- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2004


Roads flooded, motorists rescued

KANSAS CITY — Heavy rain flooded roads and highways in the Kansas City area early yesterday, and emergency crews rescued several people from vehicles stranded in high water.

Officials urged commuters to delay their drives into downtown for at least a half-hour because of the flooding. The downtown airport received almost 4 inches of rain in about three hours early yesterday. For the 24-hour period ending at 7 a.m., the rainfall there totaled 4.74 inches, while the larger Kansas City International Airport, farther to the north, had 1.82 inches.

The fire department made 32 rescues after high water stranded motorists.


Firefighters accused of torching home

PHOENIX — Two firefighters and a former firefighter were arrested, accused of setting a blaze that destroyed a newly built $1.5 million suburban home, authorities said Tuesday.

The three torched the 10,000-square-foot home on Dec. 20 at the behest of a suburban firefighter who ran a construction business as a second job, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Tuesday. The house was nearing completion when it was destroyed.

Sheriff Arpaio said the three men might have received money for the arson.

The contractor conspired with the men because the homeowners had not paid him in full, Sheriff Arpaio said. He has not been arrested, the sheriff said.


Dog survives fall, 35 days in pit

TEMECULA — This Shadow knows. How to survive 35 days in a 30-foot-deep pit in the desert, that is.

Stephen Schwartz, 17, was hiking with his brother, father and two cousins April 18 near the ghost town of Panamint City on the western edge of Death Valley National Park when their dog, Shadow, fell into the pit. Thinking the 10-year-old cocker spaniel-beagle mix was dead, the Schwartzes said a prayer and returned home. But Shadow was very much alive, surviving on water at the bottom of the hole.

On Sunday, brothers Scott and Darren Mertz were searching for the source of a spring near Panamint City when they stumbled on the 4-foot-wide pit. Stopping to rest, the brothers tossed rocks into the pit and dared each other to climb inside. Then they heard barking.

Using an old hose from a nearby water-storage tank, Darren, 34, lowered his brother into the hole to the dog. Scott, 36, managed to grab a frightened and skinny Shadow, and his brother hauled them back up.


Air Force radios keep garage doors shut

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE — A new military two-way radio system is keeping garage doors shut in communities near this Florida Panhandle base, and residents may have to change the frequencies on their remote-controlled opening devices to make them work.

Homeowners in the Niceville, Valparaiso and the Crestview areas reported jammed garage-door openers during recent testing of the new $5.5 million system at Eglin.

Air Force officials Tuesday said the contractor, Motorola, will try to minimize the problem, but they offered no guarantees.

Federal Communications Commission spokeswoman Lauren Van Wazer said the Air Force has been running the system within its licensed frequencies, so users of garage-door openers may have to change theirs.


Tasmanian devil dies at children’s zoo

FORT WAYNE — The only Tasmanian devil you’ll find left in the United States is in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

The last of the Tasmanian devils known to be living outside their native Australia died Tuesday at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, zoo officials said.

Zookeepers learned last month that the 71/2-year-old marsupial named Coolah had inoperable cancer.

The Fort Wayne zoo, citing records maintained by the International Species Inventory System, said that Coolah was the last of the animals outside Australia since the death in August of a female Tasmanian devil at the San Diego Zoo.

The Australian government no longer allows the animals to be exported, and attempts to breed them in captivity have not been successful, the zoo said.


State Web site lists healthy recipes

BATON ROUGE — Cajun gourmets battling expanding waistlines can now check the state health department Web site for healthier versions of classic recipes.

The “leaux-fat” cooking site is part of an effort to lower the state’s obesity rates. With Louisiana’s rich history of culinary indulgence, that’s a tough fight, said Health Secretary Fred Cerise.


Carpenter dies in nail-gun accident

PLYMOUTH — A carpenter driving nails with a high-powered nail gun died after one pierced his heart.

Raymond L. Tassinari, 22, was using an air-powered nail gun at a job site Monday when one nail “just took a wrong turn,” his father, also named Raymond, said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating.

In April, a construction worker in Los Angeles had six nails driven into his head in an accident with a high-powered nail gun. Doctors expect him to recover fully.


Officials back extension of monument road

ALBUQUERQUE — City councilors narrowly passed a resolution supporting the extension of a major thoroughfare through part of the Petroglyph National Monument. The council adopted a resolution in favor of the $12 million road.

Voters last year rejected a $52 million street bond issue that included money for it. Several American Indian tribes consider the area sacred.


Nichols case scientist lied, witness testifies

McALESTER — A government scientist lied when he claimed that ammonium nitrate crystals found on Oklahoma City bombing debris had been embedded by the force of the blast, an FBI whistleblower testified yesterday at bombing conspirator Terry Nichols’ state murder trial.

Frederic Whitehurst, testifying for the defense, said an FBI forensic scientist he trained himself, Steven Burmeister, also lied when he testified that the crystals came from the kind of fertilizer believed to have been used in the bombing. Mr. Whitehurst said there was not enough evidence to support either of Mr. Burmeister’s conclusions.

The bomb destroyed the Oklahoma City federal building April 19, 1995, killing 168 persons.


Shopping mall offers mural for free

PHILADELPHIA — A shopping mall in Center City says it no longer wants a 75-foot-long, 8-foot-high mural that has been displayed for the past 20 years.

Larry Rivers’ mural, “Philadelphia Now and Then,” is being offered for free, as long as it will be displayed in a public space. Mr. Rivers, a noted American pop-art painter and sculptor, died in New York two years ago.


TVA approves changes in reservoir operations

KNOXVILLE — Tennessee Valley Authority directors approved a plan yesterday to selectively raise lake levels for recreation and navigation along the 652-mile Tennessee River system from North Carolina to Kentucky.

“We have adopted what we believe is the optimum balance of the competing demands on the river system. And that is a very difficult and delicate balance to strike,” TVA director Bill Baxter said in a telephone interview from Oxford, Miss., where the three-member board met yesterday.

Lake communities and recreational users have urged the TVA to keep water levels higher in late summer and during the winter.

The new policy, recommended in a two-year, $11 million study, will effectively push back the start of summer drawdowns by a month, from Aug. 1 to Labor Day. It also will reduce the dramatic seasonal changes for tributary lakes.

The new approach begins June 1 and effects 35 of TVA’s 49 dams and lakes, Mr. Baxter said.


Mentally ill killer put to death

HUNTSVILLE — A mentally ill killer was executed Tuesday evening after Republican Gov. Rick Perry rejected a parole board’s highly unusual recommendation to commute his death sentence or delay the execution.

Kelsey Patterson, 50, also lost an appeal to the Supreme Court in the hour before he was put to death.

A diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, Patterson was condemned for a double slaying almost 12 years ago. His lethal injection renewed the legal quandary of whether it is proper to execute someone who is mentally ill when the Supreme Court says it is unconstitutional to execute someone who is mentally retarded.

Strapped to the death chamber gurney, Patterson mumbled, “No kin, no kin, no kin. I’m not guilty of a charge of capital murder. Give me my rights. I’m acquitted of capital murder.”

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