- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 16, 2003


Tree sitters leave perches

PRINCETON — Environmental activists who had camped 80 feet up a pair of red oaks for more than a month climbed down early yesterday as workers began removing trees to make way for a ski area.

“They have vacated their nests,” said David Crowley, an owner of the Wachusett Mountain Ski Area.

The two had been in the trees since Aug. 1 to try to block development of the ski area. Jason Kotoch, a spokesman for the environmental activist group EarthFirst, said they abandoned their platforms when workers began tree removal.

“We said we would be there until our presence was effective in preventing any cutting,” Mr. Kotoch said. “As long as they were cutting the trees down, it was not effective.”

The activists were concerned that the ski area on Wachusett Mountain cuts too close to a buffer zone that protects an old-growth forest, already bordered by a road and bisected by hiking trails.


Family claims disinterred remains

NEWARK — When Alfoncina Pansini died 75 years ago, authorities who apparently could not reach her family buried her in a potter’s field, where for decades her remains lay lost.

But now that 3,500 graves in Secaucus are being moved to make way for a turnpike interchange, a granddaughter is finally claiming her remains for a funeral Mass and proper burial in the family plot.

On Friday, a state judge ruled that Diane Brule could reclaim the remains of her grandmother, who died of a kidney ailment in 1928 in a northern New Jersey mental hospital. She was 42.

John Keller, the project’s manager, said the remains removal should be complete and construction should begin by mid-October.


Restaurant owners may do inspections

JUNEAU — The Division of Environmental Health is considering a plan to require restaurant managers to inspect their own businesses and make the records available for state audits.

Officials say with 32 employees and 10,000 facilities to inspect, some accessible only by boat or plane, the state is falling short of its inspection goals.


Priest told to report abuse to bishop

PHOENIX — The former head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix once ordered a priest to come to him instead of going to police with reports of sexual abuse, according to information gathered by prosecutors.

In May, Bishop Thomas O’Brien reached an immunity deal with prosecutors in which he agreed to change the way complaints were handled and admitted that some suspected abusive priests were shuffled to different churches. He later resigned after being arrested in a deadly hit-and-run accident.

Among the 2,045 pages of documents released Monday by the Maricopa County Attorney’s office was a 95-page transcript of an interview with former priest Joseph C. Ladensack, who once supervised all Catholic schools in the diocese.

“‘You have to come to me first; I will handle these things,’” Mr. Ladensack said Mr. O’Brien told him when he reported abuse cases to the police. “He said, ‘You owe me obedience.’”

Mr. Ladensack, who left the priesthood in 1986, told investigators that Mr. O’Brien ordered him to persuade at least one family to withdraw a criminal complaint.


West Nile virus spreading in state

LOS ANGELES — A dead crow found in the suburbs east of Los Angeles has tested positive for West Nile virus, health officials said.

It was the first time the virus has been found in an animal in Los Angeles County, home to nearly 10 million .


Memorial flag set on fire

FRISCO — An American flag placed atop a mountain peak in a national forest as a memorial to the victims of the September 11 attacks was torched, authorities said.

Summit County deputies were investigating a report that a hiker found a note on the 13,589-foot snowcapped summit claiming responsibility for the fire, sheriff’s spokeswoman Jill Berman said Monday.

The flag had been placed on the peak Thursday, the second anniversary of the attacks, replacing a tattered flag that had been there since the first anniversary.


Illegal immigrants held before appeals

HARTFORD — Federal agents in Connecticut have begun arresting all illegal immigrants as soon as they are ordered deported, rather than allowing them to remain free while they appeal.

The policy shift is a Department of Homeland Security pilot program intended to reduce the number of illegal immigrants who flee after being ordered out of the country. But some immigration lawyers contend the change will have the opposite effect.

Hartford attorney Daniel Marcus, who has a client that was taken into custody, said the policy will encourage immigrants to skip court hearings and take their chances on the run.


Confederate flag wanted on plate

TALLAHASSEE — A group that helped raise a huge Confederate flag above a north Florida highway now wants to bring the symbol to state license plates.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans is campaigning to create a specialty plate honoring what supporters call the state’s Southern heritage.

Black leaders, who say the flag symbolizes oppression, oppose the plate.


Commandments prompt lawsuit

ATLANTA — The American Civil Liberties Union said yesterday it was filing a federal lawsuit to force officials in Georgia to remove a parchment inscription of the Ten Commandments from a rural courthouse.

In the suit, which was expected to be filed in the U.S. District Court in Gainesville, Ga., the group said the display in the hallway of the Barrow County courthouse in Winder violated the constitutional ban on government promotion of religion.

Officials in Barrow County have vowed to keep the 3-by-4-foot framed display in the courthouse, where it has hung for 18 months.


Police offer e-mail alerts

EVANSVILLE — Police began offering a service that lets residents receive e-mail bulletins on crime as part of a program to encourage residents to watch for criminals.

“There are a whole lot of people interested in what’s going on in Evansville, whether it’s crime or missing persons,” Police Chief Dave Gulledge said.

“If there’s a crime going on or a missing person in their neighborhood, they get the information right now,” he said.


ACLU director faults terror simulation

OPELOUSAS — A simulated terror attack that included a man wearing Middle Eastern-style head gear has drawn criticism from a leader of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Police said that the exercise was to show residents what it would be like to live through a terrorist attack, and that they wanted it to be realistic. The Louisiana chapter of the ACLU said it was in poor taste.


