- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 4, 2005

CALIFORNIA

Five children die in fire

CARSON — Fire roared through a second-floor apartment yesterday morning, killing five children, ages 6 to 10, authorities said.

Three girls and a boy were pronounced dead at the scene, and a 10-year-old girl died at a hospital, said Ron Haralson, an inspector with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

All the adults in the apartment, about 20 miles south of Los Angeles, escaped unharmed, he said.

It was not clear how the fire started. Mr. Haralson said it was reported at 8:21 a.m. and was put out in less than 15 minutes.

CONNECTICUT

Man gives up on robbing bank

WATERBURY — A man stopped robbing a bank because he was worried his electronic ankle bracelet would go off and alert his probation officer if he was gone from home too long, police reported.

Delome Small, on probation for sexual assaults, is accused of robbing a Bank of America branch near his condominium. Small, 37, and his older brother fled because the cash drawers were locked, but police tracked them down.

GEORGIA

ACLU to fight panhandling ban

ATLANTA — The American Civil Liberties Union says it plans to file a lawsuit over the recent ban on panhandling in parts of downtown Atlanta, as soon as it finds a good plaintiff.

The ACLU would bring the lawsuit because of perceived violations of the First Amendment. The ban bars panhandling near popular tourist destinations.

ILLINOIS

Man draws 3 years for coffee sabotage

SKOKIE — A Skokie, Ill., man faces three years in prison for spiking the company coffee maker with toxic chemicals and urine.

Police said Kermaret Vathananand, 51, told them he became enraged last summer when he was told by a boss that he couldn’t drink coffee in the shop portion of Castle Metal Finishing where he worked.

Some of his co-workers got sick after drinking the adulterated coffee, the Chicago Sun-Times said. A videotape shot in October by a hidden security camera captured Vathananand dumping substances into a coffee maker at the plant where he had worked for 15 years, Cook County prosecutors said.

Vathananand pleaded guilty to felony food tampering. He originally was charged with attempted murder and food tampering.

MICHIGAN

Fire, blast kill six, injure three

CALEDONIA TOWNSHIP — Fire and an explosion that was felt miles away leveled a farmhouse, killing six persons and critically injuring three, authorities said yesterday.

Law-enforcement officials closed a road near the two-story house after the blast and fire, which were reported late Saturday, said Ronald Sukenik, Caledonia Township supervisor.

The blast leveled the house, scattering wreckage in all directions, and shook homes more than three miles away.

The cause of the blast had not been determined, said Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Kathy Taylor, the lead fire investigator.

Those killed were ages 2 to 19, Sgt. Taylor said yesterday morning. The injured, who were taken to a hospital in Flint in critical condition, were ages 7 to 18, she said.

MINNESOTA

Veterans home staff quit after inspection

MINNEAPOLIS — The four top administrators at the state-run Minneapolis Veterans Home resigned after an unannounced inspection found numerous rule problems.

The Health Department’s inspection in late July identified as many as 38 infractions. The problems, some caused by staff shortages, included basic care issues such as bed sores and cleanliness of incontinent residents.

NEW MEXICO

Name tag left at crime scene

ALBUQUERQUE — What’s in a name? A lot of trouble if you leave it at the scene of a crime.

Police are investigating a recent burglary at a portable school building in Albuquerque where a computer monitor, two printers and other equipment was stolen.

What they found was a restaurant employee name tag near the building at Bandelier Elementary School, according to court documents.

The tag, bearing the name “Sam,” was used to help authorities track down Samuel Wilson, 19.

Mr. Wilson was being held on burglary charges.

NEW YORK

Tram failure frightens riders

NEW YORK — Two carloads of riders on the Roosevelt Island Tramway got the scare of their life when a power failure kept them dangling in the air.

“Suddenly, the car stopped and it swayed real big,” said Julio Gomez, who was in his wheelchair in the stranded Manhattan-bound tram. “I said, ‘This car is going down. I’m dead. I’m dead.’”

Police said an engineer restored power to the tramway about 1 hours after the cars stalled Friday. One rider made a sign that said “Call Spider-Man” and put it in the window.

NORTH CAROLINA

Officials will test for lead in water

RALEIGH — Concerned that lead may be sneaking into drinking water, state health officials next month will test hundreds of residential taps in Durham and three other North Carolina cities.

High lead levels showed up last year in Greenville after the local water utility switched purifying chemicals. Concern increased in May after Pitt County health officials said drinking water likely created dangerous lead levels in two children, ages 2 and 4. Even in low doses, lead can cause brain damage in children.

In addition to about 100 homes in Durham, state officials will analyze 100 household taps each in Siler City in Chatham County, Goldsboro in Wayne County and Monroe in Union County.

RHODE ISLAND

Tax revenues up since smoking ban

PROVIDENCE — Tax revenues from bars and restaurants rose about 20 percent since a smoking ban was enacted March 1 in Rhode Island, according to the state Division of Taxation.

The state collected $5.83 million in taxes from bars and restaurants from March through June, a significant jump from the $4.86 million collected at the same time last year.

UTAH

Voters in 2 cities to use touch-screens

SALT LAKE CITY — Farmington and Brigham City will be the first Utah cities to use touch-screen voting machines in municipal elections in November.

The machines will be in statewide use next year, when Utah plans to buy one for every 174 voters at $3,200 apiece using federal and state funds. The ATM-like computers will replace old-fashioned punch-card ballot machines.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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