- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 2, 2008

Lawsuit targets U.S. Sugar deal

MIAMI | Florida’s proposal to acquire 300 square miles of Everglades land from U.S. Sugar Corp. was illegally brokered in closed-door meetings, an attorney claimed in a lawsuit filed Friday.

Attorney Dexter Lehtinen, who has led efforts to restore the Everglades, is challenging a historic $1.75 billion deal in which U.S. Sugar would go out of business and sell its land to the state for restoration.

Mr. Lehtinen contends meetings about the deal were illegal because they evaded Florida’s Sunshine Law, which mandates advance notice of government meetings and their agendas.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions that they’ve managed to not answer,” Mr. Lehtinen said after the filing was made in circuit court, citing the lack of specifics on how the proposal would be funded and whether other Everglades projects would be scaled back to make money available.

Sterling Ivey, a spokesman for Gov. Charlie Crist, who brokered the deal, said, “we supports the South Florida Water Management District and have confidence that the district has operated within the public record laws of Florida.” A spokesman for the water management district did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

Settlements reached in Kentucky crash

LEXINGTON, Ky. | A court official says a trial over a 2006 Comair plane crash that killed 49 people in Kentucky is off after most families reached settlements with the airline.

Mark Armstrong, chief deputy clerk for U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, said Friday that the trial scheduled to start Monday was called off after the agreements were reached. Details of the agreements were not immediately released.

The lawsuits claimed Comair was negligent because its pilots steered the plane in the pre-dawn darkness to the wrong runway, one that was too short for a proper takeoff. The jet hit trees and a perimeter fence before crashing in a farm next to Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport.

Fort Dix suspects get one concession

CAMDEN, N.J. | The Muslim men accused of plotting to kill soldiers at Fort Dix lost a string of pretrial motions Friday, but they did win a concession from a judge who said he would not mention al Qaeda at the start of the trial.

U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler rejected arguments from lawyers for the five men that references to al Qaeda and terrorist attacks be stricken from charging documents as prejudicial. However, he agreed not to read them to the jury at the start of a trial, as he normally would do. Judge Kugler said he could not strike the references entirely because he found it relevant to the government’s case.

The five men, all foreign-born Muslims in their 20s, were arrested in May 2007 and accused of plotting to attack soldiers on Fort Dix, a New Jersey Army installation used mainly to train reservists for deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. The attack never occurred.

Judge Kugler ruled against several other defense motions Friday, saying there was no need to move the trial, that the results of three searches can be shared with the jury, and that the defendants should be tried together.

Suspect arrested in swimmers attack

NIAGARA, Wis. | A gunman suspected of opening fire on a group of young swimmers gathered along a riverbank was arrested Friday after he emerged from woods near the scene where three teenagers were slain and a fourth person was wounded.

Scott J. Johnson, 38, was dressed in camouflage when deputies confronted him following an all-night manhunt. He dropped his assault rifle as officers approached.

“We believe he was in the woods and near our officers who were also in the woods all night,” said Jerry Sauve, chief’s deputy sheriff in Marinette County.

Nine young adults had gathered at a railroad bridge to go swimming in the Menominee River when the gunman appeared Thursday afternoon and opened fire, authorities said. Investigators have not determined a motive. The sheriff said there was no communication between the gunman and his victims.

Nike warns factory in Malaysia

SAN FRANCISCO | Nike Inc, the world’s largest maker of sports footwear and apparel, said Friday it was putting a Malaysian contract factory on “red alert” after an investigation revealed workers living in substandard housing and wages being garnished.

Charges of abuse at the Hytex Apparel factory, which has made garments for Nike for 14 years, were first raised in the news media, Nike said. “Our investigation confirms serious breaches of Nike’s Code of Conduct at the Hytex factory,” said Hannah Jones, vice president of corporate responsibility for Nike, in a statement.

The factory employed about 1,200 workers who met minimum age requirements, but were living in “unacceptable” housing and whose passports were withheld, Nike said. The Hytex factory supplies T-shirts to Nike and other apparel brands.

The factory will be subject to additional monitoring from Nike as orders to change policies are implemented, Ms. Jones said.

Utility wires burn copper thief

DALLAS | A man who climbed to the top of a utility pole Friday in an effort to steal copper was jolted by a high-voltage wire and burned over 50 percent of his body, officials said.

It took rescue workers more than an hour to free the severely injured man and take him down a fire truck’s extended ladder. Live TV coverage showed 51-year-old James Buster McKay’s shirt in tatters, his jeans mostly burned away from his body. His skin looked red, and he appeared to be in extreme pain.

“The suspect was on the transformer and grabbed one of the live wires,” said Dallas Police Senior Cpl. Gerry Monreal, who noted that authorities arrived to find several wires cut and on the ground.

The pole carried about 7,000 volts, Oncor Electric Delivery spokeswoman Carol Peters said. Power was turned off to the pole during the rescue and was later restored to the neighborhood, Ms. Peters said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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