- The Washington Times - Friday, February 28, 2003

Lightning strikes governor's plane
MIAMI BEACH Gov. Jeb Bush's plane was struck by a bolt of lightning yesterday that was powerful enough to leave a hole in one of the wings.
Mr. Bush's twin-engine Beechcraft King Air safely completed a trip from Tallahassee to Orlando, and none of the seven persons aboard was hurt, said Alia Faraj, a spokeswoman for the governor.
The governor and his staff then took another plane to Miami Beach, where Mr. Bush's schedule included a meeting with Manuel Angel Nunez Soto, governor of the Mexican state of Hidalgo.
Asked if he was scared, the governor said with a smile, "No, I wasn't scared. Alia, on the other hand, was frightened, paralyzed."

Death row no longer empty
CHARLESTON A man sentenced to death for killing a college student became the first inmate on the state's death row since Gov. George Ryan emptied it last month by granting clemency to all 167 condemned inmates before leaving office.
The conviction against Anthony B. Mertz was appealed automatically after he was sentenced Wednesday. Judge Dale A. Cini formally pronounced the sentence yesterday and set an execution date of May 5.
The execution will be delayed, though, because of the appeal and because a moratorium Mr. Ryan imposed has not been lifted by Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich. The governor wants make sure the system is reformed before executions resume, spokesman Tom Schafer said.
Mertz, 26, was convicted for the June 2001 rape and murder of Shannon McNamara, 21, a student at Eastern Illinois University who lived in an off-campus apartment across the street from Mertz.

Woman pleads guiltyto endangering children
SANTA ANA A woman pleaded guilty Wednesday to placing razor blades and other sharp objects at playgrounds.
Lori Fischer, 22, pleaded guilty to eight counts of felony child endangerment and eight counts of assault with a deadly weapon. She was arrested in June and accused of putting the blades, nails and glass at 10 parks since April 27.
No injuries were reported, but authorities began round-the-clock surveillance of some playgrounds. Police said she had meticulously documented the deeds in journals and called police several times with the locations of targeted parks.
Fischer, who will be sentenced April 14, faces up to 11 years in state prison.

Father surrenders in cough-syrup deaths
AURORA A man accused of killing his two young children with a lethal dose of over-the-counter cough syrup surrendered to police early yesterday, about two hours after telling a television station he had done nothing wrong.
Arapahoe County jail officials said Robert "Raffie" Henderson turned himself in shortly after midnight.
An arrest warrant accuses Mr. Henderson, 29, of two counts of child abuse resulting in death and two counts of second-degree assault. The four counts carry a combined penalty of 60 years in prison.

Fourth worker dies from plant explosion
CORBIN A worker who suffered severe burns in an explosion and fire at an insulation plant last week died early yesterday, raising the death toll to four, the Fayette County Coroner's Office said.
David Messer, 43, of Gray, died just after 2 a.m. at the University of Kentucky Medical Center burn unit, said Coroner Gary Ginn.
Four other workers remain in critical condition after the Feb. 20 explosion at CTA Acoustics, which makes insulation for automakers. David "Joe" Hamilton, 37, and Arnold Peters, 57, died of their injuries Tuesday, and Jimmy Lemmings, 42, died Sunday.
Forty-four persons were taken to hospitals after the explosion and fire.

Misspellings foil home-buying plan
MINNEAPOLIS A man posing as a Minnesota Twins baseball player tried to buy a million-dollar home, but was foiled when he produced a supposedly official document riddled with misspellings and bad grammar.
Dewitt Alonzo Davison, 21, insisted he was just trying to impress his fiancee and her family.
Mr. Davison told real estate agents he had signed a $17 million contract with the Twins and wanted to buy a home before he reported for spring training in Fort Myers, Fla. He provided a letter, purportedly from the Twins, that verified his financial status.
But the letter was riddled with misspellings, which made seller Robert Griggs suspicious about the prospective buyer of the $1.495 million home. Mr. Griggs' real estate agent contacted the Twins organization, which said it had no one by that name under contract and certainly did not pay him $17 million.

Retiring black lawmaker first since Reconstruction
JACKSON House Speaker Pro Tempore Robert Clark, the first black Mississippian elected to the Legislature since Reconstruction, is not seeking re-election. He has been in the House since 1968.
Mr. Clark's son, Bryant, a recent law school graduate, has qualified to run for his father's seat. Colleagues said they were saddened by Mr. Clark's decision. Now, 10 of the 52 senators and 35 of the 122 House members are black.

