- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2003


Engineers crash-test plane

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. — Engineers dropped a commuter plane containing 23 crash dummies onto a concrete pad Wednesday, hoping to learn enough from the crumpled fuselage to develop new airline safety standards.

More than 250 people crowded onto a grassy knoll to watch the test as a man’s voice came over the loudspeaker counting down “Five, four, three, two, one.” The plane then fell 14 feet with a loud boom, causing the plane’s roof-mounted wings to sink deep into the top of the fuselage.

The $250,000 test is the last of four plane drops conducted by the FAA at the William J. Hughes Technical Center since 1992. The experiment was aimed at assessing how a commuter plane responds to a severe but survivable crash and using the data to develop energy-absorbent seats, among other things.

The FAA says that in many survivable crashes, loose seat attachments, falling overhead bins and ceiling panels have seriously injured passengers.


Deaf race car driver follows dream

CHARLESTON — When he muscles his 2,300-pound Rocket around the oval track, Jeremy Taylor doesn’t listen to the crowd or even to the roar of his 700-horsepower engine.

He can’t.

But being born deaf isn’t stopping him from pursuing his lifelong desire to become a champion dirt-track race car driver.

“I like the speed,” Mr. Taylor said yesterday, through a sign language interpreter. “I like the feeling of going around the curves.”

Mr. Taylor, 23, will pull his dream a little closer tonight, with a spot in the semi-late-model division at the Beckley Speedway. Greatly renovated by its new owner, Powerball jackpot winner Jack Whittaker, the three-eighths of a mile track is expected to draw more than 7,000 fans for its six classes of races.

Mr. Taylor’s first race, in Elkins, ended when his car lost oil pressure. But he has plugged along, and has since finished races in the top five.


Ranch to serve for jaguar protection

TUCSON — Conservationists from Mexico and Arizona announced Wednesday that a 10,000-acre ranch south of the border will become a jaguar preserve and research center.

Jaguars — North America’s largest native cat — were indigenous to Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, and once roamed through Mexico to Argentina. But the animal has all but vanished within the United States.

Naturalia, a Mexico City-based nonprofit organization, bought the ranch, 120 miles south of Arizona. Three to five jaguars typically can be found on the ranch at any one time, researchers said.


Three arrested in 1998 murders

POCAHONTAS — Three persons were arrested in the slayings of four members of a family five years ago, authorities said.

One of those arrested was in custody in another case, and two more were arrested Wednesday, Randolph County Sheriff Brent Earley said. He declined to identify them.

Sheriff Earley’s announcement came on the fifth anniversary of the date authorities believe the Elliott family died — husband Allen, 30; wife Lisa, 26; and their children, 6-year-old Gregory and 8-year-old Felicia. They lived in the community of Dalton, about 23 miles northwest of Pocahontas.

The body of Lisa Elliott was found the morning of July 30, 1998, on the doorstep of her father’s home, where she apparently had made her way after being beaten at her home nearby. Her son was found bludgeoned to death in the Elliott home. Mr. Elliott’s body was found in Eleven Point River two days later, about a mile downstream from the house, shot in the head.


Students, teachers to recite pledge

DENVER — Students and teachers in Colorado schools will be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in class every day when a new state law takes effect next week.

Those who object on religious and other grounds will be exempt, as will noncitizens.


Skulls stolen from cemetery

WILMINGTON — The skull of a woman buried 59 years ago has been stolen from a mausoleum at a Wilmington cemetery, authorities said.

The theft of the skull from the Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery marks the second time in nine months that a city cemetery has been targeted by vandals who removed skulls of women entombed for decades.

In November, a family mausoleum was entered at Riverview Cemetery, and the casket of 29-year-old Hannah Graham was removed. When police investigated, they found the corpse’s skull missing.

The name of the corpse desecrated this week, that of an 80-year-old woman, was not released, pending notification of relatives.


Officers allowed to grow beards

ST. CLOUD — A new policy may lead to hairy situations at the St. Cloud Police Department.

Patrick Kelly, the new police chief, is letting his officers cut back on razor use, saying a beard is “not a negative thing anymore like it once was.”

In Central Florida, most sheriff’s offices ban beards unless a deputy proves it is a medical necessity, such as having skin conditions irritated by shaving.

But advocates such as Jerry Jackson have promoted the right to bare whiskers. Mr. Jackson, a Pensacola computer programmer, 53, founded the National Beard Registry, which he hopes will help counteract negative stereotypes of beard wearers.

Officers must have written permission and 10 consecutive days off to grow their chin hair. No unruly whiskers, though — facial hair will be limited to half an inch.


Hard-to-catch lizard headed for zoo

CARTERVILLE — Joanna, the lizard that went on the lam for nearly a month, will be living a life of leisure near the sunny beaches of Miami.

The 20-pound, 6-foot-long Asian water monitor gained notoriety shortly after she escaped on June 18 from her cage and took refuge in the Lake Moses area in southern Illinois.

Joanna was captured on July 16 by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department and her owner, Derek Freeman, after she emerged from a pond and was surrounded by four men. Joanna is headed for the Metro Miami Zoo.

“We are going to see to it that she gets all the rest and relaxation she needs, for the rest of her life,” said the zoo’s herpetologist, Steve Connors.


Vandals damage plants in park

FORT WAYNE — Less than a month after floodwaters destroyed flower beds at some city parks, vandals have damaged about 900 plants, officials said.

The city parks department usually doesn’t publicize vandalism for fear of making it worse. However, after 30 to 40 incidents this summer at a popular site for weddings, it asked the public to report suspicious incidents.


Men charged with smuggling immigrants

DES MOINES — Four men were charged yesterday with smuggling 11 immigrants whose badly decomposed bodies were found in a railcar at a grain elevator in Iowa last fall.

Federal prosecutors announced the 27-count indictment at a news conference in front of a grain car yesterday — the first charges to result from the smuggling deaths.

The charges came nearly nine months after workers cleaning railcars in Denison, about 50 miles southeast of Sioux City, found the bodies. They had been trapped in the railcar for at least four months, and the bodies were so decayed that they could not be identified until May.

Prosecutors said Juan Fernando Licea-Cedillo, 26, Rogelio Hernandez Ramos, 38, Guillermo Madrigal Ballisteros, 45, and Arnulfo Flores, 33, were charged with conspiring to transport illegal immigrants for financial gain where death resulted.

If convicted, each could face the death penalty or life in prison.


Lobsters stolen from seafood dealers

STONINGTON — More than $30,000 worth of lobsters were stolen from four seafood dealers in Stonington, Milbridge and Addison.

Police believe the thefts were related and the thieves will try to sell the shellfish to small distributors. They have alerted dealers in Boston that some stolen lobsters may be coming their way.


Historian Ferguson to join Harvard faculty

CAMBRIDGE — Author and historian Niall Ferguson will join the history faculty of Harvard University next year, the school announced.

Currently at New York University, Mr. Ferguson will begin work at Harvard next July and will begin teaching in the spring 2005 term. He also has taught at Oxford University. His field of study is economic history.

A native of Scotland, Mr. Ferguson, 39, is the author of six books, including “Empire,” a defense of British global power. He has contributed to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and has been a frequent political commentator on British television and radio.


Mayor signs bill banning smoking

ST. LOUIS — Smokers in St. Louis no longer can light up in city buildings under a bill signed into law by Mayor Francis Slay.

The mayor signed the bill Tuesday and it takes effect immediately. Violators will face fines up to $50.

Smoking still will be allowed in public areas of the terminal buildings at Lambert Airport.


Work-release inmate says beer was in burrito

NORTH PLATTE — An inmate accused of violating his work-release program by having alcohol on his breath says it was all in the burritos.

The judge wants to see the recipe.

Attorney Russ Jones said Monday that his client, William Dolge, 45, had burrito meat soaked in beer, which resulted in his testing positive for a low amount of alcohol about two weeks ago when he returned to jail from his job.

Lincoln County Attorney Jeff Meyer said he suspected Dolge washed down the burritos with something stronger than water.

District Judge John Murphy told Mr. Jones to bring the recipe — and a sample if he can — to the next hearing in the case on Aug. 6.


West Nile in humans spreads to state

ALBUQUERQUE — A 58-year-old woman became the first person diagnosed with West Nile virus in New Mexico, making the state the 41st to see a human case of the mosquito-borne disease since it appeared in the United States in 1999.

