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American Scene

- - Tuesday, July 20, 2010

CALIFORNIA

Lindsay Lohan begins jail sentence

LOS ANGELES | Lindsay Lohan began a 90-day jail sentence Tuesday, trading nightclubs and Twitter messages for a small, isolated cell and an orange jumpsuit.

Miss Lohan, 24, was booked into the 2,200-bed Century Regional Detention Facility, an all-female jail in South Los Angeles, after surrendering in court for violating her probation on two 2007 drunken-driving and cocaine possession charges.

The "Mean Girls" actress, whose promising career has foundered during two years of strenuous partying, looked tired and tense during a brief, silent appearance at a packed Beverly Hills courtroom where she was handcuffed and taken into custody.

Miss Lohan's attorney, Shawn Chapman Holley, told reporters that Miss Lohan is "scared as anyone would be … and she's resolute. She does her time just like anyone else."

INDIANA

Aid cuts seen as federal violation

INDIANAPOLIS | For at least a decade, as many as 6,000 of Indiana's neediest adults have had some of their state aid payments slashed simply because they receive food stamps — a practice that advocates and legal analysts say is a clear violation of federal law.

The issue apparently went unnoticed until this month, when the father of a severely autistic Indianapolis man challenged it in court.

Under the current system, when the federal government raises food stamp amounts, Indiana officials reduce grocery allowances so a person's total food benefits do not exceed $200 a month.

Federal law bars states from counting food stamps as income or using them to reduce any other public benefits. But a spokesman for the state welfare agency said it does not think the policy breaks the law.

MASSACHUSETTS

New law gives dogs, cats a voice

BOSTON | Massachusetts on Wednesday will become the first state to ban the surgery that devocalizes dogs and cats, which many animal rights advocates see as a cruel and unnecessary procedure.

Under the new law, anyone in the state who cuts or removes an animal's vocal cords for nonmedical reasons may be punished by fines and up to five years in prison.

The legislation, signed by Gov. Deval Patrick in April, is dubbed Logan's Law after a dog that underwent the surgery but was later abandoned.

Supporters of the measure say it is more important for pet owners to understand the needs and motivations behind their pets' voices.

The silencing surgery may suit the needs of the owner, but not the health and welfare of the animal.

Devocalization, known as "debarking" when performed on dogs, is largely done by commercial breeders for their own convenience, according to the Animal Law Coalition, an advocacy group based in New York.

MISSISSIPPI

Lesbian teen settles with school district

JACKSON | A rural school district that canceled its prom rather than allow a lesbian student to attend with her girlfriend has agreed to pay $35,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit that the American Civil Liberties Union filed on her behalf.

The district also agreed to follow a nondiscrimination policy as part of the settlement, though it argued that such a policy was already in place.

Constance McMillen, 18, said the victory came at the price of her being shunned in her small hometown of Fulton.

"I knew it was a good cause, but sometimes it really got to me. I knew it would change things for others in the future and I kept going and I kept pushing," she said in an interview Tuesday.

The flap started in March when Miss McMillen challenged the Itawamba County School District's rules banning prom dates of the same gender and allowing only male students to wear tuxedos. The district responded by canceling its prom, prompting the ACLU to file suit claiming the teen's rights had been violated and demanding that the prom be reinstated.

U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson refused to make school officials hold the prom, but he said in a March 23 ruling that the district violated Miss McMillen's rights.

NEW MEXICO

No contest plea in mayor's fistfight

GALLUP | The mayor of Gallup has pleaded no contest to public affray for his role in a fistfight with the publisher of the city's newspaper.

Mayor Harry Mendoza faced misdemeanor assault and battery charges for the scuffle with Gallup Independent publisher Bob Zollinger. But he agreed to enter the plea to the fighting charge before his jury trial started Tuesday.

A magistrate sentenced the mayor to 182 days of conditional discharge, and ordered him to make a $100 donation to Gallup's crime stoppers program and write a letter of apology to the community.

