21 children seized from Alamo group
TEXARKANA — State officials on Tuesday seized 21 children associated with the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, taking them into protective custody because they were purportedly abused and neglected.
The children were taken into state care as hearings were being conducted on whether six girls seized in September should remain under state protection or be returned to their parents.
Three boys seized Tuesday were taken from the courthouse, where they were with their parents for the other hearings.
Eighteen of the children were found in two vans that were stopped in traffic by state police in Miller County. Department of Human Services spokeswoman Julie Munsell said she didn’t know what the children were doing in the van.
The children were still being processed Tuesday afternoon, and Miss Munsell didn’t have a breakdown of gender and ages, though all were 17 or younger.
An order by Circuit Judge Joe Griffin, which authorized the children to be seized, said there were allegations of neglect and physical abuse. Miss Munsell would not detail the allegations.
Alamo was arrested in September, days after his compound in Fouke was raided by state and federal agents. The six girls, between ages 10 and 17, were seized for their own protection.
State increasing anti-smoking efforts
HARTFORD — Two legislative committees approved a plan Tuesday to spend millions of dollars more on helping people quit smoking and preventing others from taking up the habit.
The state’s Tobacco and Health Trust Fund proposed spending $6.8 million in 2009. The plan includes $2 million for the state’s “Quitline” telephone counseling service so it can resume offering nicotine replacement therapies.
The plan also is to spend $2 million for a new statewide anti-smoking media campaign and $1.2 million for smoking cessation programs for people with serious mental illness.
The plan includes $500,000 for a new school-based smoking prevention pilot program for 10 to 20 school districts, and $250,000 for a lung cancer tissue repository and database to identify high-risk groups.
The fund was started in 1999. It is financed by the state’s share of a national settlement with major tobacco companies. About $2.3 million has been spent since 2003. A new law has allowed more money to be spent on cessation programs.
Man accused of sandwich assault
PORT ST. LUCIE — A Fort Pierce man faces a domestic battery charge after purportedly hitting his girlfriend with a sandwich.
Police say Emmanuelle Rodriguez, 19, was riding in a car with his girlfriend Friday when he became angry as she drove and hit her in the arm and face with a sandwich, knocking her glasses off.
The victim nearly lost control of the car because she couldn’t see the road, and Mr. Rodriguez then purportedly ripped off the rear-view mirror and used it to shatter the windshield.
Mr. Rodriguez was freed on $7,500 bail. Police haven’t said what type of sandwich was involved.
Board to vote on anti-bullying school
CHICAGO — Pride Campus planners never shied away from touting one of Chicago’s latest proposed high schools as a haven for gay youth seeking refuge from sometimes hostile traditional classrooms.
But under mounting pressure from ministers and gay activists alike, the name has changed and focus broadened to create a school that would be one of the nation’s largest to serve any students who have fallen victim to bullying and harassment.
If approved by the country’s third-largest school district Wednesday, the Social Justice Solidarity High School would join several smaller U.S. campuses aimed at serving students who have been tormented for everything from their religious beliefs to their weight.
It’s a less explicitly gay version of a plan first presented to Chicago’s school board in October by schools chief Arne Duncan, whose name has been floated as a possible Education Secretary under President-elect Barack Obama.
The Social Justice High School: Pride Campus was to open in 2010 and eventually serve 600 students, about half of whom were expected to identify as gay.
The Solidarity plan has the same timeline and enrollment goals, but a different mission.
The Pride Campus mission statement to serve “the underserved population of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth and their allies” has been replaced by one that offers protection for students regardless of “orientation,” but doesn’t mention sexuality.
Instead, Solidarity school aims to address “citywide concerns over violence, bullying and harassment.”
Official fears state could be targeted
JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri’s public safety chief said Tuesday that he is concerned the state could be wrongly targeted because of confusion over where a prominent terrorism leader is being held.
Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as the Blind Sheik, spent more than five years in a federal prison in Springfield. But he was transferred in 2007 to a federal facility in North Carolina and is being held at the Butner Federal Medical Center.
Abdel-Rahman was sentenced to life in prison in 1995 for his role in a plot to kill Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and blow up New York City landmarks, including the United Nations. Abdel-Rahman, a radical Egyptian cleric, preached at a Jersey City, N.J., mosque and was the spiritual leader for the men convicted in the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center.
Missouri Public Safety Director Mark James said Tuesday that newly gleaned intelligence shows postings on jihadist Web sites indicating that some are calling for “offensive action” on behalf of Abdel-Rahman.
Some Web sites also wrongly indicate he is still in a Springfield prison. That includes the first site from a Google search for Abdel-Rahman’s name as it is listed on federal prison records: “Omar Ahmad Rahman.”
$140,000 ordered for lounge renovation
AUSTIN — State officials have ordered up at least $140,000 in renovations to the members-only lounge in the Texas House of Representatives, where antique brass chandeliers are being hung above granite countertops, two big-screen TVs and a new $3,400 ice maker, according to records provided to the Associated Press.
The records reveal new details about the lounge renovation, which comes at the same time Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, has asked state agencies to “dial back their spending.”
It also comes as House Republicans, led by Speaker Tom Craddick, have retired to the Lost Pines Resort and Spa for two days of strategizing with lobbyists paying up to $25,000 each to join in.
The records shed no new light on who is in charge of the project. House Accountant Steve Adrian said “no particular person” initiated the renovation idea.
House officials, busy this week overseeing the installation of vintage wood cabinets, have said they need to upgrade the lounge to keep it on par with the Senate cloak room.
Lease signed for industrial park
GREEN RIVER — Emery County has secured rights to more than 2,500 acres of state trust lands for an industrial park that is a possible site for Utah’s first nuclear power plant.
The lease was signed Monday by Kevin Carter, director of the Utah School Institutional Trust Lands Administration, which controls millions of acres of public land granted at statehood.
Transition Power Development chief executive Aaron Tilton said he’s looking at several possible sites for a nuclear power plant, including Emery County.
Emery County economic development director Mike McCandless said Mancos Resources Inc. of British Columbia is his strongest prospect for a tenant at the 2,547-acre industrial park. Mancos would build a uranium mill.
Mr. McCandless said the industrial park also could draw a power plant, an oil refinery and manufacturing plants.
Threat reported on state ferry
BREMERTON — The Washington State Patrol said Tuesday a terrorist threat forced a state ferry to turn around and return to Bremerton.
Trooper Krista Hedstrom said it happened about 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, about five minutes after the ferry left Bremerton.
According to the Coast Guard, a threat was called in and the ferry turned around and was immediately off-loaded.
The patrol is responsible for security on state ferries. Trooper Hedstrom said she was advised of the situation in Bremerton, but the case was being handled by the Department of Homeland Security.
A state ferry spokeswoman, Susan Harris, said the Bremerton terminal was closed while the ferry Hyak was there. She told KIRO radio another ferry leaving Seattle for Bremerton was redirected to Bainbridge Island.
DOE to fund university project
CHEYENNE — The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded nearly $67 million for a test project to store more than 2 million tons of carbon dioxide underground in western Wyoming.
The money goes to the Big Sky Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership, headed by Montana State University, as part of a series of government projects to study injecting greenhouse gases underground.
The Energy Department says successful carbon sequestration would help the United States use its fossil fuel resources without contributing to global climate change.
Cimarex Energy Co. will provide the Wyoming project’s carbon dioxide from a gas-processing facility under development.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports