City marks explorer’s departure
PITTSBURGH — Residents and re-enactors yesterday celebrated the 200th anniversary of Capt. Meriwether Lewis’ departure from the Monongahela River.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that a group of Iowans had to make a last-minute dash to ensure that the celebration included a replica of the keelboat that Lewis had built in Pittsburgh.
Friends of Discovery, a volunteer group based in Onawa, Iowa, pulled its keelboat out of Blue Lake in the Lewis and Clark State Park, packed it onto a custom-built trailer and left at 4:50 a.m. Saturday for the 20-hour drive. A group of Missouri re-enactors had pulled its keelboat out of the flotilla with less than 48 hours’ notice, citing safety concerns.
At 11 a.m., a floating classroom fired its water cannons in two streams to form arches over the Monongahela River. All the boats on the water sounded their horns and sailed toward Brunot Island, three miles south on the Ohio River.
Grace downgraded to depression
HOUSTON — Tropical Storm Grace weakened and was downgraded to a depression yesterday as it blew onto the Texas central coast with locally heavy rain that threatened to cause flooding.
Officials of several coastal counties recommended voluntary evacuations of low-lying areas.
The National Hurricane Center discontinued its tropical storm warnings for the coast by late morning.
The warnings had been in effect along a 200-mile stretch of Texas coast from Corpus Christi to High Island, midway between Galveston and Port Arthur.
Marijuana ban ruled unconstitutional
JUNEAU — A law banning Alaskans from possessing any amount of marijuana in their homes was ruled unconstitutional by a state appeals court last week.
Friday’s decision by the Alaska Court of Appeals reversed the 2001 drug conviction of a North Pole man and ordered a new trial.
The ruling affirms a 1975 Alaska Supreme Court decision that found it legal to possess less than 4 ounces of marijuana in one’s home. That ruling found that the state constitution’s strong privacy law superseded legislative attempts to ban marijuana.
Alaska voters approved a law in 1990 that criminalized the possession of any amount of drug in any location. That law had gone unchallenged until David Noy appealed his conviction on a count of sixth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance. A search of Noy’s home had turned up five live marijuana plants, growing equipment and other paraphernalia.
Parrot’s screams prompt police response
TUCSON — A parrot’s parody of a damsel in distress caused quite a commotion.
Tucson police and firefighters broke down a door after being called to a house and hearing a woman’s screams coming from inside.
But police soon realized that the sounds weren’t coming from a woman in woe. The ruckus was the work of Oscar, a 2-year-old yellow-naped Amazon parrot.
The mix-up began on Saturday when a 911 hang-up call was made from the house. Police arrived to find the house locked with bars on the windows. Hearing what they thought was a woman’s voice, police called the fire department.
Although the dialer remains a mystery, the parrot is seemingly off the hook.
Man preparing for vacation killed
FONTANA — A man getting cash from an automated teller machine for his family vacation was fatally shot by robbers who then sped off in his sport utility vehicle, police said.
Jose Galvez, 40, was packing about 4 a.m. Saturday when he decided he would save time by doing his banking then as well, Fontana police Detective Ray Schneiders said.
The assailants took an undisclosed amount of cash and Mr. Galvez’s 2003 GMC Yukon.
Pair lost in cave rescued by friends
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A man and a woman are recovering from dehydration after spending nearly five days lost in a cave.
John Hadar and Sherry DeCrow were rescued Friday by family and friends, who criticized Garfield County sheriff’s deputies for delaying their search efforts.
Sheriff Lou Vallario was on vacation over the weekend and couldn’t be reached for comment. Sgt. Ray Hensley said investigators followed proper procedures.
Mr. Hadar and Mrs. DeCrow went into Hubbards Cave in Glenwood Canyon on the afternoon of Aug. 24 with flashlights but no food or water. Mrs. DeCrow’s daughter, Ramiah DeCrow, said she and her brother wanted to hike to the cave near where the missing couple’s car had been spotted, but sheriff’s deputies blocked the trail, telling them it was considered a crime scene.
Motor vehicle offices to reopen in two weeks
WATERBURY — The state Department of Motor Vehicles will be reopening six offices around the state that were shut down in February because of budget cuts, department officials said.