Rescuer adopts stranded dog
NEWARK He is one Lucky dog. A Rottweiler mix named Rover stranded on an ice floe on the Passaic River was adopted by a firefighter who rowed to his rescue last week.
Kearny Fire Capt. Tom McDermott was expected to pick up the dog yesterday, said the Associated Humane Societies of Newark. The firefighter said he planned to change Rover's name to Lucky.
The firefighter got into a rowboat Feb. 19 with George Smith, a Humane Societies manager, and the pair paddled for hours in the icy river to rescue the dog.
The dog belonged to an elderly couple who said they were unable to care for the animal, and surrendered the dog to the agency.

Project aims to turn toilets into art
SANTA FE A new art project has the city talking toilets.
"The Path of the Painted Potties," a project where people try to turn toilets into works of art, is intended to educate residents about the desert city's limited water supply and raise money for water conservation.
Starting March 15, each resident who pays $50 will receive a "sanitized and disabled potty" and then have six weeks to decorate it.
Some 200 toilet creations will be displayed throughout the city, with the winning commode to be auctioned off in June.
"We wanted to increase awareness about water conservation in New Mexico, but do it in a fun and creative way," said Karen House, a member the Santa Fe Rotary Club, the project's sponsor.

Concorde loses parts, lands safely
NEW YORK An Air France Concorde with 47 persons aboard lost two pieces of its rudder during its flight from Paris yesterday but was able to land safely in New York, officials said.
After Flight 002 arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport, investigators found pieces missing from the rudder, the rearmost portion of the aircraft's tail fin. The vertical rudder controls turns by moving left or right, and its upper and lower sections can be operated separately.
Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Arlene Salac said a 1-foot-long part of the left side of the lower rudder was missing, as well as a 4-foot-long piece of the right side.
An airline spokeswoman said the incident would not halt Concorde flights.

Three sentenced in smuggling conspiracy
CHARLOTTE Two cousins were sentenced to more than three years in prison yesterday for their roles in a cigarette-smuggling ring that sent its profits to the militant Lebanese group Hezbollah.
U.S. District Judge Graham Mullen also sentenced a Michigan man who bought large quantities of the cigarettes to two years in prison.
The cousins, Mohammed Atef Darwiche, 33, and Ali Hussein Darwiche, 32, who pleaded guilty last March to charges of racketeering and money-laundering conspiracy, face deportation to Lebanon after their sentences end. They are expected to be released within 30 days to the Immigration and Naturalization Service because they were credited with time served in jail since their 2000 arrests and for good behavior in jail.

Cincinnati fires officers in suspect's death
CINCINNATI The city on Wednesday fired two police officers in connection with the November 2000 death of a black man who died while in police custody.
Dismissed were Patrick Caton and Victor Spellen. City officials also said they were suspending five officers for their roles in the apprehension of Roger Owensby Jr., 29.
Mr. Owensby died after police arrested him at a gas station to question him about drug trafficking. The coroner later ruled that Mr. Owensby died from a choke hold or the weight of officers piling on him after Mr. Owensby had tried to run.
Disciplinary hearings began in November. The officers were accused of violating police department policies governing use of force and securing and handling of prisoners. The charges also include neglect of duty, dishonesty and failure of good behavior.

Listening devices yanked from post offices
EVERETT Listening devices installed at two post offices to monitor conversations between clerks and customers have been removed, postal officials said.
Supervisors at the Marysville and main Everett offices placed baby monitors near service windows so they could hear from a backroom if clerks were asking customers a required security question about what was in their packages. No signs were posted notifying customers of the monitors.
The clerks were supposed to ask whether a package contained anything liquid, fragile, perishable or potentially hazardous, the supervisors said. An undercover check had found that clerks were failing to do so.

Illegal aliens arrested at Air Force base
CHEYENNE Thirty-seven persons accused of being illegal immigrants were arrested at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, headquarters of the nation's largest arsenal of intercontinental nuclear missiles.
Forty-four employees of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers subcontractor were arrested Wednesday. Seven provided documents showing they were in the country legally, officials said.
The other 37 "were taken into custody and they remain in our custody awaiting further investigation," Immigration and Naturalization Service spokeswoman Nina Pruneda said yesterday.
The illegal immigrants were working at two areas on base. INS officials were trying to determine whether the aliens had access to secure areas.
Authorities do not believe they are linked to terrorists.

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