New governor, state begin weight-loss drive
ATLANTA The new governor of Georgia is ready to do something about government fat.
Gov. Sonny Perdue began a weight-loss program for himself and state workers at the Capitol on Monday, pledging to give up his favorite Snickers bars and adopt a healthier lifestyle.
Weigh-ins were optional, but Mr. Perdue bellied up to the scales after joking, “I want y’all to know I actually have two 10-pound ankle weights on me today.”
The Republican governor, who is 5 feet 11 inches, tipped the scales at 228.5 pounds. “I weighed 220 this morning,” he quipped. “I don’t know what happened.”
To demonstrate his resolve, however, the self-confessed Snickers addict produced a wrapped bar, kissed it goodbye and tossed it into the crowd.
Actor says mobsters wanted to make movies with him
NEW YORK Action film star Steven Seagal testified yesterday that a crew of purported mobsters demanded that he make movies with them or else.
The actor was called as a government witness at the racketeering trial of Peter Gotti, brother of the late crime boss John Gotti, and other reputed gangsters.
Authorities say Mr. Seagal known for his martial-arts moves in films such as “Under Siege” and “Exit Wounds” was a victim of a bid by the Gambino crime family to infiltrate the film industry for profit.
Prosecutors say the extortion bid on Mr. Seagal, 50, occurred after his falling-out with a former business partner, Julius Nasso, suspected of being a Gambino associate.
Fire erupts at store, prompting evacuation
SLOCOMB Fire erupted yesterday at a farm-supply store housing dangerous chemicals, prompting the evacuation of the town of 4,200, authorities said.
No immediate injuries were reported after the blaze broke out at Mathis Farm Supply, a few miles from the Florida line.
Scott Adcock, a spokesman for the state’s Emergency Management Agency, said all of Slocomb was evacuated. Schoolchildren were taken to a high school stadium and an elementary school gym away from the fire, and a shelter was being opened at a church.
Mr. Adcock said he was not sure what dangerous chemicals were involved, but authorities said the building contained numerous fertilizer products.
Hazardous-materials teams were sent from Dothan and the Army’s Fort Rucker.
Drugged inmate ruled fit for execution
LITTLE ROCK In the latest bizarre turn in a nearly 25-year-old death row case, a federal appeals court ruled that a mentally ill inmate can be put to death even though he would be too insane to qualify for execution without his medication.
A sharply divided 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a stay of execution Monday for Charles Singleton, saying his medically induced sanity makes him eligible for the death penalty.
Singleton’s defense argued that the Arkansas inmate was in a precarious situation, that taking anti-psychotic medication was in his interest but not if the resulting sanity puts him on the path to the death chamber.
Six of the 11 judges on the St. Louis-based panel said that because Singleton prefers to be medicated and because Arkansas has an interest in having sane inmates, the side-effect of sanity should not affect his fate.
Rap mogul Knight’s hearing postponed
LOS ANGELES A California state prison board postponed a hearing yesterday to decide whether to send rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight back to prison for a year for parole violations.
The hearing to determine whether Knight violated conditions of his parole by associating with gang members was scheduled for yesterday in downtown Los Angeles.
But Bill Sessa, a California Board of Prison Terms spokesman, said the hearing was postponed for several weeks to review a request by Knight’s attorney to attend.
Knight has been held in Los Angeles County jail since Dec. 23 when he was picked up on a parole violation. He is accused of associating with gang members that police linked to a string of shootings last year.
Knight was taken into custody a few weeks after sheriff’s deputies raided his homes and businesses.
Worms munching their way through county
GRAND JUNCTION Army cutworms are marching through Mesa County, devouring all the cheat grass in its path.
Usually cold weather slows them down, but this winter hasn’t been cold enough to impede their progress. Officials worry that farmers’ crops and suburban gardens will be next.
The army cutworm is the caterpillar stage of the small, brown Miller moth.
Teen to be tried as adult in rape
MILFORD A 15-year-old Ansonia boy accused of raping a 5-year-old girl is being prosecuted as an adult in Superior Court.
Jeremy Morrow, held on $1 million bail at the Bridgeport Correctional center, pleaded not guilty Monday to three counts each of first-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor.
Jeremy was arrested Jan. 22 after police were told of the accusations by the state Department of Children and Families, which had interviewed the girl, reports the Connecticut Post.
Details of the reports of sexual assault, including Jeremy’s arrest-warrant affidavit, are sealed by court order.
