- The Washington Times - Friday, May 23, 2003

ALASKA

Man jumps off mountain with snow machine

ANCHORAGE — When Neal Foster snow-machined off a mountaintop and into thin air north of Nome this weekend, three thoughts flashed through his mind.

“First, I thought, ‘This is just like looking out of an airplane.’”

After his helmet slid up and blocked his view, “I said to myself, ‘I know I’m going to die, because the bottom is a long, long, long way away.’”

His final thought — before landing so hard that his pelvis broke and his bladder ruptured, before sliding on his belly several hundred feet between rocky outcrops, and before rescuers hauled him back to the top of the mountain using ropes and sleds — was simply, “I wondered if it was going to hurt.” It did, he reported days later from a hospital bed in Anchorage.

In retrospect, Mr. Foster knows he was going too fast for the conditions. The sky and ground blended, he told the Anchorage Daily News.

CALIFORNIA

Man earns a degree after homeless start

SAN FRANCISCO — A man who three years ago entered one of the nation’s top universities homeless graduated yesterday from the University of California at Berkeley with honors.

Duane DeWitt, 48, entered Berkeley in autumn 2000 — after being rejected four times for admission — without enough money for school housing and was forced to take residence his first 2 months in his car and a local park.

Mr. DeWitt, who addressed classmates at the graduation ceremony yesterday , was able to get an emergency loan and housing from the school after a thief stole all of Mr. DeWitt’s belongings from his car in October 2000.

He transferred to Berkeley from a local community college, which he enrolled in after being laid off from his job as a respiratory therapist, in search of a new career.

COLORADO

Gliders grounded at Air Force Academy

COLORADO SPRINGS — The Air Force Academy halted all glider flights during a review of safety risks because “several events occurred in recent weeks.”

A memo to cadets outlining the decision did not specify the events, and the academy’s public affairs office had no details.

Academy spokesman John VanWinkle said the 17 gliders were idled last week as a safety measure. The academy got a new fleet a year ago. Cadets use the gliders to get hands-on flying experience.

FLORIDA

Cops dress as vagrants in traffic-light sting

KISSIMMEE — Advocates for the homeless are outraged by an operation in which undercover police officers dressed as vagrants, observed drivers running red lights, then radioed to other officers ahead, who stopped those cars and wrote tickets.

“Operation Vagrant,” a sting operation involving the Kissimmee police and the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, nabbed 171 drivers, most of whom ran red lights, a violation that carries an $83 fine.

Undercover deputies stood along streets pushing shopping carts and wearing fake teeth and tattered clothing to suggest they were vagrants. They also carried small cardboard signs, which read, “Sheriff’s traffic sting in progress. Buckle up.”

INDIANA

Jackson hospitalized before deposition

INDIANAPOLIS — Michael Jackson was hospitalized briefly after falling ill on the day he was scheduled to give a deposition in a copyright lawsuit.

Mr. Jackson was hospitalized in Indianapolis on Wednesday for observation and treatment before the deposition began, Brian Oxman, an attorney for the Jackson family, told the Associated Press.

Mr. Jackson, 44, was released after a couple hours and boarded a private jet Wednesday evening to return to Los Angeles, Jackson spokesman Stuart Backerman said.

“He has, in some occasions in the past, not eaten when he should,” Mr. Oxman said. “He can become very concerned and nervous at depositions. He doesn’t like lawsuits, and it makes him ill to have to cope with litigation that people seem to heap on him.”

Mr. Jackson arrived in Indianapolis on Tuesday for a deposition in a lawsuit that says the Jackson Five used the name of another band from their hometown, Gary, and two of their songs without license.

KENTUCKY

Teen killers’ mom charged with theft

LEXINGTON — The mother of two Florida boys who killed their father with a baseball bat has been charged with trying to cash in on her sons’ Social Security survivor benefits, which they are barred from receiving because of the crime.

Janet D. Lyttle was freed on bond after she was charged in Fayette County District Court on April 30 with four counts of theft by deception, a felony.

According to court documents, Miss Lyttle, 35, who also uses the name Kelly Marino, provided false information on Social Security documents to obtain benefits on behalf of her children.

MASSACHUSETTS

Shellfishing areas reopen on Cape Cod after spill

BOSTON — About half of the shellfishing areas shut down after an oil spill last month in Buzzards Bay reopened at dawn yesterday, state officials said.

The state approved the opening of 90,000 acres after toxicology tests showed that the areas were safe, said Felix Browne of the state Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. None of the reopened areas had been hit with oil, but the state conducted the tests to ensure the areas were clean, he said.

“We wanted to get them open as soon as possible but didn’t want to jeopardize public health in any way,” Mr. Browne said.

Shellfishing throughout Buzzards Bay was shut down shortly after a 98,000-gallon spill April 27.

MICHIGAN

Red Cross chapter to lay off employees

LANSING — The mid-Michigan chapter of the American Red Cross will lay off nine employees and cut two homeless-assistance programs to tackle a $114,000 deficit in the budget for next year. The employees will be laid off June 30.

The cuts won’t affect disaster services, such as finding shelter for victims of fire, officials said.

MISSISSIPPI

Judge orders death-row reforms

JACKSON — A federal judge ruled that life on Mississippi’s death row is so harsh and filthy that inmates are being driven insane, and ordered reforms that advocates praised as a breakthrough in prisoners’ rights.

U.S. Magistrate Jerry Davis found Wednesday that the way inmates are treated at the Parchman prison constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

The judge instructed the state Corrections Department to undertake 10 actions to improve conditions, including annual mental health checkups, better lighting, improved toilets, insect control and ways to keep inmates cool during the summer heat.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed on behalf of six inmates who said conditions were contributing to mental illness among prisoners.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Diocese settles more abuse claims

CONCORD — The Diocese of Manchester, N.H., said yesterday that it will pay $6.5 million to settle most of the remaining civil complaints it faces from people who said they were sexually abused by priests.

