Cruise ship catches fire
FORT LAUDERDALE — A fire broke out yesterday on a gambling cruise ship, sending about 160 people on board scrambling for the top deck, officials said. No one was injured.
The fire on the SunCruz Casino cruise ship was reported in the engine room about a half-hour after it left for a five-hour sail from nearby Hollywood, the Coast Guard said.
The SunCruz V, a 160-foot vessel, was being towed to Port Everglades so the fire could be extinguished.
Police find woman’s remains
BRAINERD — Searchers found the skeletal remains of a woman who disappeared in 2002, authorities said yesterday.
Erika Dalquist, 21, was last seen leaving a Brainerd bar with a man on Oct. 30, 2002. Her remains were found Saturday night on property owned by the grandparents of suspect William Gene Myears, police said.
Prosecutors had charged Mr. Myears, 24, with second-degree manslaughter in Miss Dalquist’s disappearance in January 2003, but dropped the charge two weeks later because of insufficient evidence.
Same-sex services defy state law
PHOENIX — The Rev. Brad Wishon and three other pastors officiated in illegal “weddings” for 40 same-sex couples on Saturday.
The ministers intend to take affidavits confirming the ceremonies to the Superior Court clerk tomorrow as a protest, the Arizona Republic reported. It is an act of civil disobedience timed to coincide with the first legal same-sex “marriage” licenses that will be issued today in Massachusetts.
“Most of my colleagues in the House of Representatives … have a very bigoted view of what a family is,” said state Rep. Wally Straughn, a Phoenix Democrat who attended the services at a hotel.
Teachers suspended over Berg video
LOS ANGELES — Three high school teachers in California have been placed on leave while school officials investigate complaints that images from the beheading of an American captive in Iraq were shown in their classes.
Two cases involved San Diego-area teachers, and a third occurred in the Orange County town of Santa Ana.
In one case, a teacher at Grossmont High reportedly played an audiotape of Nicholas Berg screaming as he was decapitated by Islamist terrorists and showed students photos of the killing downloaded from the Internet. A teacher at nearby El Capitan High reportedly permitted students to view the video after a student downloaded it on a classroom computer.
In Villa Park High in Santa Ana, a teacher was said to have given students the Web site address where they could view the execution video.
“You can watch things about the Holocaust. Why can’t you watch this?” one 14-year-old student told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
New laws help sex-assault victims
ATLANTA — Advocates of rape survivors say they hope two bills passed in this year’s Georgia General Assembly will eliminate what they see as inconsistency, insensitivity and mistakes in the handling of sexual-assault cases.
One of the bills, which will be signed into law today, adds sexual-assault training for law-enforcement officers. The other, signed into law last week, is intended to implement a team approach in serving sexual-assault survivors.
Psalm will remain on city firetruck
MARION — A biblical verse painted on Marion’s new firetruck will remain there despite a complaint from a City Council member, the mayor says.
The firetruck’s side contains part of the 23rd Psalm: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”
“I think a majority of the people have decided that they think it should stay,” Mayor Wayne Seybold said.
Council member Ann Secttor said last month that she objected to the verse being on the truck because she doesn’t think religion should be mixed with government.
“I accomplished what I wanted. I brought attention to it,” she said.
Domestic violence rises again in state
PORTLAND — The number of domestic-violence assaults in Maine increased by more than 11 percent in 2003, state crime data show.
Domestic violence remains Maine’s top cause of murder, resulting in nearly half of the homicides reported in 2003.
There were 5,364 domestic-violence assaults last year, or 11.4 percent more than the 4,813 in 2002, the Portland Press Herald reported.
Missing children found at aunt’s home
PASCAGOULA — Authorities said Saturday that three children missing since May 10 from a baby sitter in Pascagoula wound up “safe and sound” at an aunt’s home in Kosciusko, 225 miles away.
The names of the children — Timothy Carter Jones Jr., 13, Felisha Rose Jones, 11, and Sierra Monique Jones, 9 — were placed on the National Information Center for Missing Children.
They arrived at their aunt’s home Friday.
“They either walked or hitchhiked,” Pascagoula Police Lt. Paul Leonard said. “We don’t know all the details yet. They are all safe and sound.”
Knapsack delays security drill
NEW YORK — A major security exercise in New York was shut down for 20 minutes yesterday when an abandoned knapsack was discovered a few blocks from where the antiterror drill was being staged.
Operation Transit Safe, an exercise involving 21 agencies that tested the city’s response to an explosion in the subway system, resumed after the bomb squad found the knapsack to be harmless.
The four-hour drill involved more than 500 emergency responders and 200 volunteers acting as victims.
Judge rejects beauty queen’s lawsuit
RALEIGH — The lawsuit filed by a former Miss North Carolina against the state pageant organization was thrown out Friday by a judge who said Rebekah Revels had been uncooperative with an arbitrator.
Miss Revels was named Miss North Carolina in June 2002, then stripped of the title when a former boyfriend revealed that he had taken topless photos of her. She sued the state pageant organization in Wake County Superior Court and the former boyfriend, Tosh Welch, in Robeson County.
The complaint against the Miss North Carolina Pageant Organization was first heard by Judge Narley Cashwell, then went into arbitration last year. Miss Revels repeatedly refused to obey an order from arbitrator Conley Ingram to show the photographs to attorneys for the pageant organization.
Mr. Ingram dismissed the case, and Miss Revels asked Judge Cashwell to revive it. He refused in a ruling issued Friday, citing her refusal to obey Mr. Ingram and ordering her to pay a $6,000 arbitration fee and $507.50 to cover the arbitrator’s expenses.
Guard unit prepares for tour in Iraq
ASHLAND CITY — Wayne Culbreth is going to war, finally.
“I’ve been in the military every day of my life I was legally eligible,” said Capt. Culbreth, who joined the Army Reserves two days after his 17th birthday, with his parents’ permission. That was 1988.
Today he is 32 years old, the father of a daughter, with a baby son due in August. He also is one of more than 3,000 Tennesseans who soon will head to Iraq with the state’s largest National Guard unit, the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment.
“It’s hard for people outside the military to understand the drive and desire to be involved in a conflict,” Capt. Culbreth, who leads M Company of the 278th’s 3rd Squadron, told the Nashville Tennessean newspaper.
“It’s not so much that you want to have a war, but if there’s one going on, you don’t want to be sitting on the sidelines.”