- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2005

ALABAMA

Las Vegas ices Fort Payne cake title

FORT PAYNE — Move over, Fort Payne. It looks like Las Vegas has taken the cake.

After 15 years of being known as the city that created the world’s largest birthday cake, this Alabama town may have to forfeit the title.

Las Vegas created its own giant cake last weekend in celebration of the city’s 100th birthday. The cake, assembled by 600 volunteers, weighed 130,000 pounds and measured 102 feet long, 52 feet wide and 20 inches high.

Organizers said they expected Guinness World Records officials to confirm the Sin City’s confection as the world’s largest within weeks.

Fort Payne has held the title since 1989, when it created a 128,238-pound cake in the shape of Alabama to commemorate the city’s 100th birthday.

CALIFORNIA

Skyscraper planned with Parthenon replica

SACRAMENTO — A developer who is the descendant of Greek immigrants proposed building one of the capital’s tallest skyscrapers with a scale replica of the Parthenon on top.

Angelo G. Tsakopoulos introduced plans last week for the 29-story office tower near the state Capitol that would honor his Greek ancestors.

“As a family, we will cherish the building as a tribute to the perseverance and accomplishment of our parents,” Mr. Tsakopoulos told the Sacramento Bee.

Although Mr. Tsakopoulos’ company said city planners support the project, not everyone thinks it is destined to be the city’s architectural crown jewel.

CONNECTICUT

Minority teachers’ ranks barely budge

HARTFORD — The number of minority teachers in Connecticut classrooms barely increased over an eight-year period, a state report shows.

The percentage of minority educators in public schools went from 6.93 in the 1996-97 school year to 7.5 in the 2003-04 school year. The increase was small even though Connecticut has pushed to recruit more minority teachers.

DELAWARE

Rising steel prices increase bridge cost

DOVER — State transportation officials blame the rising price of steel and concrete for a sharp increase in the estimated construction cost of the new Indian River Inlet bridge.

When ground was broken in the fall, the bill was estimated at $160 million. The estimates have reached $218 million.

IDAHO

Amber Alert issued after 3 found dead

COEUR D’ALENE — Three persons were found slain in a home, and an Amber Alert was issued yesterday for two children who live there, authorities said.

The dead were a woman thought to be the missing children’s mother, a teenager thought to be their older brother and an unidentified man, sheriff’s Capt. Ben Wolfinger said.

Authorities have no idea who took the boy and girl, he said. The children, Shasta Groene, 8, and her 9-year-old brother, Dylan, lived at the house with their mother, the sheriff’s office said.

The bodies bore obvious signs of injury, but the cause of death was not determined, Capt. Wolfinger said. “They’re treating it as an obvious homicide,” he said.

The parents of the children are divorced, Capt . Wolfinger said. Investigators have talked with the father, and he is not considered a suspect or person of interest.

MAINE

Flight diverted over traveler’s identity

BANGOR — An Alitalia jet headed to Boston was diverted to Maine yesterday because a passenger’s name matched that of a person on the U.S. government’s no-fly list, but the FBI said the man was not a terror suspect.

Flight 618 from Milan, Italy, landed before 1 p.m. at Bangor International Airport, where the passenger and his luggage were removed. The plane took off an hour later for its scheduled destination.

The FBI questioned the man and decided not to arrest him, spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz said. She said the case was referred to immigration officials, but declined to comment further.

The nationality of the passenger was not known.

MASSACHUSETTS

Merriam-Webster gets ‘ginormous’ response

SPRINGFIELD — The response from the “vocabularians” was so “ginormous” that the lexicographers let out a “whort.”

“Confuzzled?” You must be a “lingweenie.”

The editors of Merriam-Webster dictionaries received more than 3,000 entries when, in a lighthearted moment, they asked visitors to their Web site to submit their favorite words that aren’t in the dictionary.

“It was a lot of fun,” Arthur Bicknell, a spokesman for the Springfield-based dictionary publisher, said Monday. “We weren’t expecting so many. They only had two weeks.”

Some of the proposed words gained multiple submissions, so the editors came up with an unofficial Top 10 list.

First place went to “ginormous” — bigger than gigantic and bigger than enormous — followed by “confuzzled” for confused and puzzled simultaneously, and “whort,” an exclamation of joy. A “lingweenie” — a person incapable of making up new words — placed 10th.

MICHIGAN

1889 church almost history

GRAYLING — Built in 1889, seldom used since 1990 and decaying, Stittsville Church didn’t seem to have a prayer.

But it’s getting a new lease on life.

The church will be moved today to Wellington Farm Park, a living history farm southwest of Grayling.

The church will be a good fit at the 60-acre farm, where things are “as it would have been in 1932,” said Howard Taylor, who owns Wellington Farm Park.

The church will keep its name and will be dedicated to the memories and history of Stittsville, an unincorporated crossroads about 20 miles northeast of Cadillac in Missaukee County, Mr. Taylor added.

