- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 3, 2004

PENNSYLVANIA

City kicks off homosexual ad campaign

PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Love,” has launched the first U.S. television advertising campaign to promote a city as a homosexual destination, officials said yesterday.

In the TV commercial put out by a private tourism group, a young man in colonial attire writes a letter inviting his beloved to meet him at Independence Hall, one of the city’s main tourist attractions.

The man is approached by a woman who glances at him, but passes by before another man greets the letter writer and accepts flowers.

The campaign is part of a three-year, $1 million campaign using the slogan “Philadelphia — Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay.”

TEXAS

Stolen propane tankers found near Laredo

SAN ANTONIO — Two propane tankers, whose disappearance prompted the FBI to issue a nationwide alert, were found yesterday in southern Texas near the U.S.-Mexico border, an FBI spokesman said.

A private citizen had tipped police to the whereabouts of the tankers, FBI Agent Rene Salinas said. The disappearance of the trucks, stolen over the weekend from a San Antonio gas company, raised fears that they had been stolen to use as bombs.

ARIZONA

Teen set on fire as lesson, police say

BISBEE — A man accused of dousing a teenager with lighter fluid and setting him on fire reportedly was trying to teach him a lesson about playing with matches, police said.

The man, Steven Troy Hupcej, 42, remains in jail on charges of attempted second-degree murder and arson. Esteban Villasenor, 15, remained at a Phoenix hospital in fair condition, with second- and third-degree burns to 40 percent to 50 percent of his body.

He is expected to recover, but Bisbee police told the Arizona Daily Star that it likely will be a long and painful process.

ARKANSAS

Officials seek to build women’s prison

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Board of Correction said it plans to seek permission from the General Assembly to build a 200-bed women’s unit.

It reported that state prisons held 760 women, 98 over capacity. An additional 163 women are being held in county jails while awaiting beds in a state prison.

CALIFORNIA

Peterson defense calls case weak

REDWOOD CITY — Scott Peterson’s defense lawyer attacked the case against his client yesterday as flimsy and circumstantial and said there was evidence that his son was born alive.

Mark Geragos seized his first chance to contradict the portrait prosecutor Rick Distaso painted of Mr. Peterson on Tuesday — that of a lying cheat whose affair with massage therapist Amber Frey drove him to kill his pregnant wife, Laci.

Mr. Geragos downplayed Mr. Peterson’s interest in Miss Frey, saying they only went out on a few dates. He also characterized Mr. Peterson as a giddy expectant father who accompanied his wife to all her doctor’s appointments.

Prosecutors say Mr. Peterson killed his pregnant wife on or around Dec. 24, 2002, and dumped her body in the San Francisco Bay during what he tried to disguise as a fishing trip.

The bodies of Mrs. Peterson and her unborn child washed onto the shore of the Bay in April 2003, near where Mr. Peterson says he set out on a solo fishing trip on the morning his wife vanished.

Mr. Peterson, 31, could face the death penalty or life without parole if convicted. The trial is expected to last six months.

COLORADO

Faculty pushes partner benefits

FORT COLLINS — For the fourth time in a decade, Colorado State University faculty and staff are urging the school to offer benefits to employees’ domestic partners, including same-sex partners.

Faculty Council chairman C.W. Miller said the University of Colorado in nearby Boulder already offers similar benefits. Budget concerns might delay consideration of the request.

GEORGIA

High gas prices crimping cruising

BUFORD — The American teen tradition of cruising is taking a back seat to today’s record-high price for a gallon of gas.

With gas reaching a nationwide average of $2.06, young drivers are finding other ways to check out their wheels — and each other — rather than cruising “the strip” or “the loop.”

Some are stopping in parking lots so they can turn off their engines to save fuel. Some car pool to meet with friends. A few even admit that they are staying home.

A popular stop for conserving cruisers in Buford, about 25 miles northeast of Atlanta, is the lot just off Interstate 985, about a mile from one of Georgia’s busiest shopping centers, the Mall of Georgia.

The park-and-ride lot, filled during weekdays with cars left by commuters who use the county’s bus system, stays busy from 9 p.m. until the early morning hours.

INDIANA

Man survives 69,000 volts

CLARKSVILLE — A 22-year-old man who climbed an electrical tower survived a 69,000-volt shock that a utility official said is usually fatal.

Jason Grisham was in fair condition yesterday in a hospital burn unit.

Police and a Cinergy/PSI employee found Mr. Grisham asking for help as he emerged Sunday from behind a building at a substation, where the tower was scaled. Mr. Grisham “appeared to have extensive burn marks on his chest, and his pants appeared to have exploded,” police said.

Mr. Grisham of New Albany scaled the fence around the tower about 6:30 a.m. and then started to climb the tower itself, rising 12 to 15 feet before he “received a dose of … electricity and was knocked to the ground,” said police, who were seeking a toxicology report.

“Contact with that level of voltage is almost always fatal,” Cinergy/PSI spokeswoman Angeline Protogere said. She noted that household voltage is mostly 120 volts.

ILLINOIS

DePaul creates Islam department

CHICAGO — DePaul University has created an Islamic studies department in response to a demand for courses on the subject, officials said. DePaul’s Islamic World Studies program awards undergraduates a degree in the subject.

The United States’ involvement in the Islamic world after the September 11 attacks inspired the new curriculum.

