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American Scene

- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2011

REGION

Census: Children in poverty rose about 1 million in '10

More than 15 million children lived in poverty in 2010, about 1 million more than in 2009, the U.S. Census Bureau said Thursday.

No state saw a decrease in child poverty, and in 27 states, both the number and percentage of poor children rose. Ten states, including West Virginia, plus the District of Columbia had child-poverty rates of 25 percent or higher, according to the bureau's American Community Survey (ACS).

In a separate ACS report, the bureau said that 13.6 million households received food benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at any time in the past 12 months.

This represented nearly 12 percent of all U.S. households, up from around 10 percent in 2009. Forty-five states saw an increase in SNAP receipt.

In 2010, the average monthly benefit for SNAP was $133.79 per person, according to the Department of Agriculture. SNAP was once known as the food stamp program.

ILLINOIS

Gunman fatally shoots himself at FedEx center

BEDFORD PARK | A gunman walked into a Chicago-area FedEx shipping facility Thursday morning yelling for his wife, then fired several shots that sent panicked employees fleeing before he fatally shot himself, police said.

Nobody else was injured. The shooter, identified as 28-year-old Benyamin Robinson of Chicago, was found dead inside the facility a short time later, Bedford Park Police Chief Daniel Godfrey said.

The gunman was not an employee at the 183,000-square-foot shipping facility, but his wife works there.

Chief Godfrey said Robinson and his wife had been having "recent problems." The gunman's children were found safe at another location.

OHIO

Couple wire a student to hear teacher bullying

COLUMBUS | A couple raising a 14-year-old developmentally disabled student say they hid a recording device on the girl to prove a teacher and school aide were bullying her, and the audio and subsequent investigations have led to a lawsuit, the aide's resignation and disciplinary action for the teacher.

The girl's mother and the woman's longtime boyfriend said in court documents that they complained about the mental and emotional abuse to school officials in the Miami Trace district, and then secretly recorded instructors' comments for four days last spring after their claims were rebuffed.

In the recording, voices identified as aide Kelly Chaffins and teacher Christie Wilt are heard questioning the girl's weight and physical activity, and making derogatory comments about her character and the character of her mother and the boyfriend.

"Are you that damn dumb? Are you that dumb?" Miss Chaffins said. "Oh, my God. You are such a liar. ... You told me you don't know. It's no wonder you don't have friends. No wonder nobody likes you. Because you lie, cheat ... steal."

WISCONSIN

Monks sell business, end prayers, disband

SPARTA | Monks who operated a multimillion-dollar Internet business selling printer inks and toners from rural Wisconsin - and promised to offer prayers for their customers - have sold their company and assets and disbanded their small monastic community.

Just two years ago, the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Spring Bank near Sparta had projected sales of $3.5 million for LaserMonks Inc. But today, the monks' 15,000-square-foot home and 500 acres are for sale at an asking price of $2.6 million. The LaserMonks name and customer list have been sold to a California firm. Religious artifacts, furniture and farm equipment were sold at auction last month.

Although the abbey, about 180 miles northwest of Milwaukee, was built to accommodate nearly 20 monks, membership had dwindled by the time it closed. The three remaining monks have gone their separate ways.

The abbey's attorney, Kevin Roop, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the economic downturn and increased competition forced the monks to liquidate the business, which sold laser-printer inks and toners as well as other office and school supplies and gifts. Their website also accepted prayer requests.

ARKANSAS

Defense: Toss murder conviction after tweets

LITTLE ROCK | A man sent to death row for robbing and shooting a teenager after a party should have his murder conviction overturned because a judge wouldn't dismiss a juror caught tweeting during the trial, his lawyers argued Thursday to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Erickson Dimas-Martinez's lawyer told justices the juror was tweeting during her client's 2010 trial for the slaying of Derrick Jefferson, despite the judge's instruction to not to post on the Internet or otherwise or communicate with anyone about the case.

"He's paying more attention to his twittering than the evidence," said Janice Vaughn with the Arkansas Public Defender Commission.

In one tweet during the trial, the juror wrote: "Choices to be made. Hearts to be broken ... We each define the great line." Less than an hour before the jury announced its verdict, he tweeted: "It's over."

Assistant Attorney General Eileen Harrison defended the judge's decision to not dismiss the juror, saying the Twitter messages were merely about the juror's feelings and not about specifics of the trial.

UTAH

Man arrested in firebomb attempt

WEST JORDAN | A Utah man has been arrested after throwing a Molotov cocktail at a Wells Fargo branch, authorities said.

Police responded early Thursday morning in West Jordan. A bank window was cracked, but authorities say the device didn't explode.

The man arrested is 20 years old. His name wasn't released. Authorities say a bomb squad removed suspicious items from his car, but it wasn't immediately clear whether they were explosive.

West Jordan spokeswoman Kim Wells said the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have joined the investigation.

The threat came on the same day Occupy protesters were marking the two-month anniversary of the movement. It wasn't clear whether the Utah bomb-throwing was connected to the national protest.

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