- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2006

CALIFORNIA

Artist loses key after chaining legs

BAKER — An artist who chained his legs together to draw a picture of the image hopped 12 hours through the desert after realizing he lost the key and couldn’t unlock the restraints, authorities said yesterday.

Trevor Corneliusien, 26, tightly wrapped and locked a long, thick chain around his bare ankles Tuesday while camping in an abandoned mine shaft about five miles north of Baker, San Bernardino County sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Ford said.

Mr. Corneliusien, who often sketches images inside mines in the Southwest, made it to a gas station and called the sheriff’s department, which sent paramedics and deputies with bolt cutters. His legs were bruised, but he was otherwise in good health, Deputy Ford said.

And the drawing?

“He brought it down with him,” Deputy Ford said. “It was a pretty good depiction of how a chain would look wrapped around your legs.”

FLORIDA

Bush signs bill for slot machines

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Jeb Bush, long an opponent of gambling, signed into law yesterday a bill allowing Las Vegas-style slot machines in four Fort Lauderdale-area betting sites.

The move ends a long battle between gambling opponents and advocates, who argue that the machines will raise hundreds of millions of dollars for schools.

Thoroughbred racing’s Gulfstream Park, Dania Jai-Alai, Pompano Park harness racing and Hollywood Greyhound Track can install slot machines within six months.

“I oppose the expansion of gambling because it is detrimental to Florida’s economic development and hurts Florida’s families. However, I have a constitutional duty … to implement the voter approved initiative,” Mr. Bush wrote in a letter for the bill-signing.

The Legislature passed a bill regulating and taxing the machines during a special session last month.

GEORGIA

After two ties, election is decided

MOUNTAIN PARK — It all came down to one vote in a city council election that divided this small northern Atlanta suburb. Twice.

Frank Baia received 89 votes Tuesday to best Joseph E. Barnet, who received 88 votes, in an election that hinged on absentee ballots.

In November, when they ran for one of four council seats, they were deadlocked at 96 votes apiece. A runoff election a month later yielded a tie at 51 votes.

The third time around, pink signs on utility poles and in front yards challenged residents in the hamlet with a population of 555: “Will you be the deciding vote?”

And if the third election had resulted in another tie?

“We’ll settle this over an arm-wrestling contest at the gazebo,” Mr. Baia said beforehand.

“Or thumb-wrestling,” Mr. Barnet said.

IOWA

Teens face tighter driving rules

DES MOINES — Teenage drivers face tougher restrictions under a proposal expected to be debated during the legislative session. State transportation and public safety officials say the new rules to be considered include limits on nighttime driving.

Iowa uses a three-step system for young drivers that expands their driving privileges as their training and experience increase.

LOUISIANA

Christmas trees used for wetlands

BATON ROUGE — The Christmas trees that helped bring holiday cheer now can help save Louisiana’s disappearing coastline.

The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources diverts live-cut trees that otherwise would go into a landfill and recycles them for its Christmas Tree Fence Program. The trees have been used since 1989 in construction of “brush fences” that help protect Louisiana’s coastal wetlands.

MINNESOTA

Nurse sentenced for diluted vaccine

ST. PAUL — A nurse who staged a flu clinic a year ago using watered-down vaccine on a college campus was sentenced yesterday to nine months in federal prison.

Michelle Torgerson apologized to more than three dozen students and faculty members who received shots that were not strong enough to ward off the flu.

“It was never my intent to bring harm to anyone. It was never my intent to bring worry,” she said.

Torgerson pleaded guilty in May to a felony charge of dispensing a drug without a prescription. Four other charges were dropped in exchange for her guilty plea.

NEW JERSEY

Stowaway cat survives SUV ride

VOORHEES — Curiosity didn’t kill one cat on a wild ride on the New Jersey Turnpike.

The feline, now known as Miracle, hitchhiked on the underbelly of a sport utility vehicle just before Christmas. The gray-and-white cat traveled about 70 miles on the turnpike Dec. 23.

“I’m just amazed that the cat didn’t fall off or get blown off,” said Karen Dixon-Aquino, director of the Animal Welfare Association in Voorhees. The association is caring for Miracle and plans to put him up for adoption.

The SUV’s driver didn’t know about the stowaway until another motorist saw the cat through a wheel well and flagged down the driver. Somehow, the cat avoided being mangled by fan blades and other moving parts as he clung to the car.

“He was pretty freaked out,” Mrs. Dixon-Aquino said. “His paws were burnt, one claw was missing and his fur was singed.”

NORTH CAROLINA

Park Service undecided on road

CHARLOTTE — In a long-awaited statement on the so-called “Road to Nowhere” through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the National Park Service yesterday gave no preferred answer to the question of whether to finish a road promised more than 60 years ago.

The draft environmental-impact statement, whose publication was announced in the Federal Register, identifies five options. They range from doing no additional work on the dead-end road, which leads west from Bryson City into the park, to extending the road about 35 miles to Fontana Dam.

In 1943, when Fontana Dam was being built, federal officials promised residents who had to leave the area that a road would be built along the north shore of the lake created by the dam.

Seven miles were built before construction was halted in 1972 because of high costs and environmental concerns. The road now dead-ends west of Bryson City, just inside the country’s most-visited national park. Environmentalists oppose completion of the road, which would run through one of the largest unpaved tracts of land remaining in the Eastern United States.

Debate over the road was reopened in 2000, when Rep. Charles Taylor, Brevard Republican, a supporter of completing all 35 miles of the road, obtained $16 million in funding for the resumption of construction included in the federal budget.

OREGON

Church raises funds with toilet paper

PENDLETON — With parishioners tired of traditional fundraisers such as bake sales and car washes, the Rev. Rick Oliver is flush with good ideas.

Mr. Oliver, pastor of the First Church of God, decided the church would sell toilet paper to raise money to send 18 persons on a mission to Costa Rica, after hearing about a baseball coach on the East Coast who successfully sold the product.

“We wanted to provide something that everybody would need,” he said.

The brand, of course, is Angel Soft. A Portland distributor delivered a truckload of the toilet paper to the church two weeks ago.

VERMONT

Minister rejects alcohol-license rule

SPRINGFIELD — A minister is among those complaining about a state rule giving churches veto power over an alcohol license sought by an establishment within 200 feet of the house of worship.

The Rev. William Nelson says he has no objections to a license request by new owners of the Morning Star Cafe, across from the First Congregation Church. State officials say the rule dates from the days after Prohibition.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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