- The Washington Times - Friday, October 1, 2004


Billy Graham planning crusade

NEW YORK — Evangelist Billy Graham, 85 and recovering from surgery, is planning what is likely to be his final crusade in New York City, his representatives said yesterday.

Mr. Graham is scheduled to preach for four days in June in Madison Square Garden, reprising his 1957 appearance in the arena, which drew more than 2 million persons and was extended from six to 16 weeks. The crusade next year tentatively has been scheduled for the weekend of June 24.

Tom Phillips, a top crusade organizer with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said it “will probably be the very last crusade in the New York area” for Mr. Graham. Asked whether it could be Mr. Graham’s last crusade ever, Mr. Phillips said: “It’s very possible, but we don’t know that.”


Garden dedicated to nightclub fire victims

PROVIDENCE — More than 100 people gathered Wednesday at Roger Williams Park Zoo to dedicate a butterfly garden to the memories of those killed in the Station nightclub fire and to others affected by the blaze.

The garden, which was set to open to the public yesterday, was designed to be a site for reflection and renewal, state officials said. Organizers say the butterfly symbolizes hope and renewal. The site includes a stone inscribed with a poem about a butterfly that was read by Rhode Island’s first lady, Suzanne Carcieri.

More than 100 people died in the Feb. 20, 2003, blaze.


Surfer takes ride on whale

SAN CLEMENTE — A surfer says the swell he was riding during a recent trip turned out to be more than just a wave — it was a whale.

Spyros Vamvas, a 60-year-old San Clemente therapist, felt the ocean swirl under him and was lifted up by the giant mammal.

“All of a sudden, I just felt, wow, this huge noise and bump,” Mr. Vamvas said, “and it lifted my board up. I’m looking down, and there’s just swirling water and I see barnacles on the back of the whale. I’m used to dolphins. This was different. It was huge.”

Mr. Vamvas had no idea how big the whale was. Others on the beach guessed it was 15 feet to 30 feet long, meaning that the whale was likely a juvenile.

Witnesses said the whale set Mr. Vamvas back onto the water before turning and heading toward the open sea.


Bear invades home of paralyzed man

DENVER — It’s a tale of man against nature. A paralyzed man in Aspen, Colo., lay helplessly in bed for two hours while a black bear known as Fat Albert went through his kitchen breaking dishes and looking for a tasty snack.

“I had 4 pounds of chocolate from a ski trip. He ate it all — it’s war,” Tom Isaac said, recounting with a sense of humor how the 500-pound bear made himself at home at his house on Sept. 20.

“I could hear things breaking for two hours,” he said of the bear’s “visit” to his home. Mr. Isaac’s bedroom was about 10 to 15 feet from the kitchen, and he feared the bear would come in and attack him.

Mr. Isaac, who has been paralyzed since a skiing accident in the early 1980s, says his home has been invaded nearly a half-dozen times by the bear.

“The next afternoon, the wildlife agents found him sleeping in my dining room,” Mr. Isaac said.


Helicopter pilot ticketed for landing

NEW CANAAN — John Kjekstad, hoping to avoid rush-hour traffic on the way home, found a quick but ultimately illegal way to get home — by helicopter.

Mr. Kjekstad, who runs two helicopter and airplane charter companies, had planned to land his helicopter at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey and drive home to New Canaan on Sept. 23.

Mr. Kjekstad told police that on his way to the airport, he saw bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Merritt Parkway and chose to fly directly home instead.

After landing in his back yard, a neighbor complained.

He was issued a $75 ticket for violating a town ordinance prohibiting landing aircraft on residential property, Sgt. Louis Gannon said Tuesday.


Confidential records available online

MIAMI — In another black eye for Florida’s child-welfare agency, officials acknowledged that confidential records for nearly 4,000 abused and neglected children were available on the Internet until this week.

