- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 18, 2004


Mineta rides new streetcar line

NEW ORLEANS — Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta visited New Orleans yesterday to see the results of federal investment in the Canal Street line — a project that revitalized streetcar service after a 40-year absence in the city.

“This is truly a significant accomplishment,” Mr. Mineta told streetcar employees after his ride. “The Canal Street line has proven its value and is a solid investment for the federal government.”

The Department of Transportation provided $129 million to help restore streetcar service on Canal Street from the Mississippi River to the cemeteries, with a spur line to City Park. Service began April 18. A grand opening is scheduled for May 29.


Adults line up for dodgeball

PORTLAND — If you were one of those kids who never got picked for the dodgeball team, you get a second chance.

The grade school game is now hot among young adults.

“It’s high-energy; you don’t stop moving,” said Colleen Finn, who founded the Portland adult dodgeball league this year.

Men and women are turning dodgeball into a recreational sport, with pickup games and championship tournaments.

Miss Finn said that word of the dodgeball league quickly spread, and in less than two weeks, she had eight teams.


Lawmakers approve rise in cigarette tax

MONTGOMERY — The Legislature approved a 26-cents-a-pack increase in the state cigarette tax. The tax boosts Alabama’s total tax from 16.5 cents a pack to 42.5 cents, and doubles the state tax on all other tobacco products.

The vote gives Alabama the second highest cigarette tax in the Southeast behind Arkansas. The new tax will cost a pack-a-day smoker an extra $94.90 annually.


Stradivarius cello found in trash bin

LOS ANGELES — A Stradivarius cello worth $3.5 million was found in a trash bin after being stolen from the home of a player in the Los Angeles Philharmonic, police said yesterday.

The 320-year-old cello, one of only 60 made by legendary master craftsman Antonio Stradivari in existence, narrowly escaped being turned into a compact disc rack, a report said.

The cello was stolen from the porch of a Philharmonic musician last month after he left it outside overnight. It was spotted three days later in a trash container on a Los Angeles street by a 29-year-old woman who rescued the precious instrument, dubbed the “General Kyd.”


Children left alone at day care home

WILMINGTON — A home day care operator put on probation three years ago was charged with child endangerment and accused of abandoning seven children in her care.

Police said Elsie Mae Robertson, 61, of Wilmington, left seven infants and toddlers alone in her home for 45 minutes, including one girl bound in a car seat with nylon stockings.

The children, ages 10 months to 3 years, were not injured.

Miss Robertson was charged Monday with seven counts of endangering the welfare of a child. She was released on $7,000 bail and is scheduled for arraignment June 9 in Family Court.


Prescription use down when co-payments rise

CHICAGO — Sharp increases in out-of-pocket prescription drug payments could cause people to cut use of medications for chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes and might lead to more costly medical problems, a study released yesterday said.

Doubling co-payments, the amount paid by patients, was linked to reduced use of eight types of drugs for problems such as asthma, depression and allergies, said a study by a unit of the nonprofit Rand Corp.

Spending on outpatient prescription drugs, along with hospital and doctor costs, is rising at several times the rate of inflation.

To cut spending on drugs, insurance companies raised co-payments, had patients order prescriptions by mail and insisted that patients take lower-priced generic drugs.


Immigrants affect suburbs’ services

WINDHAM — An influx of immigrant families to Maine’s suburbs could change the way towns offer social programs and services, officials said.

Immigrants and refugee families traditionally begin their lives in Maine in urban areas with social services such as Portland and Lewiston. But after a transition, many look to outlying communities to start a home and settle their families.


Mail suspended at housing project

BOSTON — Postal officials suspended mail delivery at a public housing complex yesterday because of shootings in the neighborhood.

“The customers are inconvenienced, and we feel very bad,” Postal Service spokesman Bob Cannon said. “Our carriers are not naive, but when bullets are flying around, it’s time to take drastic steps.”

Tenants at the Bromley-Heath housing development were told to pick up their mail at a nearby post office until further notice.

A shooting on Monday frightened two mail carriers.


Former hostage undergoes surgery

MACON — Former Iraqi hostage Thomas Hamill was recovering at home after a skin graft operation on his injured right arm, his wife said.

The surgery took place Monday at a hospital in Columbus, about 30 miles north of Mr. Hamill’s hometown of Macon. Doctors removed skin from his leg and attached it to his injured arm.

“He’s doing fine,” Kellie Hamill said. “Just sleeping now. He said he was feeling well.”

Mr. Hamill, 44, a truck driver for the Houston-based Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root, was wounded in his right arm and captured when his convoy was ambushed April 9. He escaped May 2 from a farmhouse about 50 miles north of Baghdad and ran a half-mile to a patrol of U.S. military vehicles.


Blind man, 72, earns college degree

ST. LOUIS — The fact that Bob Brophy never made it through high school makes him all the more proud that he now has a college degree.

How he did that — with perfect grades — has his grandson and class in awe.

“It takes a lot to get a 4.0 in college. I’m sure it’s even tougher when you’re 72 and blind,” Jason White, 21, said Saturday, hours after graduating with his grandfather from Jefferson College in Hillsboro, south of St. Louis.

