- The Washington Times - Friday, April 8, 2005


Anti-terror drills teaching lessons

PISCATAWAY — The body count may be fake, but the implications aren’t.

With a massive counterterror drill in New Jersey and Connecticut nearing its conclusion, federal officials were preparing for a thorough review to pinpoint where things went wrong so they can be corrected.

“There’s no doubt we’re going to learn some things from this,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who was in New Jersey on Wednesday for an inspection.

The five-day “Topoff 3” drill, which began Monday, involves public officials, law enforcement, first responders, hospitals and health care personnel in New Jersey and Connecticut.


Deliveryman need not fear deportation

NEW YORK — Front-page headlines about a deliveryman who spent three days trapped in an elevator drew attention to the China-born worker’s immigration status, but federal officials suggested he had little to fear.

“Getting locked in an elevator for three days doesn’t make you immune to removal proceedings,” said Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Marc A. Raimondi. But top priority, he said, goes to aliens “who pose the greatest threat to public safety and homeland security.”

Ming Kuang Chen’s ordeal ended with his rescue early Tuesday, 80 hours after he vanished while delivering Chinese food to a high-rise Bronx apartment building. News stories said he had entered the country illegally from the Fujian Province in southeastern China.


Musher found guilty of animal cruelty

PALMER — A magistrate found a dog musher guilty of animal cruelty for failing to provide his team with enough food, water or veterinary care last fall.

Magistrate David Zwink fined David Straub $300. In October, animal-control officers seized 28 of Straub’s 32 dogs, describing all of them as dehydrated and some as emaciated to the point that their spines and hip bones showed through their fur.

Ten dogs either died or were euthanized after arriving at the borough’s animal shelter in mid-October, officials told the Anchorage Daily News.

But outside the courthouse after the decision, Straub vowed to rebuild his kennel for next year’s grueling Yukon Quest sled dog race.


Steinbeck hometown won’t shut libraries

SALINAS — The hometown of author John Steinbeck won’t be wiping out its three libraries after all — at least not this year.

A grass-roots fundraising effort has reached its goal of $500,000 to keep Salinas’ three libraries open 26 hours a week through the end of this year, city officials announced Wednesday.

The money poured in from companies, foundations and regular folks once city officials announced a plan last fall to close all three libraries because of budget cuts.

A group called Rally Salinas, led by Mayor Anna Caballero, quickly raised enough money to postpone the closings, getting a publicity boost in February when actor Bill Murray donated his $12,500 in winnings from the 3M Celebrity Challenge golf tournament, the prelude to the A&T; Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

The final boost came in the form of a $75,000 donation from the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, the charity connected with the AT&T; tournament, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.


Senate approves civil unions bill

HARTFORD — The state Senate easily approved a bill that would make Connecticut the first state to recognize civil unions between same-sex couples without being pressured by the courts.

Senators debated for nearly four hours Wednesday before voting 27-9 for the landmark bill, which would give homosexual couples many of the same rights as married couples. Vermont has approved civil unions and Massachusetts has homosexual “marriage,” but the changes came only after lawsuits were brought by same-sex couples.

Proponents say the legislation likely will clear the state House, possibly as early as next week. Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, has not taken a stand on the bill but has said she supports the concept of civil unions.


Security lapses seen in rampage

ATLANTA — A rape defendant accused in a deadly courthouse rampage was able to enter the chambers of the judge slain in the attack and hold the occupants hostage because the door was unlocked and a buzzer entry system was not activated, a sheriff’s report says.

After handcuffing a lawyer, a deputy and an unspecified number of other people, suspect Brian Nichols entered the courtroom where his trial would have resumed later in the day and killed Judge Rowland Barnes and his court reporter, the report says.

The report on the March 11 attack at a downtown courthouse, sections of which were released yesterday after a judge’s order, also says it took a court officer 21 minutes to reach a deputy whom Nichols reportedly overpowered. Nichols reportedly stole a gun from the deputy to start the killing spree. Outside the courthouse, a sheriff’s deputy was killed, and a federal agent was killed elsewhere.

The 15 pages of the report that were released include a timeline of the attack, an incident narrative and an executive summary. Witness statements, which make up the bulk of the report, remained sealed. The sections of the report released do not make recommendations for improving security at the Fulton County Courthouse.


Town’s only resident opens library

OMAHA — One might expect Elsie Eiler to have a lonely existence in Monowi after her husband’s death last year.

She is, after all, the only resident of the town near the South Dakota border.

But Mrs. Eiler has been getting plenty of visitors since opening Rudy’s Library in honor of her late husband, who left behind a collection of thousands of books — from Shakespeare to science fiction to Westerns.

The library’s shelves were bare when Rudy Eiler died of lung cancer in January 2004 at the age of 71. It had been his dream to establish a public library full of books of all kinds — children’s, science fiction, reference and his favorite genre, Westerns.

So with the help of her two children and other relatives, Mrs. Eiler, 71, finished the library last spring. A picture of Mr. Eiler and a sign inside made by the couple’s son, Jack, of nearby Ponca, sum it up: “2004: Rudy’s dream come true.”


Authorities seek gun at Red Lake High

RED LAKE — A healing ceremony after the deadly shooting rampage on the Red Lake Indian Reservation was postponed yesterday as the FBI searched for a gun at the school.

“We have uncorroborated intelligence about the possibility of a gun on the premises of Red Lake High School,” FBI spokesman Paul McCabe said.

Federal agents and Red Lake police searched the building.

The healing ceremony had been planned for today at the school.

Five students, a teacher and a security guard were killed at the school in a March 21 attack by 16-year-old student Jeff Weise, who then killed himself. Weise also killed his grandfather and the man’s girlfriend before going to the school.


Woman pleads guilty in deaths of children

YAZOO CITY — A woman whose children died in a 2003 house fire after she and her sister reportedly left them alone to go to a nightclub pleaded guilty yesterday to four counts of negligent manslaughter.

Clara Bell sobbed during the brief court hearing in which she was given a sentence requiring her to spend two years in prison.

Police say Bell, then 27, and her sister, Eugenia Bell, then 18, left their six children alone the night of Oct. 6, 2003, and went to the Outer Limits nightclub. While they were away, the children became trapped when the wood-frame house went up in flames, killing five.

Eugenia Bell, who was the mother of one of those killed, is scheduled to stand trial later this year on one count of negligent manslaughter.


More Mormons needed for missions

SALT LAKE CITY — Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were urged to increase the number of young men serving as church missionaries during last weekend’s semiannual general conference.

More than 59,000 Mormon missionaries are at work in 339 mission fields around the world, but their ranks have been decreasing in recent years, said M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, which leads the church along with its First Presidency.

Leaders in each of the church’s 26,000 wards and branches were asked to identify at least one more young person for missionary work this year to swell the ranks.

In other talks, both President Gordon B. Hinckley and Dallin Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve lashed out against pornography.


Boys charged in plot to blow up school

CHARLESTON — Two 13-year-old boys have been charged with conspiring to blow up a middle school with materials already on the property.

The boys, both students at Tyler Consolidated Middle School in Middlebourne, were charged with conspiracy of a criminal use of an explosive material. One boy also was charged with possession of a deadly weapon on school premises, Tyler County Prosecutor Dean Rohrig said yesterday.

The boys, who were arrested Wednesday and not identified because of their age, reportedly planned to use chemicals such as those stored in the school’s chemistry lab and other materials on campus.

State Police Trooper C.J. Lantz said other students overheard the boys discussing their plans Wednesday and informed the principal and a Tyler County sheriff’s deputy stationed at the school.

From wire services and staff reports

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