‘Mr. Perfect’ dies in hotel room
BRANDON Professional wrestler Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig was found dead in a hotel room. Foul play was not suspected, officials said.
Mr. Hennig, 44, was scheduled to appear at the Florida State Fair, in Tampa, on Monday night. He was found dead in his room at the Homestead Suites Hotel on Monday afternoon, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
His body was turned over to the Medical Examiner’s Office, and the sheriff was conducting an investigation.
Mr. Hennig, the son of wrestler Larry “The Axe” Hennig, worked for the World Wrestling Federation and most recently wrestled for Jimmy Hart All-Star Wrestling.
Mr. Hart was promoting the event at the fair Monday night and said Mr. Hennig had seemed fine and in good spirits Sunday night.
Mayor-recall effort attracts signatures
BOISE Leaders of the effort to recall Mayor Brent Coles say they have gathered more than enough signatures to hold a recall election if the names can be verified.
The Committee to Recall Mayor Coles had 20,783 signatures as of Saturday afternoon, organizer Joe Filcetti said.
Organizers had to collect 18,693 valid signatures by 5 p.m. yesterday.
The committee paid to have the recall petition inserted as paid advertising in Boise area copies of the Idaho Statesman Jan. 31 and Feb. 4.
Volunteers canvassed area sporting events, the Edwards movie theater complex and the area near the Boise Towne Square mall.
Brain-damaged babies can have normal IQs
CHICAGO Small premature babies born with brain damage are not necessarily doomed to below-normal intelligence, according to a new study that found many youngsters’ IQ scores improve.
Children born extremely prematurely risk a variety of neurological problems, including cerebral palsy, retardation and vision trouble, and more subtle learning and behavior difficulties.
But the study found that many youngsters considered borderline retarded make up for lost ground and score in the nearly normal IQ range by age 8.
The findings are surprising because previous research has found long-term consequences in small preemies and because conventional wisdom says that IQ does not change at least in people born at normal weight.
‘Brain fingerprinting’ could help solve crimes
FAIRFIELD A technique called “brain fingerprinting,” which seeks to investigate whether a suspect has specific knowledge of a crime, could become a powerful weapon in national security, its inventor says.
Lawrence Farwell, a Harvard-educated neuroscientist who founded Brain Fingerprinting Laboratories Inc. 12 years ago and runs the company from a small town in southern Iowa, believes the technique could emerge as the next big thing in law enforcement and intelligence.
But first the controversial technique, which has had some success, must overcome the skepticism of some experts who are reluctant to embrace it.
Brain fingerprinting works by measuring and analyzing split-second spikes in electrical activity in the brain when it responds to something it recognizes.
For example, if a murder suspect was shown a detail of the crime scene that only he would know, his brain would involuntarily register that knowledge. A person who had never seen that crime scene would not show a reaction.
Servers must complete city’s alcohol training
BOWLING GREEN Beginning April 1, all servers of alcoholic beverages by the drink must complete city-approved, standardized training and, if all goes as planned, by May 1 all servers will be trained.
Training for Intervention Procedures provides information about Kentucky laws as well as city ordinances. The majority of the training time, however, is spent on teaching servers how to deal with people, how to rate levels of intoxication and absorption rate based on factors such as body size, food intake and strength of drinks.
Kentucky has been considering statewide mandatory training laws for some time.
Jazzland becoming Six Flags New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS The former Jazzland Theme Park is being transformed into Six Flags New Orleans for April 5.
While Six Flags Inc., the new owner, tinkers with the turnaround plan for the eastern New Orleans amusement park, which went bankrupt last year, in its third season, the physical transformations are well under way, the Times-Picayune reports.
Two roller coasters and four other rides will be ready to roll, whirl and swing opening day. One new roller coaster was finished Saturday.
MIT drops summer spots for only minorities
CAMBRIDGE Massachusetts Institute of Technology has dropped a minority-only admissions policy for two summer programs designed to build math and science skills in high school students and incoming freshmen.
On Monday, the school said it would open the two programs to all students, explaining that the policy would not sustain a court challenge. For three decades, the programs have admitted only black, Hispanic and American Indian students.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has been investigating MIT as the result of a complaint filed by a conservative advocacy group.
The free programs each enroll about 60 students for seven summer weeks.
MIT will look for other ways to target minority students. It will consider factors such as whether students are the first in their family to attend college and whether they attended a high school that sends few students to college.
