- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2003


U.S. teens win world geography title

TAMPA — Who says Americans are lousy at geography?

Three U.S. teenagers won the gold medal Wednesday in the National Geographic World Championship, beating teams from Germany and France to successfully defend the U.S. title in a contest held every two years.

The teenagers beat Germany in the finals by identifying Bahrain from a series of clues about the oil-producing nation and then naming Crete as the island where oranges, grapes and olives are grown that is associated with worship of Zeus.

“It’s kind of nerve-racking,” said U.S. team member John Rice, 15, who is home-schooled at his family’s Maddock, N.D., wheat farm. “We took it one question at a time.”

Dallas Simons, 13, of Nashville, Tenn., and Alexander Smith, 15, of Burlington, N.C., were the other U.S. competitors. It’s the fourth time the United States has won the competition since it was first held in 1993.

Eighteen countries as disparate as Singapore and Nigeria sent three-student teams to the two-day tournament at Busch Gardens.


Ex-state attorney general pleads guilty

AUSTIN — Former Texas Attorney General Dan Morales pleaded guilty yesterday to federal charges of mail and tax fraud in a deal expected to bring him four years in prison.

Mr. Morales had pleaded not guilty in April to charges that he and friend Marc Murr fraudulently tried to obtain hundreds of millions of dollars in legal fees for Mr. Murr from the state’s $17.3 billion tobacco settlement.

Prosecutors offered Mr. Morales the plea bargain, and the agreement was reached Wednesday.

U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton said he expected a federal judge to accept the deal calling for four years of prison time.

Mr. Morales has spent the last three weeks in the Caldwell County Jail after a judge revoked his bond in late June, saying he may have lied on two car-loan applications.


Groups fight burning of chemical weapons

BIRMINGHAM — Critics of the Army’s plan to burn tons of chemical weapons in Alabama said yesterday that they will make a final effort to block the incinerator, set to begin destroying Cold War-era munitions this month.

A consortium of groups will ask a court to block the operation of the incinerator at the Anniston Army Depot as soon as papers can be drawn up, said Elizabeth Crowe of the Chemical Weapons Working Group.

With the state yet to give its final approval for the incineration program, Miss Crowe said opponents could ask a court to bar the state from issuing a permit to operate it.

The Army has said it wants to begin work this month to burn 2,254 tons of nerve agents and mustard gas stored in concrete bunkers at the depot.

Miss Crowe’s organization wants the Army to scrap the idea of incinerating the material and, instead, destroy it using a chemical neutralization process. The group says this is less risky.


Man seriously injured in bear attack

ANCHORAGE — A man was in critical condition Wednesday after being mauled by a grizzly bear at a Russian River campground.

Dan Bigley, 25, was with two companions Tuesday in the Chugach National Forest when the bear charged and attacked him from behind, according to Alaska state troopers. He was flown to a hospital in Anchorage, about 110 miles north of the campground.

Witnesses said several grizzlies were near the Kenai Peninsula campground, and that one of the bears — a sow with cubs — charged several persons.

Campers were encouraged to stay in their vehicles until daylight. The Forest Service and state troopers also posted warning signs at the campground, trailheads and a ferry crossing.


Officials release prevention guidelines

ATLANTA — Doctors need to have more detailed discussions about sex and drug use with HIV patients to keep them from spreading the virus, federal officials said yesterday as they announced guidelines intended to help cut infections by half.

The changes put more responsibility on doctors, many of whom have said they lack the time or feel uncomfortable talking about sex and drugs with their patients. But the health agencies and doctors’ organization that issued the guidelines say they are needed because existing efforts to control HIV have stalled.

Prevention efforts in recent years have focused on educating the general public about the risks of HIV. But studies have shown that doctors don’t always discuss prevention strategies with HIV patients, “the only ones who can transmit HIV,” said Dr. Robert Janssen, director of the HIV-AIDS prevention division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The guidelines outline ways that doctors, nurses and physician assistants can identify risky transmission behavior, pass along prevention tips, and discuss sex and drug use with patients who have HIV.


State requires taped interrogations

CHICAGO — Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich signed a law yesterday that made Illinois the first state to require police to tape-record interrogations of suspects in murders and sexual crimes.

Tape-recording confessions — either on audio tape or videotape — was among the reforms suggested by a panel on the death penalty commissioned by Mr. Blagojevich’s predecessor, Republican George Ryan, who termed the state’s criminal justice system “broken” after more than a dozen condemned prisoners were exonerated.

