- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 19, 2005

ALABAMA

State takes over funeral homes

MONTGOMERY — The state Insurance Department has taken over operation of 15 funeral homes and cemeteries from Texas-based Mike Graham and Associates, contending the businesses failed to put $2 million of customers’ payments into a trust.

Officials say the takeover affects about 2,000 consumers who had purchased funerals and burials in advance.

ALASKA

High energy costs focus of convention

FAIRBANKS — Soaring energy costs in rural villages will be the focus of the Alaska Federation of Natives annual convention this week.

More than 13 of Alaska’s 113 villages already have shut down their municipal governments, and 39 more have cut services such as police and road maintenance to pay fuel bills. The six-day meeting is expected to attract almost 3,000 people.

CALIFORNIA

Long-distance calls, 911 knocked out

LONG BEACH — An equipment problem knocked out long-distance telephone service and parts of the 911 system for tens of thousands of residential and business customers in several Southern California cities yesterday, officials said.

The problem began around 2:20 a.m. at Verizon Communications’ central office in Long Beach, Verizon spokesman Bill Kula said. Service was out in cities including Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Artesia, Downey, Bellflower and Westminster, he said.

Mr. Kula said he did not immediately know what caused the problem or how many customers were affected.

GEORGIA

Campaign set out to Brand Atlanta

ATLANTA — Organizers have started the Brand Atlanta Campaign aimed at increasing the city’s profile. Public and private funds are backing the $4.5 million effort that will include television and radio ads.

Mayor Shirley Franklin says the campaign represents an effort to catch up with cities such as New York and Las Vegas, where coordinated advertising campaigns have led to billions of dollars in tourism and convention revenue.

HAWAII

State adds cattle to open hunt list

HILO — Hunters will be allowed to take aim at stray cattle next month in an effort to protect the state forest reserves.

The state has worked with ranchers on the Big Island to fix their fences, but more than 100 cows are wandering around the area that stretches along the Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge.

“Cattle pose a major threat to our native forests,” said Deborah Ward, spokeswoman for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which regulates the hunts. “They remove the native understory vegetation, allowing alien weeds to move in and take over the native forest.”

On Nov. 5, the state will open the hunts on “feral and trespass” cattle found in the Hilo watershed area each weekend through Nov. 26. Each licensed hunter will be permitted to kill and remove two cattle per day, with no season limit.

NEW MEXICO

Police dog killed by deputy it attacked

ALBUQUERQUE — A New Mexico sheriff’s deputy was recovering from a severe bite on her arm yesterday after a police dog attacked her, forcing her to fatally shoot him.

Deputy Heather Schreckendgust, 36, may face surgery at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque after the incident Monday afternoon.

She was not the dog’s handler, and was supervising evidence collection when the Belgian Malinois named Bart attacked, according to the Albuquerque Journal. Despite his handler’s orders and Deputy Schreckendgust’s struggling, the dog would not release her, and she shot him.

According to the Journal, Bart was named in a lawsuit involving a similar attack 2 years ago.

OKLAHOMA

Katrina evacuee wins $25,000 in lottery

OKLAHOMA CITY — A Hurricane Katrina evacuee is the first $25,000 jackpot winner of the Oklahoma lottery.

Caronell E. Allen, living in Bethany since he fled New Orleans, claimed his prize Monday at the Lottery Commission office.

Mr. Allen, who bought the $5 ticket at a Buy for Less store on the northwest side of Oklahoma City, said he plans to put his winnings in the bank.

He also got a job as a construction-site laborer the day before he bought the ticket.

Oklahoma began selling instant tickets last week, after voters overwhelmingly approved the statewide game to raise money for public schools.

TEXAS

Insanity plea filed in death of professor

AUSTIN — A college student who claimed he stabbed and slashed his piano professor more than 200 times because he thought she was a robot intent on killing him pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to murder yesterday.

Jackson Ngai, 24, went on trial for attacking University of Texas professor Danielle Martin with a meat cleaver, scissors and other sharp items in her kitchen in 2004.

Mr. Ngai’s attorney has said Mr. Ngai thought Miss Martin was a robot or was controlled by a computer chip in her brain and was trying to kill him. On her body was a handwritten note that said, “Computer chip in brain.”

Prosecutors acknowledged Mr. Ngai’s history of mental illness, but said they will prove he knew right from wrong when Miss Martin was killed.

WISCONSIN

Crash doesn’t curb driver’s appetite

WAUSAU — A nasty car crash should not interrupt a good breakfast.

Police Patrol Inspector Bryan Hilts said a 78-year-old man whose car ran into the front entry of a fast-food restaurant backed away after the crash, parked and then went in for breakfast.

Police who were called to the scene Friday found Rouland Steppert eating at a Burger King table near where his Lincoln Town Car had struck the glass entryway. General Manager Kathy Fasse declined to say what he ordered.

Because the accident was on private property, the man was not cited, police said. Diminished driving abilities related to the man’s age may have played a role in the crash, they said.

WYOMING

Teams comb forests for military ordnance

MEDICINE BOW NATIONAL FOREST — From the Indian wars to the Cold War, the government used 100 square miles here as a military target and training range, firing rifles, mortars and artillery.

That 82-year history may not be immediately apparent to people who camp, hike, fish and drive all-terrain vehicles in the Pole Mountain area — national forest land since 1961. But the signs warning them not to pick up metal objects — possible unexploded ordnance — are a good clue.

The roughly 15 million acres of retired defense sites scattered across the country are littered with old military ordnance, much of it buried. There have been only two cases of old munitions in the U.S. killing or hurting anyone in the past 20 years, but the government is spending $145 million over six years to try to keep that number from rising.

The Formerly Used Defense Sites program, run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, aims to assess and inspect each site for the danger posed by unexploded munitions.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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