- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 1, 2004


Farmer creates cornfield maze of U.S.

AUTAUGAVILLE — Ted Johnson has cut a maze in the shape of the continental United States into a 12-acre cornfield on his farm, hoping to educate schoolchildren about America’s geography and the role farming plays in modern life.

“I wanted to make something where the children, and adults, too, could learn something,” the Autauga County farmer said.

The state lines serve as pathways in the maze at River Bottom Farms and River Bottom Bed and Breakfast. In each of the 48 contiguous states is an area where a metal stake displays information about the state: a picture of its flag, its capital, its nickname, the state bird and the date the state entered the union.


Accused kidnapper found competent

SALT LAKE CITY — A judge yesterday found a homeless man competent to stand trial in the kidnapping of teenager Elizabeth Smart, after the man’s attorneys decided not to contest the issue, swiftly ending what had been expected to be a three-day hearing.

Brian Mitchell, 50, and his wife, Wanda Barzee, 58, are charged with kidnapping Elizabeth from her bedroom at knifepoint in 2002, and keeping her for nine months. She was 14 when she was abducted.

Mr. Mitchell reportedly was motivated to detain Elizabeth by a “revelation from God,” according to court documents. Authorities say Mr. Mitchell had written a rambling manifesto on the virtues of polygamy and might have taken the teen to make her his second wife.


High test scores lead to free tuition

TUCSON — The Arizona Board of Regents authorized the state’s three public universities to award free tuition to high school students who score high on the state’s graduation test.

High school juniors must exceed expectations in math, reading and writing or exceed standards on two and meet standards on the third. Students also would have to meet existing honors endorsement criteria.


Ban on smoking set for forest

SANTA BARBARA — Bone-dry conditions are bringing additional restrictions for visitors to Los Padres National Forest, including a smoking ban. Starting today, fires or stoves fueled by gas or jellied fuel also will be banned except in designated campsites.

Wildfire dangers make restrictions necessary because moisture levels are down to 56 percent, below the critical 60 percent level.


Judge upholdstelemarketing law

DENVER — A federal judge upheld Colorado’s no-call law that bars telemarketers from phoning residents whose numbers appear on a state list.

Colorado Citizens for Free Speech, a group headed by mortgage-company owner Jeffrey Burke, argued that the law was an unconstitutional regulation of commercial speech. Telemarketers can be fined as much as $2,000 for each unwanted phone call.


DNA evidence clears man of rape

DECATUR — A man who spent 17 years in prison for the 1986 rape, kidnapping and robbery of a hospital worker was freed yesterday after DNA evidence cleared him.

Clarence Harrison, 44, was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 on charges of sexually assaulting the woman as she waited for a bus. A new DNA test of the rape kit used as evidence in the case showed that Mr. Harrison did not commit the rape.

A motion for a new trial was filed on Mr. Harrison’s behalf last week by lawyers from the Georgia Innocence Project, and DeKalb County prosecutors did not object.

Judge Cynthia Becker granted the request yesterday — and then dismissed the charges.

Mr. Harrison wouldn’t say whether he would seek compensation for the time he spent in prison, but he said he wasn’t bitter. His friends said he wants to focus on finding a job and getting married before considering his next legal step.


State honors Bronx Bombers

HONOLULU — Today is New York Yankees Day in … Hawaii?

Attorney General Mark Bennett, a New York City native who has lived in the islands for 25 years, took advantage of his being acting governor this week to give his favorite baseball team some recognition.

Mr. Bennett is at the helm while Gov. Linda Lingle and Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona attend the Republican National Convention in — where else? — New York City.

Mr. Bennett said Monday that he signed a proclamation declaring Sept. 1 in honor of the Bronx Bombers and sent a copy to the Yankees.

In putting together the proclamation, Mr. Bennett said he learned that Hawaii, which has no professional baseball team, does have an important historical connection to the game.

Alexander Cartwright, who is credited with defining baseball’s rules, moved to Hawaii in the mid-1800s and became Honolulu’s first fire chief. A neighborhood baseball field in Makiki is named for Cartwright, who died here in 1892.


Woman skydives for 93rd birthday

CALDWELL — A woman who has six children, 35 grandchildren, 75 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great-grandchildren jumped from an airplane to celebrate her 93rd birthday.

“Because it’s a new adventure,” explained Luree Kohtz, of Burley.

After seeing a videotape of her great-granddaughter doing the same thing, Mrs. Kohtz set her mind to skydive in Caldwell. Her age wasn’t a concern, she said. Thirteen cars full of family and friends watched the jump on Saturday.

Age hasn’t slowed Mrs. Kohtz, who celebrated her 91st birthday by riding the automated bucking bronco at the Cassia County Fair. Mrs. Kohtz is tight-lipped about plans for her next birthday.

“I’ll have to wait and see if I have one,” she said.


Bars extend hours in college town

LEXINGTON — University of Kentucky students returned to town last week to find longer drinking hours at bars. Lexington bar hours were extended Aug. 1 from 1 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.

Students praised the change, but school administrators and police expressed caution. The university remains a dry campus, and there isn’t an off-campus drinking policy, a school official said.


Comet pioneer Whipple dies

CAMBRIDGE — Fred L. Whipple, a pioneer in astronomy who proposed the “dirty snowball” theory for the substance of comets, has died. He was 97.

