- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2009

COLORADO

Billboards bought to honor Darwin

GRAND JUNCTION | A secularist group is observing the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin with billboards that urge people to “Evolve Beyond Belief.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation placed “Praise Darwin” billboards in Grand Junction; Dayton, Tenn.; Dover, Pa.; and Whitehall, Ohio.

They feature stained-glass designs and a picture of the evolutionary theorist born Feb. 12, 1809.

The Tennessee and Pennsylvania towns had landmark court cases about the teaching of evolution.

In Grand Junction, the foundation has complained about prayers in county meetings. The organization has battled Whitehall over nativity displays.

The Wisconsin-based foundation is made up of agnostics and atheists opposed to government displays of religion

GEORGIA

Panel considers food safety changes

ATLANTA | Georgia lawmakers are wrestling with whether to adopt new food safety rules after a state peanut plant was linked to a salmonella outbreak that has sickened hundreds of people nationwide and may have caused as many as eight deaths.

The Senate Agriculture Committee debated a measure Monday that would require food makers to alert state inspectors within a day if a plant’s internal tests show its products are contaminated. The bill would also force the companies to conduct the tests at least once a year to supplement surprise state and federal inspections.

The proposal is a response to the salmonella outbreak linked to a Peanut Corp. of America plant in Blakely, Ga. Investigators said the Lynchburg, Va.-based company knowingly shipped salmonella-laced products even after internal tests showed they were contaminated.

State law did not require the company to share those test results, and state officials said they may have been able to stop the outbreak if they had known about them sooner.

ILLINOIS

Oil-spill cleanup could take 3 days

ROCKDALE | The Environmental Protection Agency said cleaning up an oil spill along the Des Plaines River in suburban Chicago will take two or three more days.

Most of the 65,000 gallons of waste oil spilled on the ground at the Rockdale Caterpillar plant. But more than 6,000 gallons ran into the river.

Vacuum trucks are collecting oil from the ground and booms are containing it in the river.

The spill occurred after a pump failed and two holding pits overflowed. Caterpillar spokeswoman Kate Kenny said it’s not clear how long the pits overflowed before a guard reported it Sunday.

EPA spokesman Mick Hans said an initial review shows no major damage to waterfowl or the environment.

The river reopened to barges Monday afternoon.

MICHIGAN

Flint mayor resigns weeks before recall

FLINT | Flint’s mayor resigned Monday just weeks before he was to face a recall election over his representation of the struggling city’s finances.

Mayor Don Williamson, 75, said he was retiring for health reasons including kidney stones and sinus infections.

The Democrat, first elected in 2003 and re-elected in 2007, is a millionaire and received a token $1 salary as mayor.

The Feb. 24 recall stemmed from accusations that Mr. Williamson mismanaged city funds and violated the public trust by misrepresenting the city’s finances. Recall supporters also said he endangered public safety by proposing the elimination of 59 police officers and nine firefighters.

Mr. Williamson announced last year he planned to run for governor of Michigan next year. It was not immediately clear how his resignation as mayor will affect that decision.

PENNSYLVANIA

Forgotten keys lead police to suspect

UPPER DARBY | Police investigating a theft from a suburban Philadelphia pharmacy say the suspect helped them by leaving his keys dangling from the trunk of his car.

Police said they found stolen drugs and a gym bag with Thomas Ferkler’s name and address in the trunk.

Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said investigators were initially stumped by the Feb. 1 theft of about $400,000 worth of drugs. The burglar had disabled alarm and surveillance systems.

But Mr. Ferkler’s neighbor saw the car keys left for several days and notified authorities. Mr. Ferkler, 43, was arrested Friday and held in jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.

TENNESSEE

Man gets life in church killings

KNOXVILLE | An out-of-work truck driver smiled Monday as he pleaded guilty to killing two people and wounding six others at a Tennessee church last summer because he hated its liberal politics.

“Yes, ma’am, I am guilty as charged,” Jim D. Adkisson, 58, told Criminal Court Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz before she sentenced him to life in prison without parole.

Adkisson was scheduled to stand trial next month in the July 2008 rampage at the Tennessee Valley United Unitarian Church in Knoxville, but decided to enter a plea deal that all but guarantees he will never leave prison alive.

Public defender Mark Stephens said a mental health expert determined Adkisson was competent to make the plea, though Mr. Stephens was prepared to argue at trial that his client was insane at the time of the crime.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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