Tuesday, March 16, 2004


Suspect in slayings domineering

FRESNO — With nine family members fatally shot and stacked in a pile behind him, Marcus Wesson walked out of his house covered in blood and did something others rarely saw: He gave up control.

Until then, Mr. Wesson appeared to wield absolute authority over his household and his large clan. The women did not speak in his presence and worked to support him.

Mr. Wesson, 57, is accused of leaving them all for dead Friday, shooting everyone in his house — a 25-year-old woman and eight children. Coroners still were working yesterday to identify the dead, all of whom were thought to be his children.


Snow hits Midwest, East Coast

DES MOINES — Winter did not appear interested in leaving quietly yesterday as heavy snow fell from Iowa to New York.

Western Iowa got 18 inches and Des Moines got 14 late Monday, closing schools and making evening commutes slow and sloppy, the Des Moines Register reported.

At least one Iowa motorist died in a snow-related accident.

Kenneth Lininger of Creston was talking with a snowplow driver who stopped to help him after his car slid off U.S. Highway 169 south of Winterset. Mr. Lininger then walked into the path of an oncoming semitrailer truck that was going around the plow, officials said.


Former Clinton home on auction site

HOPE — For sale: House on corner lot. Nine hundred and fifty square feet. Once occupied by a little boy who became president.

The residence where former President Bill Clinton lived for three years, starting when he was about 5, is up for sale on EBay, with the bidding in one week rising from $45,000 to $105,000. The home’s owner, now married, is looking for a bigger place. The auction will close April 7.

Gary Johnson and his mother, Elaine, have lived in the “little bitty house” at 321 E. 13th St. for about 10 years. Mr. Johnson said he decided to post the house ad on EBay to tap into the online auctioneer’s global reach.

“It’s long past his presidential days, and I just don’t see anybody local being interested in it,” Mr. Johnson said.


Mars rover rolls around crater

PASADENA — NASA’s Spirit rover rolled 59 feet around the rim of a crater yesterday to begin inspecting firsthand a drift of windblown material that is puzzling scientists.

Scientists sent the six-wheeled robot geologist to the dune, nicknamed “Serpent,” to analyze its composition. They are unsure whether it is a pile of sand or dust.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration planned for Spirit to analyze the material today before driving over the dune to a site from where it can take panoramic pictures of the surrounding terrain.

Halfway around Mars, Spirit’s twin rover, Opportunity, began to wrap up analysis of a rock outcrop at its landing site.

Opportunity was expected to scuff up the outcrop with one of its wheels today, allowing scientists to assess the rock’s hardness.


Park service to eliminate island

MIAMI —The National Park Service is trying to recoup $1 million it is spending on eliminating a man-made island just off the coast of Miami-Dade County.

The tiny island in a remote area south of Miami, discovered a year ago, was built by piling rocks in Biscayne Bay National Park, the Miami Herald reported yesterday.

County officials said the island, which has an elaborate hideaway, is connected to the mainland by a boardwalk. They said it was built by Ching Hai, a Vietnamese-born woman who founded the Suma Ching Hai International Association, which says it has as many as 2 million members in 50 countries.

The park service said the island will be removed, but it will cost $1 million and officials have not been able to reach Miss Hai, also known as Celestia De Lamour, to discuss the issue.


Company freezing lobsters alive

BOSTON — A company says its freezing technique allows some lobsters to come back to life when thawed — just in time to become dinner.

Trufresh LLC, of Suffield, Conn., discovered that the method it has used for years on salmon also revived some lobsters after their subzero sojourns, potentially resulting in fresher-than-frozen crustaceans. The company is looking for partners to begin selling the lobsters commercially.

Company Chairman Barnet L. Liberman acknowledged that only about 12 of roughly 200 healthy lobsters survived the freezing, which involves immersing the lobster in a brine 40 degrees below zero. In addition, the company hasn’t researched how long a frozen lobster can survive — overnight is the longest period so far.


Gun advocate sues over weapon permit

ST. LOUIS — The head of the Second Amendment Coalition in Missouri is suing St. Louis County officials for refusing to process his request for a concealed-weapons permit.

Dale A. Schmid, 57, filed a petition complaining that county police refused to issue him an application for a concealed-weapons permit, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported yesterday.

“They have been dragging their feet and pontificating against license to carry,” said Mr. Schmid, who lives in a St. Louis suburb, after filing his case.

The state Supreme Court ruled Feb. 26 that Missouri’s concealed-arms law was constitutional but that its funding mechanism was not. Since then, Attorney General Jay Nixon advised county sheriffs not to issue permits until the legislature provided a funding mechanism.


Pianist plays Sinatra hits at Wendy’s

GRAND ISLAND — At a local Wendy’s restaurant, customers can request a Frank Sinatra tune to go with their burgers and fries.

“My motto is ‘If I know it, I will play it,’” said Joe Cervenka, a pianist who plays songs by Sinatra, Johnny Mathis and other artists on his portable piano every weekday at a Wendy’s in Grand Island during lunch.

“It’s supposed to be portable,” said Mr. Cervenka, 52, who has cerebral palsy and walks with crutches. “For me, it’s not.”

Before this gig, Mr. Cervenka worked for various human services organizations, but the disease eventually forced him out of that work. But cerebral palsy has not kept his fingers from tickling the ivories. “This music thing is just a lot more enjoyable,” he said.