Mr. Mendoza and Mr. Zollinger each claimed the other started the Jan. 6 fight outside a bank.

The dispute centered on articles linking Mr. Mendoza to the gang rape of a teenage girl in 1948 when Mr. Mendoza was 16. The mayor denies the allegations and has filed a defamation lawsuit against Mr. Zollinger.

NORTH CAROLINA

19 arrested at school board meeting

RALEIGH | Protesters and police scuffled Tuesday at a school board meeting in North Carolina over claims that a new busing system would resegregate schools, roiling racial tensions reminiscent of the 1960s.

Nineteen people were arrested, including the head of state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who was banned from the meeting after a trespassing arrest at a June school board gathering.

"We know that our cause is right," the Rev. William Barber said shortly before police put plastic handcuffs on his wrists before the meeting started.

Inside, more than a dozen demonstrators disrupted the meeting by gathering around a podium, chanting and singing against the board's policies.

After several minutes, Raleigh police intervened and asked them to leave. When they refused, the officers grabbed arms and tried to arrest the protesters. One child was caught in the pushing and shoving, as was school board member Keith Sutton, who was nearly arrested before authorities realized who he was.

The Wake County School Board has voted multiple times over the past several months to scrap the district's diversity policy, which distributed students based on socioeconomics and for years had been a model for other districts looking to balance diversity in schools. Several school board members elected last year have built a majority in favor of focusing on neighborhood schools.

PENNSYLVANIA

'Socially inept' judge is suspended

HARRISBURG | A Pennsylvania district judge has been suspended without pay for two months for behavior that included calling women repeatedly and making uninvited visits to their homes or offices.

The Court of Judicial Discipline on Tuesday placed North East District Judge Gerard Alonge on probation until his current term expires at the end of next year and directed him to continue receiving mental health treatment.

The court has described his behavior toward four female lawyers and one other woman as "bizarre and weird" and "conduct akin to stalking."

Judge Alonge, 51, apologized during a hearing in Harrisburg before the board decided on a punishment.

His attorney portrayed Judge Alonge as a "socially inept" but harmless would-be Romeo who hasn't dated in years.

WASHINGTON

Council: No more public cadaver displays

SEATTLE | There will be no more commercial cadaver displays in Seattle, unless the deceased or their families have consented.

On Monday, all nine Seattle City Council members voted in favor of the legislation, which will affect exhibits such as "Bodies" that display preserved human cadavers, the Seattle Times reported.

Seattle residents, from anatomy professors to museum directors, have voiced concern over the ethics of such exhibits, specifically because Premier Exhibitions, which sponsors the "Bodies" exhibit, said it couldn't verify where the bodies originated or that the deceased on exhibit consented to such display, the Times reported.

"I'm proud of this City Council," said Patrick Burns, a Seattle resident and retired union carpenter who became concerned with the issue after "Bodies" came twice to Seattle.

He said crowds of people would line up as if they were at a movie theater, smiling and chatting as they waited. But they weren't going to see a film; they were going to see cadavers staged in poses, as if playing football or volleyball, for example.

"They had no sense that these bodies were precious human beings to some family," Mr. Burns said.

WEST VIRGINIA

Foremen plead guilty in deadly mine fire

CHARLESTON | Four men who worked as supervisors at a Massey Energy mine where two men died in a fire in 2006 have pleaded guilty to federal crimes.

Donald Hagy Jr., 47, Terry Shadd, 37, Edward R. Ellis Jr., 38, and Michael Plumley, 38, admitted they failed to hold mandatory safety drills at Massey's Alma No. 1 mine.

They pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in West Virginia. Miners Don Bragg and Ellery Elvis Hatfield died in the fire.

The four face up to a year in prison and $100,000 fines.

Massey's Aracoma Coal subsidiary paid $4.2 million in criminal fines and civil penalties stemming from the fire.

Richmond, Va.-based Massey faces separate criminal and civil investigations into an explosion that killed 29 West Virginia miners in April.

From wire dispatches and staff reports