- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2003

Actor weathers storm for fund-raiser
VAIL A little thing like a blizzard couldn't keep actor John Lithgow from raising money for the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation.
He simply had to take a slight detour, through Texas, to get from his home in Los Angeles to this ski-resort town.
Last week's snowstorm shut down the Denver airport, so he had to plot an alternate route, flying through Dallas and eventually landing at Eagle, about 30 miles west of Vail. He arrived in plenty of time to play host to the foundation's "Hope in Motion" weekend.
This was the fifth year for "Hope in Motion," which has raised more than $1 million to support research on spinal-cord-injury paralysis.

Singer's boyhood home sits on market
BETSY LAYNE The boyhood home of country music star Dwight Yoakam has been on the market a month, and Kentucky tourism officials are surprised it's not sold.
"I could see a country music lover making a good income supplement, buying the house and opening it to fans," said Fred James, spokesman for the Kentucky Tourism Cabinet. "It has appeal, no question about it."
List price for the single-story house is $89,500. According to a local advertisement, the house has three bedrooms and two bathrooms. It is completely remodeled, with new carpet.
Mr. Yoakam lived in the house briefly as an infant, before his parents moved to Columbus, Ohio. He returned often, though, to spend weekends with his grandparents, Luther and Earlene Tibbs, said country music promoter Billie Jean Osborne.

Official returns his state-owned car
MONTGOMERY State Finance Director Drayton Nabers has returned his state-owned vehicle and announced that other state workers would be doing the same.
Mr. Nabers said Gov. Bob Riley asked him to revoke all state cars assigned to employees in hopes of saving about $7 million.
He said the Riley administration will develop a policy on state cars and reassign some where needed.

Sex offender charged with abusing girl, 8
FAIRBANKS A 41-year-old Fairbanks man who twice has been charged with failure to register as a sex offender has been charged with having sexual contact with an 8-year-old girl.
Wilbur R. Koyukuk, a convicted sex offender, was indicted this week on a charge of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor.
Mr. Koyukuk is accused of having sexual contact with the girl while he stayed with her family in Fairbanks in November, said Fairbanks Police detective Aaron Ring.
Mr. Koyukuk has faced similar charges before. Prosecutors say he was arrested in 2000 on a felony charge of indecent exposure involving a 9-year-old girl. He was required to register as a sex offender as part of his sentence for the indecent exposure.

Request for probe of salmon kill denied
SACRAMENTO The federal government says it will not investigate a whistleblower complaint from a biologist who last year accurately warned that diverting water from the Klamath River to farm fields would kill off the river's salmon.
Michael Kelly, a biologist with National Marine Fisheries Service, led a federal review before water was released from the river into an irrigation canal system that had been supplying water to farm fields for decades. He recommended against it, but water was still released to help parched farms enduring drought conditions.
State wildlife officials, environmentalists, fishermen and Indian tribes say that loss of water caused the deaths of 33,000 fish, nearly a quarter of the river's projected fall salmon run.
Mr. Kelly filed a whistleblower complaint in October with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel contending that the water diversion violated the Endangered Species Act protections for salmon and saying his team's recommendations were rejected twice under "political pressure."

Inmate flees by posing as cellmate
BARTOW A jail inmate facing kidnapping and other charges escaped from jail by posing as his cellmate, who was due to be released after posting $50,000 bail.
Shenard Dumas, 24, checked out of the Polk County jail last week wearing a wristband that carried his cellmate's personal information and photograph, officials said. He had not yet been apprehended yesterday.
The two men have similar appearances.
Dumas was in jail on drug, kidnapping and armed robbery charges, and has served time for grand theft and flight to elude a law-enforcement officer, officials said.
Jail officials discovered the mistake when a relative of the cellmate called to see where he was.