Starting Sept. 16, the offices will operate on a reduced schedule. They’ll offer restricted services such a photo license renewals.
Disabled rape victim gives birth
ORLANDO — A mentally disabled rape victim whose pregnancy became the center of a court battle over whether a guardian can be appointed for a fetus.
The girl, for now known as “Baby Girl S,” was born by Caesarean section Saturday and placed in the temporary custody of the state Department of Children and Families.
She appeared healthy, though it likely will be months before doctors know if she has any disabilities, Patti Riley Jarrell, the mother’s guardian, told the Orlando Sentinel in yesterday’s editions.
The case drew national attention after Gov. Jeb Bush unsuccessfully asked the courts to appoint a guardian for the fetus, an unusual move that sparked a debate over treatment of the developmentally disabled and fetal rights.
Even though the woman has given birth, the court fight over the guardianship issue should go on, a Bush spokeswoman said yesterday.
The child’s 23-year-old mother, known in court records as J.D.S., has the mental ability of a preschooler and has been living in group homes since she was a child.
Hotel towel swipers given amnesty
ATLANTA — Holiday Inn wants to know what has become of the 500,000 towels a year that guests swipe from its 2,638 hotels.
But the hotel chain isn’t looking to put towel-takers through the spin cycle. It just wants them to spin some yarns for a national promotion.
Holiday Inn gave guests amnesty last week in exchange for their stories about how they’ve used the towels they’ve taken over the years.
For every story shared, Holiday Inn will donate $1 to a charity it founded in 1986 that helps children with life-threatening illnesses.
The hotel chain asked guests to provide their stories on Holiday Inn’s Web site. Submissions will be accepted through the end of September. Guests whose stories are among the best 25 chosen will receive a limited-edition souvenir Holiday Inn towel.
Hurricane Jimena headed for state
HONOLULU — Hurricane Jimena plowed across the Pacific with 90-mph wind yesterday, heading for a glancing blow on the Big Island of Hawaii with high wind, strong surf and heavy rain.
The Central Pacific Hurricane Center posted a hurricane watch for Hawaii, the state’s biggest and southernmost island, and a high surf warning was issued for the southern coast of Maui.
The center of the hurricane was expected to pass about 50 miles offshore from South Point, the southern tip of the state, sometime early today, the hurricane center said.
Wind of 40 mph, with gusts to 60 mph, was expected along the coast late yesterday along with 4 to 6 inches of rain.
Man gets back watch lost in 1943
EVANSTON — Jim Hoel is very glad to have his watch back, even though it’s stopped working since he last saw it — during World War II.
The last time he remembers wearing the old Gallet chronometer was on May 17, 1943, the day he used it while navigating a B-26 Marauder before the bomber was forced to ditch in a canal in the Netherlands. He said he knows he no longer had the elaborate watch when he arrived at a German prisoner of war camp a few days later.
The watch arrived at his home this past week in a package sent from England by truck driver Peter Cooper, 56, who found it in the possession of an elderly neighbor in the village of Kirton. Mr. Cooper said the neighbor, “Tiny” Baxter, 89, told him his mother gave it to him.
The watch, an enlistment present from the bank where Mr. Hoel, 82, worked before the war, bore his name and Evanston address on its back. Mr. Cooper was able to track him down at his new address using the Internet and friends who had contacts in the United States.
Gas explosion rocks processing plant
SERGEANT BLUFF — A gas explosion rocked a soybean processing plant in western Iowa on Friday, injuring eight persons — three critically — and sparking a fire, authorities said.
Fire crews extinguished the blaze after four hours at the Ag Processing Inc. plant, about 20 miles south of Sioux City, said Woodbury County Emergency Management Coordinator Gary Brown.
“Most of the severe injuries are related to burns and inhalation of hot material, burning both internally and externally,” said Dr. Larry Sellers, chief medical officer at Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City.
The plant, which employs 50 people and makes soybean oil and soybean meal, was shut down for routine cleaning and maintenance when the explosion occurred just before 9 a.m.
Mr. Brown said the explosion involved hexane gas, a highly flammable chemical used to extract vegetable oils from crops such as soybeans.
