Actors unions move toward merger
LOS ANGELES Leaders of the nation’s two largest actors unions have endorsed a merger plan intended to ease internecine labor feuds while boosting their clout at the bargaining table with big media companies.
The governing boards of the Screen Actors Guild, and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists voted Saturday night to approve the broad outlines of a proposal to join the 150,000 members of both unions under an umbrella organization.
Supporters of the plan say it would ease conflicts about contract jurisdiction and enable performers to flex more labor muscle as they face an increasingly consolidated entertainment industry.
Davidians pursue lawsuit appeal
NEW ORLEANS Nearly 10 years after a fire ended a 51-day standoff in Waco, Texas, killing Branch Davidian leader David Koresh and scores of his disciples, survivors and their families still are pushing claims against the federal government.
They are scheduled today to make a last-ditch effort before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals here, seeking to have the judge removed from their wrongful-death lawsuit and asking for a new trial.
In September 2000 in Waco, U.S. District Judge Walter Smith dismissed the lawsuit, backing the federal contention that agents had not used excessive force in their April 19, 1993, tear-gas assault on the group’s compound. Judge Smith found that the Davidians themselves set the fire that killed nearly 80 men, women and children.
State senator boasts of pork spending
MONTGOMERY State Sen. Roger Bedford, who leads the committee that writes the state’s general-fund budget, has helped funnel millions in tax dollars to his district in northwest Alabama since he became budget chairman in 1999, the Birmingham News reported.
Mr. Bedford, Russellville Democrat, has sent at least $8.3 million for special projects to his area. He has bragged about securing most of the funding in full-page newspaper ads published last year in his district.
That is enough state money to pay the salaries of 347 more prison guards at a time when Alabama prisons face a crowding crisis. The money went instead to projects in Mr. Bedford’s district, such as improvements to a high school football stadium, new tennis courts and a swimming pool.
Law would upgrade pets to companions
DENVER Several Colorado lawmakers are supporting legislation to elevate the status of cats and dogs from property to companions.
The measure would allow people in Colorado to sue veterinarians and animal abusers, and seek damages for “loss of companionship,” as much as $100,000. Current law classifies pets as property, and pet owners can seek only “fair market value” in a lawsuit.
If passed, it would be the first such companionship law in the nation, lawyer Josh Pazour said.
The Colorado measure is opposed by the state Veterinary Medical Association, which contends that the changes would increase the cost of veterinary care.
Rescued whale improves slowly in lagoon
KEY LARGO A rescued pygmy sperm whale is recovering slowly and gaining weight in a lagoon where it was moved after spending 12 days in a heated saltwater pool, officials said.
The 11-foot-long, 1,200-pound pygmy sperm whale, nicknamed Kokomo, was brought to a pool at the Islander Resort on Jan. 23 because of a sharp cold snap. The weather warmed, and officials moved the whale to a natural lagoon Tuesday.
Kokomo has gained 40 to 50 pounds while in captivity, said Rick Trout, director of the Marine Mammal Conservancy in Key Largo.
Dr. Charles Manire, a veterinarian with the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, has said Kokomo, who is 20 to 25 years old, likely is dying of old age.
Dozens protest Players Ball
ATLANTA Despite pickets singing spirituals and the watchful presence of police, self-styled “players” filed into a DeKalb County club Saturday for a party held by a former pimp.
To get to the World Famous Players Ball on Saturday night, partygoers had to pass about 50 protesters carrying signs reading “Shame” or “Pimping ain’t popular.”
“I can’t believe they would throw this party after all the problems Atlanta has had with men pimping underage girls,” protester Jamal Jones told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He said his 13-year-old niece lives in a halfway house and is trying to get her life together after working for a pimp.
Fliers advertising Saturday’s party boasted of an expected appearance by last year’s “Pimp of the Year,” who was crowned at the Chicago Players Ball.
“No real man would attend an event like this,” said Atlanta City Councilman Derrick Boazman, who organized the protest.
Police search for serial rapist
BOISE Police hope new composite sketches will help them find the man who has raped three teenage girls in the Winstead Park area since June.
Three Boise detectives are working full time to try to find the serial rapist, and police say the case is their highest priority, the Idaho Statesman reported.