The files were accessible on the Web site of Kids Central, a privately run children’s agency, and included names of children, as well as details such as birth dates, Social Security numbers, photographs, case histories and even directions to foster homes.

The state Department of Children & Families ordered the Web site shut down Wednesday after being alerted by the Miami Herald, said Janice Johnson, chief executive officer of Kids Central.

The agency has been under fire over a series of high-profile child-welfare cases, including the disappearance of 5-year-old foster child Rilya Wilson 15 months before officials realized she was gone. Rilya remains missing.


Woman leaves town $9 million

SOUTH BRISTOL — A Louisiana woman who spent summers in South Bristol has left the town $9 million in her will.

Ann Wilder Stratton, who died July 19 at age 80, visited the family’s home on the S Road into the 1980s. She developed an affection for the people of this small fishing port. Still, townspeople were flabbergasted upon learning that she had bequeathed a third of her $28 million estate to the community.


Acquittal stirs racial anger

LOUISVILLE — Family and friends of a black man killed by a white police detective were angered by the officer’s partial acquittal in the case.

Former Detective McKenzie Mattingly was acquitted Wednesday of murder, manslaughter and reckless homicide charges in the Jan. 3 shooting of Michael Newby, 19, who was shot three times in the back during an undercover drug buy.

“Three bullets in the back ain’t justice,” Leroy Nobles, a former friend of Mr. Newby, said after the verdict was read Wednesday night.

The panel of 10 white and two black jurors returned a partial verdict after more than eight hours of deliberations. The judge declared a mistrial on a separate charge of wanton endangerment after the jury was unable to agree on that count.


School bans debate on gay “marriage”

FORT MILL — Administrators at Fort Mill High School decided to remove homosexual “marriage,” abortion and stem-cell research from the agenda of a planned student debate out of concern that the discussion might clash with a state law on sex education.

Two of the three topics originally were on a list of eight approved by Principal David Damm for use in a student-run debate scheduled for Oct. 19. The debate is intended to mirror the debates between President Bush and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry.

A debate announcement said issues such as education, taxes, jobs, the war in Iraq and faith-based initiatives would be discussed, but “because of South Carolina laws, we cannot discuss such controversial issues as stem-cell research, abortion or homosexual marriages.”

Both Mr. Damm and Superintendent Thomas Dowling said the restriction referred to the state’s health education act, which prohibits health class discussion on abortion and homosexual sex.


Marriage measure to appear on ballot

COLUMBUS — A constitutional amendment that preserves traditional marriage will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot, Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell said this week.

Supporters of the amendment submitted 342,212 signatures, more than enough to qualify the Marriage Protection Amendment for the ballot, Mr. Blackwell said.

The proposed amendment says, “Only a union between one man and one woman” is a valid marriage and forbids the creation or recognition of marriagelike unions for unmarried couples, including same-sex couples.


Park manager charged in fatal fall

SEVIERVILLE — An amusement-park manager was indicted on murder charges on Wednesday in the death of a woman who fell 60 feet from an upside-down ride.

Charles S. Martin, 56, manager of Rockin’ Raceway in Pigeon Forge, was indicted on charges of second-degree murder and reckless homicide in the March fatality, authorities said.

June Alexander, 51, was sitting between her teenage son and her sister on the ride called “The Hawk” when her safety strap loosened as it turned upside down. Witnesses said she hung on for two or three seconds, then fell.

The ride rocks back and forth, going higher each time. It eventually turns upside down.


Hate-crime accuser faces arson charge

McALLEN — Amjad Abunar, the owner of Al Madinah Market who said “Go Home” was spray-painted on his market before a fire gutted it last month, has been arrested and charged with setting fire to his own business.

The graffiti and fire had been cited last week by the Council on American-Islamic Relations as evidence that hate crimes against Muslims were on the rise in Texas.

Representatives of the advocacy group told the New York Times on Wednesday that they were stunned by Mr. Abunar’s arrest on Tuesday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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