- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 23, 2003

ILLINOIS

Road closure saves snakes

WOLF LAKE — Why did the snake cross the road? On one U.S. Forest Service lane, it had the whole thing to itself.

Federal officials say Road No. 345 is the only government-owned road that closes to vehicle traffic — twice a year, during migration season — in order to protect reptiles and amphibians.

“Had a car come by just then, that would have been one fewer female green snake,” state herpetologist Scott Ballard said as he stepped over a footlong snake slowly slithering to its winter den from the swamp where it spent the summer.

The U.S. Forest Service has kept the road closed since Sept. 1 and will reopen it Oct. 31. The road is also closed every March 15 to May 15.

MICHIGAN

Fire kills 2 at group home

DETROIT — A fire broke out at a group home for mentally and physically disabled adults early yesterday, killing two persons and injuring 11 others, fire officials said.

The fire appeared to have started shortly before 4 a.m. on the first floor of a three-story home used as an adult care facility, fire officials said.

Thirteen persons, including resident manager Sophia Moss, were believed to have been inside at the time of the fire, officials said. One resident carried a wheelchair-bound man out the back door, Miss Moss said.

ALABAMA

Report: Problems known before firefighter’s death

FORT RUCKER — The Army knew of safety hazards with a fire engine used on many bases, but did nothing until after a firefighter was killed by a runaway truck, according to a newspaper report.

The Dothan Eagle said records it obtained detail a history of problems with the type of Amertek truck used by fire departments on many Army bases.

Those documents also say that a $356 kit was designed to prevent accidental drive-offs by the trucks, but it wasn’t installed at Fort Rucker before the death of Kerry Neis, 31, during a training exercise Dec. 4, the newspaper said.

Army investigators cited human error as a factor in the death. But after the accident, the Army had the kit installed in all 250 of its Amertek 2500L firetrucks, including the 33 at Fort Rucker, the Army’s aviation training center.

COLORADO

Geomagnetic storm expected to hit Earth

BOULDER — A strong geomagnetic storm was expected to hit Earth today with the potential to affect electrical grids and satellite communications.

One of the largest sunspot clusters in years developed over the past three days and produced a coronal mass ejection, similar to a solar flare, at 3 a.m. EDT Wednesday, forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

The disturbance was expected to produce a geomagnetic storm rated G3. A G5 storm is the strongest. The storm could make the aurora visible as far south as Oregon and Illinois.

CONNECTICUT

EPA taken to court over gas emissions

HARTFORD — Eleven states asked a federal appeals court yesterday to force the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions.

The EPA said in August that it lacked authority from Congress to regulate greenhouse gases. It also denied a petition to impose controls on auto emissions.

The states that filed the court petition say the federal Clean Air Act requires the EPA to regulate gases like carbon dioxide. Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly said gases are causing serious environmental and health problems.

The states involved in yesterday’s court action are Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. California is filing separately.

FLORIDA

SUV seriously injures sunbather on beach

ORMOND BEACH — A sport utility vehicle ran over a sunbather on the beach, seriously injuring the woman, authorities said.

Glenda Willits, 52, of Ormond Beach, was pinned under the front of the car after it backed into her Wednesday, said Deputy Chief Mike Hensler of the Volusia County Beach Patrol. She was listed in serious condition yesterday in the Halifax Medical Center with injuries to her hip and shoulder.

The driver, a 30-year-old woman whose name was not released, apparently didn’t see Mrs. Willits, the policeman said. Investigators were trying to determine whether to file charges.

In February, a police officer drove over two sisters on Miami’s South Beach, killing one and injuring the other.

HAWAII

MIA remains recovered in North Korea

HONOLULU — Remains believed to be those of American soldiers missing in action from the Korean War have been recovered at two sites in North Korea, military officials said Wednesday.

Several sets of remains recovered near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea are believed to be those of U.S. Army soldiers from the 7th Infantry Division who fought against Chinese forces in November and December 1950, the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command said in a news release.

Other remains were recovered in Unsan County, about 60 miles north of Pyongyang, where members of the Army’s 1st Cavalry and 25th Infantry divisions fought communist forces in November 1950, according to the command, known as JPAC.

The remains are to be flown from Pyongyang to Yokota Air Base in Japan for a repatriation ceremony Oct. 28.

IDAHO

Schools cracks down on unsportsmanlike acts

KIMBERLY — School board officials have adopted the new policy to stop unsportsmanlike behavior and head off any potential problems at athletic and extracurricular events before they get out of control.

If you harass a referee, you could get kicked out of school events for a year. The same penalty applies for uttering a swear word or showing up drunk.

IOWA

Lawmakers say state overspent on security

DES MOINES — Two Democratic lawmakers say the state spent too much money on security at the Capitol. Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, Iowa has spent $2 million annually to increase security.

State Rep. Don Shoultz says that amount can’t be justified and should be eliminated. State Sen. Joe Bolkcom compares the Capitol with a prison.

MASSACHUSETTS

High rate of disease found among prisoners

BOSTON — Massachusetts prisoners have one of the highest rates of infectious disease in the nation, according to a study by the Massachusetts Public Health Association. State inmates have high rates of hepatitis C and the seventh-highest rate of HIV infections in the nation, according to the report.

Disease specialists say the high rate of intravenous drug use in the Northeast could be part of the cause.

