- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 6, 2004


Ex-Olympic wrestler crashes car into airport

FORT LAUDERDALE — A former Olympic wrestler who crashed his sport utility vehicle into a crowded terminal building at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport was hospitalized for psychological evaluation, an official said yesterday.

Alexis Vila, 33, of Williamston, Mich., was held under the Baker Act, which allows authorities to hold people in protective custody for 72 hours for mental evaluations if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others.

He suffered minor scrapes in the Sunday crash; no one else was hurt. Investigators don’t know why Mr. Vila, who defected from Cuba in 1997, drove into the unmanned Southeast Airlines ticket counter. Authorities have said that they did not suspect terrorism.


Fire kills four in mobile home

BRANCHLAND — Fire gutted a mobile home early yesterday, killing a couple, their 3-year-old daughter and another relative.

The fire killed Roger Lee Frye, 41; Angela Dawn Frye, 33; and Mrs. Frye’s aunt, Ramona Farley, 52. Firefighters pulled 3-year-old Patience Frye through a bedroom window, but attempts to revive her were unsuccessful.

The victims were in bed when the fire apparently started in the living room shortly before 1 a.m., assistant state Fire Marshal Paul Ritchie said.

“I’m 95 percent certain it was electrical,” he said.


Fires threaten observatory

SAFFORD — Firefighters widened a defensive ring around a mountaintop observatory yesterday to try to hold back two wildfires and protect one of the world’s most powerful telescopes under construction.

Crews used bulldozers and fire retardant around the Mount Graham International Observatory, which has two operating telescopes and the $120 million soon-to-be-completed Large Binocular Telescope. When fully operational in 2005, the Large Binocular Telescope will be the world’s most technologically advanced optical telescope.

The observatory encompasses 8 acres of pine forest on Mount Graham’s 10,470-foot Emerald Peak and is surrounded by a 200-foot-wide clearing. It also has a sprinkler system that officials said would be turned on if flames came within a quarter-mile.

One of the fires was a lightning-sparked blaze that had spread to more than 6,200 acres by early yesterday. It was burning less than a mile southeast of the $200 million-plus observatory.

A nearby blaze that had spread to more than 6,500 acres prompted the evacuation of the observatory and 85 cabins on the mountain Friday.


Boy, 11, gets stuck in chimney

LANCASTER — An 11-year-old boy had to be rescued by firefighters after he got stuck in a chimney while trying to get into his friend’s locked house.

“I wasn’t Santa Claus,” said Rance Hill, who spent 1 hours in the chimney.

The Antelope Valley boy said he had been trying to help a friend when he shimmied down the chimney and got stuck feet-first. His friend was unable to pull him free and called Los Angeles County firefighters.

They tried to get Rance out from below and even knocked a hole in the chimney at a point where it narrowed to about 8 inches, but that didn’t work, fire Inspector Mike McCormick said. Finally, they were able to haul the boy up with a rope.


Shoppers will get sales tax holiday

ATLANTA — From July 29 through Aug. 1, Georgia shoppers will be able to buy clothing, school supplies and computers without paying sales tax.

The tax holiday exempts up to $20 per school supply purchased, including dictionaries, notebooks, calculators and other classroom items. It covers clothing and shoes up to $100 an item and computers up to $1,500.


Brain enzyme linked to teen suicides

CHICAGO — A brain enzyme known to be involved in mood disorders may be in short supply in the brains of teenage suicide victims, a finding that could point to potential drug therapy, researchers said yesterday.

Whether the lack of the enzyme, protein kinase C (PKC), was a cause or an effect of the mental state that led to suicide was not clear from the post-mortem study of the brains of 34 teenagers, half of whom had committed suicide and the rest who died from other causes.

The researchers said the lower levels of the enzyme may be related to abnormalities in the interactions between the brain and hormonal glands. The enzyme is targeted by some mood-stabilizing drugs.

Whatever the mechanism, the decreased level of the enzyme is a “vitally important observation that will help not only in understanding the neurobiological profile of teen suicide, but also in advancing ideas for therapeutic intervention,” said study author Ghanshyam Pandey of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among teenagers.


Elk cause highway mishaps

PIKEVILLE — Kentucky drivers who have to keep their eyes peeled for potholes, stopped school buses and the occasional flooded roadway have had a new worry in recent years: elk.

Motorists have struck 55 elk since the cow-size animals were reintroduced into mountainous eastern Kentucky seven years ago.

Elk had been hunted to extinction 150 years earlier, but because of the effort begun in 1997, the population of the animals in Kentucky’s Appalachian region is now at 3,000 to 3,500.

No fatalities have been reported from the accidents.


Police detonate ether containers

FAIRFIELD — Members of the Maine State Police bomb squad detonated two containers of ether that were found in a high school chemistry lab.

The containers were exploded outside Lawrence High School after they were found to have been there since 1989. Waterville fire Capt. David LaFountain said that as ether gets old, it becomes volatile and powerful enough to “take the roof right off the building.”


Indoor-smoking ban begins in state

BOSTON — A statewide indoor-smoking ban covering workplaces, bars and restaurants went into effect yesterday throughout Massachusetts, and public health officials said they plan to pursue violators aggressively.

Smokers face a $100 fine for each violation, and business owners who allow smoking in their establishments face fines of up to $300.

The ban, enacted by the legislature earlier this year and signed June 18 by Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, prohibits smoking in all workplaces, restaurants and bars in the state. Private clubs and cigar bars are exempt.


Pit spitter wins contest for third time

EAU CLAIRE — The Krause family’s cherry pit spitting legacy lives on.

