- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 3, 2003


Flood damage keeps highway closed

VAIL — Residents pumped out their homes yesterday after a raging creek broke through an underground culvert, sending water into the neighborhood and opening a 22-foot-wide sinkhole in Colorado’s main east-west highway.

Sandbags and mounds of dirt were piled up around the houses, a mix of apartments and single-family homes worth as much as $1 million, many flooded with several inches of water.

About a mile away, highway crews in front-end loaders and graders diverted water from the sinkhole on Interstate 70 so they could look for the damaged culvert about 20 feet below. A 24-mile stretch of the highway was closed.

Motorists crawled in bumper-to-bumper traffic along a 54-mile detour that wound mostly on two-lane highways across two mountain passes of 10,000 feet and higher.


Woman dies in fall from roller coaster

SANTA CLAUS — State inspectors found nothing wrong with a roller coaster where a passenger fell and died during the weekend, authorities said.

The death Saturday night of Tamar Fellner, 32, of New York was classified as an accident, according to a statement issued late Sunday by the Spencer County Sheriff’s Department.

Inspectors who went to the Holiday World amusement park found no mechanical problems on the ride, called the Raven, said Alden Taylor, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Fire and Building Services. The investigation continued yesterday.

Details of the death remained sketchy. Investigators said only that the woman fell from the ride.

The park was closed Sunday but reopened yesterday.

Holiday World President Will Koch demonstrated the safety bar on a roller coaster at the amusement park in Santa Claus, Ind.


Orphan-train museum to leave state

SPRINGDALE — A museum dedicated to trains that brought thousands of orphans or abandoned children to the West is moving to Concordia, Kan., in search of better support from the community, officials say.

The Orphan Train Riders Heritage Society honors the trains that brought about 250,000 orphaned or abandoned children from overcrowded Eastern cities to the West between 1854 and 1930.


Officials investigate strangling of sea lion

SANTA BARBARA — Federal officials are investigating the strangling of a beached sea lion by a public works employee who wanted to end its suffering.

Scores of dead and sickened sea lions and dolphins have washed ashore recently.

The worker wasn’t aware that his action could violate the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and result in a $25,000 fine and yearlong jail term, officials said.


Desegregation case figure dies

WILMINGTON — Shirley Bulah Stamps, whose fight to attend an all-white school nearly 50 years ago became part of the action that led to the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, died last week after a heart attack. She was 59.

She was abandoned at birth in a Wilmington apartment building and was adopted. As an 8-year-old in 1951, she was one of two children named as plaintiffs in a lawsuit that led to a state Supreme Court ruling that Delaware schools be desegregated.

The state Board of Education appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and her suit was combined with several others from across the country. That led to the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., ruling, which found that segregated public schools were unconstitutional.


Judge: Pull beauty queen’s name off site

WEST PALM BEACH — A judge has ordered the operator of a raunchy Web site to stop posting details of a reported sexual relationship he had with a former beauty queen who promotes abstinence and sobriety.

The temporary order forbids Tucker Max, 27, from “disclosing any stories, facts or information, notwithstanding its truth, about any intimate or sexual act” involving Katy Johnson, a two-time Miss Vermont who founded a “Sobriety Society” and has a Web site of her own filled with tips on living a virtuous life.

Miss Johnson, 24, acknowledges knowing Mr. Max but denies having a sexual relationship with him. She sued Mr. Max last month, arguing that he was using her name and photograph on his Web site to promote his “career as an authority on picking up women.”


Moonshine may go into production

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s legendary ti root moonshine, a drink prized by King Kalakaua and then produced illegally for most of the 20th century, could make a comeback.

Businessman Steve Thompson is starting Sandwich Islands Distilling and plans to start full commercial production of okolehao on Maui before year’s end.

Mr. Thompson says the beverage — made of ti root, rice and cane sugar — will become as important to Hawaii as tequila is to Mexico.

Ti root is a native plant in Hawaii.


Man undergoes triple transplant

CHICAGO — A patient who had a rare genetic defect is recuperating from a triple transplant that gave him a heart, liver and kidneys, all from the same donor, say doctors at the University of Chicago Hospitals.

