- The Washington Times - Friday, December 16, 2005

NORTH CAROLINA

Cargo plane goes off runway into mud

CHARLOTTE — A FedEx cargo plane went off a runway and got stuck in mud yesterday at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport after the pilot cut a turn too short, authorities said.

No one was injured in the early morning misadventure, airport spokeswoman Haley Gentry said.

The plane had landed safely and was taxiing to its unloading zone when the pilot “turned short” and it wound up in the mud, Miss Gentry said.

VERMONT

First civil-union couple in nation parting ways

BRATTLEBORO — A lesbian couple who entered into the nation’s first same-sex civil union are splitting up amid accusations of violent behavior.

Carolyn Conrad, 35, asked a court in October to end her relationship with Kathleen Peterson, 46.

Miss Conrad also obtained a restraining order Wednesday against her partner, saying Miss Peterson punched a hole in the wall during an argument and threatened to harm a friend.

The two had been together for five years when they were joined legally in Brattleboro minutes after Vermont’s civil-union law took effect in July 2000. Two years ago, the couple were offering relationship advice on a homosexual rights Web site.

ALASKA

Melting ice called threat to polar bears

ANCHORAGE — Three environmental groups sued the federal government yesterday, seeking to protect polar bears from extinction because of disappearing Arctic sea ice.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, demands that the government take action on a petition that environmentalists filed earlier to have polar bears listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.

Once a species is listed as threatened, the government is barred from doing anything to jeopardize the animal’s existence or its habitat. In the case of the polar bear, the environmentalists hope to force the government to curb U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

ARKANSAS

Justices demand school funding fix

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Supreme Court ordered the state yesterday to fix deficiencies in school funding by late next year, ruling that reforms made after the court stepped in three years ago are not enough.

In a 5-2 ruling, the justices did not order specific funding levels but said that legislators were wrong to freeze school spending at $5,400 per student this year and that they “grossly underfunded” improvements to school buildings and equipment.

A special session of the legislature will be needed if the state is to meet the court deadline. Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican, said yesterday that he does not want to call a special session until studies of schools’ financial needs are conducted.

CALIFORNIA

Co-worker sues for share of jackpot

SANTA ANA — A medical lab technician has sued seven co-workers who shared a $315 million Mega Millions multistate lottery jackpot, claiming he deserves a share of the money.

Jonathan De La Cruz says he had always been part of the group when they bought lottery tickets but was off work the day they bought the winning ticket. His Orange County Superior Court lawsuit contends that the group had an oral agreement that everyone would be included whenever they pooled their money to buy tickets.

The winners — six lab technicians and a receptionist at the Kaiser Permanente medical office in Garden Grove — rejected the claims in Mr. De La Cruz’s lawsuit, which he filed last month. They said it was the first time they had bought tickets together and that it had been almost a year since any of them had pooled money with Mr. De La Cruz for tickets.

GEORGIA

West Nile cases increase, CDC reports

ATLANTA — West Nile virus cases in the nation rose more than 16 percent this year, with a marked increase, as feared, along the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast, the government reported yesterday.

Health officials had worried that standing water left by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita would allow mosquito populations to explode and the virus to proliferate.

The number of human cases in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas increased by about 24 percent from 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

However, health officials were most concerned about West Nile cases that resulted in serious neurological diseases such as encephalitis and meningitis. The number of those along the Gulf Coast rose 17 percent, compared with 27 percent nationally.

MICHIGAN

Ford faces threat of renewed boycott

DETROIT — The conservative American Family Association said yesterday that it will consider reinstating a boycott against Ford Motor Co. because the automaker plans to continue running advertisements in homosexual publications.

Ford said last week that it planned to stop advertising its Jaguar and Land Rover luxury brands in homosexual publications to reduce its marketing costs. But after homosexual rights groups complained and held meetings with the automaker, Ford reversed course and said Wednesday that it would continue to advertise all of its eight brands in the publications.

“We had an agreement with Ford, worked out in good faith. Unfortunately, some Ford Motor Co. officials made the decision to violate the good-faith agreement,” AFA Chairman Don Wildmon said in a press release. “We are now considering our response to the violation and expect to reach a decision very soon.”

MONTANA

Animals barely react to snowmobiles

BILLINGS — Most elk, bison and trumpeter swans are unfazed by the presence of snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park, a study suggests.

Researchers from the park and Montana State University observed more than 2,100 interactions between snowmobiles and wildlife last winter and found the animals can become accustomed to the machines over time.

In 81 percent of the interactions, the animals either had no apparent response or they looked and then resumed what they were doing, said the study, which was commissioned by the National Park Service.

NEW YORK

Agents arrest 14 for guns, drugs

NEW YORK — Teams of agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and New York City police, assisted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshals Service and New York State Police, arrested 14 persons yesterday on federal firearms and narcotics violations in a series of raids throughout a housing development in the Bronx.

The arrests came after a 12-month undercover operation spearheaded by the ATF-NYPD Joint Firearms Task Force, during which ATF undercover operatives purchased 16 handguns and drugs from the suspects. Three suspects remain at large and are wanted on federal arrest warrants.

“Today’s arrests were made possible by diligent investigative efforts and supported by information we received from the public through Project Safe Neighborhoods,” said William G. McMahon, who heads the agency’s New York field division.

OKLAHOMA

Spy satellite used after 1995 bombing

OKLAHOMA CITY — In the days after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the U.S. government used a spy satellite to gather intelligence on a white separatist compound in Oklahoma, a published report said.

The McCurtain Daily Gazette reported Wednesday that it had obtained a Secret Service log indicating that on May 2, 1995 — two weeks after the April 19 bombing — the FBI was trying to locate suspects for questioning. They were thought to be in Elohim City, a compound near the town of Muldrow.

“Satellite assets have been tasked to provide intelligence concerning the compound,” the document says.

The document did not indicate what information the satellite might have gathered, or what the spacecraft was capable of doing.

WISCONSIN

Bible studies allowed in dorms

MADISON — The University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire has suspended its ban against dormitory resident assistants leading Bible studies in their rooms, in response to protests from politicians and conservative groups who said the policy violated religious freedom.

Interim Chancellor Vicki Lord Larson said the unwritten policy, which also banned political activities and sales events in assistants’ dorm rooms, was poorly communicated and inconsistently enforced.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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