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Around the Nation

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 7, 2005

ALASKA

Police asked for new cannonball

ANCHORAGE -- Yale Metzger wants the Anchorage Police Department to replace his cannonball.

Mr. Metzger said he called police last week to have them examine the cannonball he found in eastern Alaska last summer while excavating property he had purchased. Instead, he said, the bomb squad showed up at his Anchorage home with a remote-controlled robot, hauled away the cast-iron ball and blew it up.

The police said Mr. Metzger was unwise to carry the incendiary device in his truck before hauling it to downtown Anchorage where, they said, it could have sent shrapnel flying for blocks had it exploded.

"Could it have exploded?" Mr. Metzger said. "Sure. So could a meteor fall out of the sky and hit your truck."

ARIZONA

Navajos seek control of schools

PHOENIX -- Navajo Nation leaders are trying to take control of their classrooms from the state. Schools on the reservation are overseen by the Arizona, Utah and New Mexico departments of education and the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Navajo leaders want to create their own department of education and to institute standards that would be better suited for Navajo students.

FLORIDA

Snake antidote rushed to boy

BOCA RATON -- A Florida Highway Patrol officer covered 60 miles in 49 minutes to bring life-saving serum for a 10-year-old boy bitten by a pygmy rattlesnake, a report said.

The boy was conscious and talking when the trooper arrived at the hospital Monday evening with the antivenin, Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Pat Santangelo told the Miami Herald yesterday.

The trooper traveled faster than 80 mph from Sweetwater, Fla., to deliver the antidote supplied by the Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Department.

Officials at the West Boca Medical Center in Boca Raton declined to comment on why the hospital did not stock the antivenin, as well as report the condition of the boy.

IDAHO

Fire numbers dip, but more acres lost

BOISE -- Wildfire specialists have come across a seeming contradiction this summer: Although the number of acres charred across the West is almost double the 10-year average, the blazes haven't been as big or devastating as those in past years.

The specialists say that is because of the unusual moisture patterns in the region earlier this year, which favored big grass fires on the open range. Timber in the mountains received more moisture than usual well into the summer, keeping forest fires small.

Fate also has played a role.

The National Interagency Fire Center said more than 7.8 million acres have burned in the United States since May. About half of that was in Alaska, where large fires often are not fought aggressively if they pose no threat to people or structures.

With the 2005 wildfire season two-thirds over, the number of fires is down -- about 46,000 compared with the 10-year average of 63,000 -- and the number of firefighters suppressing the blazes has been lower than in recent years. Yet the total acreage burned is nearly double the 4 million acres that burned on average through late August in the past decade.

Analysts say the primary reason for the higher-than-average fire acreage this year is the incidence of huge range fires that burned in the Southwest and Great Basin, where a wet winter allowed fine grasses and vegetation to flourish. Those "flashy" fuels then dried and cured early in the dry spring, inviting the spread of range fires as summer approached.

MINNESOTA

Students return to secured campus

RED LAKE -- Students who missed weeks of school in the spring after a deadly shooting started the academic year yesterday on a closed campus with armed security guards and metal detectors.

Red Lake High School Principal Chris Dunshee said 272 students reported for classes in the morning.

About 300 students are eligible to attend the high school on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, which was torn apart in March when a student killed five schoolmates, a teacher and an unarmed guard at the school before taking his own life. Jeff Weise, 16, earlier had killed his grandfather and his grandfather's companion.

Though classes reopened in mid-April, as many as two-thirds of the student body stayed away for the rest of the school year. Classes were held in an older part of the building -- away from the scene of the shootings -- and police were on the scene.

School officials didn't worry about truancy then, but they spread out in the district this summer to encourage students to return. Yesterday morning, students filed off their buses and moved quickly through newly installed metal detectors at the school.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Suicide jumper faced arraignment

PORTSMOUTH -- A Massachusetts man jumped to his death from a New Hampshire bridge a day before he was to appear in court after being accused of taking pictures up girls' skirts.

Harrison Vieira, of Saugus, Mass., parked his car on the high bridge over Interstate 95 at the New Hampshire-Maine border about noon Monday, and witnesses told police that they saw him jump over the side of the bridge.

His body was recovered, the Portsmouth Herald reported.

Mr. Vieira, 45, was scheduled for arraignment in Boston yesterday after being arrested at the New England Aquarium, the Boston Herald reported.

NEW YORK

Criticism of Gotti called attack motive

NEW YORK -- The son of Gambino crime boss John Gotti "didn't respond like an ordinary citizen" when radio host Curtis Sliwa criticized his father, ordering thugs to attack Mr. Sliwa instead of trying to debate him, a prosecutor told jurors yesterday.

Mr. Sliwa's comments infuriated John A. "Junior" Gotti in the spring of 1992, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said in his closing argument as the younger Gotti's racketeering trial drew to a close.

The outspoken Mr. Sliwa, best known as the founder of the Guardian Angels anti-crime group, had described the elder Gotti on the radio as "America's No. 1 drug dealer."

The younger Gotti sent thugs to beat Mr. Sliwa with baseball bats, Mr. Kim said. But Mr. Sliwa didn't stop speaking out, so two mobsters were dispatched to pick him up in a stolen cab, the prosecutor said. As Mr. Sliwa struggled to escape, a hit man opened fire.

Defense attorneys were to begin their summation today. They argue that the younger Gotti, 41, had nothing to do with Mr. Sliwa's shooting and had quit the mob.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Indian tribe opens $7.9 million casino

WATERTOWN -- The Sisseton-Wahpeton Tribe opened a $7.9 million casino hotel north of Watertown.

The 92-room Dakota Sioux Casino hotel is the first phase of a five-year, $17-million expansion. The plan includes a larger gaming area, a water park, a bowling alley and a 1,500-seat indoor concert facility.

VERMONT

Guardsman, mom serve in Kuwait

ARLINGTON -- Sgt. Julie Robertson doesn't mind being called "Mom" by some of the men in her National Guard unit.

That's because her eldest son, Ryan, 25, is stationed at the same base camp as she is in Kuwait near the Iraqi border.

The two -- one of the few mother-son combinations in the Vermont National Guard -- have celebrated their birthdays together and shared their meals, she said.

"He tries to embarrass me and yell out, 'Mom,' and I get red in the face," she said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports