- The Washington Times - Friday, September 9, 2005

WEST VIRGINIA

Governor to halt ‘06 gas-tax increase

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III pledged yesterday to halt his state’s projected increase in gasoline taxes for one year, the latest of many measures being discussed in statehouses nationwide to ease the effects of record-high gas prices.

Mr. Manchin said he would sign an executive order before the end of the year to stop the scheduled increase, which had been expected to take effect Jan. 1.

The sales tax is based on the average wholesale price of gasoline between July and Oct. 31. Based on prices this summer, the tax was expected to rise to 8 cents per gallon, an increase of at least 1.5 cents.

Last week, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue imposed a monthlong moratorium on gas taxes in his state. And lawmakers in several states are debating whether to give motorists a break on gasoline taxes.

WISCONSIN

Jury picked for suspect in hunter deaths

MADISON — A jury was selected yesterday for the trial of a man accused of killing six deer hunters in the northern Wisconsin woods.

Opening statements and testimony in the trial of Chai Soua Vang are expected to begin tomorrow, and the trial is scheduled to last up to two weeks.

Mr. Vang, 36, a Hmong immigrant from St. Paul, Minn., is charged with six counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder in the Nov. 21 shootings. If convicted, he faces mandatory life in prison.

Eyewitnesses and friends of the dead hunters have portrayed the killings as cold-blooded slayings by an angry man on a shooting rampage. Mr. Vang told investigators that he was shot at first and acted in self-defense after the hunters tormented him with profanity and racial insults.

ALASKA

Rabbit population multiplies in Valdez

VALDEZ — Maybe it’s Easter every day in Valdez. Maybe it’s some kind of Peter Rabbit tale come to life. There is a bunny boom in this small town best known as the end point of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

Dozens of domesticated rabbits are hopping around this summer, delighting European tourists, annoying local gardeners and provoking the town’s animal control officer.

Shana Anderson, the town’s animal control officer, said the community rabbits have been around for years but are especially abundant this summer.

“It’s rabbits out of control,” she told the Anchorage Daily News. “I’m really serious. It’s something I’m looking into doing something about.”

COLORADO

Passenger restrained on evacuee flight

DENVER — Passengers on a Frontier Airlines plane carrying Hurricane Katrina evacuees from Houston to Denver subdued a man and tied him up with duct tape after he assaulted a flight attendant, police said.

The altercation began Tuesday when Jason Glen Tervort, 26, walked up to the flight attendant in the center aisle and said: “Ladies and gentleman, I have an announcement to make. My name is Jason,” according to the federal arrest warrant.

When the flight attendant tried to get Mr. Tervort back to his seat, he reportedly poked her while saying, “I’m a man,” then began pushing and slapping her. Several men got out of their seats to subdue Mr. Tervort, who was spitting, biting and yelling profanities, Denver police spokeswoman Virginia Lopez said Wednesday.

Mr. Tervort, who did not appear to be one of the evacuees, faces a federal charge of interference with flight crew members and attendants.

FLORIDA

Stalled Ophelia becomes hurricane

NEW SMYRNA BEACH — Tropical Storm Ophelia strengthened into a hurricane as it stalled 70 miles off the northeast Florida coast yesterday, churning waves that caused beach erosion and drenching Kennedy Space Center.

Yesterday evening, Ophelia had top sustained winds of 75 mph, just over the threshold to be classified as a hurricane, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said.

But forecasters said it was not clear where Ophelia was headed. Forecasters predict it should turn out into the Atlantic over the next few days, but that wasn’t a certainty.

Downpours from earlier storms had caused flooding in Flagler County, raising anxiety about the effect of more rain. Authorities shut down a mile-long stretch of beachfront road in Flagler Beach so transportation workers could shore it up with sand and boulders.

Two shelters in Flagler County were being readied as a precaution.

ILLINOIS

High school teaches grape growing

VALMEYER — The few rows of grapes planted about six years ago near the high school’s greenhouse in this southern Illinois town used to give Howard Heavner and his students fits.

The agriculture teacher knew little about how to prune the fickle plant, much less how to spray it. Vines on the low-hanging trellises often got swallowed up by weeds.

All of that is changing. In a state where winemaking and grape acreage have spread like renegade vines, many of Mr. Heavner’s students are being offered lessons in grape growing. The goal is to encourage students to think about a viticulture career and grapes as a viable alternative crop.

MISSOURI

Ex-sailor pleads guilty in shipboard killing

KANSAS CITY — A man accused of killing a Navy shipmate in the Philippines in 1968 pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter yesterday.

The case against Michael E. LeBrun, 60, of Greenwood, Mo., developed after the slain man’s sister pressed the Navy to reopen the case. Investigators originally concluded that the victim stole money from the ship and deserted.

LeBrun had been charged with first-degree murder and his federal trial was scheduled to start Monday. He faced life in prison without parole if convicted on that charge, but his plea agreement calls for a sentence of up to 10 years.

LeBrun, who was a supply clerk on the ship, the USS Cacapon, had sought to keep the government from using a statement in which he told the investigators that he strangled Andrew L. Muns after the ensign caught him stealing money from a safe. He said he put the body and the money inside a tank of fuel oil.

NEW YORK

Baby in stroller stabbed by attacker

NEW YORK — A knife-wielding man stabbed a 10-month-old baby in her stroller, critically injuring her, police said.

Isabelle Avins was rushed to a hospital, where she underwent surgery Wednesday night. She was listed in critical but stable condition, said Detective Brian Sessa, a police spokesman.

The nanny was walking with the baby about 5 p.m. when the man approached them a short distance from the girl’s home, Detective Sessa said.

The nanny, identified only as a 20-year-old woman, screamed for help and cradled the baby.

Bernard Derr, 48, was held on attempted murder and other charges, police said.

OHIO

Abortion consent law gets court OK

COLUMBUS — Ohio’s law requiring girls younger than 18 to get a parent’s consent for an abortion is constitutional and may be enforced, a federal court ruled yesterday.

The law, signed seven years ago but put on hold by litigation, also requires a woman seeking an abortion to meet with a doctor at least 24 hours before having the procedure to get a description of the procedure, its risks and alternatives.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of Cincinnati Women’s Services a month before the 1998 law was to take effect.

UTAH

BYU named fittest college campus

PROVO — On those annual lists of the nation’s college campuses, Brigham Young University is probably best known for its regular ranking near the bottom when it comes to party schools.

Now the university, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has earned a new distinction: fittest college campus.

The ranking comes courtesy of Men’s Fitness magazine, which surveyed more than 10,000 university students from 660 campuses and released its rankings in its October issue.

Along with BYU at the top of the list are the University of California at Santa Barbara; Boston University; the University of Vermont and Northwestern University.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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