- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 21, 2011

FLORIDA

Two rangers killed battling wildfire

TALLAHASSEE — Two state forest rangers trapped by shifting flames died while fighting a wildfire that also injured two others near Jasper in north Florida, officials said Tuesday.

The rangers were working Monday to stop a rekindled blaze called the Blue Ribbon Fire in Hamilton County on the Georgia line, one of more than 400 wildfires currently burning around Florida in one of the busiest fire seasons in years.

The rangers killed were Josh Burch, 31, of Lake City, and Brett Fulton, 52, of White Springs, said Sterling Ivey, a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Officials say the injured rangers, Robert Marvin and Stephen Carpenter, suffered smoke- and heat-related injuries while trying to help their fellow firefighters. They were treated at and released from hospitals in Lake City and Gainesville.

The Blue Ribbon Fire started June 16 and had been declared contained before dry conditions allowed the fire to flare up again Monday.

INDIANA

Planned Parenthood stops seeing Medicaid patients

INDIANAPOLIS — Medicaid patients are now paying for their own health services at Indiana’s Planned Parenthood clinics or looking for alternatives after the group ran out of private donations that had been paying those patients’ bills.

A state law that took effect in May denied Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood for general health services it provides to low-income women, including breast exams, birth control and Pap smears.

A federal judge is expected to rule by July 1 on Planned Parenthood’s bid to block Indiana’s new law.

Spokeswoman Kate Shepherd says about 9,300 Medicaid patients will see their Planned Parenthood services disrupted under Indiana’s law.

She says the group had received more than $100,000 in private donations to pay those patients’ bills, but that money ran out late Monday.

NEW JERSEY

Voters: Christie would be bad vice president

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie doesn’t want to be vice president, and most voters in his state agree because they don’t think he would do a good job, a poll released Tuesday found.

Mr. Christie, a Republican, has been touted by some Republicans — most prominently, pundit Ann Coulter — as a rising party star since taking office last year, but after saying he does not plan to run for president in 2012, the former prosecutor has been suggested as a potential running mate.

A Quinnipiac University poll found 2-1 New Jersey voters say Mr. Christie, who pushes a lean government and low-tax agenda, would not make a good vice president, reflecting a similar poll sentiment toward Mr. Christie running for president.

When it comes to his role as governor, the poll found that 44 percent of voters approved of the job he is doing and 47 percent disapproved, driven by female dissatisfaction.

The telephone poll of 1,610 voters found that women disapprove of Mr. Christie’s job performance 54 percent to 36 percent, while men approve 53 percent to 39 percent.

The poll was taken between June 14 and June 19 and has a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points.

NEW YORK

Gay marriage showdown likely on Wednesday

ALBANY — Legislative backroom dealing has cleared the way for a much anticipated and nationally scrutinized showdown on gay marriage in New York as early as Wednesday as closed-door talks over additional religious protections appeared to show progress.

After a marathon session Tuesday to pass deals involving taxes, state university tuition and other issues, the Republican-led Senate will be able to focus on whether to release a gay-marriage bill to the floor for a vote. The issue appears to be one vote short of approval; Senate Republicans mostly oppose gay marriage, while 29 of 30 Democrats support it.

One Republican senator who spoke on the condition of anonymity Tuesday said only a couple senators haven’t yet told colleagues of their positions.

“If it goes, it’s going to be close,” the senator said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the conference has agreed to withhold comment for days on the pressure-packed issue.

New York’s vote is pivotal in the national debate over same-sex marriage, an effort that largely stalled in the same chamber two years ago when the Senate voted it down. Since then, efforts have failed in New Jersey, Rhode Island and Maryland. Advocates hope a “yes” vote will jump-start the effort.

PENNSYLVANIA

Kidnap-hoax mom pleads guilty in fraud case

PHILADELPHIA — A suburban Philadelphia woman who staged a hoax kidnapping in 2009 that ended at Disney World has pleaded guilty to swindling nearly $1 million from her ex-boss and an elderly relative.

Bonnie Sweeten of Feasterville has been incarcerated since telling 911 operators that two black men kidnapped her and her 9-year-old daughter in 2009. They later surfaced at a Disney hotel.

The 40-year-old paralegal admits she took more than $700,000 from her law firm and $280,000 from the relative.

Sweeten faces two to 22 years in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Sweeten served nearly a year in prison for the false 911 call. She remains incarcerated.

The mother of three has said her life unraveled amid marital and other stresses.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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