- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 18, 2009

ALABAMA

Fires at churches stoke arson fears

BIRMINGHAM | Suspicious fires destroyed two churches and damaged a third in adjoining counties within 10 hours over the weekend, raising fears of a new round of church arsons in rural Alabama.

Authorities on Tuesday were trying to determine whether the blazes discovered Saturday in eastern Alabama near the Georgia line were intentionally set, but the proximity and timing of the fires raised concerns.

The string of fires at three small, rural churches brought back memories of two spates of church arsons in recent years.

Three college students pleaded guilty to setting fire to nine rural Alabama churches in 2006, and two men described as satanists by investigators pleaded guilty to setting fires at three more churches last year.

GEORGIA

State tries to revive peanuts

ATLANTA | Georgia lawmakers are trying to revive the peanut’s good name.

The lunchbox staple didn’t used to be such a tough sell. But Georgia’s vital crop has taken a beating since a nationwide salmonella outbreak tied to peanut products from a Blakely, Ga., plant sickened more than 600 people and was linked to nine deaths.

Lawmakers in the state that is the nation’s leading peanut producer are gobbling bags of peanuts, organizing peanut butter events and offering the nuts boiled, shelled and just about any other way to all who are willing to eat them.

More than 2,000 peanut products have been recalled.

LOUISIANA

Initiation slaying goes to grand jury

NEW ORLEANS | A grand jury is expected to consider a case Wednesday that could result in formal charges for eight suspected Ku Klux Klan members arrested in the death of an Oklahoma woman.

Police have said Cynthia Lynch, 43, of Tulsa, was recruited to join a Louisiana-based KKK group over the Internet and was fatally shot in November when she tried to leave an initiation. Police have said the group’s leader, Raymond Foster, 44, killed Miss Lynch.

He has been booked on a second-degree murder charge. Seven others, including Mr. Foster’s 20-year-old son Shane, were booked on obstruction of justice charges.

MAINE

Ex-prosecutor denies child-porn charges

BANGOR | The state’s former top drug prosecutor has pleaded not guilty to federal child-pornography charges.

James Cameron was arrested Tuesday and charged in Bangor with uploading and transmitting child pornography on the Internet from 2006 to 2008.

Bail for Mr. Cameron, who now lives in Westland, Mich., was set at $75,000. He must be released to his brother’s custody, wear an electronic monitor and have limited use of the Internet.

Mr. Cameron, 46, was an assistant attorney general until the investigation by Maine State Police became public last year.

MISSOURI

Second soldier dies of meningitis

FORT LEONARD WOOD | A second soldier stationed at Missouri’s Fort Leonard Wood Army base has died of meningitis, officials said.

Fort Leonard Wood officials said Pvt. Randy Stabnick, 28, of South Bend, Ind., died Tuesday at a hospital in Springfield.

Another soldier from the base died Feb. 9. His name has not been released.

Base officials said both soldiers contracted a non-contagious form of meningitis. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sent a team to investigate.

Meningitis can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection. The viral form is generally less severe. Bacterial meningitis can result in brain damage, hearing loss, learning disability and death.

NEW YORK

Crash probe focuses on weather, training

CLARENCE | The man at the controls of a turboprop plane that pitched like a kite before crashing into a house last week had spent only 110 hours flying that model, and investigators said Tuesday they would look into the quality and quantity of his training.

The pilot of Continental Connection Flight 3407 apparently ignored federal recommendations not to fly on autopilot as ice was building on his plane, though investigators so far say he violated no rules.

Whether the captain, Marvin Renslow, did all he could to prevent potentially disastrous ice buildup or shake it from his plane remains to be determined. But experts pointed out Tuesday that he had flown thousands of hours in a similar plane, which would have prepared him for icing on his aircraft.

The actions and the lives of Mr. Renslow, 47, of Tampa, Fla., and the first officer, Rebecca Lynne Shaw, 24, of Seattle, are under close scrutiny as the National Transportation Safety Board tries to piece together how a routine flight went fatally wrong in its last 26 seconds.

The NTSB will look into the type of training they received, how they performed, how many hours they flew in the seven days before the crash, how much rest they had and what they did in the 72 hours before the accident, said board member Steve Chealander. That includes a look at whether they drank any alcohol or took drugs, a routine question after any crash.

PENNSYLVANIA

Third guilty plea in corruption case

SCRANTON | A court administrator in northeastern Pennsylvania accused of stealing more than $70,000 in seized gambling proceeds has pleaded guilty to embezzlement.

William Sharkey Sr. is the third figure to plead guilty in an unfolding courthouse corruption scandal in Luzerne County.

Luzerne County Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan pleaded guilty last week to fraud charges after prosecutors accused them of taking kickbacks to send juvenile offenders to private detention centers.

Sharkey pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Scranton. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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