Mr. Blagojevich, a Democrat and a former prosecutor, is weighing a proposed series of death penalty reforms passed by the state legislature that provide defendants better access to DNA evidence, forbid executions of the retarded, and give leeway to judges to overturn death sentences.

Mr. Ryan declared a moratorium on executions and granted clemency to all 160 inmates on death row before leaving office. Mr. Blagojevich extended the moratorium indefinitely.


Library employee says her rights were violated

TOPEKA — A public library employee says she was reprimanded after she talked openly at work about homosexual rights after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month that struck down anti-sodomy laws.

Bonnie Cuevas, a board member of the Kansas Unity and Pride Alliance and mother of a homosexual man, said two administrators at the Topeka-Shawnee County Library reprimanded her for talking about the case and told her that she was prohibited from discussing homosexual rights at work.

They cited a complaint from a co-worker who felt the subject was creating a hostile work environment. Miss Cuevas had discussed the case on the phone and with a co-worker.

The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the library Wednesday, asking officials to reconsider their prohibition on Miss Cuevas’ ability to discuss the case, without the group resorting to legal action.


Horses put to death after mysterious attack

LEXINGTON — A champion show horse and a stablemate were euthanized yesterday, more than two weeks after someone injected them and three other horses with a mysterious substance on the eve of an important competition.

Veterinarian Carol McLeod said the condition of the two saddlebreds had deteriorated overnight and they had been in significant pain.

Wild Eyed and Wicked, a two-time champion of the American saddlebred industry’s Triple Crown, and Meet Prince Charming had been found with severe swelling in their left front legs on June 30 in their stalls at Double D Ranch in Versailles.

Three others horses also were attacked, and one, Kiss Me, was in pain yesterday morning, Dr. McLeod said. Cats Don’t Dance and Sassational were in better condition, she said.


Man jailed for robbing gambling bar

CHALMETTE — A man who tried to recoup his video poker losses by burglarizing the bar where he had been playing was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Gary Bergeron, 45, of Chalmette, pleaded guilty to the December burglary of Dalton’s Tavern.

Prosecutors said a surveillance tape caught him robbing the business shortly after he lost heavily in video poker.


ACLU official to tour death row

JACKSON — Margaret Winter, the project director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, wants to see whether corrections officials have cleaned up Mississippi’s death row after a federal trial over harsh conditions.

Miss Winter said she will interview inmates in their cells and tour death row at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman next Wednesday.

In May, Magistrate Jerry Davis ordered that improvements be made in 10 areas on death row. His ruling came in a lawsuit filed on behalf of the inmates who say conditions are inhumane.

The lawsuit said that conditions are so harsh that they contribute to a high rate of mental illness among the prisoners.

In his order, Magistrate Davis said conditions at Parchman constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Among the changes he ordered were that the prisoners be given regular mental health examinations, ice water and fans on hot days, and athletic shoes instead of flip-flops for exercise.


Fire forces evacuations at Gateway Arch

ST. LOUIS — A fire broke out on the grounds of the Gateway Arch yesterday, prompting officials to evacuate visitors from the famed St. Louis landmark.

Thick black smoke could be seen hovering over downtown for miles. No injuries were reported.

Officials at the National Park Service said visitors at the Museum of Westward Expansion beneath the Arch were evacuated, as were those who travel by tram to the top of the monument.

The fire apparently started at a transformer about 50 feet from the Arch. There was no word on the cause.


Family suing church over hell prediction

SANTA FE — A New Mexico family is suing their local Roman Catholic church over a funeral Mass in which, they say, the priest said their relative had been only a middling Catholic and would go straight to hell.

Lawyers for the family of Ben Martinez said Tuesday that they had filed a lawsuit in June against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe and one of its priests.

Court papers filed last month say that the Rev. Scott Mansfield said at Mr. Martinez’s funeral last year that the deceased had been “living in sin,” “lukewarm in his faith” and that “the Lord vomited people like Ben out of his mouth to hell.”

Mr. Martinez, 80, died June 17 last year. About 200 people attended the funeral at St. Patrick’s Parish in Chama, N.M. Family members say he was a practicing Catholic all his life, but had been too ill to attend church in the last year of his life.

Nine members of the Martinez family are seeking punitive and compensatory damages for severe emotional and physical suffering. Lawyers did not say how much the family was seeking.