Michael Gaynor, 40, received the organs in a 17-hour operation May 21. Because of the danger of incompatibility and rejection, all three organs had to come from the same anonymous donor.

Doctors said it was the fourth time a heart-liver-kidney transplant had been attempted and that only one of the previous recipients is still living. Mr. Gaynor is expected to be discharged from the hospital later this week, hospital officials said.

Mr. Gaynor, from the Chicago suburb of Niles, had a defect called glycogen-storage disease, which gradually damages the liver and other vital organs, including the heart. He got the first of three pacemakers at age 19.


Followers of yogi to build ‘peace palace’

BOSTON — Followers of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi are lining up donors and seeking a location to build a “Peace Palace” where they say groups of meditators would gather, levitate and “transform the country.”

One such palace is under construction in Bethesda, Md., and another has been completed in Lexington, Ky.

Skeptics say the project is a ploy to expand the Maharishi’s $3.3 billion empire.


Bees turn traffic light into makeshift beehive

MINNEAPOLIS — A swarm of more than 12,000 honeybees picked a bad part of downtown to buzz about.

The insects, which turned a traffic light into a makeshift beehive Thursday, happened to pick a spot beneath the sixth-floor offices of Gary Johnson, who owns a beekeeping equipment company.

Decked out head-to-toe in a white bee suit and mask, Mr. Johnson carried honeycomb frames up a ladder near the traffic sign. Within minutes, thousands of bees flocked to the frames, while others hovered nearby.

No stings were reported. The bees were so engorged with honey that they couldn’t sting, Mr. Johnson said.


Judge going to Texas to sentence Klansman

JACKSON — Federal Judge William H. Barbour Jr. will travel later this month to a prison hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, to sentence Ernest Avants, a reputed Klansman who is too ill to return to Mississippi.

Avants, 72, was found guilty in the 1966 slaying of black sharecropper Ben Chester White in an attempt to lure Martin Luther King Jr. to the region.

Avants’ attorney says he has heart problems.


Editor wins hair-raising contest

NORTH PLATTE — City officials put their best face forward in a friendly hair-raising competition.

On Thursday judges were asked to pick the best beard and the greatest goatee among contestants in a pool that included police officers, animal-control officers and a newspaper editor. Each paid $5 for the privilege — all going to fund a program that teaches at-risk children discipline through martial arts.

Dave Simpson, editor of the North Platte Telegraph, was crowned best beard and Dwight Livingston, deputy police chief, took the title of most attractive goatee.

Judges used terms like “well-formed” in selecting Chief Livingston’s goatee in that division. They also munched on assorted chocolates Chief Livingston had provided prior to judging.


City to pay millions to settle suit

NEW YORK — The city will pay more than $5 million to settle a lawsuit about the sudden evacuation of a city-run nursing home in 1998.

The case was brought on behalf of nearly 300 residents of Neponsit Health Care Center in Queens.

The city said the evacuation Sept. 10-12, 1998, was urgent because the four buildings that made up the nursing home were near collapse. The home has since closed, but the buildings are still standing.

Some of the residents said they suffered extreme trauma from being rushed out. Some waited weeks to find permanent homes.

The city will pay $18,000 to each of the residents who are alive, and $18,000 each to the families of those who have died, according to a settlement approved yesterday by a federal judge.


Elderly women get sexual letters

UPPER SANDUSKY — The letters all came in the mail to unsuspecting older women, each suggesting the recipient might want to consider having a sexual encounter with the unknown author, police said.

After a year of searching for the unusual letter writer, police said they finally have found the man who sent sexual letters to at least two dozen women he had never met. The letters listed a bogus address, but the author always left instructions on how he could be contacted.

The man, 52, who has not been charged, was caught recently after one of the victims’ daughters agreed to contact the man so police could trace his phone number, police said. When they arrived at his door, he was still talking to her on the phone.


Philadelphia Inquirer names new editor

PHILADELPHIA — Amanda Bennett, editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky and a longtime reporter for the Wall Street Journal, was named editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday.

Miss Bennett, 50, replaces Walker Lundy, who announced his retirement last month. She was introduced to the Inquirer staff at a meeting yesterday afternoon, said Henry J. Holcomb, Inquirer reporter and president of the Philadelphia local of the Newspaper Guild.

