- - Tuesday, March 1, 2011

ARIZONA

Sheriff snubbed by school district

PHOENIX | America’s self-proclaimed toughest sheriff says he is miffed after he was invited to read to a group of Phoenix sixth-graders — and then was uninvited for being too controversial.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said in a news release that a teacher asked him to read to a class at Sahuaro Elementary School on Friday.

But, he said, Washington School District administrators had the teacher rescind the invitation because the sheriff is too controversial. Messages left at the school district were not returned Tuesday.

“To disrespect the chief law enforcement authority of the county in this way is a bad example to students and the community overall,” Sheriff Arpaio said.

Sheriff Arpaio has gained notoriety for housing inmates in canvas tents, issuing them striped uniforms and pink underwear, assigning them to old-style chain gangs and serving them a diet of green bologna.

CALIFORNIA

Harmful bacteria found at Playboy Mansion

LOS ANGELES | Los Angeles County health officials have found the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease at the Playboy Mansion after 200 people who attended an event there last month became ill.

The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that Legionella bacteria was discovered in a water source at the Holmby Hills estate of Hugh Hefner.

County public health director Dr. Jonathan Fielding said, however, that officials haven’t ruled out that other bacteria or illnesses could have caused the outbreak.

Legionnaires’ disease causes respiratory illness, and its symptoms include coughing, malaise, chills and fever. Fewer than 18,000 Americans are hospitalized for the illness every year.

The outbreak occurred after a Feb. 1-3 conference that included a fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion.

MASSACHUSETTS

Influential minister at Harvard dies

CAMBRIDGE | The Rev. Peter J. Gomes, a nationally influential Baptist minister and advocate for tolerance who oversaw Harvard University’s Memorial Church for more than 30 years, has died. He was 68.

Mr. Gomes died Monday of complications from a stroke, according to a statement from the university.

Mr. Gomes described himself as a cultural conservative but stunned the Harvard community in 1991 when he said he was gay in response to harassment against gays on campus.

He published 11 volumes of sermons, as well as books, including 1996’s “The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart,” in which he analyzed the Bible’s use in marginalizing Jews, blacks, women and gays.

He condemned those who used the Bible to justify racism, oppression and homophobia but also steadfastly defended the text’s message.

NEW JERSEY

Rutgers to let men, women share rooms

NEW BRUNSWICK | New Jersey’s flagship state university has decided to allow male and female students to share rooms in three dorms in an effort to make the campus more inclusive for gay students after a highly publicized suicide last year.

Starting this fall, all Rutgers students — whether gay, lesbian, transgender or heterosexual — can choose either male or female roommates under the pilot program. Men and women will share bathrooms.

A similar but smaller pilot program is being launched on Rutger’s Newark campus.

A number of other schools, including the University of Maryland, Columbia University and George Washington University, offer similar housing options, according to the National Student Genderblind Campaign.

The organization is pressing for more such programs, saying that they are a way for students to have roommates with whom they are comfortable.

TEXAS

Juror’s illness delays ex-CIA agent’s trial

EL PASO | The much-watched perjury trial of a former CIA agent and anti-communist militant from Cuba was suspended for the second time in as many days Tuesday after a juror fell ill.

The latest delay in the on-again, off-again case of Luis Posada Carriles, 83, follows Monday’s suspension because of a family tragedy for one of the defense attorneys. Proceedings have ground to a halt multiple times since they began Jan. 10. U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone ordered suspensions three times to consider defense motions for mistrial, and the trial had another delay when snow shut down most of El Paso.

A Cardone aide said he wasn’t sure whether the trial would resume Wednesday.

Mr. Posada is former Cuban President Fidel Castro’s nemesis, and the two are almost the same age. He fled Cuba after Mr. Castro took power in 1959 and spent decades as a Washington-backed Cold Warrior.

Now, however, Mr. Posada faces charges of perjury, obstruction and immigration fraud. Prosecutors say he lied during citizenship hearings in El Paso after sneaking into the country in March 2005. They also accuse him of having a Guatemalan passport under a false name and refusing to admit responsibility for bombings of Cuban tourist sites in 1997 that killed an Italian tourist.

WASHINGTON

Nine sixth-graders suspected of ‘fight club’

TACOMA | Nine sixth-grade boys suspected of participating in a so-called “fight club” have been expelled from a Tacoma middle school.

School officials told the News Tribune that they found out about the club when a relative of one participant spoke to a television station about it. KCPQ-TV also aired a cell phone video showing two children fighting.

The fights took place at Stewart Middle School and in homes.

A Tacoma Public Schools spokesman said the school expelled the boys effective Monday. When they can return will be determined on a case-by-case basis as school officials factor in the students’ disciplinary histories.

District officials have told principals throughout Tacoma to be on the alert for similar clubs.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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