- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Fire hits former Sun-Times building

CHICAGO — A fire broke out yesterday at the former Chicago Sun-Times building, which is being demolished to make way for Donald Trump’s glitzy 90-story condominium and hotel tower. No serious injuries were reported.

The blaze apparently started on the fifth floor after construction workers used torches to cut out pieces of the building’s interior, Fire Commissioner Cortez Trotter said. The fire was fueled by insulation in ductwork and burned for about 90 minutes. Two firefighters suffered minor smoke inhalation.

The Sun-Times occupied the building along the Chicago River from 1958 until October, when the staff moved to new offices.


Man pleads not guilty in hunter killings

HAYWARD — A man accused of fatally shooting six deer hunters and wounding two after he was caught trespassing in the woods pleaded not guilty yesterday.

Chai Soua Vang, 36, waived his right to a preliminary hearing and will stand trial on six counts of murder and three of attempted murder. A judge set a trial date of Sept. 12.

Mr. Vang’s attorney, Steven Kohn, said the defense was considering whether its client should change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity.

The gunfire broke out Nov. 21. Mr. Vang, a Hmong immigrant, has suggested he acted in self-defense, telling investigators that the victims fired a shot at him first and used racist slurs.


Woman gives birthaboard floatplane

KETCHIKAN — The term “airborne” took on a new meaning when a woman gave birth high above southeast Alaska on a floatplane that was evacuating her after her labor began earlier then expected.

The baby girl was delivered safely to Jenifer Chinuhuk aboard a Pacific Airways floatplane Sunday. Isabelle Chinuhuk weighed in at 5 pounds, 9 ounces, and was 191/4 inches long.

Jenifer and her husband, Jamie Chinuhuk, had not expected the birth of Isabelle until mid-January, but when Mrs. Chinuhuk’s labor began on Sunday, a medical evacuation was arranged. Two doctors were on the flight.


Storm forcesevacuations in Sedona

SEDONA — Part of the Arizona resort city of Sedona was evacuated yesterday after heavy overnight rains triggered flash floods and mudslides in the mountain community.

State police told the Arizona Republic high water in scenic Oak Creek Canyon threatened to wash away bridges and was collapsing parts of the canyon wall, which prompted an unknown number of evacuations on the town’s north side.

Part of U.S. 89A, which runs through the canyon south of Flagstaff, was closed because of mud and rocks on the roadway.


Judge strikes downgay foster parent ban

LITTLE ROCK — An Arkansas judge yesterday declared unconstitutional a state ban on placing foster children in any household with a homosexual member.

Ruling in a case brought by the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Timothy Fox said the state Child Welfare Agency Review board had overstepped its authority by trying to regulate “public morality.”

At issue was a 1999 board regulation that said homosexuals cannot become foster parents, and foster children cannot be placed in any home with a homosexual member under its roof.

The ACLU had argued that the regulation violates the equal-protection rights of homosexuals. But the judge’s ruling did not turn on that argument.

Instead, he said that the Arkansas legislature gave the child-welfare board the power to “promote the health, safety and welfare of children,” and that the ban does not accomplish that. He said that the regulation instead seeks to regulate “public morality” — something the board was not given the authority to do.


Space station crewloses a few pounds

CAPE CANAVERAL — The two crewmen aboard the International Space Station lost a few pounds during the five weeks they were forced to ration their dwindling supply of food, but they said yesterday that they were no worse for wear.

U.S. astronaut Leroy Chiao and Russian cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov cut back on meat, potatoes and vegetables by half and made up for the lost calories with sweets.

The need for rationing ended a few days ago after a Russian cargo ship arrived last weekend with 440 pounds of food for Mr. Chiao and Mr. Sharipov. Also packed into the cargo ship were Christmas cards and photographs.

One reason for the food shortage was that ever since the shuttle fleet was grounded by the Columbia disaster, NASA has relied on Russian cargo ships to deliver supplies to the space station. And the Russian ships cannot carry as much as the shuttle.


State extendsshrimping season

BRUNSWICK — Georgia’s shrimping season has been extended indefinitely because of an abundant shrimp population. The season was to end at 5 a.m. New Year’s Day before the state Department of Natural Resources extended it.

Affected are commercial trawlers in Georgia territorial waters up to 3 miles offshore and recreational shrimpers using cast nets and beach seines.


Mayor namesanti-dropout panel

SPRINGFIELD — Mayor Charles Ryan appointed an 11-member youth commission to combat a rising high school dropout rate and a surge in violent crime.

The panel is charged with improving academic and social opportunities for Springfield children. Springfield’s dropout rate in 2003 was 8.5 percent, more than double the statewide rate of 3.3 percent.


Hawks spottedin new nest area

NEW YORK — Two red-tailed hawks whose temporary eviction from the ledge of a luxury apartment building sparked angry protests were seen roosting in their restored nesting area, the New York Audubon Society said.

Scaffolding that was used to install a new specially designed nest was removed Tuesday, and Pale Male and Lola were spotted sitting in the Manhattan structure at about noon, the organization said on its Web site. They were then seen taking twigs to the nest.

The hawks’ original nest, which had been on a 12th-floor window ledge of the building on Fifth Avenue and 74th Street since 1993, was taken down on Dec. 7 after residents of the building complained that it was a health and safety hazard.


Bodies foundin explosion wreckage

MUSKOGEE — Emergency workers found the bodies of two men yesterday in the wreckage created by an explosion at a scrap-metal plant that was felt up to 50 miles away.

The burned bodies were found near the oil-fueled furnace used to melt aluminum at the Yaffe Iron and Metals plant, Muskogee Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Darrin Smith said.

Two other men working at the plant when the explosion occurred Tuesday night were treated for injuries and released.


Family files lawsuitin AIDS-drug case

MEMPHIS — The family of a pregnant woman who died while taking experimental AIDS drugs to protect her baby from getting the disease is suing the doctors, drug makers and hospitals involved in the study for $10 million.

Joyce Ann Hafford’s mother and sister claim in the suit filed Tuesday that doctors continued to give her the drug regimen despite signs of liver failure. The suit also claims doctors didn’t warn the 33-year-old HIV-positive woman of the trial’s dangers.

National Institutes of Health concluded the drug therapy most likely caused her death. Her death halted the federal government research program of nevirapine.

The baby was born HIV-negative.


Passengers on flightdelayed 18 hours

SEATTLE — In an ordeal that made some passengers feel like hostages, about 300 people aboard an Amsterdam-to-Seattle flight were delayed for 18 hours on the ground, unable to leave the plane for much of that time, as food and water ran out and the toilets stopped working.

Northwest Airlines Flight 33 finally arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Wednesday morning, 28 hours after takeoff, after being held up by a nightmarish combination of fog, work regulations and mechanical trouble.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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