- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Seven states shaken by rare earthquake
FORT PAYNE An uncommon Southern earthquake shook people out of their sleep early yesterday, fraying nerves and cracking foundations but causing no major damages or injuries.
Some people thought the boom and rumble were the result of a bomb, a gas-truck explosion, a tornado, even terrorism, but their fright soon gave way to nervous laughter.
"The quake shook up the chicken shed so bad they all laid scrambled eggs," Jim Toler joked over breakfast at a restaurant. "It bounced us pretty heavy."
The magnitude 4.9 quake, tying the record for Alabama, struck about 4 a.m. and was centered on Fort Payne, close to the Georgia line, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It was felt in parts of Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Mississippi.

Conjoined twins undergo surgery
DALLAS Two-year-old Egyptian twin brothers joined at the crown of their heads were recovering yesterday from the first surgical step toward separating them.
Ahmed and Mohamed Ibrahim underwent surgery Monday to start the process of stretching their skin and tissue. The extra skin and tissue will be used to cover the head wounds left after the separation operation, planned for the summer. Extra tissue from their thighs also will be used.
Surgeons at Children's Medical Center of Dallas took about eight hours to insert balloonlike pouches under the boys' heads and thighs. The pouches will be filled gradually with saline during the next three to four months to stretch the tissue.
"I feel very confident that we will do everything we can to bring about a successful separation," said Dr. Kenneth Salyer of the Dallas-based World Craniofacial Foundation, which brought the twins to the United States for evaluation.

1,100 climbers prepare for Mount McKinley
DENALI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE The climbing season has begun at Mount McKinley.
More than 1,100 people are expected to take on the country's highest mountain during the next two months, the National Park Service says.
Most climbers will depart the tent city known as Base Camp, which springs up every April on Kahiltna Glacier.

Erin Brockovich files claim against school
LOS ANGELES Erin Brockovich, the environmental activist who inspired the film of the same name that won Julia Roberts an Oscar in 2001, filed claims Monday against a Beverly Hills school over claims that toxins on campus gave students and staff cancer.
"Two hundred and eighty alumni and teachers are involved. They want answers, and so do we," Miss Brockovich told a press conference as she announced the first list of 25 plaintiffs that will form part of a class-action lawsuit.
Miss Brockovich and lawyer Ed Masry in 1996 forced the Pacific Gas and Electric utility company to pay $333 million to the residents of tiny Hinkley, Calif., to settle a water-contamination lawsuit. That case jolted the two to fame, and was the premise of the Steven Soderbergh film that earned Miss Roberts an Oscar for her portrayal of Miss Brockovich.
Mr. Masry and Miss Brockovich said their researchers had found abnormally high levels of toxins at the upscale Beverly Hills high school.

Farmers get reprieve in water fight
DENVER Farmers who faced a summer without crops because of a water rights dispute have won a three-year reprieve from the state General Assembly, a measure hailed as a major breakthrough in their 35-year legal battle.
The growers on Colorado's high plains will be allowed to continue using their wells under certain circumstances, even though the practice depletes the South Platte River.
The Monday vote was welcomed by agricultural interests, but may have come too late for some farmers, who have delayed crucial planting for fear they wouldn't have irrigation, and now must apply for permission to start pumping from their wells.
The 35-year-old South Platte water war pits farmers who use wells against farmers downstream who draw water directly from the river into their irrigation systems.

Two killed by trains in separate accidents
JENSEN BEACH Two pedestrians, including a 17-year-old girl, were killed by trains in separate accidents about 100 miles apart, authorities said.
The teenager died early yesterday when she was hit by a train as she went onto the tracks to help a friend, authorities said.
"She jumped up there trying to drag him off. He jumped off at the last second, but she fell and didn't make it," Martin County sheriff's spokeswoman Sgt. Jenell Atlas said. Their group had been out all night drinking and playing pool, Sgt. Atlas said.
In Titusville, police said 29-year-old Ronald White died late Monday when he ran in front of a train.

State offices observe Confederate holiday
ATLANTA State government offices closed Monday to observe Confederate Memorial Day.
The holiday was celebrated across Georgia during the weekend with parades, speeches and visits to cemeteries.
Last week, the state General Assembly voted to exclude the Confederate battle flag design from the state flag.

