- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 13, 2004

PENNSYLVANIA

Heaviest raccoon euthanized

PALMERTON — The world’s weightiest raccoon, famed for his taste for junk food, has died after tipping the scales at nearly 75 pounds.

Bandit will no longer raid his owner’s pantry, hunting down chips and cheese curls, Froot Loops and french fries.

“I haven’t been eating, I haven’t been sleeping,” a bereaved Deborah Klitsch said Monday, two days after she euthanized her favorite pet, who Miss Klitsch said was born with a bad thyroid gland.

When he hit 52.5 pounds in 1999, Bandit’s girth garnered him a spot in Guinness World Records. But the raccoon continued to plump up and his health started to decline earlier this spring.

TEXAS

Tornado derails train; no injuries reported

HARTLEY — A tornado derailed 15 cars of a freight train Tuesday in the Texas Panhandle, sending the empty coal cars and two locomotives off the tracks, officials said.

No one was injured, but one of the cars from the 120-car train ended up 300 to 400 feet away on U.S. Highway 385, Hartley County Sheriff Franky Scott said.

No vehicles were hit.

ARKANSAS

Bus driver killed in highway pileup

TRUMANN — A strong gust of wind swept up a cloud of dust that obscured a bus driver’s vision on Tuesday, triggering a pileup of seven vehicles in rural northeastern Arkansas — including three school buses. One bus driver was killed, and another was injured.

The buses were on their way to pick up students at Trumann’s Central Elementary School, said Superintendent Joe Waleszonia. No students were on the buses at the time of the accident.

The accident occurred on a rural highway west of Trumann. Bus driver Jan Ham stopped the bus after she lost sight of the road because of a dust cloud. Mr. Waleszonia said Miss Ham, who also is the girls basketball coach, was hospitalized with injuries.

CALIFORNIA

Peregrines nest on downtown building

SAN FRANCISCO — They’ve raised families in suburban counties surrounding San Francisco Bay and nested on the Bay Bridge. Now, peregrine falcons have moved downtown.

For the first time in perhaps decades, peregrines have successfully nested on a San Francisco building — the headquarters of utility company PG&E.; Two 4-week-old nestlings have been sighted.

The move is considered a watershed event in the regional history of the species’ recovery, said Brian Walton, coordinator of the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group. The peregrine was taken off the federal endangered species list in 1999.

There were only two pairs of peregrines in California in 1970. There are now more than 220 pairs, Mr. Walton said.

DELAWARE

State to widen Interstate 95

NEWARK — The state intends to widen Interstate 95 by adding a lane onto the shoulder near Newark.

Officials also announced plans to add lanes to the ramps at the Delaware 1 interchange and rebuild the Newark toll plaza with high-speed EZ-Pass lanes. The improvements are expected to cost up to $200 million. Work could start in June 2006.

HAWAII

Panel rejects judge’s application

HONOLULU — The state Judicial Selection Commission rejected Circuit Judge Sandra Simms’ application for reappointment to another 10-year term. The commission gave no reason for its decision.

Judge Simms was criticized by former Gov. Ben Cayetano in May 2000 for sentencing a convicted gang rapist to probation and releasing him from jail.

LOUISIANA

Woman banned from French Quarter

NEW ORLEANS — A woman was forbidden to enter the French Quarter for one year after she was convicted of illegally letting her children tap dance for money.

Dione Smith was found guilty of contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile. The three children, ages 5, 6 and 13, made about $150 over several hours.

MINNESOTA

Mayor exonerated for accepting trip

ST. PAUL — Mayor Randy Kelly didn’t violate a gift-ban law covering public officials when he accepted a privately paid trip to Denver for a Minnesota Wild playoff game last year, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled.

The Campaign Finance and Disclosure Board had found Mr. Kelly in violation. The court noted that the City Council approved a resolution accepting the trip on the city’s behalf.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Police union suspends boycott

ROCHESTER — The police union suspended its weeklong boycott of local businesses. The union was hoping a boycott would prompt businesses to pressure the city to settle a police contract dispute.

Many businesspeople criticized the union. The Chamber of Commerce sought an apology, but the union says there’s nothing to be sorry about.

NORTH CAROLINA

Officers face reviews in cheating probe

CHARLOTTE — More than 150 Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers face internal reviews as part of a probe into recruits cheating on academy exams, officials said.

The investigation began when a recruit in the most recent class told supervisors about a computer disk containing the questions and answers to police academy tests.

NORTH DAKOTA

Suspect charged in student’s killing

FARGO — A federal grand jury yesterday charged a convicted sex offender in the kidnapping and death of University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin.

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., 51, appeared in federal court and pleaded not guilty to a charge of kidnapping, resulting in death. If convicted, he could receive the death penalty.

The complaint says the crime involved “torture and serious physical abuse.” Mr. Rodriguez “held her for purposes of sexually assaulting her.”

Neither North Dakota, where Miss Sjodin disappeared in November, nor Minnesota, where her body was found last month, has the death penalty.

Mr. Rodriguez of Crookston, Minn., was arrested in December and has been in custody since on a state kidnapping charge.

OREGON

Bush urged to protect roadless forests

GRANTS PASS — Arguing that protecting forests is good for business, major manufacturers of outdoor gear, including footwear giant Nike, are urging the Bush administration not to open roadless areas of national forests to logging.

Organized by environmental groups, Oregon-based Nike, Adidas, Columbia Sportswear and others sent a letter this week to Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey urging him to retain the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The rule, put in place by the Clinton administration, bars logging on 60 million acres of undeveloped national forest.

The Bush administration has exempted the Tongass National Forest in Alaska from the rule to settle a lawsuit brought by the state and has proposed giving governors power to exempt their states.

WASHINGTON

Court-martial eyed for Guard member

FORT LEWIS — The military began a hearing yesterday to determine whether a member of the Army National Guard should be court-martialed on charges that he tried to assist al Qaeda.

Spc. Ryan G. Anderson, 26, a Muslim convert and member of the Guard’s 81st Armor Brigade, was arrested in February and charged with four counts of attempting to provide information to the terrorist network. The information reportedly involved U.S. troop movement and tactics.

A fifth count disclosed yesterday charges that Spc. Anderson told undercover military personnel: “I wish to desert from the U.S. Army. I wish to defect from the United States. I wish to join al Qaeda, train its members and conduct terrorist attacks.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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