- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 1, 2005


Austrians win Empire run-up

NEW YORK — The returning champions from Austria both posted remarkable victories yesterday in the Empire State Building Run-Up, while the Big Apple’s favorite social climber shined again at 93 in the 28th annual race.

Rudolf Reitberger won the closest Empire race in history, and Andrea Mayr became the first woman to break the 12-minute barrier with a winning time of 11:51, despite wearing a cast for a broken wrist.

Almost as much attention was lavished on the race’s slowest finisher, elder statesman Chico Scimone, 93, of Sicily, Italy, who completed the event for the 14th year in a row. He was timed in at 49 minutes, 28 seconds as the last of 136 finishers.

“I feel great that I finished,” said Mr. Scimone, who plays piano at a hotel bar in Taormina. “This is like a present I give to myself every year.”


Gas-line fire forces evacuations

ALLENTOWN — A gasoline pipeline exploded yesterday morning, shooting flames and a huge plume of dark, oily smoke into the sky and forcing about 30 people to evacuate.

No injuries or property damage were reported from the 6:30 a.m. explosion in South Whitehall Township, and there was no word on the cause, officials said.

Officials shut off the feed to the pipeline operated by Exxon Mobil Corp. and hoped the fire would burn itself out, said Valerie Hildebeitel, a spokeswoman for the Lehigh County Emergency Management Agency.


Prosecution links bomb to Rudolph

BIRMINGHAM — Pieces of the bomb that killed a police officer outside an Alabama abortion clinic matched a detonator described in an explosives book ordered by serial bombing suspect Eric Rudolph, prosecutors said in court papers.

The government also revealed for the first time that its handwriting analyst matched Mr. Rudolph’s writing to cryptic notes jotted in his Bible, which included the words “eye for eye” and “Bombs.”

The writings “help reveal [Mr. Rudolph’s] motive for committing the bombing,” prosecutors argued.

Prosecutors detailed the evidence in documents filed late Monday that asked a judge to reject a defense request for a hearing on whether some scientific testimony should be allowed in Mr. Rudolph’s upcoming trial.


Jury pool seated in Jackson trial

SANTA MARIA — The judge in the child-molestation case against Michael Jackson said yesterday that he had a sufficient pool of about 250 prospective jurors willing to sit through the projected six-month trial, moving along jury selection more quickly than expected.

Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville said about 300 more prospective jurors who had been scheduled to report yesterday afternoon and today would not be needed.

The next stage begins Monday, when the prospective jurors will be questioned individually by the defense and the prosecution. The judge wants to seat a jury of 12 and eight alternates.

During 1 days of initial screening, about 430 prospective jurors were brought into court in large groups for questioning by the judge as Mr. Jackson, his attorneys and the prosecution watched.


Broadcast test error calls for evacuation

HARTFORD — Despite what residents might have seen on television, the state of Connecticut was not ordered evacuated yesterday.

State emergency management officials think that someone pressed the wrong button, so instead of seeing a test of the emergency alert system, midday television viewers and radio listeners were told that the state was being evacuated.

“There is absolutely no evacuation or state emergency,” said Kerry Flaherty of the Office of Emergency Management. “It was an erroneous message.”

The department was investigating how the alert was sent. Officials said it is released manually to broadcasters.

The error prompted Gov. M. Jodi Rell to issue a statement reassuring residents.


Dillard’s to pay girl hurt by escalator

ST. PETERSBURG — Dillard’s department stores agreed yesterday to pay $15 million to a girl who lost three fingers when her hand got jammed in an escalator as she tried to free her stuck shoe.

Kerriana Johnson and her family settled their lawsuit against Dillard’s Inc. hours after a circuit court jury ordered the company to pay the 7-year-old girl $9.4 million for medical expenses, pain and suffering. The jury was about to hear evidence in the punitive damages portion of the trial when the settlement was announced.

The girl’s family had been seeking at least $35.8 million, but by settling will avoid a likely appeal by Dillard’s. That could have tied up the award for years.

The girl’s attorneys had told the jury that Dillard’s managers knew the escalator was dangerous and set up a sham company to make it appear to state regulators as if the escalators were being maintained.


Students end stormy voyage

HONOLULU — A passenger ship with about 700 college students aboard limped into Honolulu Harbor five days after a huge wave tossed the vessel in heavy seas, damaging three of its four engines and injuring two crew members.

“Most people have been happy it’s finally sunny and are glad to be going to Hawaii,” Becca Leonard, a 21-year-old junior at the University of Southern California, said Monday after the ship pulled into port.

The 591-foot Explorer, with 990 persons aboard, was about 650 miles south of Adak, Alaska, when the wave hit early last Wednesday. Adak is in the Aleutian Islands about 1,300 miles southwest of Anchorage.

The 50-foot wave broke furniture and computers on the ship, and students participating in the Semester at Sea program were forced to sit on the floor for classes for several days after the incident.

The ship is scheduled to remain in Hawaii for several days before heading to China.


Clinics asked to take over project

BONNERS FERRY — In 18 months, a mobile health clinic has provided basic medical care and dentistry to more than 2,500 low-income northern Idaho residents.

Now the program’s federal grant is set to expire, and its organizers are asking three community clinics to take over the project.


Elephant tramples trainer to death

FORT WAYNE — An elephant being loaded onto a truck trampled a circus animal trainer to death at Memorial Coliseum, police said.