Woman accused of leaving threats
HONOLULU A woman faces terrorism-related charges accusing her of planting threatening notes aboard a cruise ship in hopes of halting a family trip so she could return home to her boyfriend.
Because of the notes, the cruise of the Legend of the Seas was interrupted last week so the FBI could question passengers.
Kelley Marie Ferguson of Laguna Hills, Calif., appeared in federal court Monday on two counts of violating terrorism laws. She was arrested Saturday. A hearing is set for tomorrow.
Miss Ferguson, 20, admitted penning two notes threatening to kill all U.S. citizens aboard the Legend of the Seas if the ship, which had sailed from Ensenada, Mexico, stopped at an American port, U.S. Attorney Edward Kubo said.

Pair has wedding fit for bicyclists
IOWA CITY An old-fashioned wedding it was not: no wedding dress, no walk down the aisle, no champagne just a couple of bike enthusiasts taking their marriage vows in cycling gear and helmets.
Andrea Mugge rode on a tandem bike with her father down a pedestrian path on the University of Iowa campus. She met the groom, Lee Venteicher, under an arch made of bicycle tires.
Along with vows to be lovers, companions and friends, the couple promised to be each other's "water carrier" and "healer of road rash."
Rick Paulos, who has been a bicycle race official for 23 years, performed the ceremony during the 26th Annual Old Capitol Criterium & Chris Lillig Memorial Cup on Sunday. The event included eight bicycle races.

Study pinpoints sources of pollution
WICHITA A two-year study shows Wichita is only partly to blame for the pollution in the Arkansas River.
Many towns upstream from Kansas' largest city add to the pollution, the study found.
Some tests show that the river pollution is coming from farms, feedlots, parking lots and city streets. Heavy rains also cause the bacteria in the river to exceed safe levels.

Sentencing of madam closes brothel case
NEW ORLEANS The confessed madam of a high-priced New Orleans brothel was sentenced to six months in a halfway house yesterday, wrapping up the case of a national ring that sent prostitutes from city to city.
Jeanette Maier, 44, who pleaded guilty to interstate prostitution conspiracy, also was placed on three years of probation. Her mother, Tommie Taylor, 62, was put on probation for six months.
After the hearing, Maier said of the case: "I don't rank it as something bad. I believe it's given me the opportunity to start a new life."

Officials say arsenic likely cause of illnesses
AUGUSTA Arsenic was probably what killed one man and made others seriously ill after a church gathering, officials said yesterday.
Gov. John Baldacci appeared at a news conference with state law enforcement and health officials, reassuring people living in the area of extreme northeastern Maine area where the illnesses occurred.
A 78-year-old man died and a dozen others were sickened after sharing coffee and treats after a church service in New Sweden.
All of those who were sickened had tried the coffee, and some of them reported that it didn't taste good, said Tammy Doucette.

Debate begins on gay 'marriage' ban
BOSTON The legislative debate on banning homosexual "marriage" began anew at the Statehouse during a standing-room-only public hearing before the Judiciary Committee.
The panel must decide by today whether to recommend approval of the amendment to a joint session of the House and Senate.
The last attempt to win passage of the constitutional amendment died nine months ago.

Court overturns murder conviction
JEFFERSON CITY The Missouri Supreme Court yesterday narrowly overturned the conviction of a death-row inmate who said he was not guilty of killing a fellow prisoner 17 years ago.
In a 4-3 decision, the court said Joseph Amrine had shown "clear and convincing evidence of actual innocence that undermines confidence" in his conviction.
The court ordered Amrine to be freed from prison in 30 days unless the state files new murder charges.
Amrine, sent to prison for robbery, burglary and forgery, would have been freed in 1992 without the murder conviction. Investigators never found physical evidence linking Amrine to the knife used to stab Gary Barber.

Senate panel approves execution moratorium
RALEIGH A North Carolina Senate committee approved a two-year moratorium on executions yesterday, a victory for deathpenalty opponents who said the punishment is carried out unfairly.
On a voice vote with some opposition, the Senate Judiciary Committee recommended the moratorium until June 1, 2005. The General Assembly also would be ordered to examine death-penalty issues in North Carolina.
The bill's approval came after two death-row prisoners were ordered new trials in the past five months, including one last week.

