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American Scene: Appeals court overturns NYC accessible-taxi ruling

- - Thursday, June 28, 2012

NEW YORK — A federal appeals court struck down a ruling Thursday that would have required New York City to give taxi licenses only to vehicles that are wheelchair accessible - disappointing disability advocates upset that fewer than 2 percent of city cabs can accommodate wheelchairs.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the Americans with Disabilities Act doesn't require the city to demand that cabbies serve the disabled. Instead, the court ruled, in this case, the ADA only bars the city Taxi & Limousine Commission from discriminating against disabled people seeking a license to drive a cab.

The law "prohibits the TLC from refusing to grant licenses to persons with disabilities who are otherwise qualified to own or operate a taxi," the justices wrote. "It does not assist persons who are consumers of the licensees' product."

The decision was a blow to disability advocates, who had heralded the lower court ruling that declared access to such services "a basic civil right."

FLORIDA

Girl dies while playing miniature golf in Orlando

ORLANDO — A medical examiner says an 11-year-old New York girl was electrocuted while trying to retrieve a ball from a pond at a time-share resort's miniature-golf course near Orlando.

Orange County deputies say Ashton JoJo cried out in pain Wednesday afternoon as she stepped into the 2-foot-deep pond. Orange Lake Resort guest Christopher Burges of Alabama heard her screams and tried to rescue her. He was also injured.

The girl died shortly after arriving at Florida Hospital Celebration.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that the Orange-Osceola medical examiner confirmed electrocution as the cause of death Thursday. Inspectors say it appears that electrical breakers for the pond's pump were improperly replaced.

MICHIGAN

Missing 4-year-old boy found buried at home

MOUNT PLEASANT — The body of a 4-year-old boy missing for a week was found buried Thursday at his home, a family spokesman said.

Carnel Chamberlain's body was found under a wood porch or deck at the home on the reservation of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, 70 miles north of Lansing, Kevin Chamberlain said.

Mr. Chamberlain, the tribe's former chief, said he had no details about what led investigators back to the house after many days of searching woods, ponds and the tribe's wastewater-treatment areas.

The body "had to be in a grave," he said. "We had looked underneath before and didn't see anything."

Carnel disappeared on June 21 while in the care of his mother's boyfriend.

CALIFORNIA

65 state parks spared closure for the moment

SAN FRANCISCO — With a busy Fourth of July week looming, California parks officials on Thursday announced that 65 of the 70 state parks once slated to be closed owing to budget cuts will remain open at least temporarily after a closure deadline that had been set for Sunday.

The move came after the state reached agreements with nonprofits, local governments and others regarding 40 of the parks, and deals were in the works for 25 more, the California Department of Parks and Recreation said.

The state had issued a list of 70 parks - nearly a quarter of its entire system - that it intended to close to bridge a $22 million budget deficit, but will now only close five.

NEW JERSEY

8 security screeners fired at Newark airport

NEWARK — Officials have fired eight screeners at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey after they were captured by surveillance cameras sleeping or violating other standards.

The Transportation Security Administration had suspended the employees after they were videotaped in a baggage room in December.

The TSA would not say how many of the firings were for sleeping on duty.

Their union told the Star-Ledger of Newark all eight would appeal their dismissals.

Meanwhile, the newspaper reported the TSA also is looking into photographs of screening supervisors who appear to be sleeping in front of monitors used for detecting explosives and other threats.

Two of the supervisors say they were not working at the time the photos were taken.

39 children injured in bus accident

PARSIPPANY — Police said 39 children from a Pennsylvania sports camp have received minor injuries in an accident involving four school buses on Interstate 80 in New Jersey.

Trooper Christopher Kay said it appears one bus rear-ended another bus, and the other two vehicles sustained minor damage in the accident Thursday in Parsippany.

Trooper Kay says the buses were taking 9- and 10-year-olds from Lindenmere Sports Camp in Tannersville, Pa., to the Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park in Jackson, N.J. He says there were more than 100 passengers on the four buses.

The trooper said the children complained of pain or simple cuts and bruises. Two adults on the buses also were taken to the hospital to be checked out.

The cause of the accident is under investigation.

TEXAS

JetBlue pilot who left cockpit pleads not guilty

AMARILLO — A JetBlue Airways pilot who left the cockpit during a flight and screamed about religion and terrorists has pleaded not guilty to interfering with a flight crew.

Court records show Clayton F. Osbon entered the plea at his Thursday arraignment in federal court in Amarillo.

U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson ruled earlier this month that Mr. Osbon is mentally competent to stand trial. Her ruling followed a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation.

Mr. Osbon was indicted after a March 27 incident on a flight from Las Vegas to New York. Passengers said they had to wrestle him to the floor after he left the cockpit midflight and ran through the plane's cabin yelling about Jesus and al Qaeda.

No trial date has been set. Mr. Osbon faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

PENNSYLVANIA

Archdiocese to sell large N.J. beach house

PHILADELPHIA — The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is putting a massive beachfront home on the New Jersey shore up for sale as it faces a $17 million budget deficit and millions in legal bills associated with a child sex-abuse case.

The home used by vacationing retired priests will be shuttered on Saturday, a spokesman for the archdiocese said this week. It isn't yet listed with a broker but that will change soon.

The nine-bedroom property occupies a full block along the Boardwalk in Ventnor, N.J. Tax records show it's assessed at $6.2 million. Retired priests have used the home, called Villa St. Joseph by the Sea, as a getaway since the archdiocese acquired the property in 1963.

Neighbor Charles Fischer told the Philadelphia Inquirer he would miss the priests, calling them "the most wonderful neighbors you could have."

The sale comes as the archdiocese deals with a massive budget gap and legal bills resulting from a landmark sex-abuse case that ended in the conviction of a high-ranking church official.

Monsignor William Lynn was convicted of child endangerment for his handling of complaints against one priest. Prosecutors said he took part in a cover-up that included the shuffling of pedophile priests to unwitting parishes.

The archdiocese estimated the case had cost it at least $10 million in legal bills.

Archbishop Charles Chaput last week announced plans to cut 45 jobs and stop publishing the diocesan newspaper because of budget problems.

The house cost the archdiocese almost $115,000 in property taxes last year. The church also paid for staff including cooks, waiters and caretakers for the retired priests.

From wire dispatches and staff report