- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 14, 2003


Island has little use for school choice

SAVOONGA — New federal law allows students to transfer from a failing school to a better one at school district expense. Chances are, pupils in this community on St. Lawrence Island won’t take the offer. The only other school on the island is a four-hour snowmobile ride away.

After two days of traveling in rural Alaska last week, Education Secretary Rod Paige conceded that that’s a tough commute.

Escorted by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican, Mr. Paige traveled north to see how the No Child Left Behind Act will play at 506 schools spread around a state more than twice the size of Texas.

On May 5, he flew 440 miles west of Anchorage to Tuntutuliak. Homes, the school and its playground are built on platforms held up by stilts. Instead of streets, the community has a system of boardwalks just wide enough for two-way traffic.


Plant blooms in stinking splendor

MIAMI — Rotting trash can? Decaying animal?

No. It was a giant tropical plant whose rare bloom in Miami on Monday night drew a small gaggle of rapturous plant enthusiasts to admire the smelly splendor.

Mr. Stinky, the amorphophallus titanum, or titan arum, was towering at more than 85 inches in a conservatory at the Fairchild Tropical Garden.

The titan arum was discovered by botanists in Sumatra, Indonesia, in 1878 and is considered by many to be the most spectacular bloom in the world.

Its powerful smell is released during the first hours of the blooming to attract the carrion beetles thought to be its pollinators.


Pot users evicted under one-strike rule

TUCSON — A one-strike approach for dealing with wrongdoing in University of Arizona dorms has resulted in more students being evicted this year for using marijuana.

Students signed an agreement acknowledging they could get thrown out for punishable offenses including drug use, theft and violence. At least 20 students appealed marijuana-related evictions.


SLA fugitive admits guilt in 1975 killing

SACRAMENTO — A former Symbionese Liberation Army terrorist pleaded guilty yesterday in the death of a woman who was shot during a 1975 bank robbery as she deposited her church’s Sunday collection.

James Kilgore, 55, pleaded guilty in a courtroom about a dozen miles from Crocker National Bank, where the SLA netted $15,000 in cash and Myrna Opsahl, a 42-year-old mother of four, died from a shotgun blast into her left side.

In November, four other members of the Marxist revolutionary group pleaded guilty to murder charges connected to the robbery. They are now serving six- to eight-year prison terms. Kilgore is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 15 and under his plea agreement will serve six years in prison.


Baby found next to trash can

DOVER — Police are looking for the mother of a newborn girl found in a trash bag next to a garbage can on Mother’s Day.

The full-term baby, who was about 4 hours old when she was found, was in good condition Monday at Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital, authorities said.

Dover police Lt. Kenneth Balke said a 14-year-old boy taking out the trash Sunday heard a noise that drew his attention to an open bag on the ground. The teenager told neighbors, who called police.

The baby is now in state custody.


Integrated-prom leader gets tuition money

BUTLER — Gerica McCrary, who persuaded her classmates to host their school’s first integrated prom last year, has received a $1,500 scholarship from an admiring Colorado couple.

Denise and Michael Malcolm of Aspen, Colo., sent the check to Miss McCrary after reading about some Taylor County students having an all-white prom this year.

Black students organized another prom, for all races, that was held Friday at Fort Valley State University. The Malcolms also sent $800 to help defray the costs of that prom.


Cruise traveler pleads not guilty to threats

HONOLULU — A California woman pleaded not guilty Monday to threatening to kill all 2,400 people aboard a cruise ship sailing to Hawaii because she wanted to go home to her boyfriend.

Kelley Marie Ferguson, 20, of Laguna Hills, pleaded not guilty to two counts of threatening acts of terrorism. Each count is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. She was arrested April 26 and was being held without bail at the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu.

But even if the court had set bail, her father, Tim Ferguson, said he would not have paid it because he does not want his daughter to be reunited with her boyfriend. None of Miss Ferguson’s family was in court.