Judge dismisses Flowers’ lawsuit

LAS VEGAS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit accusing two former advisers to President Clinton of defaming Gennifer Flowers when they suggested that the audiotapes she used to try to prove that she and Mr. Clinton had an affair had been doctored.

U.S. District Judge Philip M. Pro ruled that no reasonable jury could find “clear and convincing evidence” that James Carville and George Stephanopoulos acted with malice.

The two former Clinton aides made their comments during interviews on talk shows in 1998 and 2000.

In a decision issued March 8, Judge Pro also ruled that publisher Little, Brown & Co. did not defame Miss Flowers in Mr. Stephanopoulos’ 1999 book, “All Too Human.”


Second county joins gay ‘marriage’ fight

PORTLAND — Benton County, home to Oregon State University, will become the state’s second county to begin issuing “marriage” licenses to homosexual couples.

Licenses will be available in Benton County starting March 24, County Commissioner Linda Modrell said yesterday.

The county follows in the footsteps of Multnomah County, Oregon’s most populous, which has issued more than 2,200 licenses to homosexual couples since March 3. Gov. Theodore R. Kulongoski, a Democrat, had urged other counties not to do the same.

Mr. Kulongoski “continues to believe that counties should comply with Oregon statutes,” said Mary Ellen Glynn, a spokeswoman for the governor. “It’s disruptive to the state to have some counties obeying the law and others not doing that.”


Firefighter indicted in holiday brawl

NEW YORK — A firefighter was indicted on charges of assaulting a co-worker during a New Year’s Eve skirmish at a firehouse, authorities said yesterday.

Michael Silvestri was charged with assault and weapons possession in an indictment handed up this week by a grand jury.

He has denied the charges. His attorney did not return a call seeking comment.

Mr. Silvestri, 41, is accused of hitting fellow firefighter Robert Walsh across the face with a steel chair during the brawl at their Staten Island firehouse. Mr. Walsh suffered a broken jaw, broken nose and other facial fractures.

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta has said that he thinks alcohol was a factor.


TV reporter found in contempt

PROVIDENCE — A television reporter was found in contempt of court yesterday for refusing to reveal who leaked an FBI videotape of an official accepting a bribe during the federal investigation into corruption at City Hall.

WJAR’s Jim Taricani has until noon today to tell a federal judge who gave him the videotape. If he does not, he will have to pay $1,000 each day until he complies with the judge’s order. Mr. Taricani said he is relieved that he didn’t get prison time, but will appeal the judge’s order.

The videotape shows an undercover informant handing an envelope to former mayoral aide Frank Corrente that contained a cash bribe for either Mr. Corrente or former Providence Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci Jr.

Judge Ernest Torres said leaking the FBI videotape violated a federal court order that barred attorneys, investigators or the defendant from disseminating tapes connected to the case.


State agency sends jobs to India

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah residents with questions about their welfare benefits will be routed to a customer-service call center in India, as part of a $7.8 million deal that is drawing criticism for sending jobs overseas.

Utah had been handling the calls through a Wisconsin office until last year, when state officials approved the contract with EFunds, a company with more than 900 call centers.

“This is a real discussion we need to have,” said Republican state Rep. David Clark, chairman of the Utah Technology Commission. “Our message has always been to do things efficiently and cost-effectively, but how far do we want to go? Do we feel comfortable if it is a state away, three states away or around the world?”


Family business adds crematorium

GUILFORD — Just up the hill from the Gaines family’s dairy farm stands a small building housing a different sort of enterprise, one that the operators hope will provide personalized service — for the recently deceased.

Jim and Ellen Curley say their new venture, a human crematory, is a small family business that will provide options to the community and will help the Gaines’ seventh-generation dairy farm survive.

“I view it as a service to my generation and the older generation,” said Jim Curley, 54. “We’re a low-volume small-scale operation with a beautiful setting.”

About 40 percent of Vermonters choose cremation, according to the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a national trade group based in South Burlington. Nationally, the figure is 25 percent.

Vermont Blessings has done one cremation, and plans to woo customers with promises of scenery, privacy and personal service.


Pharmacist refuses to fill prescription

MADISON — A state agency is accusing a pharmacist of blocking a woman’s attempts to refill her birth-control prescription because of his religious beliefs.

The Department of Regulation and Licensing’s complaint against Neil Noesen stemmed from his refusal to transfer the prescription to another pharmacy after he refused to fill it himself.

The complaint was filed Friday with the Wisconsin Pharmacy Examining Board over the 2002 incident at a Kmart pharmacy in Menomonie in northwestern Wisconsin.

Mr. Noesen has 20 days to respond, officials said.

Christopher Klein, spokesman for the Department of Regulation and Licensing, said pharmacists can refuse to fill birth-control prescriptions if they transfer the prescriptions to another pharmacy.


O’Connor calls for lawyer civility

LARAMIE — Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor yesterday urged lawyers to practice civility and provide free counsel for the poor to help restore integrity to their vocation.

“Not too many Americans even remember that our society once actually trusted and respected lawyers,” she told a crowd of more than 700 at the University of Wyoming Fine Arts Center. “I think that a decline in professionalism is partly responsible for this state of affairs.”

Justice O’Connor, a 23-year veteran of the high court, said many lawyers think that zealously representing their clients means pushing the rules of ethics and decency to the limit.

“When lawyers themselves generate conflict rather than addressing the dispute between the parties they represent, it undermines our adversarial system,” she said.

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