- The Washington Times - Monday, August 22, 2005

CALIFORNIA

Spy planes tested to fight wildfires

LOS ANGELES — Firefighters are getting a high-tech ally in their battle against wildfires: a remote-controlled spy plane that doesn’t mind smoke, can see in the dark and never sleeps.

Scientists have been testing whether such planes — similar to the spy drones the U.S. military flies over Iraq and Afghanistan — can help track the direction and behavior of fast-moving flames without putting firefighters in harm’s way.

The U.S. Forest Service conducted experimental flights of three unmanned aerial vehicles this summer, and plans to launch the first real-life deployment in the spring.



“Unmanned aircraft have the capability to do what we call the 3-D missions — the dull, dark and dangerous missions where you don’t want to put a pilot on,” said Vince Ambrosia, research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in Silicon Valley, where the experiment was conducted.

ILLINOIS

Carjacker kills woman in crash

DOLTON — A man fleeing police commandeered a car with four persons inside and then crashed into another vehicle, killing a woman and injuring seven persons in the two cars, authorities said.

Police in this southern Chicago suburb questioned procedures that led to the failure to stop the fugitive before the crash.

Seneca Allen, 21, of Harvey, was charged with 41 felony counts, including first-degree murder, driving under the influence, vehicular hijacking and aggravated battery to a police officer.

Police Sgt. Kevin Glaser of neighboring Calumet City said the incident began there early Sunday when officers were sent to investigate a report of a fistfight.

Three squad cars from Calumet City and two from Burnham, which shares police radio frequencies with Calumet City, pursued the hijacked car until it ran a stoplight in Dolton and struck the other car, police said.

A passenger in the second car, America Rodriguez, 22, was killed and two other persons in the car were injured, authorities said. Mr. Allen and the others in the commandeered car also were injured.

KENTUCKY

Festival speaker calls UFO cases provable

HOPKINSVILLE — Peter Davenport has received more phone calls than he cares to count that start with the unusual opening: “Please believe me; I’m not crazy.”

For Mr. Davenport, director of the National UFO Reporting Center in Seattle, it is part of the job.

Mr. Davenport spoke Sunday at the Little Green Men Festival in Hopkinsville about what he calls some of the more fascinating, provable cases reported. The festival commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Aug. 21, 1955, report of an alien invasion at Kelly.

After a lifetime of studying what many brush off as science fiction, Mr. Davenport said he is certain that UFOs exist and have been witnessed on Earth. He thinks the government has known about them for decades.

NEBRASKA

Ex-mobster found guilty of drug charge

NORTH PLATTE — Former mobster turned chef Henry Hill, whose experiences inspired the 1990 gangland movie “GoodFellas,” has been found guilty of attempted possession of methamphetamine, a misdemeanor.

Mr. Hill had been charged with two felony counts of possessing meth and cocaine, but he was allowed to plead no contest on Aug. 8 to the lesser charge.

Police said glass tubes were found during a search of Mr. Hill’s luggage at the North Platte Regional Airport last August and Nebraska State Patrol tests showed two of the tubes contained meth and cocaine residue.

Sentencing was set for Sept. 26.

OHIO

2 guards fired for inmate suicide

COLUMBUS — Two prison guards were fired after investigators concluded that a death row inmate who committed suicide in May was likely dead more than three hours before his body was found, authorities said yesterday.

The state said it fired the guards over the handling of the May 7 suicide of Martin Koliser, who was sentenced to die for killing a Youngstown police officer in 2003.

Under prison procedures, a guard should have checked on Koliser twice an hour. Instead, the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction thinks a check was made about 1:30 a.m. and again about 5:20 p.m., according to the report released at the request of the Associated Press.

OREGON

Manure bags spell trouble for couple

BROWNSVILLE — It could have happened to anyone: Charles Gastorf and his wife, Cheryl, forgot to pay the $10 tab for 10 bags of steer manure during a recent shopping trip to their local Wal-Mart.

The two say that in the confusion of shopping on that March day they simply forgot to add in the cost of the manure. When the Gastorfs explained their forgetfulness to Lebanon City Attorney Tom McHill, he dropped shoplifting charges against them.

That could have been the end of the story — except for the letter from the world’s largest retailer that soon arrived in their mailbox, demanding $175 in civil damages.

That was when the Gastorfs learned about a little-known Oregon law that allows retailers to pursue civil penalties regardless of whether a person is found guilty or innocent of theft.

So the Gastorfs paid Wal-Mart the money.

“We wouldn’t want to embark on a life of crime at our ages and become manure thieves. I mean, if you were going to steal something, would you steal manure?”

WEST VIRGINIA

Ex-POW starts class with low profile

MORGANTOWN — Former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch started college yesterday, going largely unnoticed — as she had hoped — among 4,600 other freshmen at West Virginia University.

Despite her blond hair, cane and leg brace, most students didn’t pay any extra attention to the 22-year-old former Army supply clerk from Palestine, W.Va.

“She’s familiar, but not that familiar,” said Miss Lynch’s publicist, Aly Goodwin Gregg. “She’s been so out of the news for so long, she’s not readily recognizable — which I think she appreciates.”

A convoy from Miss Lynch’s 507th Army Maintenance Company took a wrong turn and was attacked in the Iraqi town of Nasiriyah in March 2003.

WISCONSIN

Madison campus wins ‘top party’ nod

MADISON — The University of Wisconsin at Madison topped a list of the nation’s best party schools released yesterday, despite a decade-long effort by the school to reduce its reputation for heavy drinking.

Meanwhile, Brigham Young University led “stone cold sober” schools for the eighth straight year. The rankings are based on survey responses regarding alcohol and drug use, hours of study each day, and the number of students in fraternities and sororities.

Schools often criticize the list, while the American Medical Association has urged Princeton Review to stop issuing it, saying it legitimizes students’ drinking.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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