- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 6, 2005

ALABAMA

Evacuees boost population on coast

MOBILE — One out of every five households in Mobile and Baldwin counties has hosted hurricane evacuees, a survey found. Almost half of the evacuees are likely to stay, which would boost the coastal region’s population by more than 50,000.

Most fled Hurricane Katrina, but some arrived on the run from Hurricane Rita. Survey officials said the population growth figure was a “rough estimate” but does indicate the potential for a significant impact on the region.

FLORIDA

Python bites off too much gator

MIAMI — The alligator has some foreign competition at the top of the Everglades food chain, and the results of the struggle are horror-movie messy.

A 13-foot Burmese python recently burst after it apparently tried to swallow a live, 6-foot alligator whole, authorities said.

Over the years, pet owners have abandoned pythons in the Everglades.

The gory evidence of the latest gator-python encounter — the fourth documented in the past three years — was discovered and photographed last week by a helicopter pilot and wildlife researcher.

The snake was found with the gator’s hindquarters protruding from its midsection. Frank Mazzotti, a University of Florida wildlife professor, said the alligator might have clawed at the python’s stomach as the snake tried to digest it.

GEORGIA

Blaze guts building bombed by Rudolph

ATLANTA — A vacant building that once housed a homosexual nightclub targeted by convicted serial bomber Eric Rudolph has been gutted by fire.

No injuries were reported in the blaze, which broke out Tuesday night, fire officials said. The building once housed the Otherside Lounge.

In 1997, a bomb exploded in a backroom of the nightclub, wounding five persons. Investigators found and detonated a second bomb hung in the shrubbery outside the club.

This year, Rudolph pleaded guilty to the Otherside Lounge bombing as well as bombings at Centennial Olympic Park and abortion clinics in suburban Atlanta and Birmingham, Ala. The 1996 Olympics bombing killed one person, and the Birmingham bombing killed a police officer and maimed a nurse.

Rudolph, who was captured in western North Carolina in May 2003, is serving four life sentences in federal prison.

KANSAS

Offer of free land draws 100 residents

MARQUETTE — An offer for free land in this central Kansas community is starting to pay off. Marquette Mayor Steve Piper said he has seen a 20 percent increase in population since the land-giveaway program started two years ago.

The only requirement is participants build their own homes. The first phase of the project is complete, and 100 people have joined the town. Newcomers say they were attracted to the idea of small-town living.

MAINE

Drive to outlaw slot machines fails

BANGOR — Gambling foes who hope to outlaw slot machines in Maine failed to gather enough signatures before the deadline to force a referendum next year.

The anti-gambling group No Slots for ME already submitted an application for a second state referendum drive. However, it will have to start from scratch. The group needs 50,519 signatures.

NORTH DAKOTA

Passport options eyed for Canada

GRAND FORKS — Government officials are telling North Dakota residents not to worry about a proposal that would require passports for travel between the United States and Canada.

The government is making plans to develop other documents that are less costly and more effective, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman told a hearing. Area residents are worried that a passport requirement would hurt business and personal dealings between the two countries.

OHIO

Goodyear to build replacement blimp

AKRON — Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Tuesday night said it will build a new version of a bullet-shaped blimp by spring to replace one that crashed in June during a violent storm in Florida.

The 192-foot-long replacement blimp, still unnamed, will use parts salvaged from the crashed airship, including the gondola that holds the pilot and passengers. It will have a new neoprene-plastic envelope, which is the massive fabric structure that fills with helium to provide lift.

The National Transportation Safety Board ruled last month that poor planning and decisions by the pilot caused the Stars & Stripes blimp to crash. Neither the pilot nor his passenger was injured.

TEXAS

Death sentence overturned 3rd time

AUSTIN — A convicted killer whose case helped spark national debate over whether mentally impaired inmates should be executed had his death sentence overturned for the third time yesterday.

A divided Texas Court of Criminal Appeals sent Johnny Paul Penry’s case back to trial for the punishment phase. The court ruled that jurors in Penry’s most recent trial may not have properly considered his claims of mental impairment.

Penry has won two reversals from the U.S. Supreme Court that changed the way judges instruct juries in capital murder cases.

The Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 1989 and, in 2001, overturned his sentence but left the conviction intact. Both times the high court reasoned the jury was not allowed to properly weigh Penry’s reported retardation.

As the court overturned Penry’s conviction in 1989, it also narrowly ruled that mentally retarded people could be executed. The court reversed itself in 2002 and barred capital punishment for retarded killers.

Penry was convicted of killing a woman in 1979. Hours after Pamela Moseley Carpenter, 22, described her attacker as she lay dying from a stab wound to the chest, Penry gave a detailed confession of his premeditated break-in, beating, rape and stabbing of the woman in her home. Miss Carpenter was the sister of former Washington Redskins kicker Mark Moseley.

WASHINGTON

Freeway chase ends with suspect’s suicide

OLYMPIA — A 10-mile freeway chase ended early yesterday when the man pursued by police killed himself, authorities said.

Police said the chase began sometime after 3:30 a.m. when a man was suspected of driving drunk. During the chase, the man’s car hit a spike strip that flattened his tires, and he crashed into a concrete barrier.

When an officer moved to open the car door, the man drew a gun and shot himself in the head.

Police did not release the driver’s identity.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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