- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 5, 2005


Twins undergo gastric bypass surgery

BUFFALO GROVE — Twins Sam and Charlie Fabrikant have mirrored each other throughout their lives. Even in weight gain.

Charlie started putting on extra pounds in first grade and eventually dropped out of sports because he couldn’t keep up. In fifth grade, Sam started to see the effects of his own weight gain. By their teen years, the fraternal twins were — in their words — “morbidly obese.”

That was when Charlie, who is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 350 pounds about this time last year, had gastric bypass surgery. He underwent months of physical and psychological screening before the surgery and has since lost about 130 pounds.

The results prompted Sam to follow suit. Last month, just as his winter break began, doctors rerouted several feet of his small intestine and stapled his stomach to reduce its capacity from football size to that of a golf ball.


Jury picked in Iraqi drowning case

FORT HOOD — A jury of six was selected yesterday for the court-martial of a soldier charged in the reported drowning of an Iraqi civilian in the Tigris River in Iraq.

Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Perkins is accused of ordering soldiers to push two Iraqis into the Tigris last January for violating curfew. Prosecutors said Zaidoun Hassoun, 19, drowned and his cousin climbed out of the river.

Sgt. Perkins, 33, and 1st Lt. Jack Saville, 24, face charges that include involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy and aggravated assault. They could receive up to 29 years in prison if convicted on all counts. Lt. Saville will stand trial in March.


Court asked to block immigration law

PHOENIX — A civil rights group asked a federal appeals court yesterday to block a new state law that denies some public benefits to illegal immigrants.

In November, voters approved a proposition requiring proof of citizenship or legal status before applying for some government services, and proof of citizenship when registering to vote. It also says government workers who do not report illegal immigrants seeking the benefits face jail time.

In an emergency motion, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to block portions of the law while it appeals a judge’s decision allowing the law to go into effect.


Witness recalls Blake’s ‘odd’ behavior

LOS ANGELES — A woman recounted yesterday how she and her boyfriend hid by a tree and avoided intervening when Robert Blake yelled for help for his bleeding wife, telling the jury that the actor’s behavior seemed “odd” and “forced.”

“It didn’t seem genuine or real,” Mary Beth Rennie said as Mr. Blake’s murder trial resumed yesterday after a holiday recess.

Miss Rennie gave essentially the same description that her boyfriend, Dr. James Michael McCoy, provided when he testified about how they saw Mr. Blake pounding on the door of a home, crying out that his wife was injured and asking for someone to call 911.

The home was near the car in which Mr. Blake’s wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, was sitting when she was fatally shot after the couple left a restaurant on May 4, 2001.


Grandmother admits pregnancy hoax

SYLVESTER — A 59-year-old great-grandmother who claimed in an Associated Press story last year that she was pregnant with twins admitted yesterday that she is not.

Frances Harris’ claim gained widespread attention after the rural Sylvester, Ga., woman and her family told her story the same week that a 56-year-old woman gave birth to twins in New York.

“To the surprise of even her family, it was recently discovered that Harris is not pregnant with twins,” Mrs. Harris said in a statement distributed yesterday by her 39-year-old son, Fred Jackson. “Due to some personal issues that are still being evaluated, Mrs. Harris believed that she was pregnant with twins and was able to convince her family and friends that she was expecting as well.

“The family of Mrs. Frances Harris regrets that this situation has occurred and apologizes for any inconvenience that may have caused,” said the statement, signed by Mrs. Harris and Mr. Jackson.


States get more to manage wolves

BOISE — Idaho and Montana will get more authority to manage gray wolves under a new rule adopted by the federal government, wildlife officials announced Monday.

The rule, which takes effect Feb. 2, gives the states and private landowners more control in curbing wolf attacks on livestock, domestic animals and wild game herds.

Ed Bangs, wolf-recovery team leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the new rule especially would help private landowners by allowing wolves to be killed without prior written approval if ranchers can prove the animals are harassing livestock.


NAACP seeks probe into student’s death

NEW ORLEANS — The NAACP yesterday called for a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the death of a black college student who died after a New Year’s Eve scuffle with white bouncers at a French Quarter karaoke bar.