Diamonds are a bride’s best friend

NEW YORK — A New York bride will sashay down the aisle this summer in a diamond-studded dress that, at $300,000, is being touted as one of the most expensive bridal gowns ever made.

The dress, designed by Brooklyn-based couturier Anthony La Bate, is made with 1,100 diamonds totaling 300 carats, 3,000 Swarovski crystals and 50 yards of silk organza, the New York Post reported yesterday.

Top-end bridal gowns sold in major department stores typically come with a price tag of $10,000 to $12,000.

Mr. La Bate declined to identify the 23-year-old bride, saying only that she was of Syrian-Jewish descent and had moved to Brooklyn three years ago.


Harrier jet crashes; pilot rescued

ATLANTIC BEACH — A Marine Corps Harrier jet crashed in the ocean off this surfside community Wednesday afternoon. A Coast Guard spokesman said the only person aboard was rescued.

The aircraft from the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point went down about 40 miles off the coast, Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Chandler said.

A rescue helicopter from Cherry Point was used to pull the pilot from the sea. He was evaluated at a hospital at the air station and released, according to a statement from the base.


Court dismisses plea in obscenity case

COLUMBUS — A state appeals court yesterday dismissed the guilty plea of a man imprisoned for writing fictitious accounts of child torture and molestation.

Lawyers specializing in the First Amendment believe Brian Dalton was the first person in the United States successfully prosecuted for child pornography that involved fictional writings, not images.

The 10th District Court of Appeals in Columbus ruled that Mr. Dalton had received ineffective legal assistance. Mr. Dalton had argued that his former attorney hadn’t informed him of the legal implications of a guilty plea or asked for an immediate dismissal on First Amendment grounds.

The 3-0 ruling sends the case back to Franklin County Common Pleas Court. Mr. Dalton could still be tried, but prosecutors have not said whether they would seek to do so.

Ray Vasvari, the American Civil Liberties Union’s state legal director in Cleveland, said the decision was an “important recognition for not only freedom of speech, but freedom of thought.”


Governor sees economy improving

PIERRE — Gov. Mike Rounds says he’s cautiously optimistic that South Dakota’s rural economy will gain strength now that rains have eased drought conditions in much of the state.

Mr. Rounds says conditions generally are better now than they had been a year ago, and that the improvement is reflected in the economy. He cited increased collection of taxes in recent months.


State to host homeland security

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Department of Public Safety will host a meeting of homeland security officials next week from 10 Northeastern states and at least three Canadian provinces.

The July 24 and 25 meetings in Burlington will be the latest in an ongoing series among officials from the states and provinces. They’re designed to help officials prevent or respond to a terrorist attack or other large-scale disaster.

But unlike in previous meetings, top police officials from each state and province also are to attend. There also will be representatives of the national government from both countries, including the Northeast regional commander of the U.S. Coast Guard, said Neale Lunderville, secretary of Civil and Military Affairs for Gov. Jim Douglas.


Police chief shooting leads to ballot measure

TACOMA — Voters will decide in November whether to abolish the position of city manager, a proposal spurred by the turmoil after the city’s police chief fatally shot his wife and committed suicide.

A group called Time for Change gathered at least 7,073 valid signatures from registered Tacoma voters, 44 more than the minimum needed to put the measure on the ballot, Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy said Wednesday.

The petitions propose switching from a city manager form of government to a so-called “strong-mayor” system that shifts key responsibilities from a hired manager to the elected mayor.

Initiative co-sponsor Rick Cvitanich said he had been bothered by revelations since Police Chief David Brame mortally wounded his estranged wife, Crystal, then turned the gun on himself April 26. Subsequent reports showed that Brame had been hired despite an unfavorable psychological review and had been promoted repeatedly despite a date-rape accusation and other doubts about his fitness.


Dillinger ‘Tommy’ gun to be displayed

RACINE — What could be a better location to display John Dillinger’s submachine gun than the site of a bank he robbed almost 70 years ago?

The former American Bank and Trust Co. building now is home to the Racine Art Museum, and the Thompson submachine gun will be a centerpiece of an exhibit to mark the anniversary of the robbery by the Dillinger gang.

The “Tommy” gun was taken from a police officer during the heist on Nov. 20, 1933, that ended with Dillinger and his gang fleeing in a car with two hostages clinging to the outside of the vehicle. The hostages were released unharmed. The gang wounded a bank cashier and a police officer before getting away.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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