With his father and 12-time champion looking on, Brian “Young Gun” Krause spit a tart cherry pit 88 feet, 2 inches to win the 31st annual International Cherry Pit Spitting Championship on Saturday.

The 25-year-old from Dimondale took the title for the third straight year at Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm. Last year, he set a record of 93 feet, 6 inches.

Meanwhile, Ann St. Amand, of St. Joseph, is working on her own streak, winning the women’s title for the fourth time and third year in a row. The 46-foot, 1-inch spit on Saturday marked her best ever. Shannon Fitzpatrick, 16, of Custer Park, Ill., finished second for the women at 42 feet, 11 inches.


Wheat farmers expect reduced harvest

BILLINGS — Farmers expect to harvest 4.8 million acres of wheat in Montana this year, down from 2003 as dry conditions took a toll on some of the winter wheat.

Producers planted 5.3 million acres of all wheat, slightly more than they did last year when they harvested 5.05 million acres. Farmers intend to harvest as many acres of spring wheat as they did a year ago, but fewer acres of winter wheat and durum.

Peggy Stringer, director of the Montana Agricultural Statistics Service, said some of the winter wheat didn’t make it through the season because of dry conditions.


Pit bulls kill 13 cats in shelter

WILMINGTON — Two pit bull dogs that may have wandered inside a shelter for sick animals killed 13 cats, authorities said.

Lee Esada, whose wife, Heather, manages the Southport-Oak Island Animal Rescue, found the dead cats last week and then discovered the dogs sleeping in a cage in the back of the shelter.

Richard Cooper, director of Brunswick County Animal Services, said the dogs could have pushed through a hole in the chain-link fence surrounding the shelter and come inside the building through the cat door. The shelter housed about 75 sick cats.

The dogs, one weighing 60 pounds and the other 40 pounds, were in custody of animal services. The owner of the dogs was cited for creating a public nuisance and allowing the dogs to run at large. Authorities declined to release his name.


Parishioners want priest removed

FINNEYTOWN — St. Vivian parishioners in Finneytown, Ohio, have petitioned the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to remove their priest for verbally abusing children.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported yesterday that the Rev. John Kroeger informed the parish via the Sunday bulletin that he has offered to resign. Father Kroeger is reported to be on vacation and has been unavailable for comment.

Last week, a group of parishioners sent letters to all 1,024 parish households saying Father Kroeger has repeatedly verbally abused children, including belittling, name calling, comments on physical attributes, profanity and threats of physical harm.

“When approached in attempts to resolve these issues, he has invoked his authority to justify his actions and generally failed to respond to the concerns of those affected,” said the letter signed by 10 parish households.

Parish pastoral council President John Hadden received a letter by Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk saying that he has ordered Father Kroeger to undergo psychological therapy.


‘Driving certificates’ issued for immigrants

NASHVILLE — A law that went into effect last month means that Dina Guirguis, an Egyptian in the United States on a temporary student visa, can’t renew her Tennessee driver’s license when it expires in a few years.

The law allows only U.S. citizens or permanent legal residents to get a Tennessee driver’s license. That rules out illegal immigrants and temporary visitors such as Miss Guirguis.

But Tennessee is offering a unique compromise — a “certificate of driving” that illegal immigrants won’t be able to use for official identification but that will allow them to drive. The certificate guarantees that the person knows the rules of driving in Tennessee, but can’t use it to buy a gun, rent a car or board an airplane.

Melissa Savage, a policy analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures, said the certificate is the first of its kind, and that other states will be watching to see how it works.

That is not much comfort to Miss Guirguis, who will have to start using her passport — written entirely in Arabic and French — as her primary identification in the United States.


Teen aces entrance exams

OREM — A Mountain View High School student made a clean sweep of the SAT and ACT college entrance exams.

Tyrie Vella, a 16-year-old who will be a senior at Mountain View this fall, got a perfect 36 on the ACT in November. Even so, he still wasn’t confident going in to the SAT this spring.

“I was worried because the odds were not very good that I would get perfect on both,” he said. “And I had not scored that well on the verbal during two practice tests.”

But when the results were released in April, Tyrie found that he had a perfect 1,600 on the SAT.

Tyrie isn’t sure where the test scores will take him next fall, but he said that if he stays in Utah, he probably will attend Brigham Young University.


Village cooks giant bratwurst

CAMPBELLSPORT — It was no mere weenie roast here when residents of this community 50 miles north of Milwaukee cooked what they hope is the world’s largest bratwurst.

The village of Campbellsport grilled a 48-foot-long bratwurst made of 25 pounds of pork Saturday night, said Joel Fleischman with the Campbellsport Area Chamber of Commerce.

The village decided to go for the world record to celebrate its volunteer fire department’s 100th birthday, he said.

It took more than 45 minutes and 85 pounds of charcoal to cook the Campbellsport bratwurst. A local retired welder made a 50-foot-long grill for the brat. It was made by Loehr’s Meat Service and paraded through town on a flatbed semitrailer with police escort and a high school marching band, Mr. Fleischman said.

It was served in 160 portions at $10 apiece to raise money for the fire department.


County ranks No. 1 as recreation area

JACKSON — There is so much fun stuff to do in Teton County that it has been ranked as the top recreation area in the nation.

Colorado College’s 2004 “State of the Rockies Report Card” said there were few places like Jackson, located within Teton County.

“Positioned as a gateway to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, and at the base of the world-renowned Jackson Hole ski resort, it is difficult to imagine a better place for the outdoor enthusiast or second-home owner.”

Hinsdale County, Colo., northeast of Durango, ranked second.

The number of acres preserved in wilderness or owned by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management determined the rankings.

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