- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2003

NEW YORK

Pentagon to use robotic scooter

NEW YORK — The Pentagon is drafting the two-wheeled scooter, the Segway Human Transporter, as part of a plan to develop battlefield robots that think on their own and communicate with troops. University researchers armed with Pentagon funding have programmed Segway robots that can open doors, avoid obstacles and chase soccer balls — all without human control.

Potential uses of the robots include search missions on the battlefield, transporting injured soldiers to safety or following humans while hauling their gear. Any useful applications could kick-start badly needed sales for Segway, which has sold only 6,000 scooters since their debut.

WASHINGTON

Pole learns of unexpected Holocaust survivor

SEATTLE — George Gordon spent most of his life thinking that he had lost his entire family in the Holocaust. Until a volunteer for the American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Service discovered something the 77-year-old Polish immigrant never had expected to find: His sister was alive.

Polish researchers discovered a 1979 newspaper’s obituary for Mr. Gordon’s mother, Janina Budzynski. It mentioned one survivor, daughter Krystyna. On Sept. 26, they were reunited in the lobby of Hotel Monopol in Wroclaw, where Adolf Hitler had shouted speeches from the balcony.

ARIZONA

Same-sex couples can get benefits

TUCSON — The city’s domestic partnership ordinance for same-sex couples took effect yesterday. Registered couples are entitled to visitation rights if one partner is in a health care facility, as long as the patient consents. The ordinance also extends use of city facilities and services to a person’s registered partner. Registration costs $50 per couple.

CALIFORNIA

Bridge officials seeking donations

SAN FRANCISCO — Officials of the Golden Gate Bridge District are trying to chip away at a $139 million five-year deficit. They’ve started selling holiday ornaments and placing collection boxes around the bridge to encourage donations from tourists. The first box appeared in June and has collected more than $1,000. Another three to four boxes will be placed in the coming months.

FLORIDA

Diner’s broken glass kills teenager

FORT LAUDERDALE — A teenage boy bled to death when a shard of glass from a broken restaurant window cut his throat. Kemar Campbell, 17, and his younger brother were walking home from playing basketball Sunday when Kemar hit or leaned against the glass. A shard from the falling glass cut his throat, and he staggered across the street, where he died despite the efforts of passers-by.

“I said, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to turn around and help this guy,’” said Jossett Nash, a nurse who was driving past. She called 911 and ran to the teen. She and a man used a shirt to try to stop the bleeding, but Kemar died at the scene. “He’s a good child. He was just playing,” said the boys’ crying mother, Sheila Fraser. “I wish it was me. He’s so young.”

GEORGIA

Bumper sticker delays flight 4 hours

ATLANTA — A man who slapped a bumper sticker referring to terrorism and war on the side of a plane caused a four-hour delay for a flight filled with holiday travelers. The man pasted the sticker on the door as a practical joke while boarding an Atlanta-to-San Francisco flight Sunday, AirTran Airways spokesman Tad Hutcheson said.

A ground-crew worker noticed the sticker after all passengers were on board. The captain was notified by radio and decided not to take off. All 162 persons on the plane had to get off and go through a second security screening. Authorities would not describe the sticker other than to say that it was about terrorism and war. Mr. Hutcheson said the prankster, whom he did not identify, was discovered by security screeners. He was not charged with a crime and was allowed to continue on to San Francisco.

ILLINOIS

Man changes names to Bubba

SPRINGFIELD — What’s in a name? If you are the former Raymond Allen Gray Jr., only one word — Bubba. The 39-year-old Springfield native legally changed his name last month to reflect his childhood nickname. His new first name? Bubba. His new middle name? Bubba. One guess what his new last name is. “I kind of like to laugh and joke, and it’s something silly to kind of poke fun with,” Bubba Bubba Bubba said. The name change won’t be hard to get used to because he has long been known as “Bubba” or “Bubby” Gray, he said. “My dad called me Buddy, and it got switched to Bubby. Some of the kids couldn’t pronounce Buddy too well, so they said Bubby, and it just stuck,” he said.

KANSAS

Dog returns home after 6 years

WICHITA — Jeanie Flores did a double-take when she glanced out the window of her home last week. A dog outside looked like Bear, the family pet who disappeared in November 1997. “Oh my God. I think that’s my dog,” she thought to herself. She called the dog’s name. When he responded, she started bawling. Frank Flores agreed with his wife’s assessment: Bear, the brindle-colored Lab and chow mix, was home. The dog’s whereabouts for the past six years and his surprise return two days before Thanksgiving remain a mystery. A veterinarian examined Bear. Though his paws are red and sore in spots, apparently from pounding the pavement, he weighed only 1 pound less than he did when he disappeared. The vet told the family it appeared someone had taken care of the pooch. Frank Flores had brought Bear home as a puppy in August 1990.

KENTUCKY

Highway gets $93 million upgrade LEXINGTON — Workers are putting the finishing touches on a $93 million upgrade of Paris Pike, a 12-mile highway in the heart of thoroughbred country. The road’s unmortared stone fences, open woodlands and large antebellum homes make it eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The formal ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for today.

