- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 24, 2004


Students return to damaged school

POINCIANA — Students at Poinciana High School returned to classes yesterday for the first time since Hurricane Charley to find their gym and cafeteria roofless and a giant tent outside serving free breakfast and lunch.

“Everybody is calling it lunch under the Big Top,” said Osceola County schools spokeswoman Dana Schafer.

Schools in six Florida counties reopened yesterday, but schools in three other counties are not expected to resume classes for another week. Students had returned from summer vacation more than a week before the storm struck Aug. 13.

People who used the schools as temporary shelters had to be moved out. Torn-up portable classrooms and damaged school buses had to be repaired.


Festival to honor legendary Hogzilla

ALAPAHA — With the local legend of Hogzilla spreading worldwide, residents of this tiny town have decided to feature the prodigious porker in their annual festival.

Plantation owner Ken Holyoak said one of his hunting guides shot the 12-foot-long wild hog in June, but few saw it before it was buried. Besides the few witnesses, the only proof is a photo showing the guide with the beast dangling from a strap.

Mr. Holyoak says the hog weighed 1,000 pounds, well beyond the plantation’s previous record of 695 pounds, and had 9-inch tusks.

Now, residents plan to include a Hogzilla float, a Hogzilla informational booth and Hogzilla T-shirts in Alapaha’s festival in November.

“We’re going hog wild,” said Darrell Jernigan of Jernigan’s Farm Supply.


Suspected bomber gets extension

BIRMINGHAM — A federal judge yesterday gave attorneys for suspected serial bomber Eric Rudolph more time to draft a plan for fighting charges in a fatal attack on an abortion clinic.

U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith gave Mr. Rudolph’s legal team until Sept. 15 to reveal their defense against charges that Mr. Rudolph planted a bomb outside a Birmingham women’s clinic on Jan. 29, 1998, killing a police officer and critically injuring a nurse.

Mr. Rudolph’s attorneys were supposed to notify prosecutors of their plans earlier this month, but they sought additional time after former lead attorney Richard Jaffe and three associates removed themselves from the case for undisclosed reasons.

Mr. Rudolph is being held without bond in Birmingham. He now is scheduled to be tried in May, almost two years after his capture in Murphy, N.C., ended a more than five-year manhunt.


Hollywood fundraiser sentenced for fraud

LOS ANGELES — A fund-raiser who organized events featuring Hollywood celebrities and politicians was sentenced yesterday to more than five years in prison for fraud.

Aaron Tonken, 38, was sentenced to 63 months behind bars after admitting to fraudulently diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars destined for charity galas and using the cash to pay off his own credit card bills.

Tonken siphoned off cash he raised for a charity gala billed as a tribute to diva Diana Ross, an event that never took place. He also helped produce several charitable fund-raisers, which included the casts of the hit television shows “The Practice” and “Ally McBeal.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Zwicker said Tonken used some of the money to pay off his mounting credit card bills and that he took money from donors who falsely thought they were the event’s only sponsors.


Hit squad hired to rub out Giuliani

NEW YORK — Mafia bigwigs recruited a squad of hit men to assassinate a young Rudolph W. Giuliani during his stint as a federal prosecutor before he became New York City’s mayor.

The plot was initiated after Mr. Giuliani, as U.S. attorney in Manhattan, succeeded in getting a life sentence for Colombo boss Carmine “The Snake” Persico in 1986, the New York Daily News reported.

Sources told the paper Persico ordered reputed organized-crime operative Joel Cacace to kill Mr. Giuliani and George Aronwald, an employee in the Justice Department’s Organized Crime Strike Force.

“The Colombos wanted to send a message. They wanted Rudy and Aronwald dead,” one investigator told the Daily News.


Mayor of 58 years dies at 95

BEAVER — Robert P. Linn, recognized by Guinness World Records as the nation’s longest-serving mayor, has died. He was 95, and first took office more than 58 years ago.

Mr. Linn, in his 15th term, died at home Saturday, said his daughter, Marty Scheidmantel.

“He always stood up for the community, and rightfully so,” said Beaver County Commissioners Chairman Dan Donatella. “Being mayor was almost a tradition for him. He loved the community and always put it ahead of everything.”

Mr. Linn was sworn into office on Jan. 2, 1946, though he didn’t even want the job, then known as burgess. Mr. Linn went along with a group of Republicans who wanted to unseat the incumbent — but he took out a newspaper ad urging people to vote for his opponent.

In a 2002 interview, Mr. Linn said he tried to be the borough’s biggest booster. “This is still one of the best places you can be,” he said.


Elvis announcer killed in accident

MEMPHIS — Al Dvorin, the concert announcer who made famous the phrase “Elvis has left the building,” was killed in an auto accident in California. He was 81.

Mr. Dvorin was thrown from the car in which he was riding on Sunday after it swerved off a desert road near Ivanpah, the California Highway Patrol said.

The previous night, Mr. Dvorin performed his signature closing line at an Elvis impersonator concert in California.

A former bandleader and talent agent in Chicago, Mr. Dvorin was with Elvis from his early days as a performer and was on his last tour in 1977, the year Mr. Presley died.

The phrase that Mr. Dvorin made his signature was first uttered by other announcers early in Mr. Presley’s career. It was intended to disperse audiences who lingered in hopes of an Elvis encore.

“Al made it his own with his particular style,” said Todd Morgan, a spokesman with the Presley estate in Memphis. “He’s the man when it comes to that saying.”


Plutonium sealant fix could cost $20 million

AMARILLO — Sealant used in a nuclear-weapons plant to prevent plutonium from leaking in case of an accidental blast is peeling, and a repair job could cost $20 million, a government report shows.

The Department of Defense’s Pantex Plant is the nation’s only nuclear-weapons assembly and disassembly plant. Technicians work with radioactive and explosive materials at the complex around the clock.

A report by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board says sealant had been applied to faulty door welds on underground workshops at the plant after officials learned that a six-year-old work order to repair them was never completed.

The government temporarily halted nuclear-weapons operations at the plant while it repaired the welds with the sealant. Afterward, operations resumed.

But in a July 21 report, an official with the nuclear facilities safety board found the sealant was peeling away in places. Now, safety board officials say sealing potential leak spots could cost $15 million to $20 million.


Nurses strike over health benefits

SEATTLE — About 1,700 nurses and other health care workers began a five-day strike yesterday against Group Health Cooperative — one of the nation’s oldest health-maintenance organizations — over the cost of their own health care benefits.

Nurses, medical assistants, therapists and others represented by Service Employees International Union Local 1199 began striking at 18 clinics in Western Washington. The strike is scheduled to end Friday at midnight.

Group Health, a nonprofit HMO begun in 1947, says it needs its employees to pay more for health care benefits to save money and prevent the HMO from passing on costs to members in the form of premium increases.

Union workers now get benefits with no premiums or deductibles and $5 co-pays for office visits and prescriptions.

They say they are willing to contribute more, but that Group Health’s proposal goes too far. It includes increasing co-payments to $15, instituting deductibles and charging premiums on a sliding scale.

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