- The Washington Times - Monday, August 4, 2003


City seeks to recover from mining

KELLOGG — On a hill formed by a century of mining waste, residents of this economically depressed town can see something other than blight — they envision renewal.

So does the federal government, as it begins releasing formerly polluted land in the Silver Valley for development, including the hill, a 21-acre former smelter site.

Soon a golf course, resort and factories will nestle into the Rocky Mountain community alongside the sparkling blue gondola cars that still lift skiers up and over the polluted landscape all winter long.

The Environmental Protection Agency is giving the nation’s largest single grant of money for toxic-waste cleanup — $15 million — to the Silver Valley next ear.


Visitors filter through Glacier entrance

WEST GLACIER — Glacier National Park’s busy west gate reopened to tourists yesterday, more than a week after a fast-moving wildfire threatened the park headquarters and this tiny town.

Officials waived park fees yesterday because only day trips were being allowed — and only to Apgar Village, a popular tourist destination that is home to a lodge and several shops.

More of the park’s west side was set to reopen to visitors today.

Chilly and overcast weather over the weekend helped firefighters contain the 24,000-acre fire. Officials said the blaze is roughly 40 percent contained.


Town angry about disposal of weapons

ANNISTON — A decision by the U.S. Army to begin incinerating chemical weapons at a plant in Anniston has provoked sharp criticism from frightened residents and vows by environmentalists to block the effort.

The Army, complying with an international treaty, is expected to begin burning the first of its M-55 rockets containing the deadly nerve agent sarin tomorrow at its $1 billion chemical weapons disposal facility in Anniston, which has a population of about 110,000.

Thousands of residents in what is called the pink zone, the area designated as the most at risk in the event of a chemical release, have been offered protective hoods, air filters and shelter kits in preparation for the incineration process.

“We know it is a proven technology and we can safely destroy weapons,” said Michael Abrams, the Army’s public affairs officer for the Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility.

A coalition of environmentalists, however, is not convinced and yesterday asked a federal court in Washington to stop the incineration process from going ahead this week.


Street lights come back on in Barrow

BARROW — The street lights are finally back on in this northernmost Alaska town. Its 5,000 residents hadn’t seen a sunset since May 10, just 24-hour daylight as the sun circled the sky.

But that changed Sunday, when the sun set at 1:49 a.m., giving residents at least a little twilight until it rose again 89 minutes later, at 3:18 a.m.


New building blocks wireless signals

MESA — A public safety building constructed to withstand a terrorist attack has a built-in snag. Its workers are having trouble communicating.

The new $46.6 million building in Gilbert is wreaking havoc with pagers and wireless telephones.

Police officers who moved into the building in July have had to use traditional phones after they noticed problems receiving and sending pages or wireless calls.

Sgt. Jeff Esslinger said the department is having to retrain its workers to be less dependent on the devices.

No one knows why parts of the building seem to block wireless signals.

“It probably won’t be solved,” Sgt. Esslinger said.


Woman sentenced in Sequoia fire

FRESNO — A woman who admitted that she started the worst fire on record in the Sequoia National Forest when she lit a camp fire was sentenced yesterday to 18 months in prison.

Peri Dare Van Brunt wept as U.S. District Judge Robert Coyle confirmed the sentence she had agreed to in a deal with prosecutors.

The guilty plea to three misdemeanor charges included restitution, which Judge Coyle said he would deal with later.

The U.S. Forest Service said that fighting the 150,000-acre fire cost $148 million. The six-week blaze also destroyed three homes, a lodge and four commercial buildings, and endangered groves of sequoias, some of the world’s largest trees.

Miss Van Brunt, of Bakersfield, admitted lighting a campfire without a permit on July 21, 2002, so she could cook hot dogs.


King’s son to examine hanging death

BELLE GLADE — The son of Martin Luther King said he will travel to Florida to investigate the death of a black man found hanging from a tree in his grandmother’s back yard.

Martin Luther King III said Sunday that he intends to find out who is responsible for Feraris “Ray” Golden’s death, which has been ruled a suicide.

“Black folk don’t hang themselves,” Mr. King said during his announcement to members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Memphis, Tenn.

The group, founded by the elder King and now led by his son, plans to pass a resolution later this week urging the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to expedite its investigation into the 32-year-old’s death. The commission opened a preliminary review into the case last week.