LOUISIANA

ACLU backs boy about lesbian mom

LAFAYETTE — A second-grader was scolded and forced to write “I will never use the word ‘gay’ in school again” after he told a classmate about his lesbian mother, the American Civil Liberties Union said yesterday.

According to the ACLU, which filed a complaint with the Lafayette Parish School Board, 7-year-old Marcus McLaurin was waiting in line to go to recess Nov. 11 at Ernest Gaullet Elementary School when a classmate asked him about his mother and father. Marcus responded that he had two mothers because his mother is gay.

When the other child asked for explanation, Marcus told him: “Gay is when a girl likes another girl,” according to the complaint. A teacher, overhearing the remark, scolded Marcus, telling him “gay” is a “bad word” and sending him to the principal’s office. Although no suit has been filed, the ACLU demanded that the school remove all mention of the case from Marcus’ disciplinary record and apologize.

MINNESOTA

Snow too shallow for snowmobiles

BEMIDJI — Officials urge patience as Minnesota’s snowmobile season approaches. The 18,000-mile snowmobile trail system doesn’t open until Friday, and most trails still lack adequate snow for safe riding. Despite heavy snows along the Canadian border and in parts of northeastern Minnesota, most of the state has less than 6 inches of snow on the ground.

NEW MEXICO

Congress members want review of lab pay

LOS ALAMOS — New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman and Rep. Tom Udall, both Democrats, have asked Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao to review differences in pay between minority and female workers and their white male colleagues at Los Alamos National Laboratory. This past summer, a lab study showed significant pay gaps among groups of Hispanic and female employees. Lab Director Pete Nanos has acknowledged pay inequities and said he is committed to correcting them.

OHIO

Three roofers die in unfinished home

PATASKALA — Three roofers were found dead yesterday in a house under construction, where they had spent the night to get an early start on the job, authorities said. A fire chief said carbon-monoxide poisoning was suspected. West Licking Fire Chief Jim Weber said a kerosene heater was out of fuel in the unfinished room where the men were found wearing winter coats, and the only vent was an open window in the basement. A fourth roofer was taken to a hospital in critical condition. A construction worker at a neighboring house heard the surviving roofer yelling for help, Pataskala police Chief Chris Forshey said.

OREGON

Special-ed students skew test results

EAGLE POINT — The pupils in Michelle Harper’s special education class have their own small victories every day — a temper tantrum stifled, two words rhymed. When it comes time to take the standardized tests that the federal government uses to measure public schools, many of Miss Harper’s students at White Mountain Middle School merely pick answers at random, not realizing the potentially severe consequences for their school.

Across the country this year, thousands of schools were deemed “failing” because of the test performance of special-ed students. The results have provoked feelings of fury, helplessness and amusement in teachers like Miss Harper, who say that because of some of their students’ disabilities, there is no realistic way to ever meet the expectations of a new federal law backed by the Bush administration that requires that 99 percent of all children be performing at or above grade level by 2014. If schools fail to meet those targets, they risk being taken over by the state or private companies; teachers can lose their jobs.

PENNSYLVANIA

Man cashes in penny collection

REEDSVILLE — After four decades of pinching pennies, a Mifflin County man decided that it was time to cash in his collection — more than a million coins. It took several months of bank visits to bring in 37 buckets of pennies to be cashed but, by the end, Lynn Wagner ended up with $10,060.

“I thought that it’d be interesting to have a million of these so I thought that I’d try,” he said last week. Mr. Wagner, 53, collected 1 million pennies in August. The pennies were stacked along a wall in Wagner’s garage in 4-gallon buckets.

Along with saving his own pennies, he also received contributions as word of his collection spread. Friends and family began passing along a year’s worth of pennies at Christmas. A waitress at the Honey Creek Inn, where Mr. Wagner and his wife, Brenda, eat breakfast every Saturday, saved pennies that customers left. “Some people think that pennies don’t add up to anything, but this is proof that they do,” Mrs. Wagner said.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Many prison jobs open in state

COLUMBIA — South Carolina has the highest vacancy rate for prison guards among 16 Southern states, an annual study says. The Southern Legislative Conference report says 20 percent of the state’s 4,655 prison jobs are open. State prisons Director Jon Ozmint says the $20,044 starting salary makes it tough to keep workers.

TEXAS

Researcher acquitted of bioterror charges

LUBBOCK — A renowned researcher was cleared yesterday of the most serious charges he faced related to a bioterrorism scare triggered when he reported plague samples missing from his Texas Tech University lab. Thomas Butler was convicted of 47 charges, but most stemmed from an investigation entirely separate from the plague scare.

The jury acquitted Butler of 22 charges accusing him of smuggling and illegally transporting the germ, as well as lying to federal agents. Butler, 62, appeared stunned as the verdicts were read after two days of deliberations. He closed his eyes, shook his head and fought back tears. He declined to comment after the verdict.

The charges on which Butler was found guilty were part of an indictment accusing him of receiving $320,675 from two pharmaceutical companies to conduct clinical trials on diabetes and anti-sepsis drugs without Texas Tech’s knowledge. He was convicted of 44 of the 54 charges on such counts as theft, embezzlement, fraud, and mail and wire fraud.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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