Exonerated inmate dies at home
FLOSSMOOR Dennis Williams, a former death-row inmate and one of four men whose exoneration became a rallying point for Illinois death-penalty opponents, died last week at his home. He was 46.
A ruling on the cause of death is pending.
Mr. Williams spent 18 years in prison for the 1978 deaths of a couple before a Northwestern University professor and his class helped win his release and those of three other inmates in 1996 after learning a state witness had lied.
Gov. George Ryan mentioned their case when he commuted the sentences of every inmate on death row in January.
The four men were in their 20s when they were wrongfully convicted of the gang rape and double murder of Carol Schmal and Lawrence Lionberg. Mr. Williams and one of the men went to death row; the other two were sentenced to life in prison.
Three others were later convicted of killing the couple.

Harvard to raise tuition, fees
CAMBRIDGE The cost to attend Harvard University is going up next year by 5.5 percent, the biggest percentage increase in a decade.
A Harvard undergraduate will pay $37,928 for tuition, fees and room and board in the 2003-04 academic year; This year's total was $35,950.
University officials attributed the increase to the weak economy, higher expenses and its unwillingness to cut services.
To help offset the increase, the university is increasing its financial aid budget by 7.3 percent next year, to about $105 million. Two-thirds of undergraduates receive assistance from scholarships, grants, loans or work stipends.
The breakdown of costs next year: $26,066 for tuition, $4,706 for room, $4,162 for board, $1,142 for health services and $1,852 for other fees.

Country superstar plays two gigs
PONTIAC More than two hours on stage wasn't enough for Tim McGraw.
The country superstar played a concert Friday night in Auburn Hills, then teamed up with Kid Rock for a two-hour charity gig in nearby Pontiac.
About 400 people showed up for the impromptu show, announced on local radio while Mr. McGraw was on his concert stage.
Fans paid $20 each for admission, snapped up $10 T-shirts and forked over money to have Mr. McGraw sing their requests. Among the requests were Mr. McGraw's "Sing Me Home," "Tickin' Away," "Illegal" and "Watch the Wind Blow." All the money nearly $10,000 went to the Red Cross.

Lawmaker to check into treatment program
KANSAS CITY A Missouri congresswoman said Friday she will seek treatment for alcoholism.
Rep. Karen McCarthy said in a statement that she apologizes for her drinking and says it "has hurt those who I am closest to, those I love and work with."
"I have hit bottom, and I realize I must take action to change," she said. "I am taking the initiative and will confront this disease and, like so many before me, I will win this battle."
A man who answered the phone at her Washington home Friday evening said she was not there.
The Democrat from Kansas City was elected to the House in 1994.

Gambler wins record jackpot
LAS VEGAS A man in town to watch the NCAA basketball tournament hit a $38.7 million jackpot during the weekend, the biggest slot machine payout ever.
The 25-year-old software engineer from Los Angeles, whose name was not released at his request, won after putting three $1 coins in a machine at the Excalibur hotel-casino, said Rick Sorensen, a spokesman for slot machine maker International Game Technology.
The progressive Megabucks Jackpot is generally paid out in equal amounts over 25 years, although winners can negotiate other payoffs, Mr. Sorensen said.
The system links dollar slot machines in 157 Nevada casinos.
The previous record was about $34.9 million, won at the now-closed Desert Inn in Las Vegas on Jan. 26, 2000.

Woman finds man sleeping in dryer
LAKE CARMEL A woman with a load of laundry to wash thought she'd come upon the scene of a grisly crime when she saw a man's body in one of the coin-operated dryers, one leg sticking out through the door.
When Sgt. Ron Yeager arrived at the scene last week, he approached the dryer cautiously and called out. From inside the dryer, a sleepy voice responded.
The man, whose name was not released, told the sergeant he had been at a nearby pub the night before and was walking home when he stopped at the laundry to warm up. Apparently the large-capacity dryer looked inviting and he climbed in and nodded off. No charges were filed.
"It was just a guy who was sleeping in a dryer," Lt. Alex DiVernieri said.