Mr. Whipple died Monday at a Cambridge hospital, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said yesterday. The astronomer proposed the theory in 1950, saying that comets consisted of ice mixed with rock, rather than sand held together by gravity, as was widely thought.

Mr. Whipple theorized that as a comet approached the sun, its light vaporized ice in the comet’s nucleus. The jets of particles that resulted acted like a rocket engine that either slowed or accelerated the comet.

His theories were proved correct in 1986 by close-up photographs of Halley’s comet by the European Space Agency’s Giotto spacecraft.


Sales tax collection made easier

LANSING — To improve the collection of the state sales tax on Internet and catalog purchases, Michigan made changes to its tax code in line with other states participating in the effort.

The changes, which take effect today, affect items that had been tax-free but now will have the 6 percent tax applied. The effort is supposed to make it more appealing for businesses to collect state taxes.


Memorial service set for fire victims

OXFORD — The University of Mississippi will hold a memorial service tomorrow to honor three victims of Alpha Tau Omega house fire last week and seven other students who have died since May.

The 7 p.m. service will be held at Tad Smith Coliseum.

“In a very painful and tragic summer, we have lost 10 students,” Chancellor Robert Khayat said. “We need the opportunity to gather the entire Ole Miss family to remember those we have lost and to draw strength from each other, in our various faiths and in the special nature of Ole Miss.”

The official cause of the fire is still undetermined, pending the outcome of tests on evidence taken from the fire scene as well as further interviews, said Mark Chait, special agent in charge of the New Orleans office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.


Doctor surrenders in mercy-killing case

VIRGINIA CITY — A suspended medical doctor has surrendered on a charge of murder in the mercy killing of an 85-year-old woman.

James Bischoff, 46, a former Ennis doctor, also faces three felony drug counts.

Dr. Bischoff turned himself in Monday and was held in jail pending an initial appearance before a Madison County justice of the peace yesterday.

He was charged Friday with killing Kathryn Dvarishkis, who died at the Madison Valley Hospital on July 16, 2000. Dr. Bischoff is accused of giving her shots of the drugs Fentanyl and Verced to stop her heart.

Mrs. Dvarishkis had suffered a heart attack and had Alzheimer’s disease, Madison County Attorney Bob Zenker said in court records. Dr. Bischoff was giving her morphine to treat her pain, but switched to the other drugs with the intent of ending her life, Mr. Zenker said.


Struggling city gets gift of toilet paper

YORK — York, a city struggling with its finances, has received a most practical gift.

An unknown donor dropped off a case of toilet paper at City Hall on Sunday. The gesture was in response to a comment made by York Councilman William Lee Smallwood, who wondered how the cash-strapped city would close a $25 million deficit in the police and fire pensions.

“We can’t even afford toilet paper,” Mr. Smallwood said.

Mayor John Brenner said the toilet paper was left at City Hall with a note from “a friend.”

“It is amazing someone took it upon themselves to turn this into a practical joke,” the mayor said Monday.

The toilet paper was given to the public-works department to be doled out, he said.

“What do you think we are going to do with it — decorate the trees? Of course we will use it,” Mr. Brenner said.


Baker undergoes heart surgery

KNOXVILLE — Howard Baker, the former Senate majority leader now serving as U.S. ambassador to Japan, underwent open-heart surgery on Monday.

Mr. Baker, 78, was recovering at Baptist Hospital of East Tennessee after double bypass and valve-replacement surgery, his doctor said.

The operation came after a routine checkup on Friday, when “irregularities” in Mr. Baker’s heart were detected, hospital officials said.

The Tennessee Republican was expected to go home by the end of the week and return to his post in Japan by October.

Mr. Baker served three terms in the Senate, rising to national prominence in 1973 as vice chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee investigating the scandal that ended Richard M. Nixon’s presidency.


Toddler dies in hot car

BROWNSVILLE — Authorities said miscommunication between two sisters may have led to the death of an 18-month-old girl who was left in a hot car for about two hours.

Jasmine Morin died of heat exhaustion on Saturday afternoon after her aunt, 17-year-old Ana Lopez, left the child in the car with the windows closed, police said.

Police said Jasmine was in the car when Ana Lopez dropped off the child’s mother, Blanca Lopez, 24, at work.

“The mother indicates she told the aunt the child was in the back seat, but [the aunt] didn’t hear that,” Lt. James Paschall said in yesterday’s editions of the Brownsville Herald. “There was some miscommunication there.”

Jasmine was found in the back seat of the car by relatives.

Ana Lopez has been charged with felony abandonment of a child and is being held on a $20,000 bail.


Priest announces he was abused

BOTHELL — A Roman Catholic priest shocked parishioners when he announced that he was sexually abused by a priest as a boy and would resign rather than undergo a church-ordered psychological assessment.

The Rev. Lawrence Minder made the statement during three Masses on Saturday and Sunday at St. Brendan Catholic Church in the Seattle suburb of Bothell.

“There was an audible gasp at the Sunday Mass; there was spontaneous crying at the Saturday Mass,” said parishioner Richard Foudray. “People were devastated.”

Those in attendance said Father Minder, 43, announced that a priest sexually abused him about 30 years ago and that the church kept him on assignment after Father Minder reported what had happened.

Father Minder said he would reject a request by the Archdiocese of Seattle to undergo a psychological assessment and instead would resign, witnesses said.

Father Minder neither named the priest nor said where he was at the time he was abused.

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