Ex-mayor pleads not guilty to fraud

BOISE — Former Mayor Brent Coles pleaded not guilty Monday to five felony charges stemming from trips taken at taxpayer expense while he was in office.

Fourth District Judge Thomas Neville set Mr. Coles’ trial for Nov. 4, the day Boise voters elect a new mayor.

A grand jury indicted Mr. Coles last week on one count of fraud and four counts of misuse of public funds. The charges involved trips he took between New York and Rochester, N.Y., in November and in late 1999 and authorizing a trip for two aides to Rochester on Oct. 4, 2000.


Suits filed to block hazing suspensions

GLENVIEW — A second student suspended after participating in a videotaped hazing incident filed a lawsuit yesterday to prevent the punishment from being enforced.

The girl, listed as Jane Doe, filed the lawsuit in Cook County Chancery Court against William Eike, Glenbrook North High School’s dean of students.

The lawsuit came as the school announced it had suspended 32 seniors, 28 girls and four boys, for their involvement in the incident. School officials would not say what role the boys played.


Man has casket made from cherished trees

COUNCIL BLUFFS — A man who valued his walnut trees so much that he had his casket made from them was laid to rest in it.

Don Wheeler of nearby Crescent died last month after an extended illness.

Mr. Wheeler had worked in real estate in southwest Iowa for several years and was always on the lookout for good land, said his daughter, Lu Hoogeveen. In the 1970s, he bought property near Missouri Valley that included a stand of walnut trees.

He sold the land about 10 years ago, but before that he had the trees cut down. He asked a woodworker friend of his, Ken Viator, of Omaha, Neb., to build him a casket from the wood.


Second man charged in death of student

BOWLING GREEN — Police charged a second man with murder in the death of a Western Kentucky University student who was stabbed and her dorm room set afire May 4.

Stephen Soules, 20, of Scottsville was arrested Monday night and charged in the death of Katie Autry, according to court documents filed yesterday.

Mr. Soules “gave a confession in which he was implicated in that murder,” Western Kentucky University Police Chief Bob Deane said at a news conference yesterday morning.

Another Scottsville man, Lucas Goodrum, 21, had been arrested early Sunday.


Toddler given depressant aboard airliner

DETROIT — A former Northwest Airlines flight attendant pleaded guilty to assault for putting a prescription depressant into a toddler’s apple juice to stop her crying.

Daniel Cunningham, 39, of Ann Arbor also pleaded guilty Monday in federal district court to distributing a controlled substance aboard an aircraft and importing a controlled substance.

The incident in August was discovered by the girl’s mother, Beate Turner, who took the juice off the Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight after noticing that it was bitter and foamy and had blue and white specks in it. The 19-month-old girl suffered no serious injury.


Cash-strapped states cut back on prison food

ST. PAUL — From putting less meat into the goulash to eliminating dessert, financially strapped states are trying to save money behind bars by cutting back on the food served to inmates.

Minnesota is considering following Virginia’s lead in serving only two meals per day on weekends and calling one of them “brunch.”

At Iowa’s Newton Correctional Facility, inmates get only one dessert now instead of two, and they drink a vitamin-enhanced orange-flavored liquid instead of real orange juice. Other prisons in the state are putting more macaroni and less meat into the goulash.


Man convicted in murder plot

GREENVILLE — Jimmy Vickers Sr. was convicted for his part in a murder-for-hire plot that left his brother dead and his sister-in-law wounded.

Vickers, 58, was convicted of capital murder in the shooting death of David Vickers and the wounding of Brenda Vickers in January 2002. Prosecutors said Vickers wanted to acquire the family’s $4 million estate.


Bush tours town wrecked by tornado

PIERCE CITY — President Bush braved a driving rainstorm yesterday to survey the devastation from a huge tornado last week and pledged to cut through federal paperwork to ensure that “we’re going to rebuild this city.”

Mr. Bush toured the wrecked downtown of this town of 1,400, where nearly every building was damaged or destroyed, and met with victims, rescue workers and other townspeople.

