- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Tourist dies in fall from balloon
YOUNTVILLE A foreign tourist fell to his death yesterday from a hot-air balloon floating as high as 500 feet above a winery.
The tourist, whose name and nationality were not released, was hanging on to the basket as the balloon was being inflated.
When the basket began to rise, he did not let go for some reason, Napa County sheriff's Lt. Jean Donaldson said.
The man fell and landed in an asphalt parking lot.
Detectives believe the pilot could not hear the crew's warning from below because of the noise created by the balloon's burner.

Lawmakers debate hiker safety
HONOLULU Hawaii's scenic hiking trails lead to the islands' lush volcanic mountains, but some also expose visitors to the risk of deadly rockfalls and landslides.
Eight persons died and 40 others were injured four years ago at Oahu's Sacred Falls State Park when a rock slide cascaded onto hikers. A judge last year found the state negligent; the state is appealing.
Now, lawmakers are considering bills to limit the state's liability in lawsuits, hoping to avoid the only real guarantee of safety: shutting off access to trails that may be dangerous.
A House committee in the Legislature has approved a bill to shield the state and counties from lawsuits arising out of the public's use of public lands: In state parks, the government simply would need to post warning signs.

Four persons dead in workplace shooting
HUNTSVILLE A "very unstable" man looking for work opened fire at a temporary employment agency during an argument over a CD player yesterday, killing four fellow job-seekers and wounding a fifth, police said.
Hours later, the gunman surrendered after a standoff at his apartment, where police had tracked him down using the address he had put on his job applications, authorities said. Authorities had turned off the building's electricity, and the temperature was near freezing.
The suspect was identified as Emanuel Patterson, 23. Police said he shot at officers early in the standoff.

Reporter is charged with trespassing
MESA A newspaper reporter has been charged with criminal trespassing after attempting to interview a fired policeman at his home about a deadly shooting.
Bryon Wells, a police reporter for the East Valley Tribune, went to the home of former Chandler police Officer Dan Lovelace on Nov. 6., a week before Mr. Lovelace was indicted on a second-degree murder charge in the on-duty shooting of a woman.
Mr. Wells told police he went to Mr. Lovelace's home to ask about the Oct. 11 shooting. Wells opened a 3-foot-high gate with a "No Trespassing" sign and rang the doorbell. He identified himself to a woman who came from the side of the house, and left when she asked him to leave, the newspaper said.

Court upholds dismissal of inmate's suit
TUCKER A federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal of an inmate's lawsuit against two guards.
Lawrence Martin, 41, said it was cruel to make him work in 30- and 98-degree weather. The court said that because Martin had filed frivolous lawsuits previously, he needed to be in imminent danger before filing suit. Martin is serving a life term for fatally stabbing his disabled mother in 1994.

Oldest U.S. man dies at 113
LAKELAND John McMorran, the oldest living American man, died Monday from heart failure. He was 113.
John McMorran of Lakeland considered coffee his elixir and quit cigars at age 97. He was born June 19, 1889, in a log cabin in Michigan. He was the fourth-oldest person in the world.
He briefly held the title of the nation's oldest person until researchers confirmed Mary Christian of San Pablo, Calif., was born June 12, 1889, according to the California-based Gerontology Research Group, a nonprofit collection of volunteer demographers.
The oldest person in the world is 115-year-old Kamato Hongo of Japan. She was born Sept. 16, 1887, according to the research group.

Lawmaker walks out on Confederate group
ATLANTA An appearance by Cobb County's first black state legislator at a meeting of a Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter in Mableton ended abruptly Monday night after she said she was offended and left.
Members of the Chattahoochee Guards chapter of the SCV, who had invited her to speak at the group's monthly meeting, said they were equally offended by state Rep. Alisha Thomas' speech about the Georgia state flag, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Miss Thomas, 24, a former student organizer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, called the Confederate flag a major component of the state flag until 2001 "a symbol that for African-Americans is hateful and represents a dark past for our people."
Dan Coleman, commander of the SCV chapter, accused the NAACP of using the Confederate flag as a "bogeyman" to raise money.