Three handlers were loading the elephant Monday, as crews packed up from the weekend’s Shrine Circus, officials said. Two of the workers left the semitrailer, and Pierre Spenle, 40, of Texas, stayed behind to lock the trailer door.

A coliseum employee later saw Mr. Spenle lying inside a semitrailer with the elephants and alerted other handlers, said Victor Hopkins, spokesman for the Allen County Sheriff’s Department. He was taken to a hospital and died a few hours later.

Mr. Spenle had been the elephants’ primary trainer for several years, said Larry Solheim, circus general manager.

“He babied these animals,” Mr. Solheim said.

Mr. Solheim said investigators were seeking advice from veterinarians and animal behavior specialists, but that they did not think that it was an act of aggression.


MSU alumni supply Peace Corps

EAST LANSING — Michigan State University is ninth-highest in the country this year of schools supplying volunteers to the Peace Corps, with 74 alumni serving as overseas volunteers, the Peace Corps says.

Since 1961, Michigan State has produced about 2,000 volunteers.


Cattlemen oppose Canadian imports

BILLINGS — Citing a risk of mad cow disease, a cattlemen’s organization asked a judge yesterday to block the federal government from allowing imports of live cattle and an expanded range of beef products from Canada.

The Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America argued that the U.S. meat supply will be regarded as suspect if it becomes mixed with beef cuts from Canada, where two cases of mad cow disease were confirmed in January.

A hearing on their request for a preliminary injunction is set for March 2.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to allow imports of cattle younger than 2 years old and certain other animals and beef products from Canada beginning March 7.

After Canada reported its first case of mad cow disease in May 2003, the United States banned Canadian cattle, beef and beef products. The restrictions later were eased to allow imports considered at very low risk of the disease.


Justice accused of driving drunk

COLUMBUS — A justice on the Ohio Supreme Court was charged with driving under the influence after several people reported a motorist driving erratically.

Justice Alice Robie Resnick failed field sobriety tests on Monday, Highway Patrol Lt. Rick Zwayer said yesterday. Lt. Zwayer said, “A strong odor of alcohol was detected” on the 65-year-old justice.

Her driver’s license was automatically suspended because she refused to take a blood-alcohol content test, he said.

Driving under the influence can result in a penalty of three days to six months in jail, a fine of $250 to $1,000 and license suspension of up to three years.


Train derails, spilling flammable liquid

GALLUP — Five cars of a freight train derailed Monday, spilling about 600 gallons of a flammable liquid. No injuries were reported.

Authorities sealed off about five blocks around U.S. 66 for three hours after the accident. The rail cars, which were carrying ethanol, did not overturn, and the leaks were quickly repaired, state police said.

An unspecified number of rail yard personnel also were evacuated as a precaution.

Authorities said they did not know what caused the derailment. The National Transportation Safety Board had been notified.


Eased protection of wolves rejected

GRANTS PASS — A federal judge ruled yesterday that the Bush administration violated the Endangered Species Act when it relaxed protections on many of the nation’s gray wolves.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones in Portland rescinds a rule change that allowed ranchers to shoot wolves on sight if they were attacking livestock, said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group.

In April 2003, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service divided the wolves’ range into three areas and reclassified the Eastern and Western populations as threatened instead of endangered.

The judge ruled that the government acted improperly by combining areas where wolves were doing well, such as Montana, with places where their numbers had not recovered.


Escaped buffalo found in dressing room

RAPID CITY — A buffalo that escaped from an auction ended up in a dressing room at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, where it spent a couple of hours staring into a mirror.

The buffalo jumped over a steel panel on Sunday morning during the Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo, went down an alley and got into the dressing room reserved for visiting sports teams, said Brian Maliske, the civic center’s general manager.

The crew conducting the Black Hills Classic Buffalo Sale decided to keep the animal locked in the dressing room for the rest of the auction. During its two-hour stay, it reportedly became fascinated with its image in a big mirror.

Once the sale ended, a rodeo crew member coaxed the buffalo out of the dressing room and back into captivity.


Polygamist loses appeal in rape case

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Supreme Court yesterday upheld the conviction of a polygamist charged with child rape for having sex with his first wife when she was 13.

Tom Green, 56, had lived with his five wives and 31 children in a cluster of trailer homes in the remote desert, about 125 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. He was convicted in June 2002 of child rape and appealed the conviction, arguing the statute of limitations had expired and that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because the sex occurred in Mexico.

The high court ruled that the statute had not expired because the 1985 incident was not reported to law enforcement until 1999. The court also said the case was decided in the right jurisdiction.

Green, who also has been convicted of four counts of bigamy and one count of criminal nonsupport of his children, is scheduled for release from prison in 2007.


Boy, 12, charged with sexual assault

MILWAUKEE — A 12-year-old boy has been charged with sexually assaulting a 4-year-old girl in a Milwaukee YMCA.

A delinquency petition filed Monday in Milwaukee County Children’s Court said a manager saw the assault on security monitor on Saturday afternoon.

The manager ran to the weight room and saw the boy pulling up his shorts, the petition said.

The girl said the boy hit her, pushed her down, kicked her, pulled at her pants and choked her with her scarf, according to the petition.

If found delinquent, the boy could be sent to a juvenile institution for up to two years, and the orders could be renewed until he turns 18.

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