MINNESOTA

Accused killer found competent for trial

ST. PAUL — A woman charged with throwing her 14-month-old twin sons from a downtown bridge, killing one of them, was found competent Wednesday to stand trial.

Naomi Gaines, 24, pleaded not guilty to intentional second-degree murder and attempted intentional second-degree murder. Her attorney, Tom Handley, said he will use an insanity defense. No trial date was set.

Ramsey County District Judge Paulette Flynn said a psychiatric evaluation showed she is capable of understanding the charges and will be able to assist in her defense. According to a criminal complaint, she threw her sons into the Mississippi River on July 4 before jumping in herself.

MISSOURI

Mayor charged with drunken driving

RUSSELLVILLE — Mayor Michael G. Enloe was charged with driving while intoxicated after crashing into a house and injuring two persons inside the home, police said. Mr. Enloe, 46, reportedly failed to stop at an intersection.

Police reports indicate one victim was injured when a television flew through the air after Mr. Enloe’s car hit the house.

NEW JERSEY

Virgin Mary tree draws faithful

PASSAIC — Believers are flocking to a rundown street in New Jersey to see a tree stump they say has the form of the Virgin Mary and is a divine sign of hope for the impoverished neighborhood.

“Miracle on Madison Street, that’s what I would have called it,” said Hector Cruz, who visited the roughly 2-foot-high stump Wednesday in Passaic, a largely Hispanic city about 15 miles west of New York.

The piece of wood, whose shape believers say resembles a veiled Virgin Mary with a bowed head, was noticed by passers-by over the weekend on state-owned land alongside a street that residents say is a hangout for users of illegal drugs.

Since then, a steady stream of visitors have left candles, flowers and handwritten notes and prayers at the site.

A spokesman told local media the church would have to learn more about the case before investigating whether it is a miracle.

NEW YORK

Hit man guilty of plot to kill mobster

NEW YORK — A hit man was convicted yesterday of plotting to kill mob turncoat Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano with a remote-control bomb for betraying the Gambino crime family.

Thomas “Huck” Carbonaro, 55, shrugged after the federal jury in Brooklyn found him guilty of conspiring to murder Gravano. He could get up to 10 years in prison at sentencing Jan. 26. The jury cleared him on two gun charges.

Gravano was called as a witness by the defense in hopes of showing that Carbonaro had no motive to kill Gravano.

Gravano, 57, was underboss of the Gambino family under John Gotti. He admitted to 19 murders as a mob hit man, but served only five years in prison for helping prosecutors put Gotti and other Mafia figures away.

NORTH CAROLINA

Teen arrested in school bomb plot

CONCORD — A 15-year-old boy was arrested after police said he plotted to blow up his high school and made a list of people he wanted to kill in the attack.

The teenager, who was not identified, was charged Wednesday with possession of a weapon on school property, authorities said. He was scheduled to appear in court today.

Police said they searched the teenager’s home in Concord, about 20 miles northeast of Charlotte, and found detailed plans, a map showing where explosive devices could be placed, and instructions on building explosive devices and homemade napalm, an incendiary jelly.

He also made a list with more than 20 nicknames and descriptions of people who would be killed, including himself, police said.

Officials said the plot was discovered when a student alerted them after an unrelated bomb threat was called in to Concord High School Tuesday. The school was locked down and nothing was found.

OREGON

Tricyclist tries to hijack car

SALEM — A gunman who is accused of trying to hijack a car was apparently no better at driving it than he was at maneuvering his original vehicle: a tricycle.

He also wasn’t very handy with the gun.

Oswaldo Valenciano, 24, was arrested Tuesday and was to be booked at the Marion County Jail on felony charges, Lt. Dan Cary said. Police were called after receiving reports that a man on a tricycle had been firing gunshots and had slammed into a car, Lt. Cary said.

“Officers saw the weapon and ordered Valenciano out of the car,” Lt. Cary said. “Instead, he puts the car in gear and tosses a handgun out.”

Mr. Valenciano eventually hit a street sign, lost control of the car and tried to hide in a nearby sport utility vehicle, police said.

PENNSYLVANIA

Council members urge lower voting age

PITTSBURGH — Some Allegheny County Council members want Congress to consider lowering the voting age to 17. The nonbinding motion passed 8-5.

Supporters say youths are more mature now than when many adults were that age and that it would be more consistent because one can serve in the military at 17. Some council members were skeptical that 17-year-olds have the maturity.

TEXAS

Sculpture center opens collection to public

DALLAS — A complex dedicated exclusively to modern and contemporary sculpture has opened to the public.

The $70 million Nasher Sculpture Center holds what is generally considered the world’s most important private collection of modern sculpture. Over 50 years of collecting sculpture left Raymond Nasher, 81, and his wife, Patsy, with more than 300 pieces including works by Rodin, Picasso, Matisse and Miro. Patsy Nasher died of cancer in 1988.

WEST VIRGINIA

Corrections program saves state money

CHARLESTON — An alternative-sentencing program in the Northern Panhandle is saving the state about $1.7 million a year, a probation official says.

The Lee Day community corrections center provides day-reporting, pretrial, and home-confinement programs to about 95 nonviolent felons who otherwise would be in prison, said James Lee, chief probation officer for the 1st Judicial Circuit.

If the program were expanded statewide, more than 2,000 inmates could be moved out of prisons and jails, with an annual savings of $40 million, Mr. Lee said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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