One-fifth of U.S. alcohol consumed by underaged
CHICAGO Underage drinkers account for nearly 20 percent of the alcohol consumed in the United States each year, says a study appearing in today's Journal of the American Medical Association. Attempting to correct botched statistics they released a year ago, researchers from Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, an advocacy group led by Joseph Califano Jr., a former U.S. secretary of health, education and welfare, analyzed three sets of data from 1999 and said underage drinking amounted to 19.7 percent of alcohol consumed that year, or $22.5 billion. The previous estimate now discredited was 25 percent.

State getting access to 211 phone service
MUNSTER Half of Indiana's population could have access this summer to a new three-digit telephone number that links residents to health and social services such as food banks.
The lack of funding and hookup hassles have slowed the start of Indiana's 211 service, officials said.
The 211 system serves more than 51 million people in 20 states.

State senator arrested on DUI suspicion
TOPEKA A high-ranking Kansas legislator was arrested early yesterday for reportedly driving while drunk.
Senate Majority Leader Lana Oleen failed both a sobriety test and Breathalyzer test, the Shawnee County Sheriff's Department said. Her blood alcohol level was not disclosed.
The 53-year-old Republican was in the Senate chamber at the start of yesterday's session and unavailable for comment.
Miss Oleen, alone in her Jeep Cherokee, was driving slowly and not staying in one lane when she was stopped in southeast Topeka, said Deputy Martha Lutz, sheriff's department spokeswoman.
"She was extremely cooperative and polite," Miss Lutz said.
Miss Oleen, who has no prior driving convictions, was freed after posting $1,000 bail.

Law begins testimony about church scandal
BOSTON Cardinal Bernard Law began testifying yesterday before a grand jury investigating whether criminal charges should be filed against him or any other top church officials for their handling of priests accused of sexual abuse.
Mr. Law arrived during the morning at the office of state Attorney General Thomas Reilly, where the grand jury is meeting.
Mr. Law resigned as Boston archbishop in December after enduring a year of revelations that he and top aides reassigned priests who were known molesters to different parishes.
He is the first American cardinal known to have been subpoenaed by a grand jury since the abuse scandal began in January 2002.

School administrator plans to cut his job
DOLLAR BAY A school administrator has proposed a job cut his own to help the district fight its growing budget deficit.
Dollar Bay-Tamarack Superintendent Robert Barrette said he plans to recommend eliminating his position.
"I cost money," Mr. Barrette said. "I've looked at everything else, but there's just not a lot to cut in our budget."
When the school board meets in March, Mr. Barrette plans to recommend his own termination and the consolidation of his position with that of Principal William Tarbox.

Farewell gathering turns into wedding
TAOS When family and friends gathered Sunday to bid National Guardsman Eric Wilde farewell, they didn't realize they were about to attend a wedding.
Mr. Wilde set up the surprise by telling the crowd how he'd spent the past few days stopping by the bank, organizing the basement and visiting his priest getting his life together before leaving for more than a year. Then came the shocker.
"I have to take one more step to make sure everything is in order," Mr. Wilde said. "We're going to turn this party into a wedding."
Moments later, his fiancee, Adrienne Jeffries, clutching a simple bouquet of red tulips and dressed in an elegant white gown, entered the back of the hall escorted by her father, Mike Jeffries.

Ex-Boys Town priest denies abuse charges
OMAHA A former priest at Boys Town, the home for wayward youths, on Monday denied accusations that he sexually abused boys.
Former Boys Town pupil James Duffy said in a lawsuit last month that the Rev. James Kelly and a counselor, the late Michael Wolf, repeatedly molested him in the late 1970s.
The suit named neither Mr. Kelly nor Mr. Wolf as defendants, instead naming Boys Town and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha.
On Sunday, the Omaha World-Herald reported that four other men have made sex-abuse claims against Mr. Kelly and Mr. Wolf. None has sued.

