted to be buried in his church robes instead was cremated in a mix-up of bodies at a hospital morgue in Oakland, Calif., police said Wednesday.

On May 11, the Rev. Thomas Schwartzenburg, 59, editor of a magazine published by California’s Coastal Conservancy agency in Oakland, had chest pains and went to Kaiser Hospital, where he died of a heart attack. His body was placed in the hospital’s morgue, said Oakland police spokesman Jesse Grant.

The body apparently was mistakenly tagged with the name of a woman, who also had died at the hospital. “Her wishes were to be cremated,” Mr. Grant said.

Instead, Mr. Schwartzenburg’s remains were delivered to an Oakland mortuary and his body was cremated on Friday, the officer said. In the meantime, Mr. Schwartzenburg’s co-workers had reported him as missing.

GEORGIA

Man sues IRS, seeks refunds for blacks

COLUMBUS — The Internal Revenue Service is being sued by a 64-year-old man who argues that enduring racism means that black taxpayers deserve a refund of all the taxes they have paid since 1913.

William Wright filed a lawsuit this week seeking $25,000 in taxes he has paid since 1963, plus a refund of all taxes paid by black people for the past 91 years.

Mr. Wright makes his argument based on a phrase in an 1913 law that applies to “citizens and aliens.” Mr. Wright’s thinking is that blacks are neither, “by reason of the denial of basic rights of citizenship.”

He is asking Judge Clay Land to declare that the law violates blacks’ rights to equal protection and due process, to award him a credit for income taxes he has paid and to order the IRS to leave him alone.

HAWAII

Insurer scales back rate-increase request

HONOLULU — The Hawaii Medical Services Association said it had a healthy increase in first-quarter profit and is scaling back a rate-increase request.

The state’s largest health insurer is seeking a 7.8 percent increase for its most popular small-business health insurance plan. The nonprofit organization had filed for a 9.6 percent rate increase in January.

ILLINOIS

Court orders back pay for judges

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Supreme Court yesterday ordered back pay for more than 900 state judges denied cost-of-living increases, rebuking Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich for his veto of legislation to give them legally required raises.

In a unanimous opinion, justices said denying the pay raises threatened “the very independence of the judiciary and the preservation of separation of powers.”

Facing a huge budget deficit, state legislators in 2002 denied themselves and judges a 3.8 percent cost-of-living pay increase. Recognizing that it might be unconstitutional to fiddle with judges’ salaries, lawmakers restored that raise last year and included a 2.8 percent increase for 2003.

The governor, a first-term Democrat, vetoed that bill, saying a pay increase was inappropriate when the state treasury had a multibillion-dollar deficit.

Two circuit court judges sued on behalf of judges statewide, arguing that denying the cost-of-living increases amounted to an unconstitutional pay cut.

KANSAS

Law allows disclosure of adoptees’ records

TOPEKA — A law taking effect July 1 will permit the public disclosure of records concerning children who die or are seriously injured in adoptive homes or foster care.

Legislators were prompted to change the policy after the 2002 murder of a 9-year-old former foster child whose adoptive parents bound him with duct tape and left him to suffocate.

MAINE

Surviving climber to visit widow

PORTLAND — A man who survived two days trapped on an icy ledge on Washington’s Mount Rainier returned to Maine to console the family of a companion who died on the trek.

“I feel a little tired, a little wiped out, and sad, very sad,” said Scott Richards, 42, after he arrived at Portland International Jetport Wednesday night. He said his first stop was to see Peter Cooley’s wife, Allene.

He recalled how Mr. Cooley, 39, had talked about how much he cared for his family as the two men sat in a tent at 10,000 feet the night before his fall. Mr. Cooley had three children, ages 6 to 11.

On Saturday, Mr. Cooley tripped, tumbled down a steep icy slope and hit his head on a rock spur. Mr. Richards maneuvered the two of them to a tiny flat spot, but the men were stranded for two days as temperatures dipped below zero in whiteout conditions.

Mr. Cooley was picked up by a National Guard helicopter Monday but died on the way to the hospital. Mr. Richards hiked down to a glacier Tuesday with two rangers and was picked up by a helicopter.

MICHIGAN

8 officers acquitted of falsification

DETROIT — A federal jury acquitted eight Detroit police officers yesterday of charges that they conspired to violate suspects’ civil rights by lying, falsifying reports and planting evidence.

The Detroit jury found the defendants not guilty of all charges after deliberating for more than three days. Nearly 100 witnesses testified during the trial, which started Feb. 11. Closing arguments took five days.

Prosecutors said the officers conspired to violate the civil rights of suspects by lying in court to justify illegal arrests and other misdeeds. Defense attorneys argued that the case was built on the lies of criminals who wanted to get the officers off the force.

NEW JERSEY

Frist’s son charged with drunken driving

PRINCETON — The son of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist faces drunken driving and other charges after being pulled over in the early morning hours.

