American Scene: School OKs gay student’s T-shirt for 1 day only

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OHIO

School OKs gay student’s T-shirt for 1 day only

CINCINNATI | A gay student suing his Ohio high school for prohibiting him from wearing a T-shirt designed to urge tolerance will be allowed to wear the shirt for one day.

Maverick Couch’s lawsuit charges that Waynesville High School and the Wayne Local School District are violating his freedom of expression rights by saying the shirt is sexual in nature and inappropriate for school.

Court records show that the district agreed Wednesday to let Maverick, 16, wear the shirt saying “Jesus Is Not A Homophobe” on the April 20 Day of Silence. The annual national event protests bullying of gay students.

The district superintendent says only that some progress was made in the case.

ILLINOIS

Doctors want to redefine autism; parents worried

CHICAGO | For the first time in nearly two decades, experts are trying to rewrite the definition of autism.

And that worries some parents and specialists.

For many years, different autism-related labels have been used, including Asperger’s disorder. Doctors working on the new definition want to dump the confusing labels and lump them all into one category called “autism spectrum disorder.”

Some specialists think that will weed out many autistic children. And parents of mildly affected children worry their children will lose access to special education.

A decision is expected by December. The new definition would then be added to the reference manual used by psychiatrists.

MISSOURI

Judge won’t dismiss charge against diocese, bishop

KANSAS CITY | A Missouri judge refused Thursday to dismiss misdemeanor charges against a Kansas City diocese and its bishop, who is the highest-ranking U.S. Roman Catholic official criminally charged with shielding an abusive priest.

Bishop Robert Finn and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph are charged with failing to report suspected child abuse. Prosecutors say each is a “mandatory reporter” under the state law. Defense attorneys argued the law is unconstitutionally vague, and that Bishop Finn wasn’t the diocese’s designated reporter.

“This Court finds and concludes that persons of ordinary intelligence have no difficulty understanding the meaning of ‘immediately report, ” Circuit Judge John Torrence wrote in his ruling.

Judge Torrence also denied a request by attorneys for Bishop Finn and the diocese to have the cases tried separately if they advanced, saying there is no reason to have two separate trials in a case involving most of the same facts.

Bishop Finn has acknowledged he was told in December 2010 about hundreds of images of small children, some of them pornographic, found on the Rev. Shawn Ratigan’s computer several months before the diocese turned over a disk containing the photos to local police. The bishop also has acknowledged that a parish principal raised concerns about Father Ratigan’s behavior around children in May 2010, half a year before the photos were found.

OKLAHOMA

Ex-warden’s wife released early from state prison

OKLAHOMA CITY | A former Oklahoma prison warden’s wife convicted of helping an inmate escape almost 18 years ago has been released from prison.

Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie says Bobbi Parker was released at 1 a.m. Thursday from the Hillside Community Correctional Center in Oklahoma City. She served a little more than half of her one-year prison sentence.

Ms. Parker was found guilty Sept. 21 of helping convicted killer Randolph Franklin Dial escape from the Oklahoma State Reformatory where her husband, Randy, was deputy warden.

Ms. Parker and Dial disappeared together from the Greer County prison on Aug. 30, 1994. They were discovered living together as man and wife on a chicken farm in Texas in April 2005.

Prosecutors allege Ms. Parker fell in love with Dial. Her defense attorneys say she was kidnapped.

CALIFORNIA

New prison photo shows shaggy, aged Manson

LOS ANGELES | California corrections officials have released a new photograph of convicted cult killer Charles Manson that shows the 77-year-old with long hair, a shaggy beard and a swastika scar on his forehead.

The photo was taken last June and released Wednesday. The buzz cut he had in his previous picture is gone, his hair and beard are now long and gray. He has had the carved swastika scar for decades.

Manson is scheduled for his 12th parole hearing next week. He is serving a life sentence at Corcoran State Prison for the killings of nine people, including the 1969 deaths of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six other people in cult attacks.

Three of his followers also are serving life sentences. A fourth, Susan Atkins, died in prison in 2009.

WASHINGTON

Dog eats prized tickets to Masters golf tourney

SEATTLE | Russ Berkman’s dream came true when he won a lottery for four passes to Wednesday’s practice round at the Masters golf tournament in Georgia. But the Seattle-area resident’s stomach turned when he found his dog, Sierra, had eaten them.

Mr. Berkman told KJR radio on Tuesday he was determined to go. His girlfriend told him he had to make Sierra puke.

He induced vomiting and recovered a gooey glob. Then he went to work trying to put about 20 vomit-covered pieces back together.

He says he recovered about 70 percent of the tickets. He took photos and explained the situation to the Augusta National Golf Club as “my dog ate my Masters tickets!”

The club reprinted Mr. Berkman’s tickets and had them waiting for him in Georgia.

WYOMING

Town with 1 resident sold for $900,000

BUFORD | A Wyoming town advertised as the smallest in the United States has sold at auction for $900,000.

Buford is between Cheyenne and Laramie in southeast Wyoming. An unidentified Vietnamese man placed the winning bid at auction Thursday.

As owner of the place along Interstate 80, he will get a gas station and convenience store, a schoolhouse from 1905, a cabin, a garage, 10 acres of land and a three-bedroom home.

The town has had just one inhabitant, Don Sammons, who served with the Army in Vietnam in the late 1960s. He plans to retire from his unofficial title as “mayor” of the unincorporated community and write a book about his experiences in Buford.

The town traces its origins to the 1860s and the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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