KANSAS

Nonnative snake spotted at park

KANOPOLIS — Experts think a two-legged culprit might be behind several sightings of a nonnative rattlesnake at Kanopolis State Park.

Since a dead Western diamondback rattlesnake was found at the park in 1993, the first recorded sighting, four live snakes have been captured.

There have been 10 other sightings of live snakes.

“This is not herd migration stuff,” said herpetologist Joseph Collins, who works with the Kansas Biological Survey at the University of Kansas. “It’s possible someone is systematically turning them loose year after year.”

No visitors have been bitten by western diamondbacks at the park, which is located in central Kansas and draws about 280,000 people each year.

MASSACHUSETTS

Airliners searched after bomb threat

BOSTON — Police in Boston and Philadelphia searched two airliners yesterday in response to a bomb threat but found nothing and sent both planes on their way, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) said.

Authorities said the caller mentioned American Eagle Flight 4543 from Philadelphia to Boston and American Airlines Flight 156 from Boston to London. The TSA could not say whether the caller had been identified.

Ann Davis, a spokeswoman for the TSA, said that she did not know about anyone being detained in either Philadelphia or Boston and that the FBI was investigating.

MINNESOTA

State auctions off gubernatorial plates

ST. PAUL — Here’s your chance to dine like royalty — or at least own some dinnerware that might have been used by monarchs and celebrities.

The state Department of Administration is auctioning off dinnerware that graced the tables at the Minnesota governor’s mansion, which has played host to then-Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Princess Margaret of England and actress Mary Tyler Moore.

Nearly 50 pieces in all, the items are being sold individually in a series of online auctions. The bidding period for the first five pieces closes Monday. Ninety percent of the proceeds will go to the group in charge of maintaining the residence, and the rest will cover auction costs.

NEW MEXICO

Governor, tribe sign gambling pact

SANTA FE — Gov. Bill Richardson signed a compact that ended years of litigation with the Mescalero Apache Tribe over gambling on its reservation.

The Mescaleros agreed to pay $25 million in back payments. The compact also calls for the tribe to share with the state 8 percent of revenue from its Casino Apache. The compact still requires approval from the U.S. Department of Interior.

NEW YORK

City’s water may not be kosher

NEW YORK — A glassful of cold New York City tap water might not be kosher.

It might be true — but just in case, restaurants and bakeries operated under Orthodox Jewish law were advised Tuesday to use filters that can ensure water purity.

The problem is tiny creatures called copepods, which are crustaceans. Under Jewish law, the eating of crustaceans — aquatic animals with skeletons outside their bodies, including shrimp, crabs and lobsters — is barred.

Stores in heavily orthodox Brooklyn reported a run on water filters, and rabbis considered whether additional measures were necessary.

Rabbi Abraham Zimmerman, of the Orthodox Satmar sect, called on the city to help in making its water kosher. But the Department of Environmental Protection, which runs the reservoirs, said that the copepods are impossible to do away with and that they deliver health benefits to the reservoir.

NORTH CAROLINA

Court allows leeway in drug cases

RALEIGH — The state Court of Appeals said prosecutors can consider the weight of freshly cut marijuana in charging drug suspects.

Brian Gonzales sought dismissal of drug-trafficking charges that were based on 25.5 pounds of marijuana plants harvested by police. The plants shrank to 6.9 pounds once they dried. The court noted that federal law requires marijuana to be weighed dry, but state law has no such requirement.

OKLAHOMA

Judge dismisses Nichols trial jurors

McALESTER — Two members of the jury considering sentencing for Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols were dismissed by the judge yesterday and replaced by the last two alternate jurors.

Judge Steven Taylor did not explain what the two jurors did wrong, but he strongly told the rest of the panel not to discuss the case outside of regular jury deliberations.

“Do not discuss sentencing,” Judge Taylor said after a one-hour closed meeting with prosecution and defense attorneys. “Do not allow anyone to discuss it with you.”

One of the jurors dismissed yesterday was the jury foreman.

Nichols was convicted last week of 161 first-degree murder charges in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Now, the jury is considering whether he should be executed or given a sentence of life in prison.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Ballet company leaving Sioux Falls

SIOUX FALLS — Poor ticket sales and a lack of community support prompted a professional ballet company to leave Sioux Falls.

The Northern Plains Ballet canceled the final program of its first season here and needs $75,000 to cover debts from its 2003-04 five-city series. The company had hoped to become the resident dance group of the Dakotas.

WASHINGTON

‘Yo-yo’ diets harm immune system

SEATTLE — A new study has found that “yo-yo dieting” — repeatedly losing, then regaining weight — might harm a woman’s immune system.

The study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center also found that maintaining the same weight over time appears to have a positive effect on a woman’s immune system, according to one of the lead researchers.

Researchers in the study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, interviewed 114 overweight but otherwise healthy sedentary, older women about their weight-loss history of the past 20 years. The women had to have maintained a stable weight for at least three months before joining the study, which was funded by the National Cancer Institute.

The study, which found that long-term immune function decreases in proportion to how many times a woman has intentionally lost weight, measured natural killer cell activity in the women’s blood. Natural killer cells are an essential part of the immune system, killing viruses and leukemia cells, said Cornelia Ulrich, senior author and an assistant member of the Hutchinson Center’s Public Health Sciences Division.

The study found that women who maintained a fairly stable weight over several years had higher levels of such cells than those whose weight frequently fluctuated.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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