William Harrison Frist Jr., a Princeton University sophomore, was pulled over at 1:35 a.m. Wednesday near the campus for reputedly making an illegal pass, police said. He failed a balance test. He then was given a blood-alcohol test at police headquarters that showed his level exceeding the legal limit of 0.08 percent, police said.

Police said the sophomore did not mention his father’s occupation while under arrest, but a routine property inventory yielded a U.S. Capitol identification card.

The 21-year-old was released on his own recognizance after being charged with driving while intoxicated and other motor vehicle offenses. He is scheduled to appear in court Monday.

Through a spokesman, the Tennessee Republican senator declined to comment yesterday, calling the incident a personal matter.

MISSOURI

Dress code tied to drop in bank robberies

JEFFERSON CITY — Bank robberies are down in Missouri, and a new dress code may be the reason.

The FBI reports that robberies have dropped 36 percent in the past year, since a “no hats, no hoods, no sunglasses” policy took effect at more than 230 banks. The policy allows bank employees and video cameras a clear look at a person’s face.

NEW YORK

Man sues bar over $28,000 bill

NEW YORK — A New York insurance executive is suing a Manhattan strip club after a champagne-fueled night of lap dancing left him nursing a $28,000 bill.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Mitchell Blaser, 53, said the management at the Scores club had added bogus charges to his American Express bill, which he said should have been in the region of $2,000.

Mr. Blaser’s attorney, Leonard Zack, said the club had mistakenly banked on the idea that his client — the chief financial officer of Swiss Re’s American unit — would be too embarrassed to pursue the matter in court.

Scores spokesman Lonnie Hanover insisted that Mr. Blaser had “partied like a rock star” with two of his friends.

The final credit card bill included $16,000 for five bottles of Clos de Mesnil champagne, $7,000 for table dances and stripper tips, $1,000 for food and other drinks, and a $4,000 staff tip.

TEXAS

One dead, four injured as trains collide

GUNTER — Transportation officials worked yesterday to determine why two freight trains collided head-on, killing an engineer and injuring four other crew members in a fiery wreck that left cars scattered across the tracks.

A major rail line north of Dallas remained closed. U.S. Department of Transportation officials were on the scene early yesterday with National Transportation Safety Board investigators.

More than 20 rail cars lay in accordion fashion on the tracks after the trains collided about 6 p.m. Wednesday.

At least one of the locomotives burned and flames spread to grass and other nearby vegetation. The engineer who died, who was on the southbound train, was found about 50 feet from the wreckage. Names of the dead and injured were not released.

VERMONT

Medical-marijuana bill to become law

MONTPELIER — Vermont will become the ninth state to let very sick patients use marijuana to alleviate pain, nausea and other symptoms without fear of state prosecution.

Republican Gov. Jim Douglas will let the bill become law without his signature. “I will not oppose this decision by the elected representatives of the people, nor will I support it by signing it into law,” he said Wednesday.

Mr. Douglas said the bill covers “symptom relief for a small percentage of individuals with only the most debilitating conditions,” such as cancer and AIDS.

Patients may keep up to three marijuana plants in a locked room accessible only by the sick person and caregiver, both of whom must register with state police.

Opponents complained that the law would put Vermont at odds with federal law, which forbids marijuana use, and that it would send a mixed message about drug use to Vermont’s young people.

WASHINGTON

Orcas wander inlet near Seattle

BREMERTON — Crowds of whale watchers marveled at a rare sight Wednesday: about 10 killer whales cruising around an inlet far from the ocean.

The whales swam through the Port Washington Narrows to reach Dyes Inlet, a pocket of Puget Sound about 12 miles west of Seattle. Hal Fergusson, who lives in Tracyton, a small town across the inlet from Bremerton, watched the show Tuesday evening.

“Oh my,” he said. “They were breaching. Seven of them came up all at one time. The big one was flapping his flipper on the water.”

Kitsap County commissioners quickly passed an ordinance to protect the orcas, setting a 7 mph speed limit for boats and personal watercraft.

WISCONSIN

University receives $31 million donation

MADISON — The board chairman of Cisco Systems and his wife have donated $31 million to their alma mater, the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

The gift from John and Tashia Morgridge is the largest in the school’s history from individual donors, officials said Wednesday.

The school will use the money to renovate, modernize and complete the 104-year-old building that houses the school of education.

Mr. Morgridge is a 1955 graduate of the university’s business school. His wife, a retired special education teacher, is a 1955 graduate of the school of education.

WYOMING

Indian language may die, professor says

ETHETE — A language professor at the Wind River Tribal College says the Arapaho language will die within 15 years unless drastic changes are implemented.

Eugene Ridgely Jr. said some words cannot be translated directly into English and, therefore, some stories cannot be translated fully. Of the nearly 8,000 tribe members, fewer than 1,000 are fluent in Arapaho.

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