Chamber fights to preserve turtle racing
NISSWA The Chamber of Commerce wants to preserve a 39-year tradition in this resort town: turtle racing.
Chamber officials say legislation passed last year has endangered the crowd-drawing races that take place each Wednesday during the summer.
Marketing director Kathy Newton said turtle vendors told her they were informed by Department of Natural Resources officials that the state will no longer offer new licenses to sell or rent turtles and that a 1986 law requires licensing for such activities.
Vendors typically provide racing turtles for 400 to 600 tourists and residents. Miss Newton said that each summer race day draws about 1,200 people.
Rich Baker of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Division of Ecological Services, said long-standing state laws on the sale of wildlife don’t specifically prohibit turtle races.
He said people can take turtles from the wild if they have a fishing license (children younger than 16 don’t need one) or get turtles from pet shops or licensed turtle sellers.
Man asks that Christ defend him in court
GAINESVILLE A Missouri man is calling on a higher power for his legal representation.
Richard John Adams requested Jesus Christ as his trial attorney during a hearing on tampering charges. Adams, who described himself as a patriot and a Christian, says lawyers are “devils” who are trying to undermine the Constitution.
Ozark County Circuit Judge John Moody told Mr. Adams the only person who can speak for him in the courtroom is a lawyer.
Mr. Adams is charged with tampering with a judge for hostile comments made during an earlier traffic case. He faces a maximum of 14 years in prison if convicted of both counts.
Panel suggests linking results to teachers’ pay
COLUMBUS A state commission studying ways to improve teaching might propose linking teachers’ salaries to classroom performance.
Teachers would be rewarded for “what they do and what they accomplish,” according to a draft document of policy options the commission is considering.
The group will make its final recommendations to Gov. Bob Taft on Feb. 20.
Woman pleads guilty to killing daughter
SCRANTON A woman has pleaded guilty to fatally shooting her 12-year-old daughter nearly 20 years ago in a case that had been given a closer look by an investigator doing research for a class he was teaching.
Judith Fuller, 50, pleaded guilty Monday to involuntary manslaughter in the 1983 slaying. Her daughter, Melissa, died of a single rifle shot in their home.
Miss Fuller could get up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
District Attorney Andy Jarbola said the shooting happened “in the heat of passion,” during an argument.
Miss Fuller had said the gun went off as the two struggled, but recently uncovered evidence showed that Melissa was in a defensive posture and 2 feet from the barrel.
The evidence was uncovered when state Trooper Steve Stoud looked into case files four months ago for an example of a shooting case to present in a classroom and found the contradictory physical and ballistics evidence.
Tyson said to uncover alien-smuggling probe
CHATTANOOGA A government agent testified yesterday at the trial of Tyson Foods that the company discovered the undercover investigation that led to the immigrant-smuggling charges against it.
Border Patrol Agent Benito Maldonado, the government’s lead undercover agent in the case, testified as the second week of the trial got under way.
Mr. Maldonado said Keith Snyder, manager of Tyson’s Noel, Mo., complex, suddenly began asking whether the workers the undercover agent was delivering were illegal, a question that “totally contradicts” previous conversations between the men.
Hours later, he testified, he learned that Tyson had discovered the government’s undercover investigation, which had been under way for almost three years.
Tyson managers are accused of conspiring to smuggle illegal immigrants to work on the production lines of Tyson, the nation’s largest poultry processor.
Company attorneys contend that only some rogue plant managers, who have since been fired, were involved in hiring illegal immigrants and that top executives were not aware of their actions.
Teen pleads guilty in fatal beating
MILWAUKEE Another teenager pleaded guilty Monday to a reduced charge in a fatal mob beating rather than go to trial.
Devin Beamon, 16, pleaded guilty to second-degree reckless homicide; he had been scheduled for trial Monday.
The reduced charge carries a prison term of up to 15 years instead of the maximum 40 years under the original charge.
Authorities said the mob, which included a 10-year-old boy, beat Charlie Young Jr. the night of Sept. 29 after he had a confrontation with one of the youths. Mr. Young, 36, was chased onto a porch and beaten with broomsticks, shovels and other makeshift weapons, police said.
Ten juveniles were originally charged as adults with reckless homicide. A judge ruled the 10-year-old not competent to stand trial, and a 15-year-old was acquitted of battery.
A 17-year-old pleaded guilty to aggravated battery, while a 33-year-old pleaded guilty to second-degree reckless homicide.