- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Jury selection resumes in Jackson trial

SANTA MARIA - Michael Jackson returned to court yesterday after a week’s delay, and the judge assured prospective jurors that the singer had been ill and that there was no plot to put off his child molestation trial.

Mr. Jackson, dressed in black, chatted with his attorneys at the defense table before the questioning of prospective jurors started.

Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville said several names — including Macaulay Culkin, Eddie Murphy and Smokey Robinson — had been added to the defense’s celebrity-studded witness list.

Prosecutors began interviewing jury prospects who had been questioned by defense attorneys.


Driver killed in train-car crash

HAGERSTOWN - A freight train slammed into a car at an eastern Indiana railroad crossing yesterday, killing the driver, who had gone around the crossing gates, police said.

The driver was identified as James Deeter, 38, of Morristown. No one else was injured in the crash, which was reported at about 6:30 a.m., said Capt. Jeff Cappa of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office.

“Witness accounts tell us the driver of the vehicle disregarded and went around the arms of the crossing,” Capt. Cappa said.

The freight train pushed the car for about a half-mile before coming to a stop. The crossing, about 50 miles east of Indianapolis, has gates and flashing lights.

Associated Press

Wayne County sheriff’s deputies examined the site of a train-car collision yesterday near Hagerstown, Ind. The car driver, who was killed, had gone around the railroad crossing gates.


Land trust changes hung up in Legislature

PHOENIX — Efforts to hammer out a package of state trust land changes to benefit education funding, preservation of open space and planned development have foundered in the Legislature, officials said.

Arizona has 9.3 million acres of trust land, awarded by the federal government at statehood. It must be used to benefit public schools and institutions.


Medical helicopter crash kills patient

SILOAM SPRINGS — A medical helicopter crashed on takeoff Monday, killing a man who was being airlifted from a highway accident. The pilot, a nurse and a paramedic were injured.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman John Clabes said the medical crew was responding to a traffic accident. The helicopter, operated by Air Evac Lifeteam of Claremore, Okla., had just lifted off with the 71-year-old patient aboard, and had reached an altitude of 400 feet when it began to spin and fell back to the ground, crashing into a pasture, according to witnesses.

The pilot and a paramedic were in serious condition. The condition of a flight nurse was not available.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.


Prosecutor arrested after running naked

MIAMI — A state prosecutor in Florida’s island city of Key West was under arrest after he reportedly ran naked and drunk across a parking lot and hopped into the wrong car, a newspaper said yesterday.

Albert Tasker of the local state prosecutor’s office told police he had been drinking with friends and thought it would be funny to take off his clothes and run to a friend’s car in the parking lot, according to the Florida Keys Citizen newspaper.

But Mr. Tasker, 28, apparently got into the back seat of the wrong car, to the distress of the woman in the vehicle. The legitimate occupant screamed and called her boyfriend, who telephoned police.

The prosecutor faces charges of disorderly intoxication and indecent exposure, and has been placed on administrative leave without pay, the paper said.


Study: Hormone pills boost incontinence

CHICAGO — Researchers have found yet another problem that hormone pills taken at menopause seem to make worse, not better: incontinence.

The findings came from the same landmark government study that in the past few years linked the widely used supplements to a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes, breast cancer and dementia.

Estrogen and progestin have long been thought to help prevent or lessen urine leakage in menopausal women.

“We were hoping to find a gleam of hope for estrogen” after all the earlier negative findings, but the results with incontinence were disappointing, too, said lead author Dr. Susan Hendrix, a gynecologist at Wayne State University.

The findings, published in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association, come from research on 27,347 women, ages 50 to 79, participating in the Women’s Health Initiative study.

Compared with women taking dummy pills, those on estrogen pills for one year were 53 percent more likely to develop urinary incontinence by year’s end. Those on pills containing both estrogen and progestin faced a 39 percent higher risk.


School pays students to display tidy room

ANN ARBOR — Some University of Michigan students are cleaning up their acts in more ways than one.

They are getting $100 cash payments for keeping their dorm rooms presentable and opening their doors so prospective students and their parents can take a look during campus visits.

Among the 18 students participating in the tour program are sophomores Aaron Bennick and Eric Romain, engineering majors who have loft beds that fit over their desks, a clean beige love seat with light-blue pillows, two refrigerators and a bookcase filled with laundry supplies and food.

“Last semester, the room was not as neat,” Mr. Bennick said. “My dad asked me if I was sure I was going to be able to do this.”

Participants must let tour groups see their room in the middle of the day, and have to be out of bed and dressed, said Randi Johnson, the university’s housing outreach coordinator. Display of anything illegal, offensive or banned is forbidden.


