- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 22, 2005

GEORGIA

Woman’s bid to help troops snowballs

ATLANTA— When her husband was deployed to northern Iraq, Laurie Junko searched for a way to take her mind off the danger he faced and help other soldiers in the process.

She found it almost by accident when she e-mailed about 15 relatives and friends, asking each to write holiday greeting cards that she could forward to her husband, Matt, an Army captain stationed in Tal Afar.

“They were easy, cheap and everyone could do it,” she said.

Before she knew it, the e-mail had snowballed into a chain letter sent to thousands of people across the country, and it resulted in 2,500 cards — enough to fill 35 boxes.

Each box was sent to a different soldier who was asked to hand the cards out to comrades who may not have received much mail from back home.

RHODE ISLAND

Fire code kills Christmas tree

PROVIDENCE — It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas for Rhode Island’s official Christmas tree.

The 18-foot Colorado blue spruce lost its needles and died after Statehouse workers dried it with commercial fans and sprayed it with a fire-retardant chemical as required by the state fire code, which designates Christmas trees as “flammable vegetation” and regulates their display in public buildings.

The pathetic-looking tree was hustled out of the building Wednesday night.

Al Bettencourt, executive director of Rhode Island’s Farm Bureau, and a team of farmers rushed yesterday to get a replacement tree, but the task proved complicated because the law also requires that a fire marshal be on hand when a tree destined for public display is cut down to ensure freshness.

CALIFORNIA

$14.8 million fine on tobacco rejected

SAN FRANCISCO — The California Supreme Court yesterday overturned a $14.8 million state fine levied against the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. for handing out free cigarettes at a beer fest, a biker rally and other public events.

The seven justices unanimously upheld California’s 1991 law against cigarette giveaways and ruled that the tobacco company had violated it. But the high court sent the case back to a lower court to consider whether the fine was excessive.

R.J. Reynolds, the maker of Camel and Winston cigarettes, passed out free packs — and, in some cases, free cartons — to nearly 15,000 adults at six California public events, including a San Jose beer festival and a motorcycle event in Del Mar.

Company officials said they complied with the law because minors were not allowed near the distribution areas. Moreover, R.J. Reynolds said it had a constitutional right to give free tobacco to adults and said state laws regulating the promotion of cigarettes are pre-empted by federal laws.

The justices, however, said the state had the right to ban free cigarettes because tobacco is a health hazard, and Congress has not spoken against state laws regulating the time, place and manner in which cigarettes can be distributed.

FLORIDA

Parents get probation for raw-food abuse

MIAMI — The parents of a 6-month-old baby who died after being fed strictly raw foods were placed on 15 years’ probation yesterday for child neglect involving their four other children, who were put on the same diet.

Joseph and Lamoy Andressohn could have gotten 20 years in prison.

Last month, the Andressohns were acquitted of manslaughter in the 2003 death of 6-month-old Woyah, who was fed only wheat grass, coconut water and almond milk. But the jury convicted the couple of child neglect regarding the other youngsters, who, like their sister, were also underweight.

HAWAII

Swimmer attacked by shark off Maui

WAILEA — A man was bitten by a shark Wednesday while swimming off Maui and lost part of his left hand, officials said.

Jonathan Genant, 29, was alone when a shark attacked about 200 yards off Keawakapu Beach. He was admitted to the Maui Memorial Medical Center in stable condition.

Lifeguards closed the beach after the attack. Fire Battalion Chief Alan Pascua said a fire helicopter had spotted a 10- to 12-foot tiger shark in the area.

IDAHO

Father accused of killing 3 children

TWIN FALLS — A Twin Falls man has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of his three young children, whose bodies were found in their home.

Jim Junior Nice, 33, was arrested Wednesday upon being found with the bodies. Police had gone to the house in response to a call to check on the children’s welfare, Twin Falls Police Chief Jim Munn said.

During his arraignment yesterday, Boise television station KTVB reported, prosecutors accused Mr. Nice of using rat poison to kill his twin boys, Justin and Spencer, 6, and his daughter, Raquel, 2.

The station said Mr. Nice was reportedly despondent over his recent divorce.

LOUISIANA

Curfew to be lifted in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS — For the first time since Hurricane Katrina, the city’s celebrated Bourbon Street bars and other businesses will be allowed starting this weekend to stay open all night.

Mayor C. Ray Nagin announced Wednesday that he was lifting the city’s 2 a.m. curfew for all areas west of the Industrial Canal, beginning today. The canal runs north and south through New Orleans, east of downtown.

Mr. Nagin also announced that residents officially would be allowed to stay overnight in more areas of the city that have been deemed safe.

NEBRASKA

Fisherman catches two-mouthed trout

LINCOLN — A rainbow trout pulled out of Holmes Lake last weekend had double the chance to get hooked: It had two mouths.

Clarence Olberding, 57, of Lincoln, wasn’t just telling a fisherman’s fib when he called over another angler to look at the two-mouthed trout. It weighed in at about a pound.

NEW YORK

Magazine apologizes for Mary-condom ad

NEW YORK — A Jesuit magazine has apologized after inadvertently publishing an advertisement for a Virgin Mary statue wrapped in a condom that an artist intended as a protest against the church’s opposition to condom use.

The Rev. Drew Christiansen, editor in chief of America, said in a note to readers that the condom was not visible in the black-and-white proofs that were used to review the final draft of the Dec. 5 issue, which appeared with color photos.

“We are returning payment for the ad and protesting the abuse to the artist,” Father Christiansen wrote to subscribers.

The headline for the ad read, “Unique Contemporary Religious Art Work for Sale.” In the text, the statue was called “Extra Virgin,” and was described as “a stunning 22 cm high statue of the Virgin Mary standing atop a serpent wearing a delicate veil of latex.”

The statue was made by Steve Rosenthal, who said he was artist in London. Mr. Rosenthal released a statement yesterday saying he placed the ad as a protest for World AIDS Day against Vatican opposition to the use of condoms to stem the spread of the disease. World AIDS Day is Dec. 1.

TEXAS

Katrina punishes victims of Rita

BUNA — For weeks, Tanya and Kevin Poole and their five children lived in tents just outside their East Texas home, which was damaged by Hurricane Rita. It took two months and much lobbying by the Pooles before aid finally arrived — two federal trailers to live in while they rebuild their house.

The Pooles had become victims, in a sense, of another hurricane — Katrina.

After Katrina pounded the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, hundreds of thousands of evacuees from Louisiana were sent to Texas. When Rita struck the piney woods along the Louisiana-Texas line a month later, many hotels and shelters in the region were still full with Katrina victims. And many of the region’s houses and apartments were assigned to Katrina refugees.

WEST VIRGINIA

University to pay for asbestos tests

CHARLESTON — West Virginia University agreed yesterday to pay for medical testing for up to 20 years for 5,600 current and former employees who fear they were exposed to asbestos on the job.

The university will cover the costs of chest X-rays, lung-function exams and other testing as often as once a year under a settlement approved by Kanawha County Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman.

The cost of the monitoring has yet to be established.

Employees sued after the school’s coliseum was closed during the 1999-2000 academic year, and federal regulators demanded a major cleanup of asbestos in the ceiling. The school later agreed to pay a $10,500 fine for mishandling the job.

The lawsuit said university officials knew for several years that the insulation was in poor condition.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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