- The Washington Times - Friday, June 15, 2007

ALABAMA

Severe drought worsens, expands

BIRMINGHAM — The choking dryness that is killing crops and turning streams into dusty trails across the Southeast is getting worse, with the government saying yesterday that the nation’s most extreme drought has expanded from Alabama into three neighboring states.

Previously contained in the northern half of Alabama, the area of most severe drought has grown like a brown ink blot to extend from eastern Mississippi across Alabama into southeastern Tennessee and northwestern Georgia.

Government meteorologists classify conditions in the region — roughly shaped like an oval on maps — as worse even than those in southern Florida, where Lake Okeechobee is drying up, and the perennially dry West.

Overall, the entire Southeast is in at least a moderate drought, save for the southern tips of Florida and Louisiana, the northern reaches of North Carolina and Virginia and parts of Arkansas and West Virginia.

CALIFORNIA

11th man arrested in Laos coup plot

SACRAMENTO — An 11th person has been arrested in connection with a suspected plot to overthrow the communist government in Laos, U.S. prosecutors announced yesterday.

Dang Vang, 48, also known as David Vang, was arrested yesterday morning at his Fresno home on suspicion of violating the federal Neutrality Act.

A 77-year-old former Laotian general, Vang Pao, and eight other Hmong elders were arrested June 4 on suspicion of trying to buy nearly $10 million in military weapons and recruiting mercenaries for a coup.

Retired California National Guard Lt. Col. Harrison Jack also has been charged. The decorated Vietnam veteran is accused of attempting to arrange the deal through an arms broker who turned out to be an undercover federal agent.

Prosecutors say the goal was to bomb government buildings, shoot down military aircraft and topple the country’s communist regime.

ILLINOIS

Atlantis video appears on baby monitor

PALATINE — An elementary school science teacher in this Chicago suburb doesn’t have to turn on the news for an update on NASA’s space mission. She just turns on her video baby monitor.

Since Sunday, one of the two channels on Natalie Meilinger’s baby monitor has been picking up black-and-white video from inside the Space Shuttle Atlantis. The other still lets her keep an eye on her baby.

Live video of the mission is available on NASA’s Web site, so the monitor may be picking up its signal from somewhere.

Mrs. Meilinger silenced disbelieving co-workers by bringing in a video of the monitor to show her class on Tuesday, her students’ last day of school.

Summer Infant, the monitor’s manufacturer, is investigating what could be causing the transmission, communications director Cindy Barlow said.

MISSISSIPPI

Klan suspect guilty in two 1964 deaths

JACKSON — A jury yesterday convicted reputed Klansman James Ford Seale of kidnapping and conspiracy in the 1964 deaths of two black teenagers in southwestern Mississippi, grisly drownings that went unpunished before federal prosecutors re-examined the forgotten case.

Seale, 71, faces life in prison in the deaths of Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee. The 19-year-olds disappeared from Franklin County on May 2, 1964, and their bodies were found later in the Mississippi River.

“I thank the Lord that we got justice,” Mr. Dee’s older sister, Thelma Collins of Springfield, La., said outside the courthouse.

Seale sat stone-faced as the verdict was read and showed no emotion as marshals led him out of the courtroom. He is to be sentenced Aug. 24.

MONTANA

Man cited twice for drunken driving

MISSOULA — A Missoula man was cited for drunken driving twice in the same day, by the same officer, and jailed after authorities said he showed up drunk for his arraignment.

Court records said Adam T. Lundgren, 42, was cited for misdemeanor drunken driving after being spotted driving erratically at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

He was later released to a sober friend, but jumped from the friend’s car and returned to downtown Missoula, where he continued drinking, court records said.

At about 10 p.m., Mr. Lundgren drove into a bridge railing and started to flee on foot. Witnesses captured him and held him until police arrived.

Officer Cody Lanier of the Missoula Police Department again cited Mr. Lundgren for drunken driving, along with reckless driving and failing to heed a stop sign.

Mr. Lundgren posted $700 bail later Monday night, but was jailed Tuesday afternoon after showing up drunk for his Municipal Court arraignment, court records said.

NEW JERSEY

Jihad suspects plead ‘not guilty’

CAMDEN — Six Muslim men accused of plotting to attack Fort Dix pleaded not guilty yesterday as a federal judge promised to have the trial wrapped up by the end of the year.

U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler set a tentative trial date of Aug. 13 and said he hoped testimony could begin by early October. He said that “if the government is not able to prove this case, they should not be in jail. I want to get this resolved.”

Prosecutors said the trial will last about four weeks.

Authorities said the six men, all foreign-born and three residing in the United States illegally, intended to use mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and guns in a raid on the New Jersey installation to kill as many U.S. soldiers as possible in the name of jihad, or Muslim holy war.

TENNESSEE

Fisk banned from selling art

NASHVILLE — Fisk University cannot sell any of the 101 works of art — some worth millions of dollars — donated by Georgia O'Keeffe in 1949, a judge ruled.

Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle ordered the historically black Nashville university not to sell any of the works in the Alfred Stieglitz Collection, noting they were donated to be used for art education.

The collection, compiled by the artist’s photographer husband, Alfred Stieglitz, includes works by Picasso, Cezanne, Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec, as well as two O’Keeffes. Chancellor Lyle wrote in her opinion Tuesday that “Dividing the Collection destroys the identity and effect of the charitable purpose [of Mrs. O'Keeffe’s gift].”

Fisk has been fighting a legal battle since 2005 over whether it could sell two works: Mrs. O'Keeffe’s “Radiator Building — Night, New York” and Marsden Hartley's “Painting No. 3.” The university is trying to raise funds to replenish its endowment.

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in New Mexico, which represents the late painter’s estate, has sued the university for violating the terms of her bequest. The case is set to go to trial July 16.

TEXAS

Space station glitch puzzles NASA

HOUSTON — Engineers yesterday tested whether a bad power feed going into the Russian side of the International Space Station was causing failures in computers that control the outpost’s orientation and produce oxygen.

The feed may be disrupting the sensitive computers built for the European Space Agency, said Mike Suffredini, NASA’s space station program manager. The power feed hooks up the Russian side to a pair of new solar arrays that were delivered to the space station by Atlantis and connected to the orbiting outpost by two of the shuttle’s crew members during a spacewalk Monday.

“A power line has a certain magnetic field around it, and that can affect systems near it,” Mr. Suffredini said. “This is the leading theory today.”

Late last night, in an effort to fix the problem, flight controllers planned to disconnect power feeds that go between the U.S. and Russian sections of the space station and then reboot the computers in the morning as the station passes over Russian command centers 220 miles below.

Meanwhile, cameras, computer laptops and some lights on Atlantis were turned off yesterday to save energy in case it needs to stay an extra day at the station to help maintain the outpost’s orientation while the problem with the Russian computers is addressed. The mission already had been extended from 11 to 13 days to repair a thermal blanket that peeled during launch.

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