- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 26, 2006

ALABAMA

Improved checks of mines ordered

BESSEMER — A judge says Alabama regulators aren’t properly inspecting the state’s coal mines, some of the deepest and most dangerous in North America, and he has given them 10 days to conduct reviews.

State law requires that each of the roughly 50 coal mines in Alabama be inspected once every 45 days. But the office responsible said that it has only three inspectors and that they also have to check 500 mineral mines and quarries.

Michael Skates, director of mining and reclamation at the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations, said the judge’s order applies only to two large underground coal mines and about 12 surface mines in an area west of Birmingham. But Mr. Skates added that he didn’t know how his staff will properly inspect them all in such a short time.

Circuit Judge Dan King issued the ruling late Wednesday in a lawsuit brought by the United Mine Workers union.

ALASKA

Small plane hits mobile home park

KETCHIKAN — A small jet crashed into a mobile home park Wednesday, killing the pilot, who was found strapped to his seat 100 yards from the site, authorities said.

The plane hit one trailer, triggering a fire. No one was home at the time and all residents had been accounted for, said Greg Wilkinson, a spokesman for the Alaska State Troopers. Three persons on the ground were treated for minor injuries from flying debris.

The aircraft was a Czech-made Albatross L39 two-seat training jet owned by a Las Vegas company, Mr. Wilkinson said. The plane left Sitka and was bound for the lower 48 states. No flight plan was filed. No one else was aboard.

FLORIDA

Family mourns deaths of 7 children

LAKE BUTLER — Barbara and Terry Mann were supposed to complete their adoption of 20-month-old Anthony Lamb yesterday. Instead, they had to plan funerals for him, their daughter, three other adopted children and two nieces.

All seven, originally identified by authorities as seven adopted siblings, died in a fiery wreck Wednesday in this close-knit north Florida town. After hearing of the accident, Barbara’s father was overcome by grief and died of a heart attack.

Friends and family gathered to mourn the deaths as investigators tried to piece together how the three-vehicle accident occurred on a clear day on a road free of obstructions. A truck failed to stop and slammed the children’s car into a school bus that was dropping off students in front of it, authorities said.

The car burst into flames, charring the bodies. Everyone in the car was killed, including 15-year-old Nicky Mann, who was driving illegally and apparently was picking up her adopted siblings from school. Three children on the bus were seriously injured.

Charges were pending against the 31-year-old truck driver, Alvin Wilkerson.

GEORGIA

Iraqi baby released from Atlanta hospital

ATLANTA — An Iraqi baby recovering from spinal surgery arranged by U.S. troops in her homeland was released from the hospital yesterday.

Doctors at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta had been monitoring Noor al-Zahra after inserting a tube to drain fluid from her back last week. The hospital said she was in good condition and was expected to return for a checkup next week.

Baby Noor, who is 4 months old, has spina bifida, in which the backbone and spinal cord do not close before birth. She had surgery Jan. 9 to position the cord properly.

LOUISIANA

Brothers accused of running illegal dump

NEW ORLEANS — Two brothers were arrested Wednesday on charges of operating a large unauthorized waste site in a swampy eastern section of New Orleans that has become a dumping ground for much of the waste from Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality said.

Cecil and McKinley Person operated the waste site without the permission of the landowners and did not close it down after being ordered to do so.

NEW YORK

Ex-police officer seeks early release

NEW YORK — A former police officer serving a five-year sentence in one of the worst brutality cases in city history — the broomstick torture of a Haitian immigrant in a precinct bathroom — wants a judge to release him early.

Lawyers for Charles Schwarz argue in court papers that their client is owed early release under a sentencing deal struck with prosecutors in 2002.

Schwarz has spent more than three years behind bars and “has done enough time,” his attorney, Ronald Fischetti, said Wednesday.

The 39-year-old former officer was convicted of lying to authorities about the Abner Louima case, but he avoided conviction on charges of violating Mr. Louima’s civil rights. Prosecutors say Schwarz held Mr. Louima down while another officer sodomized the handcuffed prisoner with a broken broomstick.

NORTH CAROLINA

Strapped county prays for jobs

LENOIR — After years of layoffs at furniture plants, the county with North Carolina’s highest unemployment rate held a day of prayer, hoping it would help end tough economic times.

About 200 people gathered at the Caldwell County Fairgrounds on Sunday to seek divine intervention for a community coping with a 13.1 percent jobless rate.

The Rev. Rodney Raby, pastor of Nazareth Advent Christian Church in Lenoir who organized the event, was laid off in April from the Broyhill Furniture Harper Plant, where he had worked for 19 years. Mr. Raby found a management job at Bernhardt Furniture later that month, but he knows many aren’t so lucky.

Mr. Raby gave a few opening remarks before the group stood to sing “Amazing Grace.” Among the attendees was Rep. Patrick T. McHenry, North Carolina Republican, who led a prayer.

PENNSYLVANIA

Punxsutawney Phil’s handler to retire

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Whether Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow or not on Groundhog Day, one thing’s for sure: The man who has been the furry forecaster’s official handler for the past 15 years will step down after this year.

Bill Deeley, 56, said he doesn’t have the energy or the time. Part of the job includes taking Phil to parades and special events.

Mr. Deeley joined the Inner Circle — the top-hat- and tuxedo-wearing men responsible for carrying on the tradition — in 1986.

In the years since the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper first carried word of the groundhog’s failing to see its shadow in 1886, this town of 7,500 people has been dubbed the “Weather Capital of the World” because of the groundhog tradition.

The ritual stems from the belief that if a hibernating animal sees its shadow on Feb. 2, winter will last six more weeks. If there’s no shadow, spring will come early.

TEXAS

Cleared by DNA, man released

CONROE — A man who spent 18 years in prison for sexual assault was freed yesterday after DNA evidence exonerated him, and his brother admitted responsibility for the attack.

DNA testing was not available at Arthur Mumphrey’s 1986 trial for the rape of a 13-year-old girl, but recent tests requested by his attorney showed that his blood and saliva samples did not match stains on the victim and her clothes.

He had been sentenced to 35 years in prison.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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