Per-capita income rises in state
AUGUSTA — The state’s per-capita income rose by 3.3 percent to $27,744 between 2001 and 2002 for the 13th-fastest growth rate in the nation, according to a report by the Maine Center for Economic Policy.
There were 7,300 fewer jobs in the state this June than in July 2002, the report says.
Children burned by bottle explosion
CANTON — A plastic soda bottle containing an unidentified liquid exploded at a playground, slightly burning three small children in what officials believe was the work of pranksters, authorities said.
The twin 18-month-old girls and their 3-year-old brother were in a playground tunnel on Friday when the bottle exploded inside the tunnel, said Capt. Daniel Beal of the Canton Fire Department.
The children were treated for chemical burns at a local hospital.
Accused baby killer dies in custody
ST. PAUL — A Villanova University professor charged with killing her baby daughter with a kitchen knife apparently committed suicide in jail by putting a plastic garbage bag over her head, authorities said.
Mine Ener was found unconscious Saturday with the bag over her head while lying on a mattress in a common area outside a group of cells, Sheriff Bob Fletcher said.
She was being held on a charge of second-degree murder for cutting the throat of her 6-month-old daughter, Raya Donagi, during a visit to her mother’s St. Paul home earlier this month.
The 38-year-old history professor told police she couldn’t bear seeing her daughter, who had Down syndrome, go through life suffering.
Settlement reached over strip searches
POPLAR BLUFF — A southeast Missouri school district has agreed to pay $7,500 each to the families of eight junior high girls who were strip searched over missing money, the district superintendent said last week.
The seventh- and eighth-graders, ages 12 to 15, were searched Jan. 6 after $55 disappeared from a teacher’s desk.
A joint statement from attorneys involved in the lawsuit said Poplar Bluff Junior High Assistant Principal Mike Ivie and security officer Johnny Williams conducted initial searches of gym clothing, book bags, purses, coats, shoes and pockets.
When the money didn’t turn up, “the girls were subjected to a search by a female school nurse,” the statement read.
Woman dies at counterculture fest
BLACK ROCK DESERT — A woman riding an “art car” at the counterculture Burning Man festival died when she accidentally fell under the vehicle’s wheels, authorities said.
The death of Katherine Lampman on Saturday was the most serious in a series of accidents at the huge weeklong desert revel, where thousands of people gather each year in a celebration of art, performance and individuality.
Boy, 9, helps foil $164,000 robbery
NEW YORK — A quick-witted 9-year-old boy thwarted robbers who made it out of his home with $164,000 in cash before they were nabbed by police alerted to the caper by his covert cell phone call.
Shidal Hossain used a blanket to hide a cell phone when the trio of robbers came to rob his home last week and then slipped into his bedroom to call his father for help.
Pretending to be building maintenance workers, they persuaded Shidal’s 3-year-old brother to open the door before charging in.
Police nabbed them on the street nearby and recovered the $164,000 in cash.
Center for Latino immigrants opens
BELMONT — Community leaders in Gaston and Mecklenburg counties joined to open a one-stop resource center for Latino immigrants.
La Casa Latinoamericana de las Carolinas (The Latin-American House of the Carolinas), opened at Belmont Abbey College and will serve residents in Gaston, Lincoln and western Mecklenburg counties.
Effort to repeal drunken-driving law fails
BISMARCK — An effort to repeal North Dakota’s new drunken-driving law fell 65 names short of making it onto the statewide ballot, government officials said.
The law lowers the blood-alcohol limit for drivers to 0.08 percent, down from 0.10 percent.
Opponents had to gather signatures from 2 percent of the state’s population, but just missed the cutoff with 12,779 valid signatures.
Prison escapee shot during capture dies
SEATTLE — An escaped convict was fatally shot by state corrections officers when he ignored several orders to stop running and give himself up.
Thomas D. Guinn, 33, was pronounced dead at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, said Veltry Johnson, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections.
Guinn escaped Friday from Stafford Creek prison near Aberdeen, where he was serving 175 years for rape, kidnapping, robbery and burglary. He was apprehended after only 90 minutes.