- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2009

CALIFORNIA

Octuplets mom goes into hiding

LOS ANGELES | California’s octuplets mother, already jobless and receiving food stamps, has gone into hiding with her six older children because of death threats, her spokesman said Wednesday.

Nadya Suleman, 33, has come under mounting public ridicule for expanding her already large family via fertility treatments that led to the Jan. 26 birth of six boys and two girls at a Los Angeles-area hospital.

That criticism has mushroomed as it was reported that she was divorced, living with her parents, unemployed for several years, receiving disability checks for three of her children - one of whom is autistic - and collecting nearly $500 a month in food stamps.

She acknowledged those circumstances in a series of NBC television interviews but insisted in a segment aired Tuesday on “Dateline NBC” that she was “not living off any taxpayer money” and that assistance she now receives is temporary.

FLORIDA

Police, divers search for girl

SATSUMA | Sheriff’s deputies searched house to house Wednesday and dive teams probed the St. Johns River for a 5-year-old northern Florida girl who went missing from her bed.

A Florida Amber Alert was issued for Haleigh Cummings of Satsuma, about 70 miles north of Orlando. The girl was last seen Monday night when she went to bed.

Investigators with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office said it was not clear whether Haleigh was abducted or wandered out into the rural neighborhood that borders the river. They said the mobile home where she lives had no signs of forced entry, but a back door was open.

Haleigh’s father told investigators the blond girl was missing when he returned home from work about 3 a.m. Tuesday. Ronald Cummings said his girlfriend was awake and frantic that Haleigh was missing from her bed.

MASSACHUSETTS

Man denies lying in terrorism probe

BOSTON | A Massachusetts man has pleaded not guilty to lying to federal authorities about the whereabouts of a man later convicted of training at an al Qaeda terrorist camp.

Tarek Mehanna, of Sudbury, was arrested in November and charged with lying to the FBI in December 2006 when asked about Daniel Maldonado. Mr. Mehanna, who is out on bail, was arraigned Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Boston.

Mr. Mehanna told the FBI that Maldonado was living in Egypt and working for a Web site. But authorities say Maldonado had called Mr. Mehanna from Somalia urging him to join him in “training for jihad.”

Maldonado is serving a 10-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to training alongside al Qaeda members with the goal of overthrowing the Somali government.

MISSISSIPPI

Horse-drawn wagon, 18-wheeler collide

MERIDIAN | A New Hampshire man riding a horse-drawn, homemade recreational vehicle across the country collided with an 18-wheeler on a Mississippi highway and was in serious condition at a hospital Wednesday.

Bob Skelding, 49, was traveling on Highway 45 in central Mississippi near the Alabama state line Tuesday when a tractor-trailer hit the wagon and killed two of the four horses that pulled it.

Mr. Skelding was driving his team of horses on a stretch of road that had little or no shoulder. According to reports in the Meridian Star newspaper, two 18-wheelers traveling side-by-side crested a hill. One of the trucks hit the wagon, demolishing it, and the tractor-trailer ended up on its side.

NEW YORK

Police: Body dragged for 17 miles

NEW YORK | A pedestrian was hit by a sport utility vehicle, then was caught under a van and dragged nearly 17 miles through New York City early Wednesday before the driver realized what had happened, police said.

The mangled body had not been identified. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said investigators were tracing the route searching for remains.

The driver of the SUV notified police after hitting the victim about 6 a.m. Wednesday. However, when police arrived the body was gone.

It’s not known whether the victim was alive at that point. An autopsy was planned for Thursday.

The van drove on three major city highways from Queens to Brooklyn before the driver stopped to check the vehicle. But he didn’t see the body until a pedestrian pointed it out.

TEXAS

Explosions spark fire near gas plant

CARTHAGE | Two explosions near a gas-processing plant in East Texas sparked grass fires and burned a trailer and several parked vehicles Wednesday, officials said.

No injuries were reported, said Sam Moore, a Carthage firefighter.

Preliminary reports indicate a gas line near the DCP Midstream East Texas facility ruptured, officials said. The first explosion happened about 10:15 a.m. and a second occurred when emergency personnel were on the scene, the Panola County Sheriff’s Office said.

Several companies have gas lines feeding into the processing facility. DCP Midstream said identifying the cause could take several days.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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