A forensic sketch artist met with all three victims Friday in an effort to create a more comprehensive portrait of the rapist, Boise police spokesman Rich Wright said. The rapist is described as white, in his early to mid-20s, between 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet tall, with unkempt dark hair and a pudgy face.
Detectives received confirmation last month that DNA evidence collected after the rape Dec. 12 of a 15-year-old girl matched samples from the two other rapes, on June 9 and Nov. 9.
Heart recipient’s death raises ethical questions
LOUISVILLE The death Friday of Tom Christerson, 71, the longest-living recipient of an AbioCor artificial heart, has turned a spotlight on how such an experiment should end: If your heart is a machine, how do you die?
“That’s really the major issue, and always has been, with artificial-heart experiments that are likely to be short-lived,” said George Annas, professor of health law and bioethics at Boston University School of Public Health.
After nearly 17 months, the device wasn’t pumping enough blood to enable Mr. Christerson to continue enjoying a good quality of life. He had been hospitalized two weeks earlier with the flu and diverticulosis, an intestinal disorder.
After Mr. Christerson fell asleep because the heart was pumping less blood Friday afternoon, Dr. Laman Gray, one of the implant surgeons, disconnected the AbioCor’s external power supply, and within 30 minutes the heart’s internal lithium battery ran down, stopping the heart and ending Mr. Christerson’s life.
Man gets 8 years for sex offenses
RICHMOND Ronald “Riley” Pinkham, 59, was sentenced Friday to eight years in prison and 16 years of probation for sexually assaulting three sisters.
Pinkham pleaded guilty to 22 counts of sexual abuse, including gross sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact and assault. He sobbed during his sentencing in Sagadahoc County Superior Court as he apologized in front of a courtroom full of his relatives and the victim’s relatives, the Central Maine Daily Sentinel reported.
Pinkham was a friend of the family of the three girls, whom he molested on several occasions from 2000 and 2002. He was also a member of their church. He molested two of the girls, who are younger than 10, on multiple occasions as they slept at his house.
Old bridges pose danger to motorists
JACKSON Nearly a third of Mississippi’s county bridges, 3,576 in all, are considered too weak to safely support the school buses, farm trucks and other heavy vehicles that cross them every day.
These old bridges, many with rotting wooden pilings, are being replaced steadily with long-lasting concrete culverts, but not quickly enough, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports.
Replacing all the state’s faulty bridges is a herculean task that will cost $2 billion, said state aid engineer J. Brooks Miller. At current funding levels of about $50 million a year, the job could take 40 years.
Medical pioneer dies at age 85
WOODS HOLE Microbiologist Harold Ginsberg, who pioneered the study of viruses and infectious diseases, has died of pneumonia. He was 85.
Mr. Ginsberg led the microbiology departments at Columbia University in New York and the University of Pennsylvania, and conducted research for the National Institutes of Health.
Colleagues said Mr. Ginsberg’s work laid the foundation for the field of virology, which is the study of viruses and viral diseases.
In the 1950s, while at Western Reserve University (now Case Western), Mr. Ginsberg showed that common childhood infections such as atypical pneumonia and pharyngitis were caused by adenoviruses, a type of virus that can survive long periods outside a host.
“He was one of the founding fathers of modern virology and microbiology,” said Dr. Saul J. Silverstein, chairman of microbiology at Columbia’s medical school.
Police shoot, kill burglary suspect
CINCINNATI A police officer being beaten with his own nightstick by a burglary suspect shot and killed the man after chasing him down an alley early yesterday, police said.
The officer and suspect struggled outside a store about 4 a.m. and again in the alley before the man grabbed the officer’s nightstick and hit him repeatedly, police spokesman Lt. Kurt Byrd said. Officer Michael Schulte, 26, then fired six shots at Andre Sherrer, 35, killing him, Lt. Byrd said.
Although police still were investigating, there were no indications the shooting was not justified, Mr. Byrd said.
Officer Schulte was recovering at home after being treated at a hospital for multiple cuts and bruises to his head.
SUV kills horse pulling Amish buggy
VOLANT A sport utility vehicle killed a horse pulling an Amish buggy after the buggy did not stop at an intersection, police said.
Eli Byler, 17, of New Wilmington was driving in the buggy Saturday evening when the horse was hit by a Jeep, police said. The buggy then struck the right side of the Jeep and broke apart, coming to rest in a ditch.
The two drivers declined to be treated; the horse died at the scene.