The $50,000 needed to move the church was raised through private donations, grants and a series of chicken dinners. Up to $250,000 is needed for restoration efforts and to construct an education center, modern restrooms and a garden area.

MISSISSIPPI

FBI finds transcript of Till murder trial

JACKSON — The FBI has found a long-lost transcript of the 1955 murder trial of two Mississippi men accused of killing 14-year-old Emmett Till, one of the most infamous crimes of the civil rights era.

“We found a copy of a copy of a copy,” Robert J. Garrity Jr., agent in charge of the Jackson office, said Monday. “We had to painstakingly go through it and retype it.”

Mr. Garrity wouldn’t say where the transcript, missing for decades, was found.

The Justice Department announced plans last year to reopen the investigation into Mr. Till’s death, citing information including a documentary that said it had found new evidence.

The black youth, who was raised in Chicago, was visiting an uncle in the small Mississippi Delta town of Money in 1955 when he was abducted from the home and killed, reportedly for whistling at a white woman.

NEW JERSEY

Competitive birders also spy fins, paws

TRENTON — Dolphins, warblers and bears, oh my.

For the 1,000 bird-watchers who cast their binoculars to the sky and trekked through forests, the New Jersey Audubon Society’s annual World Series of Birding proved to be more than an avian pursuit.

Besides logging a combined 260 native and visiting species over 24 hours, bird enthusiasts took in a cross-section of Garden State wildlife: bottle-nosed dolphins off Cape May, bears across north Jersey and croaking things in the swamps.

The 22nd annual competition began Saturday, just after midnight, attracting 98 teams from 27 states, Canada and Turkey. The event, sponsored by the Audubon Society’s Cape May Bird Observatory, raises more than $500,000 for conservation efforts.

Teams of three to six persons were required to stay together. Nearly all members had to observe a species for it to be counted.

Scattered rain kept birds from their seasonal migratory patterns, resulting in fewer species observed this year. The Nikon Sports Optics team from Philadelphia won the event, recording 222 species.

NORTH DAKOTA

United Tribes college to buy high-end hotel

BISMARCK — United Tribes Technical College officials are moving ahead with plans for a 250-room, higher-end hotel after studies found the project could make money.

College officials are eyeing a downtown site near the Bismarck Civic Center, among others. United Tribes has an enrollment of about 650 students.

OHIO

Court upholds ouster of school officials

MIDDLETOWN — A state appeals court upheld the unprecedented ouster of three school board members in a central Ohio district rocked by a nationally televised school bus beating and a football coach sex scandal.

A judge last year removed three members of the Madison-Plains school board in London amid accusations of misconduct, including violations of the state open meetings law.

PENNSYLVANIA

State trooper foils suicide attempt

PITTSBURGH — A state trooper thwarted a young woman’s suicide attempt, catching her by the forearm as she tried to jump from a downtown bridge.

A Port Authority police officer spotted the trooper holding the 20-year-old woman as she dangled over a railing, trying to break free of his grip. The officer rushed over and helped the trooper haul the woman up onto the sidewalk.

City police took the woman, whose name was not released, to Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.

Trooper James H. Boyd, 39, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he was driving across the bridge when he saw a woman sitting on the railing. A petite female friend was standing on the sidewalk, holding the apparently suicidal woman by the leg.

TEXAS

Personnel errors led to blast, BP says

TEXAS CITY — “Deeply disturbing” staff errors led to the oil refinery explosion and fire that killed 15 workers, and some employees could be dismissed as a result, plant operators said yesterday.

BP Amoco PLC, one of the world’s largest oil companies, released its interim report on the March 23 blast at the Texas City plant. The explosion occurred in a unit that boosts the octane level of gasoline. More than 170 workers were injured.

“The mistakes made during the start-up of this unit were surprising and deeply disturbing,” said Ross Pillari, president of BP Products North America. “The result was an extraordinary tragedy we didn’t foresee.”

BP, formerly British Petroleum, said it was meeting with blast victims’ families and attorneys to begin to settle claims against the company.

The BP investigation determined that fluid level in a tower was 20 times higher than it should have been. Water or nitrogen in the tower when the unit was restarted may have caused a sudden increase in pressure that forced hydrocarbon liquid and vapor into the unit’s stack. But investigators still don’t know what ignited the resulting vapor cloud.

UTAH

Capitol renovation enters risky phase

SALT LAKE CITY — The $200 million renovation of the Utah Capitol is undergoing its most dangerous phase, officials say.

The 90-year-old building has been jacked up and is supported only by temporary props while crews begin installing 280 earthquake-resistant stabilizers. When the work is complete, the Capitol is expected to be able to withstand a 7.3-magnitude quake.

WASHINGTON

School to be named after rights pioneer

TACOMA — The school board voted to name a new school after Helen Stafford, who once was denied a teaching application in the city because of her race. She became one of the state’s first black social workers and an advocate for civil and women’s rights.

She died in 2002 at age 102. Helen Stafford Elementary will open in the fall.

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