- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 13, 2002


Actor expected to make full recovery

SPARTA Actor Jason Priestley was showing signs of alertness and should recover fully from a concussion, broken back and other injuries suffered when his race car crashed into a wall at 180 mph, doctors said yesterday.

The former "Beverly Hills 90210" star, competing in the new Infiniti Pro Series, spun into the wall at Kentucky Speedway during practice on Sunday.

Mr. Priestley, 32, was flown to the University of Kentucky medical center with a spinal fracture and a closed head injury, as well as a broken nose and broken bones in both feet.

He was in serious but stable condition yesterday morning.


Jet with engine fire returns to JFK airport

Passengers from Iberia Airlines Madrid-bound Flight 6250 make their way from a Boeing 747 jumbo passenger plane after it made an emergency landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York Sunday evening, Aug. 11, 2002. An Iberia spokeswoman said the plane had only reached an altitude of 1,000 feet but was turned around once pilots realized one of the plane's four engines was on fire. Everone on board was evacuated while firefighters put out the fire, but two passengers were hospitalized with injuries sustained in the evacuation.


Bomb victim's mother dies at 83

BIRMINGHAM Alpha Robertson, who lost her youngest child in a racist church bombing in 1963 and testified decades later against two Ku Klux Klansmen convicted in the blast, died Sunday. She was 83.

Mrs. Robertson, who had battled cancer and other illnesses, was hospitalized two weeks ago and had suffered her third stroke.

She was the mother of Carole Robertson, 14, who was among four black girls killed when a bomb went off at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on Sept. 15, 1963.

Mrs. Robertson testified about that Sunday morning during the trial last year of Thomas Blanton Jr. and the case this year against Bobby Frank Cherry.


Photographers die in plane crash

BISHOP Nature photographers Galen and Barbara Rowell, whose works were published in National Geographic and Outside magazines and in many books, were killed in a plane crash in the eastern Sierra Nevada.

The twin-prop Aero Commander went down early Sunday morning about two miles south of Bishop Airport, said Inyo County Sheriff's Deputy Paul Baldwin. Federal investigators were at the scene yesterday, but no details on the cause of the crash were released.

The pilot, Tom Reid, 46, and another passenger, Carol McAfee, both of Bishop, also died in the crash, according to the Inyo County coroner's office.


Woman arrested in 1974 murder

BOULDER A transient woman accused in a small-town Texas murder case was arrested in Boulder on Sunday, 28 years after the shooting.

Boulder police arrested Gilda Ann Westbrook, 47, on suspicion of illegal camping on city open space and found that she was one in a group of two women and two men suspected in a 1974 homicide at a rest stop in Newton County in east Texas, authorities said.

Charles Markentile, 40, of Illinois, was killed while visiting his mother-in-law, said Larry Folmar, chief deputy for the Newton County Sheriff's Office.

Miss Westbrook denied the accusations and declined to be interviewed, Boulder police Sgt. Fred Gerhardt told the Daily Camera.


Year-round school makes its start

SUSSEX The carefree days of summer will end early for some Delaware children, who begin the state's first year-round school today, reports the News-Journal.

Seaford Central Elementary School will offer the same classes that other schools in the Seaford School District will feature when they open a few days before Labor Day.

"Same testing. Same curriculum. Same expectations," Principal Bonnie Johnson said.

The nearly 350 students at the year-round school will attend classes for the same number of hours as other students each year 1,090.5. The difference will be a longer school year broken up by frequent vacations or bonus learning sessions.


Patient in rehabilitation dies of drug overdose

ST. PETERSBURG A patient at a drug treatment center died of an overdose of heroin smuggled into the facility, police said.

Aaron Kononitz died Saturday, a day before he was to graduate from Operation PAR's residential drug-treatment program in Largo.

Authorities said they initially believed the heroin was brought into the center by another resident. But after interviews with other residents, investigators determined that wasn't the case, said Pinellas County Sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha.


Workers to be paid for reading program

ATLANTA A $100,000-a-year program will allow city sewer employees to be paid overtime to stay after work to improve their reading and math skills.

The reasoning given is that these employees can increase their comprehension and the city can train them in pipe laying, reporting of spills and repairing broken pipes.


