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Around the nation

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2007

COLORADO

Fast-growing wildfire forces evacuation

NEW CASTLE — White and yellow smoke billowed into the western Colorado sky yesterday as firefighters battled three wildfires likely sparked by lightning that have burned more than 1,800 acres and forced evacuations of 90 homes.

One fire was burning in steep terrain dotted with rural subdivisions between New Castle and Glenwood Springs, about 160 miles west of Denver. The blaze had grown to 800 acres and containment was listed at zero percent, fire officials said.

No structures had burned, but one firefighter suffered a hand injury, said Suzanne Silverthorn, a spokeswoman for fire commanders.

FLORIDA

Anna Nicole case judge to resign next month

MIAMI — Larry Seidlin, the wisecracking judge who presided in the dispute over Anna Nicole Smith's remains and was lampooned for his sobbing announcement of the verdict, will resign next month, a court spokesman said yesterday.

The circuit judge's letter to Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican, says, "It is now time for me to devote more of my daily life to my own young family and to pursue the many opportunities that have been offered to me outside the judicial system and I have disregarded until now."

Judge Seidlin gave no specifics on his plans after his July 31 resignation, though rumors have swirled for months that he was considering a deal for a television court show.

GEORGIA

Congressional race appears set for runoff

ATLANTA — The race to replace late U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood on Capitol Hill appears headed to a runoff.

The early favorite, former state Sen. Jim Whitehead, a Republican, led the crowded field of 10 candidates in yesterday's special election. But he was unable to crack the 50 percent mark needed to claim the seat. With 81 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Whitehead had 39 percent of the vote.

Jockeying to challenge him on July 17 are Democrat James Marlow, an Internet businessman from Lincolnton, and Republican Paul Broun, a doctor from Athens. With ballots still being counted, the race for second place was too close to call.

ILLINOIS

Breast cancer genes can come from Dad

CHICAGO — A deadly gene's path can hide in a family tree when a woman has few aunts and older sisters, making it appear that her breast cancer struck out of nowhere when it really came from Dad.

A study suggests that thousands of young women with breast cancer — an estimated 8,000 a year in the U.S. — aren't offered testing to identify faulty genes and clarify their medical decisions.

Guidelines used by insurance companies to decide coverage for genetic testing should change to reflect the findings, said study co-author Dr. Jeffrey Weitzel of City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif. Testing can cost more than $3,000.

"Interestingly, it's about Dad," Dr. Weitzel said. Half of genetic breast cancers are inherited from a woman's father, not her mother. But unless Dad has female relatives with breast cancer, the faulty gene may have been passed down silently, without causing cancer. Men can get genetic breast cancer, too, but it's not common.

The study, appearing in today's Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at the genetic test results from 306 women diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50.

LOUISIANA

Teenager shoots would-be carjacker

METAIRIE — A 17-year-old boy foiled an attempted carjacking, wrestling a gun from a would-be robber and shooting him after the man grabbed his mother, authorities said.

Carl Chestnut, wounded in the head and torso, will face armed robbery charges once he is released from East Jefferson General Hospital, Col. John Fortunato, a Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office spokesman, said Monday.

The 53-year-old woman, whose name wasn't released, and her son were in the drive-through line at an Arby's Roast Beef Restaurant early Monday when Mr. Chestnut, 44, walked up and pointed a gun at her, demanding their money and the car, Col. Fortunato said.

When he leaned inside, trying to yank the mother out of the car, the 17-year-old grabbed the gun, Col. Fortunato said. He said it went off once as they struggled, but did not hit anyone. Once the youth seized the gun, he shot Mr. Chestnut several times, Col. Fortunato said.

NORTH CAROLINA

Judge suspends district attorney

DURHAM — A judge suspended District Attorney Mike Nifong immediately yesterday instead of allowing the prosecutor disbarred for his handling of the Duke lacrosse rape case to work for another month.

The sheriff immediately stripped Mr. Nifong of his badge and the keys to his office.

There is probable cause to believe that Mr. Nifong "has engaged in willful misconduct in office and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, which brings the office into disrepute," Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson wrote in his order.

Later yesterday, lawmakers unanimously gave key approval to legislation that would direct Gov. Michael F. Easley to immediately remove Mr. Nifong from office.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Official indicted on cocaine charge

COLUMBIA — South Carolina Treasurer Thomas Ravenel was indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury on charges of distribution of cocaine.

The indictments accuse Mr. Ravenel and another man of distributing less than 500 grams of cocaine starting in late 2005.

Mr. Ravenel, a real estate developer and state chairman for former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's presidential campaign, was a rising political star elected treasurer last year. His father, Arthur Ravenel Jr. was a powerful politician from Charleston.

UTAH

Doctors separate conjoined twins

SALT LAKE CITY — Doctors took about an hour yesterday to separate 7-month-old conjoined twins who were fused at the lower back.

Physicians at Primary Children's Medical Center made the first incision at 10:20 a.m. and finished separating the girls by 11:27 a.m., hospital spokeswoman Bonnie Midget said.

Allyson and Avery Clark had been joined at the bottom of their spinal cords. Doctors also had to separate some of the girls' shared tissue, muscles and nerves.

Potential complications for the Clark girls include bladder control and a mild loss of sensation in their ankles, doctors said.

Their father, Kerry Clark, 28, is an Air Force F-16 crew chief. He had been stationed at Edwards Air Force Base in California but transferred to Utah's Hill Air Force Base so his daughters could have surgery in Salt Lake City.

WISCONSIN

Court deals setback to welfare reform

MADISON — Wisconsin's landmark welfare reform program was dealt a setback yesterday by a state appeals court that said the state must continue giving assistance to participants who are ready to enter the work force but cannot find jobs.

In a 2-1 decision, the District 1 Court of Appeals ruled in favor of two women who qualified for the Wisconsin Works program but were immediately deemed "job ready" and ineligible for aid even though they didn't have jobs.

The program, started 10 years ago under Gov. Tommy G. Thompson, requires mothers to work or get job training in exchange for a check and child care.

A dissenting judge said the decision guts the program's goal of restricting welfarelike payments to those unable to work and said it would "open the welfare floodgates."

The women agreed that they were capable of working but said a lack of jobs meant they had no income to support their families. They sued to challenge the Department of Workforce Development's placement of them in unsubsidized employment, a classification meaning they were no longer eligible for state-subsidized jobs or job training.

The majority opinion, by Judge Patricia Curley, said state law allows only participants in the program who have jobs to be moved into unsubsidized employment.

From wire dispatches and staff reports