- The Washington Times - Monday, May 24, 2004

MINNESOTA

Circus twirler dies after fall

ST. PAUL — A circus performer who fell 30 feet onto a concrete floor during a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus show died from her injuries.

Dessi Espana, 32, was twirling on long chiffon scarves when the silky cloth gave way during Saturday’s performance, witnesses said. She died later that night.

Both police and circus officials said they were investigating, but foul play was not suspected.

Miss Espana was not using a safety harness because of the way she had to move in the performance, and chiffon acts traditionally do not use nets, circus spokesman Mark Riddell said.

NEBRASKA

Rash of tornadoes kills 1

HALLAM — More than a dozen tornadoes swept across southern Nebraska on Saturday, killing at least one person and prompting Gov. Mike Johanns to declare a state of emergency.

Mr. Johanns, a Republican, confirmed the death yesterday before he was taken by military helicopter to tour the town of Hallam, where every home was damaged or destroyed, vehicles were flipped and splintered trees lay in the streets.

Officials did not release details about the death, but Mr. Johanns said no serious injuries were reported.

ALABAMA

Army depot fined for waste

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Department of Environmental Management cited the Anniston Army Depot for improper handling, storage and record keeping of hazardous waste. The agency assessed a $19,950 civil penalty.

The depot removed the hazardous materials and provided records that initially were missing in the inspection.

CALIFORNIA

Dinosaurs to join zoo exhibits

LOS ANGELES — It won’t exactly be “Jurassic Park,” the movie in which scientists used DNA to bring dinosaurs back from extinction. But then, the robotic dinosaurs at the Los Angeles Zoo won’t try to eat the visitors either.

“The idea is to show people what dinosaurs looked like, how they might have moved and to use that to connect them with living animals … whose ancestors are very ancient,” said zoo director John Lewis.

Zoo officials also want to drive home the point that today’s animals could go the way of the dinosaurs unless they’re protected.

The zoo’s Dinosaur Den opens Friday with 18 robotic animals. The robots are powered by computer chips and compressed air, can swing their heads and swish their tails. Their skeletons are made of steel and aluminum and are covered with a pliable substance similar to skin.

FLORIDA

Paralysis study shows improvement

MIAMI — Rats with spinal-cord injuries regained 70 percent of their normal walking function with a three-part treatment hailed as a breakthrough in paralysis research at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

The study at the university’s Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, due to be published today in the June issue of the journal Nature Medicine, produced results “by far greater than what we’ve seen in anything else,” said the principal researcher, Dr. Mary Bartlett Bunge, who declined to speculate when human trials might be attempted.

The Miami study involved hundreds of animals with crushing injuries to the thoracic region of the spinal cord, which mainly causes loss of control of the legs and is the most common form of injury among the 243,000 people in the United States living with spinal-cord injuries, the researchers said.

They transplanted cells known as Schwann cells, from the peripheral nerves where regeneration occurs, to create a bridge across the damaged area of the spinal cord and promote the growth of axons, the nerve fibers that transmit messages.

HAWAII

Officials recognize surfing as sport

WAILUKU — Surf’s up for Hawaii’s high schools. Riding the waves was made an official high school sport last week by the state Board of Education, convening on Maui. The decision whether to have a surfing team will be up to each school.

Before voting 9-0, board members heard about an hour of testimony, mostly in favor of sanctioning the sport.

Despite its history as the birthplace of surfing, Hawaii never had allowed recognized interscholastic high school surfing teams because of concerns over safety, cost and liability.

INDIANA

School drops graduation prayer

AVON — Avon High School dropped plans for a prayer during its graduation ceremony.

Student Laura McGinley enlisted the help of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union to stop the invocation, saying that the school shouldn’t force prayer on others. The invocation wasn’t sponsored by the school.

KANSAS

New licenses look like credit cards

TOPEKA — Kansas driver’s licenses will get a new look — more like credit cards. The current cards are laminated.

People younger than 21 will be issued vertical licenses rather than horizontal ones, making it easier to identify at a glance those who are younger than the legal drinking age.

MASSACHUSETTS

More abuse suits coming, lawyer says

BOSTON — A lawyer who represented dozens of people who said they were sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests says there are at least several dozen more with similar accusations against the Boston Archdiocese.

Carmen Durso is among lawyers trying to determine the magnitude of the latest wave of accusations stemming from the sex scandal that began to engulf the archdiocese in 2002.

Last year, the archdiocese reached an $85 million settlement with more than 550 people who said they were abused by priests. Mr. Durso represented 40 victims in that case.

Mr. Durso told the Associated Press that the new claimants include people who had complained about sex abuse before, but “for one paperwork reason or other” missed a deadline to join the earlier settlement.

MICHIGAN

Hospitals let dogs visit their owners

DEARBORN — Feeling sick as a dog? Patients at some Michigan hospitals might get comfort and a speedier recovery with a visit from their pooch.

“We had a patient who kept saying she missed her pet so much,” said Gail Daly, director of the Clinical Ethics Center at Oakwood Hospital and Medical Center. “So we arranged for her dog to visit. It was a wonderful thing.”

The suburban Detroit hospital last year conducted a test program allowing patients to be visited by their dogs and cats. The program has been expanded to Oakwood Healthcare System’s four hospitals and will run until April.