Hispanic festival highlights car show

TWIN FALLS About 60 cars, trucks and motorcycles revved up for a car show Sunday at Un Dia en el Valle. Included in the show, which is a mainstay of the Hispanic Heritage Fiesta, were two new events: car-hopping and stereo sound-off contests.

The point of the car-hopping contest is to use hydraulics to get the front of the vehicle to jump as high as possible. Getting the cars ready for shows takes time, sometimes years. Daniel Juarez of Glenns Ferry spent three years working on his 1979 Monte Carlo and a whole week preparing for Sunday, the Times-News reports.

"It is better to spend time on cars than getting into trouble," said Mr. Juarez, whose car jumped 38 inches.


State, cities fight over seat-belt fines

INDIANAPOLIS The state says it doesn't yet plan to go after communities that have passed ordinances to keep money generated by fines against motorists who don't buckle their seat belts.

The board of accounts says the seat-belt law is a state law; therefore, the $25 fine should go to the general fund. Marion, Merrillville, Lowell and other cities have passed the ordinances.

Police issued 63,000 tickets last year for seat-belt violations.


Author throws ceremonial pitch

BANGOR Author Stephen King threw the ceremonial first pitch in the Senior League baseball World Series.

Mr. King and his wife, Tabitha, walked to the pitcher's mound in Mansfield Stadium on Sunday while the announcer asked over the stadium's public-address system, "Where's the ball?" Gov. Angus King then roared onto the field on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, pulled the baseball from his pocket and gave it to the author, who threw the pitch.

Mr. King is a big Red Sox fan. One of his books, "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon," refers to the former Red Sox pitcher. He and his wife donated considerable money to the construction of Mansfield Stadium in their hometown.


Cardinal's testimony goes public today

BOSTON Transcripts and videotapes are expected to be released today detailing Cardinal Bernard Law's answers during a deposition on how the Boston Archdiocese handled accusations of sexual misconduct against the Rev. Paul Shanley.

The material covers two days of Cardinal Law's May deposition in civil lawsuits against Father Shanley that accuse church officials of negligence in not protecting children.

The release of the transcripts and videotapes was delayed for settlement talks between church officials and attorneys for the purported victims. The talks ended with no agreement.


Workplace-smoking ban takes effect in county

LANSING The state's first countywide ban on smoking in most public and private workplaces took effect yesterday.

The ban in Ingham County, which was passed in February, applies to government buildings and the common areas of public and private offices, malls, hospitals, libraries, nursing homes and other facilities. It doesn't affect restaurants, bars or bingo halls.

General Motors Corp. began enforcing the ban last week at its Ingham County plants.

"Tempers are flaring," said Yvette Morris, an employee there. "They're catching them [smoking] in stairwells and bathrooms."


Police arrest mother in death of son

NEW HOPE Police took a woman into custody in connection with the stabbing death of her 8-year-old son.

The boy, whose identity was not divulged, died after he was stabbed at his mother's apartment, said Detective Sgt. Jeff McFarlane.

The detective described the mother as "severely mentally distressed" and said she apparently had a history of mental illness. He said no one else was in the apartment at the time of the stabbing. Police were called to the scene Sunday evening and were let into the apartment by the mother, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune reports.


Senate stubs out smoking fight

HELENA The Senate defeated an attempt to punish Helena for enacting the state's strongest anti-smoking ordinance.

The legislation would have led to a decrease in state funding to any local government whose actions reduce state revenue from gambling and alcohol taxes.

Helena voters two months ago banned smoking in any workplace and in any building to which the public has access. Bar and casino operators say they have lost business after the ban.


Cher's farewell tour plays in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS Cher delivered a Vegas-style spectacle to sold-out audiences this weekend as part of her farewell tour and issued some advice to up-and-coming divas.

Her shows on Friday and Saturday had many of the same elements as other performances on the Las Vegas Strip, including a circus act with a paper elephant and seven dancers who performed Cirque du Soleil-inspired acrobatics.

The singer-actress sported at least 10 costumes and wigs from her four-decade career. Songs, including "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" and "Believe," were interspersed with video clips from TV variety shows, movies and television interviews.

For young divas, Cher had this advice: "I think this is a great show," she said. "So follow this."


Tornado destroys farm buildings

MEDINA A tornado destroyed farm buildings as a storm system moved across the Plains and upper Midwest with heavy rain, high wind and lightning.

