- The Washington Times - Monday, December 23, 2002

NEW JERSEY
Family mourns soldier killed in Afghanistan
ELIZABETH - The family of a U.S. soldier killed during a firefight in Afghanistan mourned privately yesterday, with a note taped to their front door saying, "Please respect our privacy."
Sgt. Steven Checo, a 22-year-old paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, was shot Saturday during a gunbattle in the town of Shkhin.
Sgt. Checo died during surgery at a field hospital, the Army said. He was the 17th American killed in a hostile situation in Afghanistan since the war on terror began late last year.

TENNESSEE
Landowners donate 700 acres
KNOXVILLE - More than 700 acres bordering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will remain undeveloped, thanks to a Christmas gift from the landowners.
Sen.-elect Lamar Alexander, a Republican, and several of his neighbors are giving away millions of dollars in development rights to preserve the forested tract.
"We have been acquiring this land for 25 years in order to protect this scenic view of the Smokies and to create a buffer zone to protect the park," Mr. Alexander said.

ALABAMA
Accident kills two 16-year-old girls
HARVEST Two 16-year-old girls were killed Saturday when their sports car ran off a highway and hit a tree. It was the second deadly wreck involving a teen driver in Madison County this month.
Christina Lipka, the driver, and Courtney Craig, who was in the front seat, were pronounced dead at the scene. State troopers said neither girl was wearing a seat belt, according to the Huntsville Times.
Backseat passengers Raymond Wilburn, 17, and Ivan Ibarra, 21, were taken to Huntsville Hospital.
On Dec. 5, John Vandiver, a National Honor Society student, and his younger brother, Will, were killed when John lost control of his car on the way to school.

CALIFORNIA
Firefighters must return overtime pay
LOS ANGELES About two dozen veteran firefighters who spent months battling a series of destructive wildfires across the West have been ordered to return thousands of dollars in overtime pay.
The firefighters, who work for the National Park Service, Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, were told in recent weeks that they had worked too much overtime and exceeded salary limits. Federal law restricts pay for firefighters to $121,600 a year.
Officials said they are trying to find a way to allow the firefighters to keep their overtime pay.
John Wright, spokesman for the Interior Department, said he knew of only one person who was paid too much. "We're going to try to work out a system that's equitable to resolve this," he said.

GEORGIA
Immigrants protest Venezuelan president
ATLANTA About 300 Venezuelan immigrants marched yesterday in protest of their homeland's president, saying he has violated human rights and pleading for new elections.
Event organizer Enrique Montiel compared the turmoil surrounding President Hugo Chavez to the 1974 resignation of U.S. President Nixon.
"Chavez was democratically elected, but so was Nixon," said Mr. Montiel, 43. "He broke the law and he had to go."
The march echoed protests that have shaken up Venezuela, a South American country of 24 million, where a nationwide work stoppage that began Dec. 2 has crippled oil production and sent global oil prices climbing. Critics say Mr. Chavez has mismanaged the economy and widened class divisions since taking office in 1998.

IOWA
Donors replace stolen gifts
DAVENPORT Just days after thieves stole the Christmas gifts meant for women and children at a domestic-violence shelter, the shelter's gift collection is overflowing, thanks to an outpouring of support from the community.
About $1,200 worth of goods, including Barbie dolls and video games, were taken from the shelter late Thursday or Friday. "We've got children who have been victimized twice," police Capt. David Struckman said.
After local media reported the theft Saturday, the gifts began pouring in.
By Saturday night, the eastern Iowa shelter collected more than $5,100 in cash and about 10 van loads of toys, said Tom Wilson, president and chief executive officer of Family Resources Inc.

KENTUCKY
Abuse victims group moves headquarters
LOUISVILLE A national advocacy group for victims of church sexual abuse moved its headquarters to Louisville, where the Roman Catholic archdiocese faces 200 lawsuits charging abuse.
Linkup, which has more than 3,000 members, had been in Chicago since it was founded in 1991.
"When you look at what's been occurring across the country in terms of the scandal, Louisville is in some ways an epicenter of the crisis," said President Susan Archibald, 37, who operates the new Linkup office from her Louisville home.