Playground opens on site of old zoo
GRAND ISLAND The hard work of thousands of volunteers paid off as the Kids' Kingdom playground opened on the site of the old Grand Isle Heritage Zoo.
Financial problems led to relocation of animals and closure of the zoo last year.
About 200 children helped with the dedication ceremony, then headed for the new equipment after the ribbon was cut.

Alligator takes stroll in park
NEW YORK New Yorkers enjoying an afternoon of sun and relaxation in the park found an unlikely companion: a 4-foot-long alligator.
Police took an emergency call from people who had seen the alligator strolling through a park in the New York borough of Queens on Monday. Police and city park rangers captured the animal with a noose and took it to a reptile specialist.
No one was injured by the reptile, which was captured peacefully, police said. Police didn't know if the animal was a pet or had been living in a pond in the park.

State executes convicted killer
CINCINNATI A former college football player convicted of the 1985 butcher-knife murder of a fraternity brother's wife was executed by the state of Ohio yesterday.
David Brewer, 44, died of lethal injection at 10:20 a.m. EDT, officials at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville said.
He was convicted of killing Sherry Byrne, 21, the wife of a former classmate at Georgetown College in Kentucky, a Baptist school from which he graduated in 1982. He was the seventh inmate on Ohio's death row to be executed since the state reinstated capital punishment in 1999.
Although his attorneys sought clemency on grounds that he had no previous criminal record and had been a model prisoner, Gov. Bob Taft refused, saying the brutality of the crime outweighed any consideration of mercy.

Ring lost at beach is returned to owner
ISLE OF PALMS A Colorado woman's $7,000 ring she lost at the beach has been returned. Now she hopes for an opportunity to say thank you.
Toni Curran, 49, of Littleton, Colo., was visiting a friend when she went to the beach. She took off all her rings, including the one her husband gave her for their 16th anniversary, and left them on a beach chair. When she returned, the ring was gone.
"I was just sick. My husband and I both cried. I felt like someone had died," Mrs. Curran, who filed a report with city police, said last week.
A few days later, the ring was returned to the police department wrapped in a letter written in green pencil in what appeared to be the penmanship of a child. The envelope had no return address, but the person signed his name "Tommy Smith." He wrote that he found the ring and gave it to his mother as a present and was now sorry.
Mrs. Curran now hopes to find the person's identity and give a reward.

Newspaper fires Smart case reporters
SALT LAKE CITY The Salt Lake Tribune said yesterday that it fired two reporters who were paid $20,000 for collaborating with the National Enquirer on an Elizabeth Smart story because they misled their employer about the level of their involvement with the tabloid.
Michael Vigh and Kevin Cantera were fired less than a week after Tribune editor James E. Shelledy refused their resignations.
While the reporters told Mr. Shelledy they had given the tabloid a "road map" of the investigation, Mr. Shelledy said he had since learned they provided a much larger part of the story.
Mr. Shelledy had said Monday that Mr. Vigh and Mr. Cantera split $20,000 for their help on a July 2 Enquirer story headlined "Utah Cops: Secret Diary Exposes Family Sex Ring."

Energy regulator dies of cancer
SHELBURNE Charles R. Ross, who served on the Federal Power Commission in the 1960s under two presidents and on the International Joint Commission under five presidents, died Thursday of prostate cancer. He was 83.
Mr. Ross, a native Vermonter, led the state Public Service Board, which regulates utilities, before President Kennedy named him in 1961 to the Federal Power Commission, now known as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. He served on the commission until 1968.
Mr. Kennedy also named Mr. Ross in 1962 to the six-member International Joint Commission, established in 1909 under the Boundary Waters Treaty to resolve disputes in the rivers and lakes that lie along or flow across the border between the United States and Canada.

Utility to pay millions for pollution violations
MILWAUKEE Wisconsin's largest utility has agreed to pay $600 million to the federal government for breaking pollution laws at five coal-fired power plants.
The settlement by We Energies, the trade name of Wisconsin Electric Power Co. and Wisconsin Gas Co., was announced yesterday by the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The agencies said We Energies violated the Clean Air Act when it made millions of dollars in renovations but failed to install required air pollution controls at the plants, four in southeastern Wisconsin and one in Michigan.
Under the agreement, We Energies must install state-of-the-art controls on sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions or shut the units, which account for 80 percent of its total coal-fired generating capacity.

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