- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 30, 2004

ALASKA

Santa comes early to villages

VENETIE — There’s not a reindeer in sight, but out in Interior Alaska, six dogs hitched to a sled will do when the jolly round man in a red suit comes to call.

Santa descended from the C-130 transport plane and away they mushed, down a winding trail to the Venetie village school, where children and their parents sat on bleachers, whispering and watching the gymnasium door.

As he has for almost five decades between early November and mid-December, Santa and his helpers will drop in on 18 remote villages statewide, bringing heaps of donated toys, books, school supplies and goody bags filled with fresh fruit, bottled water, toothbrushes and pencils, courtesy of the Alaska National Guard.

ARKANSAS

‘Confederate’ dropped for Clinton

LITTLE ROCK — Little Rock erased “Confederate Blvd.” from interstate highway signs just weeks before dignitaries arrived for the opening of Bill Clinton’s presidential library.

The Confederate Boulevard signs had been the first landmarks many saw after landing at the city’s airport. And although the boulevard still runs north from Interstate 440, signs for Exit 1 now tout a southbound stretch of the same road named “Springer Blvd.,” which honors black community leader Horace Springer.

“We continue to try to be sensitive to some of the most egregious parts of our history relative to racism,” said Mayor Jim Dailey, who called the road’s moniker “bothersome.”

The city had renamed a portion of Confederate Boulevard as Springer Boulevard in 1974, but the state never changed its exit signs. Mr. Dailey ordered their change a month before the Clinton library dedication.

ALABAMA

Eagle to be released after year of recovery

MOBILE — A bald eagle seriously injured in a fight with another eagle a year ago has been nursed back to health. Wildlife scientists plan to release the eagle back into the Mobile Delta today.

The 14-year-old female eagle, Pilgrim, was treated at the Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida in Pensacola.

CALIFORNIA

Elephant move risks zoo’s accreditation

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Zoo has sent its lone Asian elephant to a sanctuary for abandoned and abused performing animals, a move that could jeopardize the zoo’s accreditation.

For months, animal rights groups have pressured the zoo to relocate 38-year-old Tinkerbelle to the 2,300-acre Calaveras County refuge in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Sunday’s transfer upset the influential American Zoo and Aquarium Association, which prefers that animals be sent to accredited facilities. The San Francisco Zoo could be barred from exchanging animals with other accredited zoos if officials decide in March not to renew accreditation.

COLORADO

Winter storm hits central states

DENVER — A snowstorm that pounded the Sierra Nevada and buried the central Rockies during the weekend delivered a snowy, icy mess across the central part of the nation yesterday, closing schools and making highways slick.

More than 100 schools in Nebraska were closed or opened late. Stranded motorists had to find places to stay for the night in some areas of the state after icy, snow-covered pavement prompted shutdowns of sections of Interstate 80 for several hours Sunday.

Snow piled up to 1 foot deep yesterday in western Nebraska.

The storm continued producing mostly light snow yesterday from New Mexico across the central Plains to the Great Lakes.

FLORIDA

Tate to return to mother’s home

FORT LAUDERDALE — Lionel Tate, the Florida youth once sentenced to life in prison for the death of a playmate, can return to his mother’s home while he serves probation, a judge ruled yesterday.

Tate, 17, the youngest person in modern U.S. history to be sentenced to life in prison, was freed earlier this year, but then was accused of violating probation in September. He was moved to another home.

Yesterday, Tate’s legal representative, Howard Greitzer, told the judge the teen wanted to return home. Broward Circuit Judge Joel Lazarus asked Tate’s mother, Kathleen Grossett-Tate, if she would abide by Tate’s probation rules. The Florida Highway Patrol trooper agreed.

Tate made headlines as a 12-year-old when he was charged with first-degree murder for killing 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick. Tate claimed he accidentally killed Tiffany while imitating professional wrestling moves he had seen on television.

IOWA

Ammonia spill forces evacuation

WEST LIBERTY — Fumes from an ammonia spill at an eastern Iowa meat-processing plant Sunday forced the evacuation of a three-block area surrounding the plant and made at least five residents ill.

Fire Chief Curt Newcomb said residents from around the West Liberty Foods plant were taken to an Iowa City hospital, but he did not know the severity of the injuries.

The spill at the plant, which employs more than 1,100 workers, was blamed on a mechanical failure in a refrigeration unit that has since been repaired, according to a statement from Gerald Lessard, vice president of operations. No meat products were affected, the statement said.

NEW YORK

Judge dismisses suits over apartheid

NEW YORK — Lawsuits seeking more than $400 billion in damages from U.S. corporations for victims of apartheid in South Africa were dismissed yesterday by a federal judge who said the claims bordered on the frivolous.

U.S. District Judge John E. Sprizzo said the plaintiffs, acting contrary to the wishes of South Africa’s post-apartheid government, made no serious claim that actions by U.S. corporations directly caused the repression in South Africa from 1948 until a decade ago.

“At most, by engaging in business with the South African regime, defendants benefited from the unlawful state action of the apartheid government,” he said. Although such actions may be “morally suspect or embarrassing,” he added, they did not create liability for the apartheid government’s actions.

The lawsuit said the apartheid regime tracked blacks on U.S.-made computers, obtained loans from U.S. banks and kept its military machines in working order with U.S.-supplied oil.

OKLAHOMA

Balloon evangelist dies at 79

TULSA — The Rev. Billy James Hargis, a radio and television evangelist and fervent anti-communist crusader who used balloons to send his message across the Iron Curtain, has died at age 79.

Mr. Hargis, who also battled with the Internal Revenue Service, died Saturday in Tulsa, the Tulsa World said.

In 1950, Mr. Hargis, who was ordained at age 17 in the Disciples of Christ denomination, founded the interdenominational Christian Crusade, with the message “for Christ and against communism.” His broadcast ministry spanned 40 years on more than 500 radio stations and 250 television stations.

He went to West Germany in 1953 and launched the project, inserting scriptures in balloons and floating them over the Iron Curtain.

PENNSYLVANIA

Enforcement blocked on recruiters law

PHILADELPHIA — A federal appeals court yesterday became the first to bar the Defense Department from withholding funds from colleges and universities that deny access to military recruiters.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that a federal law known as the Solomon Amendment infringes on the free-speech rights of schools that have restricted on-campus recruiting because of the military’s ban on homosexuals.

Ruling in a lawsuit brought by students and professors at New Jersey law schools, the three-judge panel said that by threatening to withdraw federal funds from schools, the government is compelling them to take part in speech with which they do not agree.

WASHINGTON

University refusesto lift alcohol ban

SEATTLE — Students at Seattle Pacific University voted overwhelmingly last spring to ease the 113-year-old Christian school’s alcohol ban, but administrators still don’t plan to do so. The school bans any consumption by students or faculty, even off campus.

Officials say the ban promotes a healthy lifestyle. Many students say the Bible does not prohibit moderate drinking.

WISCONSIN

Man charged in hunter slayings

HAYWARD — A Hmong immigrant accused of slaying eight fellow deer hunters in the Wisconsin woods was charged yesterday with six counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder.

Chai Vang, 36, of St. Paul, Minn., could receive life in prison if convicted in the shootings, which left six persons dead and two wounded. Wisconsin does not have a death penalty.

The gunfire broke out Nov. 21 after Mr. Vang was caught trespassing on a hunting platform on some of the victims’ land.

In court papers, Mr. Vang, an immigrant from Laos, said that he opened fire after the others shot at him and berated him with racial slurs. But the two survivors told authorities that Mr. Vang fired the first shot.

Mr. Vang is jailed on $2.5 million bail.

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