The settlement with 61 persons brings to a conclusion the vast majority of abuse claims against the Roman Catholic diocese, the church said.

“I hope this response by the church will help them heal from the wounds of abuse,” Bishop John McCormack said in a statement. “I am personally sorry for the hurt they have experienced and I have written to each person expressing my deep regret.”

NEW YORK

Arab American files complaint about judge

TARRYTOWN — An Arab-American woman in court to fight a parking ticket fainted when the judge asked her whether she was a terrorist.

Anissa Khoder, 46, has filed a complaint with the state Commission on Judicial Conduct over the May 15 incident before Tarrytown Village Justice William Crosbie.

Justice Crosbie, 79, confirmed this week that he made the remark but said he was “probably kidding with her.” He denied her contention that he also accused her of financially supporting terrorists.

There is no transcript of the courtroom session in Tarrytown, 12 miles north of New York on the Hudson River.

The woman’s stepson, Hussein Khoder, said his mother went to court because she was ticketed twice within an hour for the same parking violation. Both tickets were dismissed.

NORTH CAROLINA

Prisoners Injured in traffic accident

WILLIAMSTON — A driver ran a truck into a van carrying a prison work crew yesterday, seriously injuring two of the inmates, according to the state Highway Patrol.

All 10 inmates in the van, the van’s driver and the driver of the truck were injured in the crash.

The two most seriously injured were taken to Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville, said Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Everett Clendenin. One was in serious condition, and the other in critical condition, he said.

OHIO

Officials, judge approve race-riot settlement

CINCINNATI — City officials approved a $4.5 million settlement of lawsuits accusing police of using excessive force during race riots in 2001, a move the mayor hailed as a chance to “put some things behind us.”

“This is an opportunity to advance our city,” Mayor Charlie Luken told City Council members, who approved the settlement Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Susan J. Dlott approved the settlement after the council’s vote.

The city’s worst racial unrest in decades erupted in April 2001 after a white police officer shot and killed Timothy Thomas, 19, a black man fleeing police on misdemeanor charges. Rioters were angry over the deaths of Mr. Thomas and 14 other black men in police encounters over six years.

OKLAHOMA

School district rescinds suspension of principal

WARR ACRES — School district officials called off a 10-day suspension of Putnam City High School Principal Vernon Belcher.

He was suspended after he handed out diplomas at graduation. Normally, school board members distribute the diplomas.

Mr. Belcher and Superintendent Jim Capps met and the suspension was rescinded, a district spokesman said.

PENNSYLVANIA

Court OKs seizure of adult theater

PITTSBURGH — In what could spell the end for Pittsburgh’s last X-rated movie house, an appeals court said a redevelopment agency could use the power of eminent domain to buy the theater and shut it down as part of a plan to clean up the blighted neighborhood.

Ruling 2-1, the Commonwealth Court said Tuesday that the agency was within its rights to seize the Garden Theater on the city’s North Side.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh has been fighting since 1997 to seize the theater as part of an $45 million effort to rebuild the neighborhood.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Educational television under budget knife

COLUMBIA — South Carolina Educational Television will lay off 35 persons because of budget cuts. ETV has seen state funding decline from $20.8 million in 2001 to an expected $14.3 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The layoffs are effective June 13 and will downsize the agency by 14.5 percent. ETV laid off 16 persons last July.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Company broadcasts funerals online

SIOUX FALLS — A new company is broadcasting funerals on the Internet, giving friends and relatives who can’t make the service a chance to pay their respects.

“Those who can’t get to the funeral also will be able to sign the electronic guest book and e-mail condolences to the family,” said Ross Johnson, promotional director for Chapelview Online, based in Rapid City.

The company captures funerals with a digital camera and broadcasts them live for seven funeral homes in South Dakota.

Not everyone is sold on the idea.

“So will it come to: ‘Hey, Mom’s funeral got 40,000 hits?’” asked Tim Wingen, managing partner of Miller Funeral Home in Sioux Falls.

TEXAS

School to fix its misspelled name

DALLAS — The name of an elementary school in Dallas has been misspelled for 74 years, and members of the local school board have decided it’s time to fix it.

Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School is named after the 18th-century black poet — except that she spelled her name “Phillis.”

“We misspelled the name of a poet, and we didn’t even know it,” district spokesman Donald Claxton said.

As it turns out, school officials in Dallas aren’t the only ones misspelling her name. The erroneous version has found its way on the walls of buildings elsewhere, including a school in Apopka, Fla.

UTAH

Hero hiker killed by boulder

SALT LAKE CITY — A hiker was crushed by a falling 5-ton boulder after he pushed a friend out of the rock’s path, authorities said.

Seth Buhr, 22, was hiking with three friends in Big Cottonwood Canyon, about 15 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, when the boulder fell as the group was taking a break beside a waterfall Wednesday, Salt Lake County sheriff’s spokeswoman Peggy Faulkner said.

Two of the hikers noticed a shift in the rocks above Mr. Buhr and a woman, and yelled for them get out of the way. Mr. Buhr pushed the woman into a pool before the boulder crashed down on him.

WASHINGTON

Camp set up for migrant workers

MONITOR — With the start of cherry season weeks away, a camp for migrant workers has been set up at Wenatchee River County Park.

The camp, funded by the state and operated by Chelan County, is a mix of tents and modular buildings, with about 350 beds. The camp will remain open for the pear and apple harvests.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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