No arrests have been made, and an autopsy was inconclusive in the death of Levon Jones, a senior at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Ga.

Mr. Jones died after a fight with bouncers outside Razzoo Club and Patio on Bourbon Street. New Orleans police said the fight started after a worker at the nightclub denied entrance to one of Mr. Jones’ friends because his clothing did not meet the dress code.

Danatus King, president of the civil rights group’s New Orleans branch, said yesterday that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is conducting its own investigation into whether the club “selectively enforced” a dress code to keep out blacks.


Parents 2-time winner of first-baby contest

ATTLEBORO — Terri and Mike Gavel now know timing is everything.

For the second straight year, Mr. Gavel, 36, and Mrs. Gavel, 30, are the winners of the first-baby contest at Sturdy Memorial Hospital.

Their daughter Kelsey was born at 9:37 p.m. on New Year’s Day. A year ago, big sister Rory Ann was born at 12:16 a.m. Jan. 2.

“I’m still shocked that it actually happened the second year in a row — no planning, no nothing,” Mrs. Gavel said. “It’s a little unreal right now, still.”


Cross-country skier killed in avalanche

BOZEMAN — An avalanche in southwestern Montana killed one cross-country skier and injured another, leaving him stranded in the snow for two days until a rescue helicopter could pluck him to safety.

The injured skier was flown Monday to Bozeman Deaconess Hospital. His name and condition were not released.

Sheriff Bill Briggs also would not release the name of the person killed, one of five cross-country skiers caught in Saturday’s slide in the Centennial Valley. The body was recovered Monday.


Man charged in laser-beam incident

NEWARK — Federal authorities yesterday used the USA Patriot Act to charge a man with pointing a laser beam at an airplane overhead and temporarily blinding the pilot and co-pilot.

The FBI said the incident had no connection to terrorism but called David Banach’s actions “foolhardy and negligent.”

Mr. Banach, 38, of Parsippany, admitted to federal agents that he pointed the light beam at a jet and a helicopter over his home near Teterboro Airport last week, authorities said. He initially claimed that his daughter had aimed the device at the helicopter, they said.

He is the first person arrested after a rash of reports across the nation of laser beams hitting airplanes.

Mr. Banach was accused of interfering with the operator of a mass-transportation vehicle and making false statements to the FBI, and was released on $100,000 bail. He could get up to 25 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000.


Official seeks talks on black families’ woes

CHARLOTTE — Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James, who last month accused urban blacks of living “in a moral sewer,” now wants to discuss solutions for what he calls “the breakdown in the urban-black family structure.”

His plan outlines a collection of goals, policy priorities and programs that would be administered by the county, the city of Charlotte, private agencies and the state.

Mr. James, who is white, has said his proposals are a response to critics who said he offered no new solutions to well-documented social problems.


Traffic violators pay fine or give to charity

CHATTANOOGA — Given the choice between paying a traffic fine or donating $100 to a tsunami relief charity, David Gardner didn’t have to think twice.

“One hundred dollars to avoid points on my license? It’s worth it,” said Mr. Gardner, who admitted to numerous traffic citations.

Mr. Gardner is among traffic violators allowed to avoid convictions and fines in exchange for charitable donations to help survivors of the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami in Asia and Africa. Municipal Court Judge Russell Bean began the offer on Monday, and plans to continue for at least two weeks.


Court OKs plan to sell Commandments statue

MADISON — The city of La Crosse’s decision to sell a Ten Commandments monument and the land around it to a private service group was constitutional and not made to advance religion, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled 2-1 that the city’s sale of the statue and a surrounding 22-by-20-foot plot of land in a public park to the Fraternal Order of Eagles was proper.

The city sold the parcel to the Eagles after the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation and two La Crosse residents sued in 2002, seeking the monument’s removal and arguing that the display violated the separation of church and state.

A federal judge in Madison ruled that the sale was a sham and ordered the monument’s removal, but the appeals court ruled that the sale to the Eagles made sense.

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