- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 23, 2005

CALIFORNIA

Authorities kill roaming tiger

MOORPARK — Authorities fatally shot a tiger yesterday that had been roaming for days in the hills near the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.

The tiger was shot several hundred yards from school soccer and baseball fields at the edge of a housing development, said Lorna Bernard, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Fish and Game. Authorities do not know who the owner is.

Federal wildlife service trackers had to shoot to kill because a tranquilizer would have taken several minutes to bring down the animal, which could have endangered the hunters or others.



COLORADO

Declining health provoked Thompson suicide

DENVER — Journalist Hunter S. Thompson did not take his life “in a moment of haste or anger or despondency” and probably planned his suicide well in advance because of his declining health, the family’s spokesman said yesterday.

Douglas Brinkley, a historian and author who edited some of Mr. Thompson’s work, said the founder of “gonzo” journalism shot himself Sunday night after weeks of pain from a host of physical problems that included a broken leg and a hip replacement.

Family members had no hint that Mr. Thompson, famous for the book “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and other works of “new journalism,” planned to take his own life, Mr. Brinkley said, and he did not leave a note.

ALABAMA

Bee considered for state insect

MONTGOMERY — The monarch butterfly, Alabama’s official state insect since 1989, could be dethroned.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Sue Schmitz would end the monarch butterfly’s reign as a symbol of Alabama and substitute the queen honey bee as the official state insect.

Mrs. Schmitz said a beekeeper in her Madison County district suggested the change. She said it would bring attention to the bee industry in Alabama and to the help that bees provide in pollinating plants in the agricultural state.

Her bill was approved last week by the House Agriculture and Forestry Committee and is awaiting action by the House. If approved by the House, it would have to be passed by the Senate and signed by the governor.

If the queen honey bee becomes the official state insect, it would join a long list of official state plants and animals. For instance, the largemouth bass is the official freshwater fish, the blackberry is the state fruit, and the pecan is the state nut.

ARIZONA

Official to pay fine for moving tadpoles

TUCSON — A former federal wildlife manager who says he moved about 400 protected tadpoles from a backyard pond to a refuge for their own safety has agreed to pay a $3,500 fine to avoid a criminal charge.

Wayne Shifflett, the longtime manager of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, said he was afraid the tadpoles would be eaten by frogs.

The tadpoles were young Chiricahua leopard frogs, which have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 2002. Permits typically are required to handle or move protected animals. Harming them can be a federal crime.

“My goal all the time was to save the Chiricahua leopard frog, which I did,” Mr. Shifflett said Tuesday. “To me, the $3,500 was a small investment.”

Mr. Shifflett, who retired in May, predicted that he could have beaten accusations that he illegally moved wildlife onto a refuge, but opted to pay the fine last week.

FLORIDA

Girl convicted of killing friend

PENSACOLA — A 15-year-old girl was convicted of second-degree murder for slitting the throat of a longtime friend over a dispute about fireworks.

The jury deliberated four hours before returning the verdict Tuesday against Christine Rogers in the 2003 death of Ashley Harvey, 15. Rogers was tried as an adult and faces up to life in prison at a sentencing scheduled for March 23.

Ashley bled to death after being stabbed in the neck by Rogers. Witnesses testified that the two girls fought because Rogers thought Ashley was shooting fireworks at one of her younger sisters.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Confederate soldiers to be reburied

CHARLESTON — The remains of two dozen Confederate soldiers recovered from beneath the stands of The Citadel’s football stadium will be buried next month in a cemetery.

The remains of the 21 soldiers are among hundreds of soldiers and civilians buried during the Civil War and forgotten when a clerical error allowed Johnson Hagood Stadium to be constructed over the graves.

Civil War re-enactors began looking for the graves in the 1990s in an effort to locate lost Confederates.

Re-enactor Randy Burbage said the latest remains were found during his group’s final excavation in June. None of the bodies has been identified, but Mr. Burbage said it appears most died during the defense of Charleston.

The funeral for the soldiers is set for March 5 at the Magnolia Cemetery, Mr. Burbage said.

NEW MEXICO

Panel rejects ban on cockfighting

SANTA FE — A state Senate committee rejected a proposal to ban cockfighting, making it unlikely the sport will be outlawed this year in one of only two states where it is still legal.