The woman resident developed a mild case of the illness about a week ago and was not hospitalized, the state health department said. She had a fever, headaches and a rash.

The disease has spread westward across the country since it was first found in New York City. There were 4,156 human cases in the United States last year, including 284 deaths.


Slain councilman’s brother to run for seat

NEW YORK — The brother of the councilman shot to death in City Hall last week will take his spot on the Democratic primary ballot.

Geoffrey Davis was selected to fill James Davis’ spot by a committee headed by their mother, Thelma Davis, the committee announced Wednesday. Under state law, candidates name committees to select someone to take their place in the event of a vacancy during the campaign.

“For as long as I can remember, my brother stood for, worked for and fought for an end to violence in our local neighborhoods, and we cannot let the passing of his soul mean the passing of his dreams,” Geoffrey Davis said Wednesday.

James Davis, 41, was fatally shot by Othniel Askew on a balcony in council chambers before the start of a City Council meeting July 23. Askew, 31, was shot dead by a police officer moments later.


Plaintiffs get $6.54 in Bakker lawsuit

ASHEVILLE — A 16-year-old, class-action lawsuit against disgraced evangelist Jim Bakker has netted $6.54 in payments for the 165,000 plaintiffs.

Meanwhile, their attorneys will get $2.5 million of a $3.7 million settlement fund, the Citizen-Times of Asheville reported yesterday.

The plaintiffs gave $1,000 each for four-day vacation stays at a PTL (Praise the Lord) resort that was never built near Charlotte.


Thieves steal truckload of onions

CRYSTAL — It’s enough to make Lorraine Martinson weep.

More than 7,000 onions were picked from her field and pocketed by thieves, Pembina County Sheriff Wayne Samdahl said.

Seven rows of onions, worth about $4,000, were taken from the field where Miss Martinson grows a variety of vegetables.

The theft apparently happened over the weekend. Miss Martinson discovered it Monday.

Authorities took pictures of footprints and tire prints.

Miss Martinson says onions are her major source of income in the summer.


Truckers accused of falsifying logs

PHILADELPHIA — Eight truckers were indicted for ignoring federal safety rules that limit how long they can drive without rest. Among those named was a driver who slammed into a funeral procession in 2001, triggering a crash that killed two persons.

The nine indictments announced Wednesday also accused a Pennsylvania trucking company and one of its dispatchers of encouraging drivers to falsify work logs that are supposed to show truckers have enough time to sleep between shifts.

Seven of the drivers worked for Ontelaunee Transport Services Inc. The Kempton company had been accused of similar infractions in 2001, when it was called David Kistler and Grandson Inc. Its president was sentenced to six months in prison and fined $5,000 in the case.

U.S. Department of Transportation regulations require that truckers drive no more than 10 straight hours before taking an eight-hour break.


County told to get off private property

CHARLESTON — Attorney General Henry McMaster says Berkeley County’s former policy of allowing county employees to work on private property was unconstitutional, but not criminal.

County workers had been allowed to fix driveways and do other work on private property when the owners couldn’t find contractors. Mr. McMaster said such work wasn’t criminal because the county was paid.


Two-month-old girl dies in hot vehicle

HARLINGEN — A 2-month-old girl died after being left inside a sweltering parked car while her mother was in a Target store applying for a job, police said.

After consulting prosecutors, police charged July Vreeland, 24, with abandoning and endangering a child Wednesday. She was in jail Wednesday night.

Police were still trying to determine how long the child had been in the car Wednesday afternoon.

Police and witnesses described the child’s mother as distraught.

The outside temperature was 93 degrees, Harlingen police Lt. A.R. Garcia said, and while police did not measure the car’s interior temperature, cars can heat up to 140 degrees quickly.


Elections board issues fines for violations

BROOKFIELD — The state Elections Board fined 19 persons and former Gov. Scott McCallum’s campaign committee for violating state limits on political contributions last year.

The 19 donors were each fined $100 plus 10 percent of what they had contributed beyond the state’s $10,000 limit on contributions. The committee was fined $100 for accepting an $11,000 donation.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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