- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 7, 2003


Fire damages house featured in movie

WINTERSET — The 1800s-era farmhouse featured in the film “The Bridges of Madison County” was damaged Monday by a fire that officials said was set deliberately.

It was the third structure connected with the 1995 movie and the 1992 novel of the same name to be set afire. One wooden bridge was destroyed in 2002 and another was damaged last month. Norwalk Fire Chief Tom Fleming said late Monday that the house fire, like the bridge blazes, was arson. “There’s still another step to determine if it’s related to the bridges,” he said.

The latest fire, days before the annual Madison County Covered Bridge Festival, was reported shortly before 7 a.m., and flames were extinguished about an hour later. The northwest corner of the house, known as “Francesca’s house” because it was used in the film as the home of lead character Francesca Johnson, portrayed by Meryl Streep, was damaged extensively, authorities said.


62 gang members arrested

CHARLOTTE — Sixty-two members of Charlotte-area gangs were taken into custody yesterday, the first strike to rid the city of a growing gang problem that had resulted in the deaths of 11 persons over the past 30 months, federal officials said.

Of those detained in Operation Fed Up, 53 were held for deportation hearings, U.S. Attorney Bob Conrad said.

Officers from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and the federal bureaus of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were involved in the early-morning sweep, which targeted members of Hispanic street gangs.


Farmers growing jumbo shrimp

MOSSES — Farmers are tapping into ancient seawater to harvest shrimp, an enterprise researchers said could be the key to future jobs in a depressed region.

Lee Jackson Jr. and Bruce “B.T.” Durham are using saltwater that was trapped underground from an ocean that covered much of what is now Alabama 80 million years ago.

“They said we were nuts,” Mr. Durham said.

But Mr. Durham and Mr. Jackson didn’t look so crazy last week as they completed their third harvest of large Pacific white legged shrimp from 2 ponds in rural Lowndes County, about 150 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico. The harvest could yield up to 20,000 pounds of the jumbo-sized crustaceans.


Falcons foil plans to illuminate bridge

LOS ANGELES — A pair of peregrine falcons nesting on the port’s Vincent Thomas Bridge have thwarted plans to illuminate the suspension span.

Small blue lights outlining the bridge were supposed to be turned on by New Year’s Eve. Officials instead will wait until next summer so the pair can mate and raise their young in peace. The falcons are protected under the state Endangered Species Act.


Man has encounter with drawbridge

MADEIRA BEACH — Mike Jenkins came to Florida to play golf, but he got a terrifying encounter with the John’s Pass drawbridge.

Mr. Jenkins was walking across the 22-foot-high bridge Saturday morning when it started opening, authorities said. He hung on as long as he could, then fell through the gap into the water.

Mr. Jenkins, 50, suffered no broken bones, but his right arm was scraped and his back and chest were sore, according to the St. Petersburg Times.


Armed man arrested at cathedral

SAVANNAH — An armed man who said he was “disturbed about the world’s religions” used lighter fluid to set fire to the pulpit and bishop’s chair in a historic Roman Catholic cathedral yesterday, then surrendered after a brief standoff with police, authorities said.

No one was injured. The flames charred the pulpit but caused no structural damage to the twin-spired Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, which dates to 1873 and is a popular tourist stop.

Police evacuated the surrounding block and a nearby Catholic girls’ school during the standoff, which lasted less than an hour. Stuart Vincent Smith, 31, who is from the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, was taken into custody without incident and jailed on suspicion of arson.


Unlucky dog has bad fur day

CULDESAC — This dog was having a bad fur day.

The dog, whose coat caught fire when his owner’s vehicle backfired, ignited a grass fire just off U.S. Highway 95 in this small northern Idaho town about 190 miles north of Boise.

Firefighters doused the grass fire and reported that the dog was unhurt, but smelled of burnt hair.

It happened Saturday when a motorist who ran out of fuel put gas in the tank and then primed the carburetor. On restarting, the van backfired, throwing sparks into the cab and igniting the dog’s fur.


Diabetes rate rises with obesity

CHICAGO — One in three Americans born in the year 2000 will develop adult-onset diabetes, a worsening epidemic that disproportionately affects women and minorities, federal researchers said yesterday.

Rising rates of diabetes are directly related to the increasing incidence of obesity among Americans, said researcher K.M. Venkat Narayan of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Projecting trends based on health data covering 360,000 Americans from 1984 to 2000, the research estimated the number of people with diabetes will increase to more than 28 million in 50 years from 17 million currently.

Mr. Narayan, writing in this week’s edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, said people can lessen their risk appreciably through regular exercise and a healthy diet.


Appeals court delays smoking ban

LEXINGTON — At the request of bar and restaurant owners, a citywide smoking ban in the heart of tobacco country was delayed a second time Monday by an appeals court.

The law would be the first of its kind in Kentucky, the country’s second-largest tobacco producer after North Carolina. The ban was supposed to go into effect last week, but the appeals court had granted a delay until Monday’s hearing.

Bar and restaurant owners have sued to block the smoking ban. The appeals court’s ruling delays the law from taking effect until a lower court can decide the lawsuit. Monday’s ruling may be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Judge Sara Combs wrote in the court’s 2-1 decision that the language in the law was too vague and that the lower court “erred in denying the temporary injunction” late last month.