Mr. Brophy was about 10 when his vision began failing him. Within years, a juvenile form of macular degeneration had stolen his eyesight, prompting him to abandon high school after his sophomore year.

Years ago, he found computer software that could read back words he typed, giving him access to printed materials he didn’t have before. Another program read back pages he scanned into the computer.

Mr. Brophy received an associate degree in liberal arts and a degree for his honors work.


Hiking mothers challenge Boy Scouts

OMAHA — Several middle-age mothers are challenging Omaha-area Boys Scouts to keep up with them. The women plan to walk more than 70 miles of Omaha-area hiking trails over a three-day period.

The project is intended to encourage area Scouts and their families to get moving. Scout troops are encouraged to walk, bicycle or skate with the women.


Bill would parole incapacitated cons

CONCORD — Lawmakers reached a compromise on a bill authorizing the prison system to parole inmates who are medically incapacitated.

Officials hope to save money by releasing one or two inmates a year and placing them in nursing homes or other institutions where they will qualify for Medicaid.


Injured zoo visitor banned for life

ALBUQUERQUE — A frequent zoo visitor whose bitten-off finger was found outside a jaguar exhibit has been banned from the Rio Grande Zoo for life.

A groundskeeper spotted the man running into a zoo restroom last week with blood on his pants, zoo Director Ray Darnell said Friday. The groundskeeper followed the man to ask if he was OK, but the man turned and fled.

The finger was found May 12 outside the cage of the jaguar, Manchas.

The man, whose name was not released, had a New Mexico Zoological Society pass, which enabled officials to track him down. Police went to the man’s house and confirmed he was the right person.

He was banned because “you just can’t take the risk,” Mr. Darnell said.


Cemetery workers dig wrong grave

DURHAM — As mourners turned away from Oak Grove Memorial Gardens early last week, one of the deceased’s relatives noticed something strange. The hole where Audrey McDonald’s casket was about to be lowered was two or three graves away from the headstone bearing her name.

Family members waited in the heat for more than two hours while cemetery employees dug a new grave, moved the vault and casket and buried her in the correct plot.


Boy pleads guilty in school bus beating

LONDON — A high school student pleaded guilty to charges he punched a younger boy at least 27 times on a school bus in an attack videotaped by an on-board security camera.

Detectives said the younger boy had been mocking Terrance Mahoney’s laugh.

Terrance, 17, pleaded guilty Monday to a juvenile delinquency charge equivalent to assault. He could be sent to a juvenile detention center and held until he is 21. No sentencing date was set.

Terrance can be seen on the tape striking 14-year-old Chad DeBoard on March 31. The younger boy suffered a concussion and a broken eye socket.


Baptists to consider resolutions on schools

NASHVILLE — Two conflicting resolutions, one supporting public schools and the other condemning them, have been submitted to the Southern Baptist Convention for its meeting next month.

The Rev. Jim West of First Baptist Church in Petros, a small town about 30 miles west of Knoxville, introduced the pro-public school resolution.

Mr. West’s proposal comes in response to a resolution co-authored by conservative Baptist leader T.C. Pinckney that calls public schools “godless” and “anti-Christian” and recommends parents remove their children. The resolution, co-authored by Texas lawyer Bruce Shortt, urges parents to teach their children at home or send them to Christian schools.

Both proposals have been submitted to the convention’s 10-member Resolutions Committee, which will decide whether to present them for a vote when the convention meets June 15-16 in Indianapolis.


Student hospitalized after drinking chemical

ODESSA — A student who drank a chemical from his high school lab on a dare was recovering in a hospital.

The student drank the unidentified chemical on a bet at the school, said Nancy Smith, a supervisor at University Medical Center in Lubbock.

“We need to find out what it was from the toxicologist,” Assistant Principal Ray Lascano said. “All of those materials belonged to one of the chemistry labs.”

The student was found May 12 in a school hallway. He was bleeding from the nose and mouth.

The unidentified student, a junior at Odessa High School, was upgraded Monday from critical to satisfactory condition at the hospital. Mr. Lascano, who talked with the youth’s mother Monday afternoon, said swelling in his throat had receded enough for him to talk.

Mr. Lascano said Ector County Independent School District officials were investigating.


Libraries urged to install porn filters

SALT LAKE CITY — The organization Communities for Decency wants the City Council to force the city’s library system to install pornography filters on its public computers.

Library officials said they are seeking public comment about filters. “The fact is you can get around filters very easily, and all these kids know how to do it,” Library Board Chairman Roger Sandack said. “It’s as simple as two strokes on the computer.”


Messy eaters face napkin rationing

MILWAUKEE — Messy eaters, beware: Fierce competition for fast-food dollars has some restaurants taking an extraordinary measure to cut the bottom line — napkin rationing.

Paper napkins are being hidden behind counters, wrapped individually with plastic utensils or stuffed in dispensers that give customers one at a time.

“You should be able to grab as many as you want,” said Tim Machak, a father with a sticky situation: four young children, four ice-cream cones and two napkins.

Mr. Machak said he was insulted that he had to ask employees behind the counter at McDonald’s for more napkins.

Rising food and paper prices have prompted restaurateurs to look for ways to cut costs.

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