The Conservation Committee voted 6-2 Tuesday to table the proposal after nearly three hours of impassioned testimony.

One committee member called the proposed ban a “ridiculous” waste of legislators’ time. “This is what you call a rural versus urban issue,” Sen. Phil Griego said.

The state House approved a ban in 2003, and a similar bill is pending there this year. Even if it passes the House, it would run into trouble in the Senate.

Louisiana is the only other state where cockfighting is legal. Thirteen of New Mexico’s 33 counties outlaw cockfighting.

IOWA

Senator pitches Social Security advice

NEWTON — Iowans gathered in a small basement room at the Jasper County Courthouse yesterday peppered Sen. Charles E. Grassley with questions about President Bush’s Social Security plan, seeking reassurance that the changes will help the retirement system survive.

“How is the privatization of Social Security going to cure the problem?” Donna McCoy of Newton asked Mr. Grassley, the Republican who leads the Senate Finance Committee and will be among those crafting legislation.

“It isn’t going to, is the short answer, but since you raise this and it’s such a significant issue, bear with me,” Mr. Grassley said. He launched into a three-minute tour of Mr. Bush’s proposal, the centerpiece of which is to let younger workers divert part of their Social Security payroll taxes to private investment accounts.

The complex question was among those Mr. Grassley has been fielding this week during his annual county-level visits with constituents, 20 stops across the state to talk about Social Security and other issues. In Newton, about one in every four questions went to Social Security.

TENNESSEE

Teacher pleads to sex charges

MCMINNVILLE — A physical education teacher pleaded not guilty yesterday to dozens of charges accusing her of having sex with a 13-year-old boy who was a student at her elementary school.

Pamela Turner, 27, did not attend the arraignment and remains free on $50,000 bond.

Her attorney, Peter Strianse, entered not guilty pleas to 15 counts of sexual battery by an authority figure and 13 counts of statutory rape at a court hearing before Circuit Judge Larry B. Stanley Jr.

District Attorney Dale Potter said he and Mr. Strianse discussed a plea deal, and the judge set a May 25 deadline for an agreement. Judge Stanley also set a Nov. 15 trial date.

WASHINGTON

1,108 illegal votes by felons claimed

OLYMPIA — Republicans dissatisfied with the balloting that installed Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, claimed Tuesday that 1,108 felons voted illegally in the 2004 election.

Dino Rossi, the failed Republican candidate, is challenging Mrs. Gregoire’s election in court on the grounds that illegal votes and election workers’ errors irrevocably tainted the results. He is pushing for a new election.

Mrs. Gregoire won the election by 129 votes, after a hand recount of 2.9 million ballots. Mr. Rossi had won the first two counts.

Democrats say Mrs. Gregoire is the legitimate governor and that Republicans don’t have enough evidence to warrant nullifying the election.

Republicans have spent the past couple of months searching for felons who voted despite not having their voting rights restored. Mr. Rossi’s spokeswoman, Mary Lane, announced the 1,108 number on Tuesday. She said 884 of those were found in Democrat-leaning King County.

WEST VIRGINIA

DUI charge reinstated against lottery winner

CHARLESTON — A judge agreed to allow a drunken driving charge to be refiled against a man who won nearly $315 million in the Powerball lottery — the largest single jackpot in history.

Jack Whittaker was arrested for suspected drunken driving in December, two days after being released on bail in another DUI arrest.

A judge later dismissed the second charge because prosecutors failed to bring a state police chemist to a pretrial hearing. In response to a petition from prosecutors, Circuit Judge Duke Bloom ruled Tuesday that the charges can be refiled. But he said the case cannot include evidence relating to a breath test.

Mr. Whittaker, 57, who won the Powerball jackpot on Christmas Day 2002, faces 10 days in jail if convicted of bail violation.

WYOMING

Veterans’ tax-break bill signed by governor

CHEYENNE — Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, signed a bill that will make it easier for veterans to obtain an $800 break on their property taxes.

The previous law contained a list of wars and had to be updated after each conflict involving the U.S. military. The new law streamlines the process so that veterans are eligible automatically.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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