Bobby Doctor, director of the civil rights commission’s Southern regional office, told the Palm Beach Post that he has found information that contradicts evidence presented at a judicial inquest that concluded the death was a suicide. Mr. Doctor would not say what inconsistencies he had discovered.


Fired music director finds new job

ROCKFORD — A homosexual music director fired from a Roman Catholic church for refusing to take a vow of chastity has been hired by a United Methodist congregation.

Bill Stein was chosen for the position from a pool of 16 candidates from around the country.

“He was, and is, the most qualified candidate that our search committee interviewed,” said the Rev. Michael Mann of the Court Street United Methodist Church. “He was hired based on his credentials and his interview process.”

Holy Family Catholic Parish, Rockford’s largest Catholic church, fired Mr. Stein in June after some parishioners objected to his desire to adopt a child with his partner of 10 years. After the firing, other parishioners rallied to his support.

At the time of the firing, a spokeswoman for the Rockford Diocese said the decision reflected the church’s prohibition on sex outside of marriage.


Burglar tries to buy freedom

DES MOINES — An suspect in a burglary tried to buy his way out of trouble when Charles Lee caught him in his mother’s home.

The man, trapped in the house about 4 a.m. Tuesday, offered Mr. Lee a $100 bill to let him go. The bill had picture of President Bush.

“Yeah, the guy was trying to bribe me with fake money,” Mr. Lee said.

Des Moines police charged Michael Castiglione, 37, of Massachusetts, with second-degree burglary.

Mr. Castiglione is being held on $13,000 bail at the Polk County Jail.


Bourbon warehouse destroyed in fire

BARDSTOWN — Fire engulfed a seven-story bourbon warehouse yesterday, sending alcohol-fueled flames more than 100 feet in the air.

The Jim Beam warehouse collapsed about two hours after the fire was reported at 3 p.m. and continued burning. The company, which blamed lightning for the blaze, said the metal-and-wood structure held about 19,000 barrels of bourbon, about 2 percent of its inventory.

There were no reports of injuries. Firefighters doused two nearby warehouses with water in an attempt to save them.


School superintendent fails must-pass test

LAWRENCE — This city’s superintendent of schools, who recently put two dozen teachers on unpaid leave for failing a basic English proficiency test, has flunked a required literacy test three times.

Wilfredo T. Laboy called his failing scores “frustrating” and “emotional.” He blamed his performance on a lack of preparation and concentration, as well as the fact that Spanish is his first language.

“It bothers me because I’m trying to understand the congruence of what I do here every day and this stupid test,” Mr. Laboy told the Eagle-Tribune of Lawrence in a story published Sunday.

State Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll said he is aware of Mr. Laboy’s troubles with the test but would not say how many chances Mr. Laboy would be given to pass or what the consequences of another failure could be.


DUI offenders face new sentencing

ST. PAUL — Minnesota judges have a new option in sentencing repeat drunken drivers. It’s called staggered sentencing.

The alternative splits jail terms into three or more intervals separated by probation time, during which offenders may be required to breathe three times a day into a remote electronic alcohol-monitoring system.

Proponents say staggered sentencing helps prevent repeat offenses.


Arrested sheriff plans re-election campaign

TUNICA — Tunica County Sheriff Jerry Ellington says he’s focused on his re-election campaign despite his arrest last week on bribery and extortion charges.

Mr. Ellington held a news conference but refused to answer any questions concerning his arrest. He would say only that he has a lot of work to do before the Democratic primary Tuesday. He’s also scheduled to appear in federal court that day.


Man builds castle in the corn

ARNOLD — Grazing cattle, windmills and fields of corn are part of the rural landscape throughout Nebraska.

So visitors, to be sure, do a double-take when they travel west of Arnold and see a miniature castle sitting majestically in the yard of its creator, Dennis Leach.

While some people conjure up castles in the sky or build castles in the sand, this retired engineer technician carves castles from concrete.

The castle that Mr. Leach recently completed in Nebraska is 4 feet high, 11 feet wide, 12 feet long and weighs 4,000 pounds. The sculpture is of a castle of the Middle Ages with turreted towers.


Medical insurance firm pulling out of state

LAS VEGAS — A medical liability insurance company is quitting Nevada, fueling fears of another state health care crisis.

Medical Insurance Exchange of California cited company losses and the Nevada Legislature’s not changing state medical malpractice laws as it began notifying doctors recently that it will withdraw coverage in February.