State seeking disaster relief

ST. PAUL — Minnesota’s application for federal agricultural disaster relief is in the mail.

The initial request includes 62 counties and is expected to rise, said Gene Hugoson, the state’s commissioner of agriculture. A second assessment will be made by the Farm Service Agency in October.

To qualify, counties must have lost at least 30 percent of at least one crop.


Teacher sues school for poetry firing

ALBUQUERQUE — A former high school teacher and poetry coach sued the Rio Rancho school district, claiming he was fired because of “disrespectful” student poetry challenging the war in Iraq, among other things.

Bill Nevins, who has a new teaching job, says his First Amendment rights were violated. The lawsuit seeks reinstatement as poetry coach.

District officials declined comment.


Lynch agrees to do TV news interview

NEW YORK — Former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch will give her first television interview in November to the ABC network, which faced stiff competition from rival channels.

A spokesman at Miss Lynch’s publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, said yesterday that her interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer would air in prime time Nov. 11, Veteran’s Day.

The broadcast will come one day before the launch of Miss Lynch’s authorized biography, for which Knopf reportedly paid $1 million. The former private first class, who received an honorable discharge and medical retirement from the Army last month, became famous after her rescue from an Iraqi hospital.


State legislator dies of cancer

BISMARCK — State Rep. Janet Wentz, the third female House speaker in state history, died Monday. She was 66.

A centrist Republican who sometimes clashed with party conservatives, Mrs. Wentz built a reputation as an advocate for education and human services during a 28-year legislative career.

Before she was elected speaker in December 2002, Mrs. Wentz served as chairman of a House Appropriations subcommittee that helped write state education budgets for schools and the state university system.

Under treatment for colon cancer during her term as speaker, the lawmaker was occasionally absent from floor sessions, and she chose a stand-in for those occasions.


Dentist offers reward for brush’s return

LIMA — A dentist is offering a $100 reward for the return of a toothbrush.

The 14-foot red, wooden toothbrush was stolen from Dr. Ruhl Warden’s dental practice in this northwest Ohio city over the weekend. Dr. Warden has used it as a yard sign for about 20 years. It weighs between 80 and 100 pounds.

“Everybody sort of identified my office with it,” said Dr. Warden. “Everybody’s seen the big, red toothbrush.”

Dr. Warden, 74, said he filed a theft report Monday morning when he discovered the toothbrush was missing.

The dentist crafted the base of the toothbrush out of yellow pine and the bristles from 10-inch-long cedar poles.


Father forces son to sell drugs

PHILADELPHIA — A man was convicted of child endangerment and drug trafficking after his 12-year-old son testified that he forced him to deal drugs at an abandoned house, even making him carry a gun.

Edward Sheed Sr., 38, was also convicted by a judge Monday of corrupting the morals of a minor and firearms violations. He faces at least 30 years in prison when he is sentenced next month.

The son, Edward Sheed Jr., testified Monday that in the summer of 2002, when he was 11, his father took him to help sell crack cocaine almost every day. He said he was scared to refuse because his father threatened to hit him.

The boy is now under Department of Human Services supervision in an institution for children, prosecutor Christina Pinto said.


Girl, 3, found alone with dead mother

SALT LAKE CITY — Police found a 3-year-old girl alone with the body of her mother in a hotel room Monday.

The 29-year-old woman was found dead in a room at the Super 8 Motel, said police spokesman Dwayne Baird. She was a diabetic and appeared to have died from natural causes, but the coroner’s office will do an autopsy, he said.

Police were withholding the woman’s identity pending notification of next of kin.

The child ate whatever she could find in the room while she was alone, authorities told the Salt Lake Tribune.


Gross-out game hits the market

BELLEVUE — Boogers and vomit and snot, oh my.

A gross-out game called “Creepy Freaks” for children ages 5 to 11 will hit the national market today, with miniature figures for trading, a plastic game board and a DVD with stories about the characters.

Frosty the Snotman attacks with sneezes, Headley flings brains, Spitty Cat throws the contents of cat litter boxes and Swirly looks like a toilet. Silent But Deadly attacks with stealthy, odorous emissions.

“Bodily fluids became our creative direction. They kind of set the tone,” said Jordan Weisman, chief executive officer of Bellevue-based WizKids game-development company.

Mr. Weisman, 43, created the concept based on bedtime stories told to his son.


Alligator wrestler getting attention

FAIRMONT — Babs Steorts’ wrestling opponents are dirty fighters: They bite, squirm and have angry dispositions.

They’re also alligators and crocodiles.

Miss Steorts is adjusting to the national attention she has received in the nearly three years she has been wrestling gators and crocs at Gatorland, an Orlando, Fla., tourist attraction. She and four other persons routinely go snout-to-snout with 700 alligators and 200 crocodiles during 11 daily shows.

She appeared on NBC’s “Tonight Show with Jay Leno” when show contributor and actor-director Kevin Smith featured her in a segment on roadside attractions.


Bill would bar same-sex ‘marriage’

MADISON — A state legislative committee has unanimously approved a bill that would define marriage in Wisconsin as a contract between a man and a woman.

The Republican-authored bill was approved without discussion, generating outrage from homosexuals.

The bill now goes to the floor for a vote.

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