- The Washington Times - Monday, October 27, 2003

FLORIDA

Bullet train to stop at Disney World first

ORLANDO — A proposed bullet train across central Florida will run directly from Orlando International Airport to the Walt Disney World resort on its way to Tampa, a state panel voted yesterday.

The Florida High Speed Rail Authority’s 7-1 decision ended a debate that had simmered since voters, in a constitutional amendment passed in 2000, mandated the construction of a bullet train network spanning the state.

Disney sold the authority on the potential revenue gained if the train’s first leg went directly from the airport to Disney World, rather than going to the taxpayer-financed Orange County Convention Center.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Veterans clean up burial ground

GREENVILLE — A group of aging military veterans has worked for months to clear junglelike growth from an abandoned cemetery on the edge of the city.

“There’s World War I, World War II and even graves from Korean veterans in there,” said Cecil Buchanan, a member of American Legion Post 3 and an organizer of the four-month effort, which has been joined by Boy Scouts from several local troops.

The veterans have cajoled companies such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot and local landscapers into donating tools, lumber, sod and other supplies to help them get the job done.

CALIFORNIA

Actor sentenced in abuse case

LOS ANGELES — Actor Tom Sizemore was sentenced yesterday to six months in jail and three years of probation for abusing his ex-girlfriend, former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss.

The actor first will go through drug rehabilitation. Judge Antonio Barreto Jr. said he would consider reducing the sentence to 90 days if Sizemore can show at a Jan. 30 hearing that his court-ordered counseling for drugs, anger and domestic violence are working.

Prosecutors had requested a one-year sentence.

Sizemore, who appeared in “Black Hawk Down” and “Saving Private Ryan,” apologized in a letter, saying “personal demons” had taken over his life.

“I am very chastened by the trial and my convictions,” he wrote.

The judge said that drug abuse might have been a catalyst in the abuse of Fleiss but that trial testimony revealed a man with deep problems dealing with women. Messages left on Miss Fleiss’ answering machine were so vicious “it’s almost impossible to perceive,” Judge Barreto said.

COLORADO

Mail ballots sent to dead people

DENVER — Almost 200 mail ballots were sent mistakenly to voters who already had been stricken from the election rolls because they are dead.

A computer glitch caused the error, said Karon Hatchett, director of the Denver Election Commission.

She said the ballots were never in danger of being counted. That is because another part of the computer system, which reads the ballots, would have detected that those voters had been listed as deceased and the ballots would have been rejected.

“Have no fear,” Miss Hatchett told the Rocky Mountain News. “Dead people are not voting in Denver — at least not when we’re aware they’re dead.”

DELAWARE

2 mobile homes destroyed in fire

MILTON — A fire destroyed two mobile homes at a trailer park and left several people homeless yesterday morning, authorities said.

No injuries were reported in the fire, which was reported at about 10:50 a.m. and took more than an hour to bring under control, said J.R. Clark, assistant chief of the Milton Volunteer Fire Department.

Mr. Clark said the American Red Cross was helping residents displaced by the fire.

GEORGIA

Government to build island for birds

BRUNSWICK — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is building an island for birds off the Georgia coast.

Officials say they want the birds to move away from Andrews Island, where they are exposed to contaminants such as mercury. The 10-acre island, the first bird habitat the corps has built in open water, will be created especially for rare least terns.

IDAHO

School building law ruled unconstitutional

BOISE — Legislation calling for school districts to fix up their buildings, even if it means dramatic increases in local property taxes, was declared unconstitutional yesterday by a judge.

Fourth District Judge Deborah Bail ruled the legislation was targeted at a single case in violation of the constitutional prohibition against such laws.

She called the new law “an unconstitutional attempt by the Idaho Legislature to evade its responsibility under the constitution by establishing pointless procedures which serve no useful or permissible purpose.”

The Attorney General’s Office previously has said it would appeal the decision if Judge Bail voided the law.

The law was passed last spring in an attempt by the Legislature to terminate a 13-year legal battle waged by school districts to force the state to pay at least some of the cost of public schools’ maintenance and construction.

KANSAS

‘Little Apple’ to drop New Year’s ball

MANHATTAN — A Kansas college community that promotes itself as the “Little Apple” plans to borrow a New Year’s Eve tradition from its big-city counterpart.

A committee of business owners and community leaders is planning a ball drop in Aggieville, the city’s bar district, to mimic the televised event in New York’s Times Square. Manhattan, with a population of about 45,000, is home to Kansas State University.

Steve Levin, co-owner of Varney’s Book Store and the chairman of the Little Apple Ball Drop Committee, envisions television broadcasts switching from footage of the ball drop in New York to the Manhattan, Kan., celebration, then to festivities in Los Angeles.

“We could be the heartland representation of the ball drop,” Mr. Levin said.

Though it won’t be a Waterford Crystal ball, Mr. Levin said he and other committee members have been talking to a local sign company about constructing the ball and its dropping contraption. He estimates the ball will cost between $500 and $1,000, and private donations will pay for it.

MINNESOTA

Exhibit shows how bugs solve crimes

ST. PAUL — The bugs don’t lie.

Maggots and other insects found at a crime scene can provide investigators with important clues, according to a new exhibit making its world premiere at the Science Museum of Minnesota on Saturday, the first stop on a tour booked through 2007.

“CSI: Crime Scene Insects,” explores the rapidly growing field of forensic entomology and how insects can crack cases and bring killers to justice.

The exhibit was inspired by the hit “CSI” TV shows. Its curator, Lee Goff, chairman of the forensic-sciences program at Chaminade University of Honolulu, is a consultant for both of them. He also does work for the FBI and law-enforcement agencies around the world.

