- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2007

CALIFORNIA

Sea lion joins walk-a-thon

CORTE MADERA — He has flippers instead of feet — and certainly no sneakers or hiking boots. But that didn’t stop a sea lion from joining schoolchildren on a walk-a-thon.

The marine mammal apparently noticed children doing laps Friday morning around a course they had set up at the Marin Country Day School next to the shores of the San Francisco Bay. The 185-pound Steller sea lion waddled ashore, shocking students and teachers.

“He did a whole lap,” said Kelly Watson, director of constituent relations and Web communications at the private school.

It was the latest brush with humans for the 1-year-old sea lion, called Astro by staffers at the Marin Headlands-based Marine Mammal Center. Astro’s mother abandoned him at Ano Nuevo Island in June, so biologists bottle-fed the pup. They released the adolescent on April 25 with a radio tag.

About a week ago, he swam under the Golden Gate Bridge to the shores of Corte Madera. The Marine Mammal Center picked him up and released him in the Farallon Islands. But he returned again Friday, just in time for the walk-a-thon. The center will try to find him a permanent home, possibly the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, which keeps threatened Steller sea lions.

FLORIDA

Wildfire evacuees wait to go home

LAKE CITY — Authorities briefly reopened two highways crossing northern Florida into Georgia yesterday before dense wildfire smoke forced them to again halt traffic, while hundreds of Florida residents waited to return to their threatened homes.

Officials said yesterday that the wildfire that had raced through the Okefenokee Swamp in southeastern Georgia and into Florida had charred more than 233,700 acres — or about 365 square miles — since it was started by lightning a week ago. Officials warned that storms in the forecast yesterday could bring either fire-drenching rain or fire-sparking lightning.

Authorities reopened 90 miles of Interstates 75 and 10 for a few hours yesterday morning after wind helped push the heavy smoke away from the highways. But they were later forced to close 35 miles of I-75 from the Florida-Georgia state line to Lake City, Fla., as well as a 40-mile stretch of I-10 in Florida, from Live Oak to Sanderson.

About 570 residents were not being allowed to return to 150 homes evacuated between I-10 and the Florida-Georgia line.

ILLINOIS

2 teens arrested in fatal bus shooting

CHICAGO — Two teenagers have been arrested in a shooting aboard a Chicago Transit Authority bus that killed a high-school student and injured four other persons, police said yesterday.

The two 16-year-olds were each charged with one count of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder, police department spokeswoman Monique Bond said. Their names were not released because of their ages. Police have said the attack on Thursday was gang-related.

Witnesses said the victim, Blair Holt, 16, was trying to shield a teenage girl from the gunfire when he was shot in the chest, authorities reported. His mother is a member of the Chicago Fire Department, and his father is a Chicago police officer.

Police charged the teen suspected as the gunman, who was recently expelled from the high school, yesterday morning. His accomplice was charged Saturday after implicating himself during questioning, Miss Bond said.

KANSAS

95-year-old may go for master’s degree

HAYS — At the age of 95, Nola Ochs is the world’s oldest college graduate. But her studying days might not be over just yet — she’s considering a master’s degree.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if I started it,” said Mrs. Ochs.

Mrs. Ochs received her bachelor’s degree in general studies and history during Saturday’s graduation ceremony at Fort Hays State University.

When she was handed her degree by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, the crowd gave her a standing ovation, breaking a rule against applauding until the names of all 2,176 graduates were read — including her granddaughter, Alexandra Ochs.

Relatives from as far away as California wore “Nola’s 1 Fans” T-shirts, cheered and waved American flags as she walked across the stage.

“I was just another student,” Mrs. Ochs said in a press conference after the graduation.

NEW YORK

Girl dies falling with scissors

VERONA BEACH — A 6-year-old girl reaching for scissors on top of a refrigerator died when she fell from a chair and the blades stabbed her in her neck, police said.

Kayleigh C. Cochis wanted the scissors to cut off gum stuck in her hair.

She was standing on a wheeled, office-style chair when it moved and she lost her balance Friday night, said state police investigator Dennis Dougherty. She was pronounced dead at a hospital.

The girl’s parents and her 5-year-old brother were in the house about 25 miles northeast of Syracuse, but no one saw Kayleigh fall, Mr. Dougherty said. Counseling will be available today for her classmates at Sylvan-Verona Beach Elementary School, principal Moira Yardley said.

PENNSYLVANIA

Police say burglar ate burgers, beer

UPPER DARBY — A man broke into a bar, grilled some hamburgers and then had a few beers to go with them, police said.

Joseph Michael McDevit, 48, was arrested Tuesday trying to break into Clarkie’s Goal Post while investigators were inside searching for fingerprints from the previous night’s break-in, detective Daniel Oliveri said in an affidavit.

Police said Mr. McDevit, who is homeless, acknowledged entering the bar after hours, frying hamburgers, drinking beer and taking a nap. Police said they recovered a cellular phone from him that belonged to the bar’s owner.

Mr. McDevit was arraigned on charges of burglary, criminal trespass, theft and receiving stolen property.

TEXAS

Voters back ban on renting to illegals

FARMERS BRANCH — Voters in this Dallas suburb became the first in the nation Saturday to prohibit landlords from renting to most illegal aliens.

The ban was approved by a vote of 68 percent to 32 percent in final, unofficial returns. The balloting marked the first public vote on a local government measure to crack down on illegal immigration.

“It says especially to Congress that we’re tired of the out-of-control illegal immigration problem. That if Congress doesn’t do something about it, cities will,” said Tim O’Hare, a City Council member who was the ordinance’s lead proponent.

The ordinance requires apartment managers to verify that renters are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants before leasing to them, with some exceptions. Property managers or owners who break the rule face a misdemeanor charge punishable by a fine of up to $500.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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