She was picked from more than two dozen applicants and will start June 23, publisher Robert J. Hall said in a story on the paper’s Web site.

She became editor of the Herald-Leader in August 2001, after serving as a managing editor of the Oregonian of Portland. She directed the team whose reporting on the Immigration and Naturalization Service was part of the entry that won the Oregonian the Pulitzer for public service in 2001.


Study: Police engaged in racial profiling

PROVIDENCE — Data from the state’s study on racial profiling shows that almost every police force in the state searched vehicles driven by blacks and Hispanics more often than those driven by whites.

Vehicles driven by blacks and Hispanics were searched nearly three times as often, on average, according to data from the study conducted at Northeastern University and analyzed by the Providence Journal.


Governor signs Tulia drug-bust bill

AUSTIN — Thirteen persons sent to prison in a drug case that was built on the word of a now-discredited undercover agent will be released under a bill signed into law yesterday by the governor.

The 1999 drug raid in Tulia resulted in the arrest of 46 residents. Civil rights activists said the busts were racially motivated, and undercover agent Tom Coleman was indicted in April on perjury charges.

“This bill does not make a determination about the innocence or guilt of the Tulia defendants, but it does allow the remaining individuals behind bars to be released until the justice system has finally spoken,” Gov. Rick Perry said.

Within about 10 days, the 13 defendants, most of whom are black, will be allowed to post bail, said state Sen. John Whitmire, one of the backers of the bill.


Ammonia leak goes unreported

SALT LAKE CITY — An ammonia leak at an ice-cream plant, which caused a vapor cloud and killed fish in retention ponds, went unreported for hours as workers tried to control it themselves.

The leak at Farr-Russell’s Old Fashion Ice Cream began late Thursday night when a piece of equipment malfunctioned and a line was severed, said South Salt Lake Fire Chief Steve Foote.

Authorities were not notified until three hours after the leak was discovered, when a motorist drove through a “huge vapor cloud of ammonia.”

Hazardous-materials teams “put two and two together” and traced the leak to the plant, Chief Foote said. It is at least the third time authorities have been called to the building because of an ammonia leak, he said.


Daughter tells father to turn himself in

DANVILLE — The daughter of a man suspected in a double homicide pleaded yesterday for her father to surrender as state police widened their search.

The two victims were found fatally shot a day earlier in a house in this rural community. Police said the suspect, Henry Butson, 54, was seen in his pickup truck near the home about the time of the shooting.

Mr. Butson’s daughter, Michelle Lewis, 29, called radio stations and other media, asking her father to call friends or family to make a plan to return.

Mr. Butson and the female victim had been romantically involved for several years, but the couple ended their relationship about a year ago, Sgt. Bruce Melendy said.


City sued over grave mishap

SULTAN — A 375-pound woman who found herself with one foot in the grave three years ago when she went to pay respects to her late great-grandfather, is now suing a city in Washington state for neglecting its cemetery.

Dorothy VerValen of Kalispell, Mont., says she was using her car keys to scrape moss off the lettering on the tombstone, when the decaying wood coffin collapsed beneath her. Her right foot sank 30 inches into the grave of Harry L. Smith, who died in 1943.

Mrs. VerValen, 51, said her left ankle remained on firm ground, but was severely fractured by the fall. Her adult daughter pulled her out and helped her limp back to her car.

However the city of Sultan argues that the cemetery is protected under Washington’s Recreational Use Act, meaning that people must use it at their own risk. It further suggests that Mrs. VerValen’s excessive weight contributed to the accident.


Mental patient wrongly held in jail two months

MILWAUKEE — The mental health system that was supposed to care for a 54-year-old schizophrenic with dementia sent her to jail, where she was wrongly held for two months, officials acknowledged.

Julie Ofner was charged with prostitution after offering to have sex with a police officer for $10, and was committed to a mental health facility in February because experts concluded she would never be capable of understanding a misdemeanor case against her.

Psychologist Deborah Collins said Ofner had a long history of mental health problems, alcoholism and associated maladies, and was a walk-away from a group home at the time of her arrest.

But the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex sent her back to jail one month after getting her Feb. 18, and she got lost — in jail.

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