“I’m sorry I’m here under such circumstances,” he told a gathering in the gymnasium of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, one of the few buildings left standing after the tornado struck.

While viewing damage from one storm, Mr. Bush ran into another — a thunderstorm that soaked his entourage as he looked at the damage. He also took a helicopter tour of the area.


Old Spice holds festival in ‘nation’s armpit’

BATTLE MOUNTAIN — It didn’t take a deodorant company long to hear opportunity knocking after a magazine dubbed this northeast Nevada town “the nation’s armpit.”

Old Spice deodorant has agreed to sponsor Battle Mountain’s “Festival of the Pit” from Aug. 15-17 under a new name: “Old Spice’s Festival in the Pit.”

In response to The Washington Post Magazine article, the town last year kicked off the quirky celebration, with events such as a deodorant toss to replace the old-fashioned egg toss.

Gene Weingarten chose Battle Mountain for the award, citing what he described as its “lack of character and charm” and its “pathetic assemblage of ghastly buildings and nasty people.”


Unborn baby’s kick brings good luck

ATLANTIC CITY — A pregnant woman who won a $4.4 million slot-machine jackpot attributed the good luck to a kick from her unborn baby.

Valarie Johannessen, 34, was about to walk away from a Wheel of Fortune progressive slot machine at Bally’s Wild Wild West Casino on Friday night when she felt the fetus kicking her stomach.

“I was about to leave. I had played $50, and the machine was rejecting the money I was trying to put in the bill changer, which means to me that I should play a different machine, but the baby started kicking, so I said to myself, ‘The baby is telling me to stay,’” Mrs. Johannessen said.


Judge dismisses charge against Rawls

ALBUQUERQUE — A judge tossed out a charge of battery filed against entertainer Lou Rawls, who had been accused of shoving his girlfriend at an Albuquerque hotel the night of Jan 15.

Prosecutors then told the judge there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the case and the charge was dismissed, Mr. Rawls’ publicist, David Brokaw, said Monday.

Bernalillo County Metropolitan Judge Victoria Grant ruled that unreliable and unlawful hearsay shouldn’t be used to support the charge, Mr. Brokaw said.


Nichols to stand trial on state charges

OKLAHOMA CITY — Terry Nichols, the Oklahoma City bombing conspirator who already is serving life in federal prison, must stand trial in state court on 160 counts of first-degree murder that could bring the death penalty, a judge ruled yesterday.

The decision by District Judge Allen McCall essentially means Nichols, 48, will be tried again for the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building that killed 168 persons and injured hundreds of others.

Nichols was convicted in 1997 of federal conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter charges for the deaths of eight law enforcement officers in the bombing.

The state charges cover all other victims. Nichols has lost an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that a state trial amounts to double jeopardy.


County calls off job for Klingon interpreter

PORTLAND — Sorry, potential Klingon interpreters. Officials have said they won’t be needing your services after all.

The office that treats mental health patients in Multnomah County had included Klingon on a list of 55 languages that could be spoken by incoming patients.

But the inclusion of the “Star Trek” language drew a spate of tongue-in-cheek headlines and the county rescinded its call, stressing it hadn’t spent a penny of public money on Klingon interpretation.

“It was a mistake, and a result of an overzealous attempt to ensure that our safety net systems can respond to all customers and clients,” Multnomah County Chairman Diane Linn said in a news release.


Yates defense eyed in case of slain children

TYLER — The case of a woman accused of bludgeoning to death two of her sons and seriously injuring a third bears striking similarities to the case of Andrea Yates and could produce a similar defense, the woman’s attorney said.

Yates unsuccessfully claimed insanity after drowning her five children in their family’s bathtub in June 2001.

Investigators who interviewed Deanna LaJune Laney, 38, who is charged with two counts of capital murder and one count of aggravated assault in the weekend deaths, said she occasionally started singing spiritual hymns or muttering about God.

“Obviously, anyone who looks at Andrea Yates and looks at this case would draw some comparison just at first blush,” Mrs. Laney’s attorney F.R. “Buck” Files said Monday.

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