Church-abuse victim gets apology letter

ST. LOUIS — The mail brought an apology letter for at least one man sexually abused by a priest.

Tim Fischer received a letter from Archbishop Raymond Burke that had been promised under a December settlement with the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Mr. Fischer, 43, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the letter he received Saturday was important to him because his abuser, the late Rev. Norman Christian, once told him: “‘Who are they going to believe — you or a priest?’”

More than 30 victims and parents have been waiting for apology letters from Archbishop Burke.

Archbishop Burke’s spokesman, Jamie Allman, said he did not know whether Mr. Fischer’s letter was the only one sent out Friday but that all of them would be sent by the end of this week.


Terror defense calls FBI witness

NEW YORK — An FBI informant testified yesterday that he wanted to put “the world on notice” when he set himself on fire outside the White House, throwing the terror-funding case against a Yemeni sheik into turmoil.

Testifying for the second day as a hostile witness for the defense, Mohamed Alanssi said he had not intended to kill himself, even though he sent suicide notes to the FBI and The Washington Post.

Until he set himself on fire outside a White House gate in November, Mr. Alanssi, 53, had been scheduled to be the star prosecution witness against the defendant, Sheik Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad. Instead, the defense called Mr. Alanssi to the stand in an effort to portray him as unstable, greedy and untruthful.

Mr. Alanssi lured Mr. al-Moayad and his assistant, co-defendant Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed, to Germany by posing as the fixer for another FBI informant who supposedly wanted to donate $2.5 million to the terrorist groups Hamas and al Qaeda. Mr. Al-Moayad and Mr. Zayed were charged with conspiring to fund and attempting to fund the two groups.


Outbreak blamed on dirty water

TOLEDO — Drinking water contaminated by sewage and other pollution was the likely source of an outbreak that sickened 1,400 people on a Lake Erie resort island last summer, the state Health Department said yesterday.

Tourists and residents were stricken with fever, diarrhea and vomiting after visiting South Bass Island, which is about halfway between Toledo and Cleveland.

The island’s wells were tainted when porous soil allowed sewage from septic systems and runoff containing bird droppings and lawn fertilizer to infiltrate groundwater, the department said.


Baby left in car; immigrants charged

PHILADELPHIA — An immigrant from Belarus said Philadelphia authorities were wrong to take her child, even though she had left the 7-week-old baby alone in a running car.

Sviatlana Mihel, speaking to WCAU-TV in Philadelphia through an interpreter, said it’s important she have her baby returned to her soon because she wants to continue to breast-feed the child.

Mrs. Mihel argued that it is usual in Belarus to leave children alone in vehicles.

She admitted that she and her husband, who were charged with endangering the child’s life and conspiracy, left the baby alone in a car with the engine running Saturday.

The baby is being cared for by the Department of Human Services.


Council could boost black history museum

CHARLESTON — A long-delayed black history museum could get a much-needed boost this week if the City Council approves spending $250,000 to start a national fund-raising campaign.

The museum was first suggested by Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. five years ago. The original $37 million price tag has increased to an estimated $50 million, organizers say.


City-owned vehicles to use biodiesel

CHATTANOOGA — All diesel vehicles in the city-owned fleet will begin using biodiesel next week in an effort to improve air quality.

Regular diesel fuel is mixed with animal fats and vegetable oils to produce biodiesel. State officials already agreed to reduce interstate highway speed limits in Hamilton County to lessen pollutants from diesel engines.


Man, 96, makes solo skydive

BREMERTON — A 96-year-old man aiming to become the oldest person to make a solo skydive had a rough landing and suffered a dislocated shoulder, but otherwise emerged unscathed.

Milburn Hart of Seattle jumped out of a plane Friday afternoon near the Bremerton airport.

“He said his arm hurt on the way out the door, so he had a little problem turning,” said Dina Fodd of Blue Skies Adventures Skydiving.

Mr. Hart, who lives at the North Haven Retirement Center, prepared for the jump with five hours of training and a written test. He had made two jumps in tandem with an experienced jumper last year.

Mike Faught of Blue Skies said Mr. Hart told him he’d like to jump again.


Utility cables trigger outages

MADISON — Problems with underground utility cables blew manhole covers into the air, sent smoke rising and cut off power to 3,500 customers twice in one day.

No injuries were reported Monday, and fire and smoke damage was confined to Madison Gas & Electric equipment, authorities said. The power company might not learn the cause for some time, said Steve Kraus, a company spokesman.

The outages, which affected downtown and parts of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, lasted more than two hours Monday afternoon and an additional 11/2 hours late in the evening. No new outages were reported overnight.

With traffic lights inoperable, police had to scramble to control traffic and close streets, Madison police Sgt. Sue Armagost said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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