- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Smallest robotic surgery patient recovering

IOWA CITY — Amber Vairo has grown 2 inches and gained nearly a pound, and the three tiny scars on her belly have all but vanished — along with any doubts she would survive a complex surgery to fix a life-threatening condition.

Last month, at just 5.6 pounds and six days after birth, Amber became the smallest patient in the world to undergo robotic surgery of any kind, said her doctors at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics.

She was born with a hole in her diaphragm, the abdominal muscle that is critical to breathing and forms a wall between the chest and abdomen.

“All signs are that she is recovering and will be just fine,” said Amber’s mother, Nicole Hines, who brought the infant home for the first time last week.


Driver plows into bus bench

LAS VEGAS — A sport utility vehicle jumped the curb and plowed into a bench at a municipal bus stop yesterday, killing four persons and scattering bodies, broken glass and schoolbooks.

The driver, who was not seriously injured, was jailed on suspicion of driving under the influence, police said.

The Ford Explorer skidded along a concrete wall about 10 miles from the Las Vegas Strip and demolished the bench on which the victims were sitting, police said.


Warden put on leave after issuing warning

BIRMINGHAM — Donaldson Correctional Facility’s warden was placed on leave after warning of “catastrophic circumstances” at the overcrowded state prison near Birmingham. Stephen Bullard listed his concerns in a March 1 memo to State Corrections Commissioner Donal Campbell. Three days later, Mr. Campbell placed Mr. Bullard on 10-day leave.

Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett said he could not comment on reasons for the leave. With space for about 1,000 prisoners, Donaldson holds 1,625 inmates in conditions that have overloaded the prison’s sewage system.


Suspect in standoff questions jurors

PHOENIX — An inmate defending himself against charges that he raped a guard and held her captive in a prison watchtower for 15 days politely questioned prospective jurors yesterday about whether they had seen news of the hostage crisis on television.

At least three sheriff’s deputies provided security as jury selection got under way with Ricky Wassenaar acting as his own attorney.

Wassenaar, 41, who is serving time for armed robbery and assault, is charged with sexual assault, kidnapping, assault and attempted murder.

Several jurors who indicated that they had seen news accounts of last year’s prison hostage standoff, the nation’s longest in decades, said they had not formed an opinion in the case. Six jurors were seated by midday.


Girl, 14, arrested in father’s death

BOULDER — Authorities have arrested a 14-year-old girl on suspicion of manslaughter, saying they think she was involved in the apparent suicide of her father.

The girl said her father, 56, unsuccessfully tried to fatally shoot himself Sunday, so she shot him to “put him out of his misery,” Boulder County sheriff’s Lt. Phil West said. No names were released.


Scientists push stem-cell research

NEW HAVEN — Scientists at Yale and the University of Connecticut urged state officials to commit $100 million over 10 years for stem-cell research.

They say if the state wants the best researchers in the field, it will have to make a long-term commitment. Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, has proposed $20 million over two years for the research.


Molly Hatchet singer dies at 53

DAVIE — Danny Joe Brown, the lead singer of the Southern rock band Molly Hatchet, died of complications from diabetes, his family said yesterday. He was 53.

Mr. Brown died Thursday at his home in Davie, a suburb of Fort Lauderdale, his sister said.

The Jacksonville native joined Molly Hatchet in 1975. The band’s self-titled 1978 debut album went platinum, and its second album, 1979’s “Flirtin’ With Disaster,” sold more than 2 million copies. Mr. Brown left the band in the early 1980s because of his diabetes.


Study faults jailing youths with adults

BOSTON — Treating offenders younger than 18 as adults in the criminal-justice system makes it more likely that they will re-offend when they emerge from prison, according to a national study of youthful-offender laws.

The Coalition for Juvenile Justice, in a study titled “Childhood on Trial,” said “adult time for adult crime” policies have failed. The organization called for changes in state and federal laws.