The visits are meant to make patients feel at home with the comfort of their dog or cat at their side. Oakwood staffers say pets have proven medical benefits for patients, including decreasing blood pressure, anxiety and pain.

MISSOURI

Elephant couple expects a baby

ST. LOUIS — It was Elephant Love at first sight for Raja and Sri, and now the St. Louis Zoo couple is expecting a baby.

Raja, who was born at the zoo 11 years ago, and 23-year-old newcomer Sri are expecting their firstborn in October or November of 2005.

Tests indicate that Sri (pronounced See) is four months pregnant; elephants carry their calves for a term of 20 to 22 months.

Zoo staff is monitoring Sri’s diet of hay and produce and will devise an exercise plan for the winter months. She will continue to roam her yard with friends Donna, Ellie and Rani. As for Raja, in typical bull form, he sticks to himself.

NEVADA

Insurance man indicted in threat

RENO — An insurance broker has been indicted on charges that he sent an e-mail threatening to harm members of an Islamic civil rights group in retaliation for terrorist attacks on Americans.

The e-mail reportedly warned: “You have taught us much about terrorism so get ready to be the receiver.”

A grand jury in Reno indicted Dale T. Ehrgott on March 3 on a charge of transmitting a threat in interstate commerce, U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said Friday. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison.

Mr. Ehrgott said he meant no harm in the e-mail last August to the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations.

NEW JERSEY

Baby dies after being left in car

LAKEWOOD — A 7-month-old boy was found dead in his car seat last week, after he was accidentally left inside a vehicle for several hours, authorities said. The baby’s father was arrested.

Aryeh Katzman, 25, of Lakewood, had placed his son, Chaim, in the car at their home early Thursday and apparently forgot about him when he left the vehicle at another address, said Detective Capt. Robert Lawson, a Lakewood police spokesman.

It was not clear how long the baby had been in the car, but Capt. Lawson said the child apparently had been dead for some time when he was found about 2 p.m. Temperatures in the area had risen only to the mid-60s by the afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

“It wasn’t a very warm day, but being in the car for some time and with the sun bearing down, it became very hot in the vehicle,” Capt. Lawson said.

NEW MEXICO

Task force planned for gay students

SILVER CITY — The Silver City school board voted to establish a task force that will research ways to make schools safer for homosexual students.

Members of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays told the board those students face harassment in the school district.

NORTH CAROLINA

Billy Graham begins post-surgery rehab

ASHEVILLE — Evangelist Billy Graham has begun rehabilitative treatment after surgery to brace a pelvic fracture that he suffered in a fall, hospital officials said Friday.

Surgeons at Mission Hospitals in Asheville said orthopedic implants will hold the socket of Mr. Graham’s hip joint in place while he heals. The 85-year-old preacher underwent surgery on Thursday and remained in fair condition.

Mr. Graham’s injury stemmed from a fall at his Montreat home two weeks ago. On Friday, hospital spokeswoman Merrell Gregory said he was doing well and started his rehabilitation program as planned.

OHIO

Deer crashes through window

FOSTORIA — A deer crashed through a window at a nursing home last week, creating havoc and injuring two of its residents and three of its employees.

Police said the deer broke through the window leading to a conference room at the Good Shepherd Home. Chris Widman, executive director of the home, said the deer then ran down a hallway to the nurse’s station.

From there, the animal entered the rooms of three residents and then ran to the home’s assisted-living wing, where employees trapped it in a lounge area, the executive director said. Police officers and firefighters threw a sheet over the frightened animal’s head and led it outside, according to the Toledo Blade.

PENNSYLVANIA

Report says robber faced bomb threat

ERIE — A pizza deliveryman who robbed a bank, then was killed by a bomb fastened around his neck, was told he had just 55 minutes to disarm the explosive, according to details from a coroner’s report.

Brian Wells, 46, died shortly after the Aug. 28 robbery. He told police who apprehended him that he had been forced to rob the bank by someone who locked the collar bomb around his neck.

Authorities surrounded Mr. Wells and were waiting for a bomb squad to arrive when the device detonated.

The report by the Erie County Coroner’s Office includes previously unreleased details about the crime, the Erie Times-News reported in yesterday’s editions.

“The subject was given 55 minutes to rob the bank and follow the remainder of the written directions, which included an elaborate scheme of traveling from one location to another to find additional instructions on what action to perform next, where to leave the money he had stolen and how to safely disarm the explosive device in order to save his life,” the report said.

UTAH

ACLU appeals church ruling

SALT LAKE CITY — The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah is appealing a federal judge’s ruling that upheld a land swap the Mormon church and the city engineered to allow the church to control speech and behavior on a block of Main Street.

The ACLU on Friday filed its intention to take the case to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The ACLU is challenging the constitutionality of a deal in which Salt Lake City relinquished its easement on the street block next to the church’s temple in exchange for church-owned land elsewhere in the city.

ACLU of Utah Executive Director Dani Eyer said Judge Dale Kimball focused on private-property law without giving full consideration to First Amendment free-speech and religion provisions at the core of its challenge to the land swap.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints purchased the block in 1999 for $8.1 million. The original agreement had provided for the public easement, but the church was to have had control over speech and behavior. The 10th Circuit in October 2002 ruled the city could not give up the public’s speech rights on a public easement.

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