The types of insects on a body and their stages of development can help determine the time of death. They also can provide clues to the cause of death, where the victim was killed and whether drugs or other toxins might have been involved.

“CSI: Crime Scene Insects” ends its run at the Science Museum of Minnesota on Jan. 19. It next goes to the Science Museum of Western Virginia in Roanoke. The Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History will host the exhibit in the spring of 2005.

MONTANA

Voters likely to have fewer polling sites

BUTTE — Elections chief Mary McMahon says she may consolidate Butte’s 21 polling places to just three locations to satisfy new federal voting requirements.

The Help America Vote Act places more responsibilities on election judges, and having fewer polling places would make it easier to ensure that the election process goes smoothly and efficiently.

NEVADA

Home loans hard to get in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS — The Las Vegas area is the second-worst place in the nation for low- and moderate-income people seeking home loans, a study says.

Low- and moderate-income neighborhoods made up 23 percent of the Las Vegas area in 2002, while 4.3 percent of all conventional loans were made in those neighborhoods, according to the study by the nonprofit Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Las Vegas was outranked only by Mobile, Ala.

NEW JERSEY

Alligator gets loose in cargo hold

NEWARK — An alligator was captured inside the baggage hold of an airliner yesterday after escaping from its crate.

The young alligator, 4 to 5 feet long and weighing as little as 10 pounds, remained inside a burlap bag with its mouth bound shut, American Airlines spokesman Tim Wagner said.

Officers captured it with a looped device and put it back into its crate with three other gators shipped from Miami, officials said. Authorities were looking into how the reptile escaped.

The gator was found outside its box when the cargo hold of the Boeing 767 was opened, Mr. Wagner said.

NEW YORK

Times names first ombudsman

NEW YORK — The New York Times has named veteran editor and author Daniel Okrent as its first ombudsman, filling a position announced three months ago after an internal probe of the Jayson Blair scandal.

Mr. Okrent, a former editor of Life magazine and of Time Inc.’s new media operations, will oversee coverage, review reader complaints and write a periodic column in the newspaper, the Times said in an article in yesterday’s editions.

Mr. Okrent will fill the position — officially called “public editor” — for an 18-month term beginning Dec. 1.

The paper created the position and two other masthead-level jobs in July, acting on recommendations of a committee formed after the Times had published three dozen stories by Mr. Blair that were false, plagiarized or inaccurate.

NORTH CAROLINA

Marines arrested in weapons thefts

JACKSONVILLE — Two Camp Lejeune Marines were arrested and accused of stealing $25,000 worth of government weapons, ammunition and equipment, authorities said.

Lance Cpl. John David Stocks and Lance Cpl. Charles Anthony Rohrl, both 19, left the base about a week ago without permission, said Naval Criminal Investigative Services agent Michael Monroe. They were found during the weekend in a York, S.C., home after police received a tip.

Cpl. Stocks, a York native, is assigned to the armory of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, where he helps issue, maintain and safeguard the unit’s weapons, said Staff Sgt. Pauline Franklin, a Camp Lejeune spokeswoman. Cpl. Rohrl is a basic infantryman, Sgt. Franklin said.

They are accused of taking one M16A2 rifle, three M-9 pistols, two shotguns, ammunition for the three firearms, two K-Bar knives and three pairs of night-vision goggles, Sgt. Franklin said.

PENNSYLVANIA

Late congressman honored on mural

PHILADELPHIA — Former U.S. Rep. Lucien Blackwell, who died earlier this year, is featured on a new mural in West Philadelphia.

The Democrat, who represented an inner-city district in Congress from 1991 to 1995 and served on the City Council, is depicted shaking hands and talking with political figures including Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, Nelson Mandela and Jimmy Carter.

RHODE ISLAND

Police combat underage drinking

PROVIDENCE — Police have been sweeping bars and nightclubs cracking down on underage drinking. In two months, they have arrested about 50 persons, along with the bartenders who served them.

City officials are considering tougher restrictions on drinking establishments, including getting rid of under-21 nights. On those nights, people as young as 18 are allowed into some clubs but aren’t allowed to drink alcohol.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Bill links driving to school attendance

PIERRE — State Sen. Clarence Kooistra said he will introduce legislation that would link driving privileges to high school attendance.

The proposal from Sen. Kooistra would give the state Public Safety Department power to pull the driver’s licenses of those younger than 18 who miss classes. It ultimately would improve high school graduation rates, he said.

TEXAS

3 infant bodies discovered in attic

BROWNWOOD — A family renovating a rural home in which they had lived for three years found an old trash bag in an attic crawl space containing the mummified bodies of three infants. Authorities are investigating the deaths as homicides.

“One baby was wrapped in a towel, one baby was in a blanket, and the baby we originally found was wrapped in a sheet inside a paper sack,” said Chief Deputy Mike McCoy of the Brown County Sheriff’s Department.

Mr. McCoy said authorities were searching for the home’s prior occupants and no arrests had been made.

The homeowners discovered the bag while renovating the two-story house near Brownwood, Mr. McCoy said. He wouldn’t identify the family.

UTAH

Man arrested wearing ‘porno pants’

OREM — A man ordered out of his pickup by police gave them fair warning.

Before he got out, the 43-year-old told officers he was wearing his “porno pants.”

The outfit turned out to be a pair of jeans with the seat cut out, except for a thin strip of material down the middle. The man told officers he had been stripping at a private party in Murray, 35 miles north, and wanted to stop at a convenience store to see how people would react.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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