- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 26, 2009

CALIFORNIA

Marine accused in base fire

CAMP PENDLETON | A Marine has been charged with recklessly setting one of the two wildfires that threatened homes in and around Camp Pendleton north of San Diego in October.

Base officials said in a statement Wednesday that Lance Cpl. Nason G. Lamb faces military charges of reckless endangerment, setting fire to and damaging property and making a false official statement.

Authorities said Cpl. Lamb started a grass fire during a training exercise. It was the smaller of two fires on the base at about the same time that together blackened more than six square miles.

No structural damage or injuries were reported.

Cpl. Lamb remained free on the base.

CONNECTICUT

Police raid Miss Teen’s party

HARTFORD | The reigning Miss Connecticut Outstanding Teen held a party that mushroomed out of control and resulted in two dozen people being charged with underage drinking, police said Wednesday.

Rachael Ramonas, 17, lists among her accomplishments a benefit she organized for families of victims of a fatal car crash in which the teen behind the wheel had a history of drunken driving.

It’s not clear whether Miss Ramonas, who competed in the Miss America Outstanding Teen pageant in August in Florida, was among those charged.

FLORIDA

Police: Man kills family, self

MIAMI | A 53-year-old music teacher fatally shot his wife and two daughters Wednesday before killing himself, while his 16-year-old son managed to call 911 as he escaped uninjured from the Miami home, authorities said.

Police haven’t released names, but neighbors identified the family members as Pablo Josue Amador; his 45-year-old wife, Maria; their youngest daughters, Priscila and Rosa; and the escaped son, Javier.

They said the couple also had a 19-year-old daughter who attends college.

HAWAII

Deadlock advances same-sex unions

HONOLULU | A state Senate committee voted 3-3 early Wednesday on a bill that would allow same-sex civil unions, a split that normally would stall the legislation but in this case was not expected to prevent it from advancing.

More than 1,400 people signed up to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which took more than 15 hours of testimony before voting at 3 a.m. It was the largest turnout for a Capitol hearing in years.

Democratic Senate leaders have said that if the panel became deadlocked, they would yank the measure from its committee and force a vote before the full Senate. That is allowed under a rarely used provision of the Hawaii Constitution if more than one-third of senators approve.

At least 18 of the 25 senators have said they favor civil unions.

ILLINOIS

Hospital told to hire Blagojevich favorite>

CHICAGO | A politically connected former investment banker has admitted he told the chief executive of a suburban Chicago hospital that she had to hire a contractor favored by disgraced former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.

P. Nicholas Hurtgen, 46, did not say Wednesday that Mr. Blagojevich was involved in the scheme. But he said he told the hospital executive that it was “all about money” for political campaigns.

He said he told the hospital chief that not hiring the contractor would mean never getting permission to proceed with a major construction project.

Hurtgen pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to abetting mail fraud.

KANSAS

Judge won’t drop abortion case

WICHITA | A judge has refused to toss out the criminal case against a doctor accused of violating Kansas’ late-term abortion law.

Sedgwick County Judge Clark Owens on Wednesday denied a defense request to dismiss charges against Dr. George Tiller of Wichita or throw out evidence because of the conduct of former prosecutor Phill Kline.

Judge Owens found that Mr. Kline’s conduct during the investigation of Dr. Tiller did not warrant such action.

Dr. Tiller is scheduled to go to trial March 16 on 19 misdemeanor charges claiming he failed to obtain a second opinion for some late-term abortions from an independent physician, as required by Kansas law.

Mr. Kline, a pro-life Republican, began investigating clinics when he served as Kansas’ attorney general from 2003 to 2007.

NEW YORK

Helmsley fortune not just for dogs

NEW YORK | Real estate baroness Leona Helmsley’s multibillion-dollar fortune can go to more than just the dogs.

In a ruling announced Wednesday, a New York judge said trustees managing Mrs. Helmsley’s estate can distribute her funds to a broad range of charities.

Mrs. Helmsley died in August 2007. She left instructions in one of the documents relating to her charitable trust that money be donated to help care for dogs, as well as other charities.

Manhattan Surrogate Court Judge Troy Webber ruled that trustees of the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust have sole discretion for which charities should get the Helmsley fortune.

Trust spokesman Howard Rubenstein said the trustees will announce the first grants from the foundation next month.

TEXAS

Salmonella found at peanut plant

DALLAS | Tests show that ground peanuts at a Texas plant were contaminated with the same strain of salmonella that has sickened hundreds of people across the nation, state health officials said Wednesday.

The peanut meal was tested at the Plainview plant Feb. 12 after the facility had voluntarily shut down, said Doug McBride, a spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services. Previously, private tests conducted by Virginia-based Peanut Corp. of America, which operated the plant, had tentatively indicated that there may have been salmonella at the plant.

The Texas plant is the second facility operated by the embattled Peanut Corp. to test positive for salmonella. A different strain was found at the company’s Blakely, Ga., plant.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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