State hires man convicted of killing

LINCOLN — A man convicted by a Rwandan court of murdering Dian Fossey, the American whose wildlife research in Africa was the subject of the movie “Gorillas in the Mist,” has been hired by the state of Nebraska to oversee a mental-health office.

The Health and Human Services System announced yesterday that Wayne Richard McGuire will be a program administrator for the Behavioral Health Office of Consumer Affairs.

Miss Fossey was hacked to death in Rwanda in 1985. McGuire, an American who was her research assistant, was convicted in absentia. But he has remained in the United States, which does not have an extradition agreement with Rwanda, since the conviction. He has denied any involvement in Miss Fossey’s killing.


Adams says Bushbacks peace process

NEW YORK — Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said yesterday that he was disappointed that President Bush did not invite him to the White House for St. Patrick’s Day, but still thinks the United States is committed to the Northern Ireland peace process.

Mr. Adams, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations, was asked whether he thought it was a snub for Mr. Bush not to invite him on St. Patrick’s Day for the first time since 1995. He said that it was a symbolic “disappointment,” but that he wasn’t overly worried.

Mr. Adams, head of the political party affiliated with the outlawed Irish Republican Army, is visiting the United States this week to seek support from Irish-American activists amid outrage over recent IRA activities.

For the first time since Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace accord, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, also has refused to meet with Mr. Adams on St. Patrick’s Day, which is Thursday.

Sinn Fein is reeling from accusations that the IRA mounted the world’s largest bank robbery, stealing $50 million from a Belfast bank Dec. 20, and was responsible for killing a Catholic civilian outside a Belfast pub Jan. 30.


Watergate-era editor Smyser dies at 81

OAK RIDGE — Dick Smyser, who served as president of two national editors’ associations and posed the question that led President Nixon to declare, “I’m not a crook,” at the height of the Watergate scandal, died yesterday. He was 81.

Mr. Smyser, founding editor of the Oak Ridger newspaper, died of congestive heart failure at Methodist Medical Center, according to the newspaper that he led for 45 years.

He was president of the Associated Press Managing Editors Association in 1973 to ‘74 and president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1984 to ‘85.

During the 1973 APME convention, Mr. Smyser asked Mr. Nixon about the huge demands on the presidency.

“To what extent do you think this explains possibly how something like Watergate can occur?” he asked.

Mr. Nixon concluded his answer, “People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook.”


Officer pleads guilty to punishing Iraqis

FORT HOOD — A West Point-trained infantry officer faces at least nine years in prison after pleading guilty yesterday to multiple charges surrounding a 2004 incident in which two Iraqi civilians were forced into the Tigris River.

First Lt. Jack Saville said he knew from his training that it was wrong to participate in the punishment of the two curfew violators, one of whom drowned, according to family members.

Saville, 25, did not concede that anyone was killed, only that he helped carry out a company commander’s orders to punish certain Iraqis for the killing of a U.S. soldier in a mortar attack the previous day.

Saville pleaded guilty to charges of obstruction of justice, dereliction of duty, aggravated assault and battery. A manslaughter count was dropped.


911 tapes reveal churchgoers’ calls

BROOKFIELD — Victims of a gunman’s rampage at a church service used their cell phones to frantically call for help and describe the carnage that took the lives of seven worshippers, according to 911 tapes released yesterday.

“He was putting in another magazine when I ran out the door,” said one man, who fled the Sheraton hotel, the site of the service in this Milwaukee suburb. “He was getting ready to open fire again.”

Churchgoers knew the killer, who fired 21 bullets on the congregation, before shooting himself in the head.

One caller even named him. “Terry Ratzmann. He’s one of the members. He’s dead. He shot himself,” the caller said.

In the end, seven were killed, four were injured and the gunman was slumped against a wall. Police said Ratzmann, 44, had attended services of the Living Church of God for many years.

“We believe that the motive has something to do with the church and the church services more so than any other possible motive,” Brookfield Capt. Phil Horter said.

Police say Ratzmann, a computer technician, might have targeted his pastor’s family during the shooting. The pastor and his teenage son were killed, and his wife was wounded.

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