- The Washington Times - Friday, March 3, 2006

OKLAHOMA

Fires destroy homes, force evacuations

OKLAHOMA CITY — Authorities took one man into custody on suspicion of arson and were searching for another after a wildfire in southwestern Oklahoma destroyed at least 30 homes and forced the evacuation of two schools, a nursing home and area businesses.

The fire was one of several fueled by gusty winds and high temperatures, and firefighters remained at the scene for a second day yesterday. Seven firefighters have been injured while fighting the blazes.

No other information was available about the man taken into custody in connection with the fire in Stephens County.

WEST VIRGINIA

Survivor hasn’t been told miners died

MORGANTOWN — In the two months since the blast at Sago Mine, lone survivor Randal McCloy Jr. has emerged from a coma and is learning to walk and talk again. Though he knows he is called a miracle, he hasn’t been told why.

He knows it was an explosion that left him with brain damage and other injuries. But he has never asked about the fate of his 12 fellow miners, and wife Anna has not told him that they died, most slowly succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning as they awaited rescue.

“We’re just going to wait until he basically comes around completely before we come out and tell him, you know, that he’s the only one,” Mrs. McCloy told the Associated Press this week

ARKANSAS

Police welcome Jewish chaplain

LITTLE ROCK — At a police prayer breakfast in a synagogue, Rabbi Martin Applebaum joked with some of the officers about the lack of bacon and ham in the meal before leading a prayer.

“God will give you strength to do what you do,” he said.

Police Chief Stuart Thomas and about a dozen officers gathered last week at the 100-year-old Synagogue Agudath Achim to meet Mr. Applebaum, the newest addition to the Little Rock Police Department’s growing chaplain program and the department’s first Jewish spiritual counsel.

Fewer than 1,000 Jews live in the state capital, and Mr. Applebaum knows of only one Jewish police officer in the city. But the police chaplain program is nondenominational.

Mr. Applebaum said his decades of work as a police and Army chaplain gave him the experience to work in a city with a small Jewish presence.

CALIFORNIA

Woman leads chase in police SUV

LOS ANGELES — A 25-year-old woman grabbed a deputy sheriff’s sport utility vehicle yesterday and led police on a two-hour televised car chase through suburban Los Angeles County. No injuries were reported in the pursuit.

Deputy Dave Jennings said the woman, who was described as having a long criminal record, took the SUV after a deputy left the engine running while questioning her about a stolen vehicle.

Followed by police cars and news helicopters, the woman screamed and sobbed into the onboard radio as officers tried to calm her.

Authorities followed the vehicle with patrol cars and by helicopter but kept their distance on the ground.

After about 90 minutes, a rear tire blew after earlier running over a spike strip. The tire fell off, but the woman continued driving on the rim. She eventually came to a stop and was arrested.

She is expected to face charges of theft and evading arrest.

FLORIDA

Logs show confusion on Cuban repatriation

MIAMI — Coast Guard officers who rescued 15 Cubans on an abandoned bridge in the Florida Keys were taking the group to U.S. land before senior officials told them to stop and await a decision on whether the migrants could stay, a report said.

The Coast Guard logs show confusion within the Department of Homeland Security regarding the status of the migrants, despite the department’s assertion in court that its decision to repatriate the group to Cuba had clear precedent. The logs’ contents were reported yesterday in the Miami Herald.

The Coast Guard kept the 15 Cubans on a boat for five days, then sent them home after concluding that the abandoned Keys bridge — which no longer connects to land — did not count as dry U.S. soil under the government’s “wet-foot, dry-foot” Cuban immigration policy.

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the Cubans were removed illegally and ordered the United States to use its “best efforts” to help them return.

INDIANA

Giant cross roils church neighbors

TERRE HAUTE — A nearly 50-foot-tall cross erected next to a church has irked some of its neighbors.

The cross, made from a bridge I-beam and a 35-foot crossbeam, says “Jesus Saves,” in letters 3½ feet tall. It was erected Feb. 20 outside Cross Tabernacle along U.S. 41.

City zoning officials had approved the construction.

Mike Dowell, who co-owns a flower shop and land next to the church, said he wishes someone from the church had talked with him before building the cross.

“It overpowers our property that we are trying to sell and our business that has been there over 150 years,” he said. “It is good to have some type of religion, as religion is good for the human soul, but I don’t like people trying to shove their religion down my throat. That is overkill.”

MAINE

Athletics director charged with assault

BANGOR — Steve Vanidestine, Bangor High School athletic director for 22 years, was suspended from work for three weeks after a complaint that he assaulted a student after a basketball game last month.

He also was placed on school probation for one year. Mr. Vanidestine was issued a police summons last week charging him with assaulting a high school senior.

MONTANA

Deer hurts student leaving ball game

MISSOULA — A high school student who was leaving a University of Montana men’s basketball game suffered a skull fracture when she was trampled by a deer, officials said.

The animal ran into Caroline Gunstream, 18, apparently after being spooked by the crowd leaving the game. She was hospitalized in serious condition.

Caroline also is suffering from some bleeding on the outside of her brain.

NEW YORK

Hurricane changes spring break plans

OLEAN — Hundreds of students at upstate New York colleges will forgo typical spring break vacations to help Gulf Coast residents with Hurricane Katrina cleanup efforts.

About 200 undergraduate students from St. Bonaventure University, plus alumni and faculty members, will pitch in during next week’s break.

NORTH CAROLINA

Illegal alien charged in license scheme

GREENSBORO — An illegal alien was accused of selling falsified driver’s licenses to other illegal aliens for $600 each, authorities said.

Joao Cueiroz-Serafim, 21, a Brazilian native who lives in Newark, N.J., was indicted this week by a federal grand jury after his arrest Feb. 8 at a Greensboro gas station with three Brazilians who lived illegally in New Jersey.

Mr. Cueiroz-Serafim could get 10 years in a federal prison if convicted.

NORTH DAKOTA

Overhaul proposed for school finances

BISMARCK — Superintendents are proposing an overhaul of the school finance system that would give schools with a smaller property tax base more state money.

The plan would consolidate several methods of distributing state aid, Grafton Superintendent Paul Stremick said. A state commission is considering the idea.

WASHINGTON

Resolution honors slain tribal teen

OLYMPIA — Drumbeats and deep resonant chants echoed in the Capitol in remembrance of a 14-year-old Indian boy from a Canadian tribe who was lynched 120 years ago.

The healing circle in the Rotunda on Wednesday followed the presentation of a resolution on the state Senate floor to one of several grand chiefs of the Sto:lo Nation, the tribe of Louie Sam.

“Through this resolution, the Senate joins its peers in the government of British Columbia, acknowledging the unfortunate historical injustice to Louie Sam and the proud Sto:lo people,” said Lt. Gov. Brad Owen.

The boy was being held by provincial authorities in February 1884 when a mob crossed into Canada, abducted the boy and hanged him because he was suspected in the killing of a shopkeeper in Nooksack, in what is now Washington state’s Whatcom County. Historians think the boy was innocent.

Grand Chief Clarence Pennier, who received a standing ovation, thanked the senators for the resolution.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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