MASSACHUSETTS
Church hopes changes will renew giving
BOSTON Fund-raisers for the Archdiocese of Boston, who have seen their efforts to raise money damaged by the clergy sex-abuse scandal, are hoping the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law will jump-start flagging donations.
"We can all agree that the biggest single negative has been the sexual-misconduct situation," Ken Hokenson, the Archdiocese of Boston's head fund-raiser, told the Boston Globe, noting that about $5 million in pledges have been canceled by unhappy donors. "I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say that that is the most important factor."

MISSISSIPPI
FBI seeks leads in bank robberies
GULFPORT Federal authorities are asking for the public's help in solving six bank robberies that occurred on the Gulf Coast in the past two years, the Biloxi Sun Herald reports.
"We wanted to put [descriptions] out there one more time and see if somebody calls in with a tip," said Jerry Peralta, bank-robbery coordinator at the FBI's Gulfport office.
Three of the 14 area bank robberies in 2000 remain unsolved. Two of the eight robberies in 2001 have not been solved, and one of the 11 this year is unsolved.
Although FBI statistics show that the number of bank robberies in the area has increased from eight in 2001 to 11 so far this year, the number across the state has decreased.

NEW YORK
Rockefeller plans organic farm on estate
POCANTICO HILLS The patriarch of the Rockefeller family is planning to build a nonprofit organic farm and education center devoted to agriculture on his sprawling estate.
David Rockefeller, 87, grandson of oil magnate John D. Rockefeller Sr., said he also plans to construct a catering hall, cafe, offices and an organic restaurant, the New York Times reported yesterday. A hotel and spa would be built on a separate parcel near the restaurant under Mr. Rockefeller's proposal.
Mr. Rockefeller, who is donating the roughly $28 million needed for the complex in Westchester County, said he wanted the project to honor his late wife, Margaret.

OHIO
Burglars hit home of police chief
CINCINNATI The burglars who ransacked Cincinnati Police Chief Tom Streicher's Price Hill apartment Friday ignored signs they were violating the home of the man who leads more than 1,000 officers daily, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
The burglars threw open drawers and stole more than $1,000 in cash from the two-apartment house where the chief, his daughter and another tenant live, spokesman Lt. Kurt Byrd said.
Katie Streicher, 25, had arrived at her and her father's first-floor apartment to get ready for work when she noticed a car backing down the driveway and speeding away. She followed the vehicle and provided police with a description

OREGON
Four bodies found in remote forest area
TILLAMOOK The bodies of a woman and three children were found in a remote area of the Tillamook State Forest, and the case was being investigated as a homicide, authorities said yesterday.
The bodies had not been identified, and the sexes of the children had not been determined, Tillamook County Sheriff Todd Anderson said. Sheriff Anderson's office said earlier that the causes of death had not been determined.

PENNSYLVANIA
Lesbian ordered to pay child support
HARRISBURG The former partner of a woman who bore five children during their relationship must pay child support, a state Superior Court panel has ruled.
The couple, identified only by initials in the three-judge panel's opinion, lived together in Carlisle from the mid-1980s until 1997 and agreed to have children together through artificial insemination.
The partner, identified as H.A.N., stayed at home and cared for the children while the mother returned to work. After the women split up, H.A.N. successfully sought custody of the children during summers and school breaks.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Warrants issued in shelter investigation
GREENVILLE Eight months after a Family Court judge heard accusations of inappropriate contact between male staff and girls at an emergency teen shelter, warrants charging sexual assault have been signed, but no one has been arrested.
Greenville County Sheriff Steve Loftis said Friday that a former worker at Crain House faces multiple charges, but that officers cannot find him.
Warrants charge that the worker took two girls from the facility to have sex against their will, said Sgt. Mike Brown, who declined to identify the suspect, the Greenville News reported.
The criminal investigation began in April after Family Court Judge Timothy Brown was given photos showing a male staff member hugging and inappropriately touching girls at the home. Three employees were fired.

UTAH
Mormon Church cuts hundreds of jobs
SALT LAKE CITY Utah's largest employer, the Mormon Church, is cutting hundreds of jobs to counter a drop in investment income and a decrease in tithing by its members.
About 600 employees of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accepted an offer of voluntary early retirement effective this week, and 40 percent of those positions will not be filled, the Salt Lake Tribune reported yesterday.
The church employs an estimated 33,355 people in Utah, including about 18,000 faculty and staff at Brigham Young University.

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