- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 2, 2006

FLORIDA

Astronaut Collins to leave NASA

CAPE CANAVERAL — Eileen Collins, the first woman to pilot and command a space shuttle, said yesterday that she will leave the U.S. space agency.

Mrs. Collins, 49, said she wants to spend more time with her family and pursue other interests. In July, she added to her string of firsts by fearlessly leading NASA’s harrowing first flight in space after the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003.

She said she hoped to continue working in the aerospace industry but didn’t offer details.

The July mission required her to perform a series of unprecedented twist-and-flip maneuvers so that the shuttle’s belly could be photographed for damage.

Selected by NASA in January 1990, she became an astronaut in July 1991. She was the first female pilot on a space shuttle with the flight of Discovery in 1995, the first mission to rendezvous with the Russian space station Mir. She also flew on Atlantis in 1997 and became the first female commander on the 1999 Columbia flight.

GEORGIA

Ex-college president guilty of embezzling

ATLANTA — The former president of Morris Brown College pleaded guilty yesterday to embezzling millions of dollars in federal funds that were intended to cover student tuition.

Delores Cross, 69, who was president of the 120-year-old college from November 1998 until February 2002, had been scheduled to go on trial yesterday. In exchange for her plea, prosecutors moved to dismiss 27 other counts.

Her attorney, Drew Findling, said Cross hoped that ending the prosecution would assist Morris Brown in regaining its accreditation.

According to a December 2004 indictment, Cross and Parvesh Singh, the school’s former director of financial aid and enrollment services, fraudulently obtained $3.4 million in federally insured student loans and Pell grants, in part to cover a $3.3 million credit debt and school expenses.

Morris Brown obtained the money legally but never should have kept it, prosecutors said, because loans were applied for in the names of students who never attended the college, had left or attended part time.

IDAHO

Goose befriends cancer patient

FERNAN LAKE — A North Idaho man diagnosed with terminal cancer says a usually cantankerous goose that befriended him has helped extend his life.

Bill Lytle, 73, was a founding member of the Lake City Striders walking club before he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the fall. Doctors said he had only months to live.

Mr. Lytle continued his walks, cutting them down to two miles at a nearby lake, where he met the feral domestic goose, who inspired him to keep going even when he wasn’t feeling well.

The goose, who is named Mr. Waddles — weighs about 30 pounds, and has a red beak and red feet — approaches Mr. Lytle when he calls and rubs its head against his arms. But the bird snaps at anyone else who gets too close, including Mr. Lytle’s wife, their daughter and his hospice aide.

INDIANA

Piece of finger served to diner

BLOOMINGTON — A diner found a piece of human flesh on his hamburger shortly after a restaurant worker accidentally cut his finger, and a spokeswoman said the company was “very, very sorry.”

A kitchen manager at the TGI Friday’s at College Mall injured himself Tuesday, and no one immediately realized he had lost part of his finger while others rushed to help him, said Amy Freshwater, a spokeswoman for the chain.

Another staff member served the plate to a customer, who immediately spotted the piece of flesh.

The manager was treated at Bloomington Hospital and lost only a small piece of his finger, Miss Freshwater said.

The restaurant has been in contact with the customer, she said.

KENTUCKY

ACLU sues over law on funeral protests

FRANKFORT — Portions of a new state law intended to prevent protesters from disrupting funerals for soldiers killed in Iraq are unconstitutional and should be struck down, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a federal lawsuit filed yesterday.

The ACLU filed suit in U.S. District Court in Frankfort, challenging sections of the law that the group says go too far in limiting freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

Protesters within 300 feet of such services would be guilty of first-degree disorderly conduct, punishable by up to a year in jail. The bill also would prevent protesters from using bullhorns to try to disrupt the services.

The lawsuit puts the ACLU, which routinely handles discrimination cases involving homosexuals, on the same side as Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., which is known for its anti-homosexual demonstrations. The church members, who have toured the country protesting at military funerals, say the soldiers’ deaths are a sign of God’s punishing the United States for tolerating homosexuality.

MICHIGAN

Fire consumes 3,500 acres of forest

MIO — A wildfire in northern Michigan had charred about 3,500 acres of forest yesterday and forced dozens of residents to evacuate homes in the area.

The fire began Sunday afternoon, said Catherine Salm, a spokeswoman for the Huron-Manistee National Forest. The cause hadn’t been determined.

Most of the affected land was within the national forest, although some was privately owned.

No injuries were reported, and it wasn’t clear whether any buildings had been lost, Miss Salm said.

The blaze was about 60 percent contained by yesterday afternoon. Firefighters were concerned about breezy weather forecast for the area.

NEW JERSEY

Twins drown in swimming pool

UNION — Four-year-old twins drowned in their family’s swimming pool, which was filled with water so murky that rescuers had to probe it with poles to discover the children, authorities said yesterday.

Ahmad and Isha Faniel had gone missing from their family’s home Sunday night after they fell asleep in a television room near their mother, Police Chief Thomas Kraemer said.

When Jacqueline Faniel awoke and couldn’t find her son and daughter, she called family and friends to help search for them.

She later notified authorities. Rescuers who arrived at the scene began to pump the murky water from the pool. Others began poking at the pool’s bottom with poles — leading to the discovery of the children, Chief Kraemer said. The children were pulled out, but both died at Overlook Hospital in Summit.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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