Fewer teens have gambling problems
CARSON CITY Children as young as 11 in Nevada become problem gamblers and up to 4,000 adolescents have experienced severe difficulties related to gambling, a new study has found.
But Nevada teens appear to have fewer problems with addictive gambling than their peers in other states where gambling is legal, according to a two-year study on problem gambling, the Las Vegas Sun reports.
The results of the study by Rachel Volberg of Gemini Research Ltd. were outlined for the state Senate Finance Committee this week as it considered a bill to allocate $250,000 for local organizations to treat addicted gamblers.

Low milk prices hurting dairy farms
BRISTOL As many as 10 percent of the state's 162 dairy farms could go out of business this spring, said Robert Wellington, an economist with a farmer-owned dairy cooperative.
Milk prices are at a 20-year low, causing the most stress on dairy farmers in at least 25 years, Mr. Wellington said.

Mother arrested on probation violation
NEWARK The mother of a 7-year-old boy who was found dead in a basement at the home of a cousin has been arrested on a charge of violating her probation from a 1996 child-abuse case.
The old abuse charge stemmed from an incident unrelated to her sons, during which she reportedly assaulted children she was baby-sitting.
Melinda Williams, 30, was arrested Monday when she appeared in family court for a custody hearing for her two surviving sons, who are in foster care. She was ordered held without bail.

Drug overdose eyed in bass player's death
SANTA FE Howie Epstein, a former bass player for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, died of what authorities suspect was a drug overdose. He was 47.
Investigators were told Mr. Epstein had been using heroin, said Maj. Ron Madrid of the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department. Mr. Epstein was driven to St. Vincent Hospital by his girlfriend, who described him as "under distress." He died Sunday.
Mr. Epstein was a respected musician and producer for more than 20 years.

Subway crime stopped in its tracks
NEW YORK The New York subway has come a long way since the infamous 1980s shooting by a "subway vigilante" and other violence aboard its once graffiti-covered trains.
Crime in the subway is at its lowest level since 1969, in step with an overall drop in crime in the most populous U.S. city, according to police statistics released yesterday.
Fewer than nine felonies are committed a day on the New York subway, police say.

Suit seeks reparations for 1921 race riot
TULSA Victims of a 1921 race riot and their descendants sued the city and state Monday, seeking reparations for lost loved ones, destroyed businesses and burned homes.
The lawsuit says authorities did not stop and in some cases, participated in the riot that devastated the then-thriving black community of Greenwood.
The Tulsa Reparations Council has assembled a star-studded, pro bono legal team, including Johnnie Cochran, to seek unspecified damages in federal court for more than 200 survivors and descendants of victims.
The lawsuit names current Democratic Gov. Brad Henry, Police Chief Dave Been, the city and the police department as defendants.

IRS says homeless man owes $6 million
SALEM If John Ramer made enough money to owe the IRS $6 million, he probably wouldn't be homeless.
The IRS mistakenly handed him a big bill, saying he has to pay nearly $6 million.
To owe that much, the unemployed Mr. Ramer should have earned about $15 million in one year.
During a visit to a local IRS office, Mr. Ramer, 30, was taken aside and asked whether he had done any day trading.
"I feel like holding up a sign: 'Will work for new portfolio,'" said Mr. Ramer, who is getting around town on a mountain bike.

Brazil's ex-president to teach at Brown
PROVIDENCE Former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso has been appointed to a five-year term as a part-time professor at Brown University, the school announced yesterday .
The two-term Brazilian leader, whose party lost presidential elections in October by a landslide to Workers' Party candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, will begin his assignment at the Ivy League school July 1.

House panel OKs tax on topless bars
SALT LAKE CITY A 10 percent state tax on topless bars and escort services was approved 12-2 by a State House committee.The legislation goes to the full House.
Sponsor Rep. Duane Bourdeaux, Salt Lake City Democrat, said his bill would bring in $500,000 the first year and $1 million the next.

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