Coalition to improve salmon spawning

OLD TOWN — A power company agreed to sell three dams for $25 million to a coalition of public and private groups that wants to restore Atlantic salmon runs on the Penobscot River.

The coalition — which includes the state of Maine, the U.S. Department of the Interior, conservation groups and the Penobscot Indian tribe — plans to remove two of the dams and build a fish bypass around the third.

The seller, PPL Corp. of Bethlehem, Pa., will be allowed to increase power generation at six other dams. Coalition leaders said the agreement will improve spawning.


Pipe bomb found in Army jacket

MACON — Jack Emanuel scoured dozens of tag sales in search of the perfect Army jacket. He bought a few, but one purchase turned out to be explosive.

Mr. Emanuel said there was a pipe bomb in the pocket of a jacket he bought over the weekend at a sale in Columbia. He said he visited 30 or 40 tag sales looking for the jackets to resell at a flea market.

Mr. Emanuel said he took the bomb to the Macon County Sheriff’s Department, where it was dismantled. It was about 3 inches long with both ends crimped and a fuse sticking out of the center.

No one was hurt and no charges have been filed.


Doctor: Horn’s survival a miracle

LAS VEGAS — It is “all but miraculous” that entertainer Roy Horn is alive and able to communicate after being bitten in the neck by a 600-pound tiger, his doctor said yesterday.

Mr. Horn, of the “Siegfried & Roy” show that has thrilled Las Vegas tourists for years, was able to move his feet and hands and is responding to treatment, Dr. Derek Duke said at a news conference at University Medical Center, where Mr. Horn was hospitalized after Friday’s attack during a sold-out show at The Mirage hotel-casino.

Mr. Horn, 59, remained in critical condition with a severe neck injury. He lost a large amount of blood in the attack, doctors said, and later had a stroke.

“A contributing factor to his current condition is his extraordinary will and strong physical attributes,” Dr. Duke said in a statement. “These are significant elements in his ability to recover.” He wouldn’t comment on whether magician suffered any brain or spinal damage.


Nuclear reactor dome finally torn down

SEABROOK — Nearly 20 years after Public Service Company of New Hampshire abandoned plans to build a second nuclear reactor at Seabrook Station, the rusting containment dome looming over the coastal marshes has come down.

Massive anti-nuclear protests helped drive up the cost of the first reactor and doomed the second reactor. Public Service sold the plant to FPL Group of Florida last year as part of deregulation. FPL promised to tear down the dome.


Ex-senator cited over car accident

LAMBERTVILLE — Former Sen. Robert Torricelli was charged with leaving the scene of a minor car accident at a food market in August. He denied wrongdoing, saying he was in the car but his ex-wife was driving.

A witness whose name was not released told police the 52-year-old Democrat was leaving the market Aug. 29 when he backed into another car. He got out and checked the damage before driving away, the witness said.

The witness gave police the license plate number, and Patrolman Kenneth Housman matched it to a car owned by Mr. Torricelli. The accident caused about $700 in damage to the parked vehicle. Mr. Torricelli’s car was damaged on the rear bumper.

Mr. Torricelli said the impact happened at a very low speed, so the two assumed the other car wasn’t damaged. He also said the other vehicle was parked illegally. The case will be heard Nov. 20.


Ranches gaining in value, study finds

LAS CRUCES — A study by researchers at New Mexico State University found that ranches located in the state’s prime mountain areas have increased in value by 10 percent to 12 percent every year for the past seven years.

Ranches that lack scenic vistas and depend on public land for grazing have increased in value by as little as 1 percent annually.


Jail visitors stay longer than planned

HOPEWELL — Some visitors to a new county jail stayed longer than planned and left feeling extremely confident in the security system.

Big crowds of gawkers showed up for a glimpse of the soon-to-be-opened facility, and a few accidentally locked themselves in a cell. Another group got stuck in a storage room.

“People were impressed with the security,” said Sheriff Phil Povero.

The new Ontario County Jail in this western New York town near Rochester was open to the public Saturday, and roughly 1,200 people drifted through during the day.

“Unfortunately, in some areas, if the door closed behind them, they got locked in,” Mr. Povero said.

Confinement only lasted a short while, and all were freed — without bail.


Teen gets trapped in locked safe

WOOSTER — Two Kmart employees weren’t playing it safe when one of the 18-year-olds got trapped while goofing off at work.

The youths were fooling around Saturday morning when one of them decided to see if he could fit into a 4-foot by 2-foot safe, fire department Lt. Joe Linz said. The teen managed to squeeze inside, the door was closed and he was trapped about 10 minutes before being rescued, Lt. Linz said.

The teenager emerged short of breath and sweaty, but otherwise unharmed.

Employees attempted to get him out by using a combination, but the safe wouldn’t open, Mr. Linz said. After firefighters called a locksmith and attempted to use pry bars to open it, the combination was tried again, and it worked.


Employee arrested in VA center shooting

MURFREESBORO — An employee opened fire with a gun in an office at the Veterans Affairs medical complex yesterday morning but no one was hit, authorities said.

The man was taken into custody after he fired three shots inside the personnel office of Alvin C. York Veterans Affairs Medical Center, left the building and fired again outside, VA spokeswoman Molly Reynolds said.

Authorities returned fire, but no one was struck, she said. The man was identified only as a VA employee who doesn’t work in the building where the shooting occurred.

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