As test gets easier, scores rise
JUNEAU Students statewide and in Juneau fared better on the new, easier version of the high school exit exam, making it likely that few students will be denied a diploma.
The Juneau Empire reports that students must pass the reading, writing and mathematics tests of the Alaska High School Qualifying Examination to get a diploma. The Class of 2004, this year’s juniors, are the first students who must pass the exam.
Students first take the exam when they are sophomores and have two chances a year after that to retake portions they did not pass.
Approximately 61 percent of Juneau’s sophomores who took the test in 2002 passed all three tests.
Giordano pleads innocent to new charges
BRIDGEPORT Former Waterbury Mayor Phillip Giordano pleaded innocent yesterday to four new charges related to the sexual assault of two girls.
The Hartford Courant reports that the charges involve Mr. Giordano’s supposed use of a cell phone to set up sexual liaisons with two girls, ages 9 and 11.
Mr. Giordano has been accused of using his cell phone to speak with a prostitute to set up sexual liaisons with the girls, who are the daughter and niece of the prostitute.
The reported sexual activity came to light during a federal investigation into supposed municipal corruption in Waterbury.
Man falls to death, puts driver in hospital
HONOLULU A 32-year-old woman was critically injured when a man fell to his death in an apparent suicide from a Waikiki hotel and landed on the roof of her van.
The Star Bulletin reports that the van driver was not breathing and had no pulse when paramedics arrived. But paramedics were able to resuscitate her en route to the Queen’s Medical Center.
Emergency medical personnel described her as in extremely critical condition.
Honolulu police have determined that Camaron Tuupoina, 22, fell from the 44-story Ohana Maile Sky Court, though they have not determined from which floor.
Clergy-abuse victims see groups grow
CHICAGO The nation’s largest support group for clergy molestation victims quadrupled in size last year and now has 44 active monthly support groups meeting across the country.
The Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) began 2002 with less than 3,000 members and nine active local chapters. The organization now has more than 4,500 members in virtually every state, and monthly support group meetings in 44 cities.
Last year, new SNAP support groups formed in 35 cities, including Seattle; Denver; Tampa, Fla.; New Orleans; Minneapolis; Sacramento; San Diego; Houston; and Portland, Ore.
Protesters decry raids on Hispanics
LOUISVILLE About three dozen people demonstrated outside the federal courthouse in Louisville on Wednesday to protest U.S. action against illegal Hispanic immigrants in Kentucky.
The Courier-Journal reports that a series of raids by Immigration and Naturalization Service agents in Shelby County since May has resulted in more than 100 arrests of Hispanic men and women charged with being in the country illegally. In the most recent action, agents arrested 24 Hispanics Jan. 29 during a sweep through homes and businesses in Shelbyville and Simpsonville.
The demonstrators included clergy, social workers, attorneys and private citizens, many of whom work daily with the state’s rapidly growing Hispanic population.
Ex-judge accused of fixing case
NEW ORLEANS A federal grand jury Wednesday charged a judge, ex-jurist and two other men with fixing multimillionaire Al Copeland’s child custody case in hopes of gaining a lucrative shrimp contract with Mr. Copeland’s restaurants.
The Times-Picayune reports that Judge Ronald Bodenheimer, along with Copeland corporate attorney Bryan White and mutual friend Phil Demma, are accused of holding frequent conversations about the custody case outside the presence of Mr. Copelands’ ex-wife and her attorney.
They also discussed the appointment to that case of an attorney and social worker who were friendly with Mr. Bodenheimer and who the judge hoped would protect Mr. Copeland’s interest, according to the indictment. Mr. Copeland is not charged in the indictment.
Veteran fights terror with pennies, pencils
BOZEMAN As America prepares for battle, spending billions to prepare for war, Vietnam War-era veteran Greg Mortenson quietly prepares to return to Pakistan and Afghanistan armed with literally pennies and pencils.
His unique but highly successful anti-terror tactic is to promote girls’ education.
According to Mr. Mortenson, a penny buys a pencil in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Thousands of U.S. school children help Mr. Mortenson’s efforts donating tens of thousands of pennies to help their counterparts overseas.
Horses rounded up in land dispute
RENO Federal officials began rounding up hundreds of horses that belong to two Western Shoshone sisters yesterday in the latest chapter of a decades-old land dispute.
It is the second time in four months the Bureau of Land Management has gathered livestock belonging to the elderly sisters, Mary and Carrie Dann. In September, 227 cattle were impounded and sold.
The BLM maintains the Danns have been illegally grazing hundreds of cattle and horses for decades, to the detriment of the range and other ranchers.
The Danns say an 1863 treaty between the Western Shoshone and the United States allowed early settlers access to their territory, but did not cede ownership to the federal government.
Stern’s rest stop shut down
TRENTON Thieves could not shut down Howard Stern’s rest stop, but Gov. James E. McGreevey will.
New Jersey cannot afford to keep open the Route 295 rest area that carries the radio host’s name. It will be shuttered, reportedly at a savings of $1 million a year.
The closing was part of Mr. McGreevey’s budget, which he introduced Tuesday. Mr. McGreevey also cut funding to the arts, sciences and cultural programs. Aid for higher education, rebates and social service programs were also cut to balance the $23.7 billion budget.
Twenty-three state workers are needed to staff the area round-the-clock, state officials said. It’s one of three operated on state highways. Rest areas on the New Jersey Turnpike and other toll roads are independently operated.
Congressional members under fire for remarks
HIGH POINT An advocacy group criticized two U.S. congressional members for comments they made about Arab Americans, saying the remarks are part of “a very disturbing trend.”
Rep. Howard Coble, a Republican who heads the Judiciary subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security, said on a radio call-in program Tuesday that he agreed with the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Mr. Coble made his remark when a caller suggested Arabs in the United States should be confined.
And fellow Republican Rep. Sue Myrick, in talking last week about domestic security threats, referred to Arab Americans by saying, “Look at who runs all the convenience stores across the country.” Both said their remarks were not intended to insult any ethnic or religious groups.
Former officer, ex-wife accused of spying
SEATTLE A former National Guard officer for the Washington Army National Guard and his ex-wife are behind bars on espionage charges.
Rafael Davila, 51, whose National Guard duties included destroying top-secret documents, is accused of transferring sensitive military information to his ex-wife, Deborah Davila, 46, who is suspected of having passed it on to a lawyer connected with militia groups, according to federal criminal justices sources.
The Davilas are being held without bond in Spokane after their arrest Tuesday by FBI agents. They appeared in court yesterday, where their continued detention was discussed.