- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 11, 2008

CALIFORNIA

New school brings prestige, at high cost

LOS ANGELES | A steel tower wrapped in a spiraling ribbon is one of the most striking features of a new arts high school set to open next year.

Its $230 million price tag is another.

The Los Angeles High School for the Visual and Performing Arts, with space for about 1,600 students, is the architectural crown jewel of the district’s ambitious $20 billion building campaign.

Its spacious studios and 995-seat theater encased in austere concrete are enough to make anybody wish he or she were a young clarinetist in the school district.

Supporters call the five-acre campus a beacon for a reformed educational system, a magnet for good teachers and a means of raising dismal student performance in the nation’s second-largest school district.

Critics see the school as a wasteful extravagance for a district where more than a quarter of the 700,000 students remain in temporary classrooms and many existing buildings are in dire need of renovations and repairs.

OHIO

Judge: State must change lethal injection law

ELYRIA | A judge in Ohio said the state’s method of putting prisoners to death is unconstitutional because two of three drugs used in the lethal injection process can cause pain.

Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge said Tuesday the state’s lethal injection procedure doesn’t provide the quick and painless death required by Ohio law.

Judge Burge said Ohio must stop allowing a combination of drugs and focus instead on a single, anesthetic drug.

The ruling is likely be appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Ohio has executed 26 inmates since it resumed putting prisoners to death in 1999.

CALIFORNIA

Wildfire burns homes, injures firefighters

STOCKTON | Wind-driven fires ignited in the brush along an interstate burned at least 30 homes and slightly injured two firefighters Tuesday, a city spokeswoman said.

Paramedics treated some residents for smoke inhalation, but no one had been taken to a hospital, city spokeswoman Connie Cochran said. The two injured firefighters quickly returned to the fire lines.

Fire officials have not determined a cause of the blazes.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Clapp said the flames were driven by a north wind with gusts up to 30 mph, and that humidity in the area is low.

CONNECTICUT

Pipe bomb found inside a roaster

SIMSBURY | Authorities in Connecticut are wondering who stuffed a raw roasting chicken with a pipe bomb and left it on a roadside.

Simsbury police Capt. Matthew Catania said a motorist noticed the chicken Friday morning. He said the bomb was large enough to harm a person if it went off.

The road was closed while the Hartford Police Department’s bomb squad came and blew up the chicken.

Nobody was injured. No arrests had been made.

FLORIDA

Man to plead guilty in Internet threat

MIAMI | A Florida man is expected to plead guilty Wednesday to a federal charge of threatening over the Internet to stage a Virginia Tech-style massacre, according to court documents filed Tuesday by prosecutors.

Calin Chi Wong, 20, is to plead guilty to a single Internet threat charge. At a brief preliminary hearing Tuesday, Mr. Wong waived his right to have a grand jury decide whether he should face charges.

Mr. Wong faces up to six months in prison, although prosecutors said they would recommend a lighter sentence and probation. He will be forced to forfeit a large collection of weapons and ammunition he possessed when he was arrested, according to court documents.

Mr. Wong, of Homestead, was arrested in April by federal authorities after making the Virginia Tech-style threat in an Internet chat room in March.

Among weapons he must forfeit include four AK-47 assault rifles, seven handguns, a sniper rifle with scope and 132 ammunition magazines.

IOWA

Barges break loose, slam into bridge

DES MOINES | Three barges loaded with corn broke loose from a towboat and slammed into a bridge over the swollen Mississippi River, halting traffic between Iowa and Illinois, authorities said Tuesday.

The two-lane bridge between Dubuque and East Dubuque, Ill., was closed after Monday night’s crash. No one was injured.

One barge, which started sinking, was unloaded Tuesday and removed, said Dena Gray-Fisher, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Officials were working to unload the other two barges that were afloat but remained pinned under the bridge.

The tugboat was pushing 15 barges when three broke loose and the remaining barges collided with other barges along the shore. They were collected and secured.

MICHIGAN

Man, 90, accepts high-school diploma

DETROIT | John Lawrence Locher has accomplished many things in his 90 years, including living through the Great Depression, fighting in the Pacific during World War II and having a long career with General Motors.

But missing was the diploma, whose pursuit he abandoned in the early 1930s to help feed his family in Detroit.

Mr. Locher checked it off his list, wearing his cap and gown in Detroit Southwestern High School’s 2008 commencement ceremonies Monday night, more than 70 years after he dropped out.

“I feel 100 percent lighter,” he said. “I appreciate this moment very much. … It really was overwhelming.”

The school sent the retiree an honorary diploma for “life credits” this past winter to his home in Cape Coral, Fla. Southwestern Principal Garnet R. Green later said Mr. Locher’s family had contacted the school about the diploma and allowing him to participate in commencement.

OKLAHOMA

Two girls found dead along dirt road

TULSA | Two girls were found fatally shot in their rural community along a dirt road the best friends used dozens of times to play and walk to sleepovers.

By Tuesday, investigators had no suspects and no motive for Sunday’s killings of 13-year-old Taylor Paschal-Placker and 11-year-old Skyla Whitaker.

Taylor’s grandfather, Peter Placker, found their bodies after his wife got no answer when she called Taylor’s cell phone. The girls were sleeping over at Taylor’s house and had decided to take a walk down the desolate road Sunday afternoon.

Kevin Rowland, chief investigator with the state medical examiner’s office, said the girls each had multiple gunshot wounds to the head and chest.

A $14,000 reward was offered for information about the killings.

PENNSYLVANIA

Girl faces hearing in baby’s death

PITTSBURGH | A 7-year-old girl who apparently killed an infant at a day care center last week will face a dependency hearing in juvenile court, the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office said.

A spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., said the hearing will be confidential. No date has been set.

The killing, which occurred Friday at Bray’s Family Day Care in Garfield.

The 7-year-old girl took 10-month-old Marcia Poston from her baby chair and threw her against a carpeted cement floor at least twice, police said. Marcia later died of head injuries, according to an autopsy.

The 7-year-old, whose name has not been released, is the granddaughter of Loretta Bray, the day care center’s operator. The girl’s aunt, Ashley Swann, was the only care giver in the center at the time. She was upstairs changing another child’s diaper.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Graduation cheering leads to 7 arrests

ROCK HILL | Seven people attending high-school graduations in Rock Hill face charges after police said they cheered while students’ names were being called.

Authorities said six people at Fort Mill High School’s graduation were charged Saturday and a seventh at the graduation for York Comprehensive High School was charged Friday with disorderly conduct.

Police said those arrested yelled after students’ names were called while diplomas were handed out.

A police spokesman said school officials request police patrols to prevent graduation disruptions that include standing, hollering and clapping.

UTAH

Hospital bill records stolen from courier

SALT LAKE CITY | Billing records of 2.2 million people at the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics were stolen from a courier’s vehicle, authorities said Tuesday.

The records, described only as backup information tapes, included Social Security numbers of 1.3 million people treated at the university over the past 16 years, said Lorris Betz, senior vice president for health sciences.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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