- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 29, 2004

CALIFORNIA

Private rocket has wild ride

MOJAVE — Ignoring a warning to abort the flight, a test pilot took a stubby-looking rocket plane on a corkscrewing, white-knuckle ride past the edge of the atmosphere yesterday, completing the first stage of a quest to win a $10 million prize.

SpaceShipOne rolled dozens of times as it hurtled toward an altitude of 64 miles over the Mojave Desert.

Spaceship designer Burt Rutan said he asked pilot Michael Melvill to shut down the engine, but Mr. Melvill kept going until he reached the altitude specified under the rules for the Ansari X Prize, a bounty offered to the first privately built, manned rocket ship to fly in space twice in two weeks.

GEORGIA

Mom seeks history book ban

FAYETTEVILLE — The mother of an elementary school student wants Georgia’s Board of Education to ban a state history book that says African slaves were brought to America to “help” others.

“It belittles, for me, the experience,” said Michele Mitchell, who is black. “I understand it’s third grade … [but] I had a major issue with the word ‘help.’”

Fayette County schools have been using the 64-page book, “The Story of Our Georgia Community,” for about two years as a supplement to social studies texts. The book, meant for third-grade classes, is approved for use statewide.

ARKANSAS

Clinton confirms first post-surgery speech

LITTLE ROCK — Former President Bill Clinton has confirmed his first public appearance since his heart surgery three weeks ago — a speech at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., on Nov. 9.

Mr. Clinton will appear in Arkansas at the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting on Nov. 16, two days before he opens his presidential library and one week after he fulfills a promise to speak at the New York college.

Mr. Clinton’s appearances settle uncertainty about whether his health would allow him to participate in weeklong celebrations in conjunction with the opening of the library.

The announcement did not address Mr. Clinton’s availability to campaign for presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, which Democrats are hoping he will be able to do.

CONNECTICUT

FBI rounds up mafia suspects

BRIDGEPORT — A dozen persons including a suspected underboss of the Gambino crime family were arrested yesterday after an investigation into organized crime in Connecticut, Rhode Island and suburban New York.

Anthony “The Genius” Megale and 11 others were charged in a 46-count federal indictment with racketeering, extortion and illegal gambling. Two other indictments charges some of the same people with conspiracy and cocaine dealing.

Four of those arrested, including Mr. Megale, are reported to be members of the Gambino family. According to the indictment, Mr. Megale, a Stamford resident also known as “Tony Connecticut,” ran the operation from Fairfield County as an underboss reporting to Gambino bosses.

All 12 defendants were arraigned yesterday afternoon and ordered held without bail pending hearings over the next week in U.S. District Court. None of the defendants entered a plea.

LOUISIANA

Judge indicted in corruption probe

NEW ORLEANS — A long-running probe into corruption in the judicial system in suburban New Orleans resulted yesterday in the indictment of a state judge on federal charges that he took bribes to help a bail-bond company.

State District Judge Alan Green and Norman Bowley, a former executive of Bail Bonds Unlimited, were charged by a grand jury with racketeering, mail fraud and mail-fraud conspiracy.

Mr. Green is the second judge from Jefferson Parish to be indicted as the result of his dealings with Bail Bonds Unlimited owner Louis Marcotte III, who has pleaded guilty to racketeering and is awaiting sentencing. As part of his plea agreement, Marcotte agreed to cooperate with federal authorities.

As the result of a five-year-old investigation nicknamed “Operation Wrinkled Robe,” prosecutors have reported a widespread scheme in which Marcotte and his company gave bribes and gifts to judicial officials and jailers in Jefferson Parish in exchange for preferential treatment for his company.

MISSISSIPPI

Rabbits lure python out of hiding

BAY ST. LOUIS — Baby’s back: Keith Berg’s 17-foot Burmese python came out of hiding after a long weekend.

Baby had been missing since Sept. 23 and reappeared Monday when the smell of rabbits became too much to resist. Mr. Berg used the bunnies as bait.

Baby slithered out from underneath insulation in the attic of Mr. Berg’s apartment building and back into captivity. The snake was being kept in Mr. Berg’s bathroom, but escaped when the door was left ajar.

Dan Maloney, general curator at Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, said because the 110-pound python dines on four rabbits a month, she would be an easy target of instant gratification.

“We usually feed our pythons about once or twice a year,” Mr. Maloney said. “If this animal was fed once a month, then it will probably be looking for food sooner rather than later.”

A new cage for Baby is being built, and Mr. Berg said the snake is moving there as soon as it is completed.

NEVADA

Slaying, suicide under investigation

LAS VEGAS — A man jumped to his death at Hoover Dam early Tuesday, hours after calling police to say he had killed his girlfriend at their hotel on the Las Vegas strip, authorities said.

The 911 caller told police that they could find a woman’s body at a room at the Treasure Island hotel-casino, police Capt. Tom Lozich said. The man, identified as Lawrence Joyce, 34, of New Hampshire, matter-of-factly provided the woman’s Social Security number and her driver’s license information, he said.

Hotel security officials found the woman, identified as Rebecca Roux, 27, of Sanford, Maine. She had been beaten to death, the Clark County coroner’s office said.

OHIO

Court overturns no-fathering order

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Supreme Court yesterday overturned a judge’s order that a man avoid having more children while on probation for failing to pay child support.

The court ruled 5-2 in favor of Sean Talty, saying his sentence was too broad because it did not include a method for lifting the ban if Talty caught up with his child-support payments.

Talty, 32, has seven children by five women. He was required to make “reasonable” efforts to avoid conception during his five-year probation after being convicted of not supporting three of the children.

Providing a procedure for lifting the ban “would have been, at the very least, an easy alternative that would have better-accommodated Talty’s procreation rights,” Chief Justice Thomas Moyer wrote for the court’s majority.

Medina County Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler issued the order, which later was upheld by an appellate court in Akron. The case now returns to Judge Kimbler for resentencing.

SOUTH CAROLINA

House approves bill to save island culture

CHARLESTON — A bill to create a Gullah-Geechee Heritage Corridor and provide $10 million to tell the story of the endangered Sea Island culture along the Southeast coast has been approved by the U.S. House.

The bill introduced by Rep. James E. Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat, was approved by the House on Tuesday, four months after the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed the Gullah-Geechee coast from northern Florida to southeastern North Carolina as one of the nation’s most endangered historic places.

Known as Geechee in Florida and Georgia and Gullah in the Carolinas, the culture originated with West African slaves and remained intact with their descendants because of the isolation of the region’s Sea Islands. Now development is threatening that way of life.

If approved by the Senate, the money would be used to create a nine-member commission to oversee coastal heritage centers.

WASHINGTON

Scientists predict eruption in a few days

SEATTLE — Mount St. Helens began rumbling more intensely yesterday, prompting scientists to warn that a small or moderate eruption could occur in the next few days.

Earthquakes ranging from magnitude 2 to 2.5 were occurring about four times a minute, possibly weakening the lava dome in the crater of the 8,364-foot mountain, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Scientists did not expect anything like the mountain’s devastating eruption in 1980, which killed 57 persons and coated towns 250 miles away with ash. But a small or moderate blast could coat an area three miles around the volcano’s crater with ash and rock, scientists said.

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