Three sue owner of plant that exploded
KINSTON Three persons have sued the owner of a medical supply factory that exploded in January, claiming the explosion exposed them to dangerous chemicals and damaged their property.
Terry Ellis, Rosalie Whitley and Gloria Young filed the first lawsuit against Pennsylvania-based West Pharmaceutical Services in connection with the Jan. 29 blast that killed six persons. The three plaintiffs lived near the plant but didn't work there.
"It was a community harm," said Donald J. Dunn, one of the attorneys filing the lawsuit.
The lawsuit seeks class-action status, which would allow others with similar claims to join as plaintiffs.
Federal investigators concluded that the ignition of airborne dust particles caused the explosion, though they have not identified the source of the spark. The plant made syringe plungers, IV equipment and rubber materials.

Memorial service scheduled for Mr. Rogers
PITTSBURGH A public memorial service has been scheduled for Fred Rogers, host of the pioneering TV children's show "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," who died in February.
Family Communications Inc., the company that produced "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" for WQED in Pittsburgh, said last week the memorial service will be held May 3 in the auditorium of downtown Heinz Hall.
Mr. Rogers died Feb. 27 at age 74 after a bout with stomach cancer.
An ordained Presbyterian minister, Mr. Rogers had produced the children's show that appeared nationally on public television for more than 30 years. He was buried in a private ceremony March 1.

State to pursue new lead paint trial
PROVIDENCE The state said Friday it intends to pursue another trial against the lead paint industry, a day after a judge declined to resolve the case.
The state's first lawsuit against former makers of lead paint ended in a mistrial in the fall. A judge on Thursday denied requests from both sides for a decision that would have resolved the mistrial.
Rhode Island is the first state to sue the industry under public nuisance law a case that has been watched nationally.
Michael Healey, a spokesman for Attorney General Patrick Lynch, said Mr. Lynch would pursue another trial, but he did not provide details.
John Tarantino, a lawyer for the companies named in the lawsuit, criticized the state's decision.
"This litigation is a real unproductive course," he said.

Radio host plans Dixie Chicks protest
GREENVILLE A Greenville talk-radio host is proposing an alternative concert to the Dixie Chicks' May 1 show as a way for fans to show their displeasure about the country music group's comments about President Bush.
Mike Gallagher told the Greenville News that a concert is on for May 1 at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium.
Mr. Gallagher wants to admit anyone with Dixie Chicks tickets for free and says he will donate all proceeds from the concert to military families from South Carolina.
"They insulted their core audience," he said. "Country music fans are red-blooded, patriotic Americans who support our military and support our commander in chief."
The Texas trio's lead singer, Natalie Maines, told a London audience, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas."
Mr. Gallagher still is missing one key ingredient to pull off his concert: a performer.
"I think people are so upset about the Dixie Chicks that if I have to get a banjo and stand up there on stage and sing 'On Top of Old Smokey' people will stand up and cheer," he said.

Lab woes result in review of cases
HOUSTON As water dripped down the walls of the crime lab on the 26th floor of the Houston Police Department headquarters, two overworked DNA analysts scrambled to keep up with a caseload in a county that was sending more convicts to death row than any other in the nation.
Then Houston television station KHOU began questioning some of the DNA lab's conclusions, and officials ordered an outside audit. After reading the results of the audit, which found significant deficiencies, including examiners who didn't have the proper statistics training to testify correctly, Houston's acting police chief suspended DNA work in December.
Marie Munier of the district attorney's office is now leading a re-examination of 525 cases in which the lab was involved.

Folk singer cancels show amid war
MADISON Folk singer Iris DeMent stunned 600 people at Madison's Barrymore Theater by taking to the stage and announcing she could not perform while war raged.
"It would be trivializing the fact that my tax dollars are causing great suffering and sending a message to the world that might is right," Miss DeMent told the crowd last week.
She said she had struggled over her decision for hours in her dressing room. Opening act Greg Trooper had already performed when she told the audience she could not sing.
Some audience members stood and applauded, but a few grumbled in the lobby afterward as they waited for refunds.
Promoter Tag Evers said he wished she had made her decision a couple of days earlier.

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