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American Scene

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CALIFORNIA

Budget crisis puts court system at risk

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles court system is the center of a dispute over a budgetary crisis that threatens its ability to serve the public.

A hearing scheduled for Friday in San Francisco may decide whether $47 million designated for courthouse construction will be diverted to help save hundreds of jobs and keep courtrooms open.

The state judicial council plans to consider the request from Los Angeles presiding Judge Charles W. McCoy Jr. He has already laid off 329 employees and closed 17 courtrooms.

The Administrative Office of the Courts opposes the plan. Its chief financial officer, Stephen Nathan, says a report holds out hope that the state budgetary crisis will ease, providing new funds for the courts.

MARYLAND

Homeless man sent to jail in plane theft

FREDERICK — A homeless man has been sentenced to nine months in jail for stealing and wrecking a single-engine airplane at a Maryland airport.

Calvin Cox, 51, also must undergo a psychological evaluation and stay away from the Frederick Municipal Airport during two years of probation under a plea deal reached Thursday. He pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary.

Mr. Cox also must make some restitution to the plane's owner in an amount yet to be determined. Prosecutors say the preliminary damage estimate is about $12,000.

Mr. Cox says he lived in the woods near the airport more than seven years until his arrest in December. His lawyer says he stole the plane because he was homeless and cold.

Mr. Cox's former wife had obtained a protective order 10 days before the plane incident.

MICHIGAN

Assisted suicide 'discussed to death'

DETROIT — Jack Kevorkian says assisted suicide has been "discussed to death."

The assisted-suicide advocate known as "Dr. Death" said Thursday the HBO biographical movie, "You Don't Know Jack," is unlikely to inspire much action but he's delighted and honored by the "superbly done" film about his crusade.

"It may stimulate a little more discussion — maybe even a little more probing discussion," Mr. Kevorkian told the Associated Press in a telephone interview. "But it won't stimulate anybody to act, I'm sure."

The 82-year-old from Michigan has claimed he attended more than 130 deaths before being convicted of second-degree murder in 1999. He said only the threat of returning to prison keeps him from assisting in any more suicides.

Mr. Kevorkian, who was released from prison nearly three years ago and spends much of his time writing books, said he continues to provide "moral courage" to the cause. Still, he's not interested in merely rekindling the debate he helped spur 20 years ago.

He started making headlines on June 4, 1990, when the body of a woman with Alzheimer's disease was found in his van at an Oakland County park. Janet Adkins, 54, of Portland, Ore., received a lethal dose of drugs by pressing a button on a machine developed by Mr. Kevorkian

MINNESOTA

Attorney sues Vatican over molestation case

ST. PAUL — An attorney says he is filing a federal lawsuit that accuses Pope Benedict XVI and senior Vatican officials of failing to defrock a Wisconsin priest despite allegations he molested at least 200 deaf children from 1950 to 1975.

Jeff Anderson says the plaintiff was a student at a suburban Milwaukee school for the deaf and an alleged victim of abuse by Rev. Lawrence Murphy.

Mr. Anderson says he will hold a news conference Thursday afternoon at his office in St. Paul, Minn., but that the plaintiff will not attend.

He says the alleged victim sent certified letters to the Vatican in 1995 asking that Father Murphy be defrocked, but that he received no response.

He says the lawsuit also will seek the release of secret Vatican files detailing clergy abuse allegations.

NEW YORK

Springsteen given heritage award

NEW YORK — Everyone knows he was born in the U.S.A.

On Thursday, Bruce Springsteen's European roots are being celebrated as the rocker receives an Ellis Island Family Heritage Award.

The honor is presented by the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation Inc. It's for immigrants or their descendants "who have made a major contribution to the American experience."

Also being honored are investment banker Peter G. Peterson; Avon Chairman and CEO Andrea Jung, and NBA All-Star Dikembe Mutombo.

Mr. Springsteen's relatives came through Ellis Island from Italy in 1900.

OHIO

School gets livestock lesson from cows

COLUMBUS — Two cows got loose on the Ohio State University campus, leading some students to skip classes to watch a roundup that lasted more than 90 minutes.

Police say the pair of Belted Galloway cows got away Wednesday afternoon as their owner was trying to take them into the university's veterinary medical center to have their hooves trimmed.

They made their way onto a soccer field, where one of them was lassoed as students cheered "Ole!"

The other ran across traffic on a bridge and settled in under a grove of trees. It was caught after a Columbus Zoo veterinarian hit it with a tranquilizer dart.

The owner took the cows back home. A police officer was treated for a shoulder injury.

PENNSYLVANIA

Insurer won't pay costs in spying

PHILADELPHIA — An insurance company says it won't pay legal costs for a suburban Philadelphia school district accused of spying on students through laptop webcams.

Graphic Arts Mutual Insurance Co. says costs stemming from a lawsuit over the alleged spying aren't covered under its personal injury policy with the Lower Merion School District.

The New York-based insurer filed suit last week against the district and the family of student Blake Robbins. The family is suing the district for alleged privacy violations over webcam images taken at home without their knowledge.

The insurance company's stance could leave the district responsible for litigation and any settlement costs.

The district says it secretly activated the webcams only to find missing laptops, but admits lax policies led it to capture 56,000 images.

TEXAS

Carnival cruise ship lists; 60 people hurt

GALVESTON — A cruise ship operator says dozens of people were hurt when one of its vessels listed during a maneuver to avoid a partially submerged buoy that was adrift near Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

Carnival Cruise Lines says the ship, Carnival Ecstasy, had to make a sharp turn to avoid the buoy Wednesday afternoon.

Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer De La Cruz says 60 guests and one crew member suffered minor injuries and that some unsecured objects aboard the ship were damaged. She says no one required treatment at a hospital.

Miami-based Carnival said the ship safely docked Thursday at its home port in Galveston. The U.S. Coast Guard has been notified about the wayward buoy.

Ms. De La Cruz says the ship was carrying about 2,340 passengers and 900 crew members.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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