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American Scene: School withholds diploma for teen’s cursing

- - Monday, August 20, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY — The father of a central Oklahoma high school valedictorian said Monday that his daughter's diploma has been withheld because she used a curse word during her graduation speech.

The Prague High School superintendent said in a statement Monday that Kaitlin Nootbaar "used language that was inappropriate for a graduation exercise."

David Nootbaar said his daughter said during her May speech that she had wanted to be a nurse, then a veterinarian, but when people ask what she wants to be now, she said, "How the hell should I know? I've changed my mind so many times."

He said Kaitlin's speech was inspired by an installment of the "Twilight" movie series, in which a character used a similar phrase during a graduation scene. He said the written version of her speech used the word "heck," but that she inadvertently used the curse word.

School Superintendent Rick Martin issued a statement in which he called Kaitlin "an outstanding student" whose written speech had been approved.

"Unfortunately, she did not present the speech as written and used language that was inappropriate for a graduation exercise," Mr. Martin said.

CALIFORNIA

Fire burns 7 homes, threatens thousands

MANTON — Firefighters in Northern California struggled Monday to gain control of a growing wildfire that has destroyed at least seven homes and forced thousands of rural residents to evacuate.

The blaze, which started Saturday, has consumed more than 23 square miles near the towns of Manton, Shingletown and Viola near the border of Tehama and Shasta counties. It was about 5 percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The Ponderosa fire threatens at least 3,000 homes and more than 300 other structures, said fire spokesman Daniel Berlant.

More than 1,200 firefighters are battling the wildfire burning in rugged, densely forested terrain about 170 miles north of Sacramento. It started after the area was hit by a series of lightning strikes.

The fire forced the closures of Highway 44 and some local roads and prompted the sheriff to declare a State of Emergency for Shasta County. The Red Cross set up an evacuation center in Redding.

The Ponderosa fire is one of many wildfires burning across California and the West.

FLORIDA

End of Anthony's probation kept secret

ORLANDO — Casey Anthony's year of probation is ending this week, but when she will be released from state supervision is being kept secret because officials are concerned about her security.

Florida Department of Corrections officials said Monday that they will not announce publicly the end of her supervision because of those concerns.

Her attorneys several times have said Anthony, 26, has received death threats.

It will be a year this week since Anthony first reported to the Department of Corrections to serve probation on a check fraud conviction. She has been serving her sentence at an undisclosed location in Florida.

In a trial that captivated the nation last year, the Orlando woman was acquitted of murdering her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.

COLORADO

Nurse who treated shooting victims dies

DENVER — A nurse who helped treat victims of the Aurora theater shooting in Colorado has drowned while on a family vacation in Iowa.

Jennifer Gallagher, 46, of Denver went swimming in West Lake Okoboji the night of Aug. 6, and her body was found the next day.

Mrs. Gallagher worked at the University of Colorado Hospital for 13 years and cared for one shooting victim treated in the hospital's neurological intensive care unit, which she helped open. She was among staffers who met with President Obama during his visit after the July 20 shooting rampage.

NEW YORK

Organizers of Ramadan service find bacon bits

NEW YORK — Muslims gathering to celebrate the end of Ramadan at a New York City park Sunday morning found uncooked bacon scattered around, and police were investigating it as a possible bias crime.

Organizers said the bacon pieces were found in a small section of the New Dorp Beach park.

Muslims are prohibited from eating pork products. The New York chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations says pork often is used to offend or taunt Muslims. It says there have been similar taunts around the country.

Only a handful of organizers from the Muslim American Society on Staten Island noticed the pork in the park.

One organizer told the Staten Island Advance that about 1,500 worshippers gathered Sunday to celebrate the end of the monthlong fast of Ramadan.

FLORIDA

Cuba-to-Florida swimmer plows on after storm

KEY WEST — Diana Nyad slogged across the Straits of Florida for a third straight day Monday, advancing toward a swimming record on calm seas after enduring a night of stormy weather.

Ms. Nyad, who turns 63 Wednesday, is making her third attempt since last summer to become the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. She made a failed try with a cage in 1978.

"She's doing well," a spokeswoman for the swimmer, Alex Crotin, said Monday afternoon.

Ms. Nyad had been expected to arrive somewhere in the Florida Keys early Tuesday, though her team didn't say how much storms might delay her. Her team tweeted that a storm had blown Ms. Nyad off course and that "all hell broke loose" in the Sunday squall.

Monday appeared to be offering far more ideal conditions, with blue skies and level seas.

Ms. Nyad's team tweeted Monday morning that she was "swimming strong" in calm seas at 50 strokes per minute. She hit the 48-hour mark in the water Monday afternoon; she estimated that it would take at least 60 hours to reach Florida.

From wire dispatches and staff reports