Officials want polluters to pay for damage

TRENTON — State environmental officials plan to soon unveil a program to collect damages from polluters.

Money collected under the natural resources damage claims would be used to restore aquifers, streams, wetlands and fisheries.

The initiative is expected to spawn court fights from polluters, who say the program would amount to double punishment by making them pay damages on top of clean-up costs.


Offenders sentenced to tai chi class

SANTA FE — Municipal Court might be the last place you would expect to find offenders meditating and learning to balance their chi.

But this, after all, is Santa Fe.

And it’s where Judge Frances Gallegos has placed offenders in her new alternative-sentencing program: a tai chi class complete with a Japanese-style tea service and meditation aided by acupuncture.

Instructor Mark De Francis, a doctor of Oriental medicine who works as a psychologist for the state Corrections Department, said he believes that violent offenders can benefit from tai chi, a meditative self-defense art. Mr. De Francis said it teaches practitioners to control impulses and fight their inner opponents.

Offenders have a choice: They can either sign up for the tai chi class or participate in a community service program that involves picking up trash.


Storms cause power outages

AMHERST — A small tornado struck northern Ohio, and thunderstorms caused power outages and minor flooding in Wisconsin during a weekend of rough weather.

The tornado touched down Sunday around Amherst, 30 miles west of Cleveland, downing power and telephone lines, authorities said. No injuries were reported.

The twister had winds of 50 to 75 mph, the smallest class of tornado, said Frank Kieltyka, a National Weather Service forecaster in Cleveland.

Two to 4 inches of rain fell in Wisconsin as thunderstorms battered much of the state Sunday. Flooding was reported in eastern parts of the state, with a foot of water standing in Waupaca, meteorologists said.

The Wisconsin storms also caused power outages, with about 5,200 customers losing service in Brown County, where Green Bay is located, Wisconsin Public Service Corp. said.


Woman locks daughter in trunk

HUNTINGDON — A woman who locked her 3-year-old daughter in the trunk of a car while she visited her husband in prison has been charged with endangerment.

Tammy Denise Swittenburg-Edwards, 31, was arrested Saturday at a state prison about 95 miles east of Pittsburgh after prison guards heard crying and yelling from the vehicle, and found the girl in the trunk, state police said.

Mrs. Swittenburg-Edwards apparently locked her in after prison officials refused the child entry because she wasn’t on a visitor list, state police said.

The girl was in the trunk for about 40 minutes while Mrs. Swittenburg-Edwards visited her husband, state police said. The child wasn’t injured.

Mrs. Swittenburg-Edwards was charged with attempted aggravated assault and endangerment, and is being held in the Huntingdon County Prison. The girl was turned over to child-welfare officials.


Dairy farms expanding to make ends meet

LONDONDERRY — Five years ago, Jon Wright decided that selling milk was the wrong way to run a dairy farm.

Like so many northern New England dairy farmers, Mr. Wright struggled to keep his cows and feed his family as a national milk glut deflated prices, leaving him with mounting debt and diminishing revenues.

Selling his milk to distributors sometimes earned him as little as 11 cents per pound, less than it cost him to produce it. Hoping to turn that around, he decided that turning his milk into cheese held more promise for profits. Now he sells artisanal Gouda online and in specialty stores for $9 per pound.

Small dairy farmers such as Mr. Wright are increasingly finding that farming the old-fashioned way won’t pay the bills, prompting more and more to turn to niche markets and side businesses.


Man stabbed with sword

SPANAWAY — A man was stabbed to death with a samurai-like sword after a domestic dispute that investigators said could have been a case of a jealous lover and an argument about fidelity.

The victim, Jason Radach, 31, was stabbed at least once with a black, 2-foot-long sword, said a sheriff’s spokesman.

A 43-year-old suspect was arrested and booked on a preliminary charge of first-degree murder, the Tacoma News Tribune reports. The suspect lived with a woman and several children in the mobile home where the stabbing occurred.

The spokesman said investigators were still trying to determine the relationships with the women.


Compensation increasing for calves killed by bears

SHERIDAN — The state Game and Fish Commission approved a formula that nearly doubles how much western Wyoming ranchers are compensated for calves and lambs killed by grizzly bears.

State law requires the commission to compensate people for property lost to trophy and big-game animals. The state considers grizzlies trophy animals even though they are protected by the Endangered Species Act.

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