Mark Staloch said he and his father fled to their basement after seeing a funnel cloud bearing down on their house.

The twister on Sunday destroyed their dairy barn and another building, leaving only their house standing. A neighboring farm was destroyed, but Jerry and Sandra Eissinger and their three grandchildren escaped injury by huddling in a root cellar, Mr. Staloch said.

In South Dakota, wind gusted at 77 mph at the Sioux Falls airport, damaging a hangar. Three airline flights headed to Sioux Falls were diverted, said airport Executive Director Mike Marnach.

Hail as big as baseballs was reported in north-central Nebraska. Tornadoes were spotted in southwest Nebraska, but no damage was reported.


Disease rate high among state minorities

OKLAHOMA CITY Oklahoma minorities are more likely to die of heart disease and cancer than their counterparts elsewhere in the country, partly because they smoke more and exercise less, a new report says.

The report released yesterday by the state board of health shows Oklahoma's American Indians and blacks have higher heart disease death rates than the national average for those groups.

Among blacks in the state, the rate is 290 deaths per 100,000 people. The national rate is 255. Oklahoma Indians have a heart disease death rate of 150 per 100,000 people, compared with the national rate of 125.


Researchers injured when mix explodes

WEST JEFFERSON Explosives in an experiment blew up at an institute that does research for the military, critically injuring two researchers, leaving them with burns and shrapnel wounds, authorities said.

Jim Gombarcik, 30, of Delaware, and Tom Burky, 34, of Johnstown, were combining materials Sunday afternoon at Battelle Memorial Institute's research center when the explosion occurred, spokeswoman Katy Delaney said.

The men work for a Battelle division that researches security technology, munitions and explosives, Miss Delaney said. She did not know what type of substances they were combining in a device resembling a cement mixer.


Game commission hires canine officers

ERIE Two Labrador retrievers will enter the woods this hunting season to help catch poachers and find evidence in other crimes.

Certified police dogs Sarge and Onyx are working with Game Commission officers as part of a three-year test to see whether the program can work statewide. The dogs are trained to track and detect wildlife and recover evidence.


Enrollment rises in Catholic schools

ABERDEEN Enrollment has increased in the state's Catholic schools, while the number of students in public schools has decreased.

Catholic educators say students are attracted by a moral environment.

Catholic school enrollment has increased by almost 300 students in the past seven years, while public school enrollment dropped by almost 11,000.


Smokies on pace for record ozone season

GATLINBURG The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is experiencing its most polluted summer since the record season in 1999, officials said yesterday.

"We could be headed for the worst year ever if this continues," spokeswoman Nancy Gray said of the hot, dry conditions that contribute to high ozone levels.

Yesterday marked the 33rd day of unhealthy ozone levels in the country's most popular national park nearly three times as many days as the entire May to October season last year. Air quality in the park's higher elevations, where ozone concentrations are worse, was acceptable only one day this month, the park service said.

The park has been studying air pollutants for two decades. It registered a record 52 high-ozone days in 1999. This year is on pace to break that mark.


Activist settles skimming case

OLYMPIA The state's leading campaigner for tax repeal, who admitted diverting funds from his group for personal use, agreed to pay $50,000 to settle the case against him, the attorney general's office announced yesterday.

The judgment filed in Snohomish County Superior Court calls for Tim Eyman to pay a $42,000 fine and $8,000 in legal costs. It also permanently bans him from acting as treasurer or having control over the financial accounts of a political committee.

Six months ago, Eyman confessed that he had siphoned money from Permanent Offense, his political committee, for his personal use.


All counties exceed school hiring limits

CHARLESTON As every West Virginia district prepares to open the school year with more employees than the state will pay for, the state's long-criticized method of funding county school systems is being questioned again, the Daily Mail reports.

"Clearly there's a problem with it if every county in the state can't operate within its limits," said Judy Hale, president of the West Virginia Federation of Teachers, a union with 4,000 members statewide. "Counties are struggling just to be able to offer all the courses they're required to offer, let alone any of the special programs that kids need."

State tax dollars are given to county school systems for salaries and are based on the number of students enrolled each October. It allows 54 professional educators and 34 service workers for every 1,000 students.

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