- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Travelers eyed in mumps epidemic

ATLANTA — Two infected airline passengers may have helped spread Iowa’s mumps epidemic to six other Midwestern states, health officials said yesterday, the latest example of how quickly disease can spread through air travel.

The mumps epidemic is the nation’s first in 20 years. Health officials say 515 suspected cases have been reported in Iowa, and the disease also has been seen in six neighboring states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of Monday, Nebraska has 43 reported cases; Kansas, 33; Illinois, four; Missouri, four; Wisconsin, four; and Minnesota, one.

The Iowa health department identified two persons who were potentially infectious when they were traveling in late March and early April.


Private operator to run toll road

INDIANAPOLIS — In the biggest highway privatization deal in U.S. history, state officials yesterday signed an agreement to turn over the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road to a foreign consortium that will operate it for a profit for the next 75 years.

Under the lease, Spanish-Australian consortium Cintra-Macquarie will pay the state $3.8 billion upfront and will be responsible for operating and maintaining the highway. It will get to keep the toll revenue it collects.

Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, said the upfront payment will help pay for other transportation projects and create jobs.

Opponents argued that it violates the state Constitution and have sued. They said the Constitution requires that the proceeds from the sale of any public works be used to pay off state debt. The Daniels administration said the arrangement is not a sale but a lease.

The state hopes to close the deal and transfer the highway to the consortium by June 30.


Missing teenager found unharmed

INDEPENDENCE — A teenager who called 911 saying she had been abducted at gunpoint showed up at a stranger’s home in her rural Kansas town about 15 hours later begging for help, police said.

The 16-year-old was unharmed and talking to investigators yesterday morning, police Chief Lee Bynum said. He said authorities were searching for a suspect but had not ruled out a false abduction report.

Kelsey Stelting, a high school softball player, disappeared about dawn Tuesday after walking out of the house to get a bag of bats from the family car, said her mother, Kelly Cox. She said she found the car doors open and the keys on the ground.

Chief Bynum said the teen said she was approached by a man with a gun who told her to run about six blocks to a lumber store or she would be killed along with her family. When she arrived at the store, she was told to get into a white van. Chief Bynum said.


Presbyterian Church to cut more jobs

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) plans to cut jobs at its headquarters for the third time in four years.

Denomination officials wouldn’t estimate how many jobs would be lost, but they said the church needs to trim its $114 million budget by 13 percent in the next two years. They said the number of cuts would be announced later this month.

In the past few years, 85 jobs were cut at the headquarters through layoffs and attrition.


Two charged in plot to smuggle arms

DETROIT — Two men from Indonesia and Singapore were arrested in Hawaii on Sunday and charged here with conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act and money laundering in the attempted purchase and illegal export of $500,000 in military equipment, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said yesterday.

ICE spokesman Dean Boyd said the arrests and charges resulted from an investigation conducted by agents from ICE and the Defense Department’s Criminal Investigative Service.

The two men, identified as Hadianto Djoko Djuliarso, 41, of Indonesia, and Ibrahim bin Amran, 46, of Singapore, are awaiting extradition to Michigan.

Mr. Boyd said the men are accused of attempting to purchase and illegally export parts used in radar and guidance systems on military aircraft and took steps to purchase and illegally export more than $1 million worth of machine guns, sniper rifles and other weapons.

Before their arrest, Mr. Boyd said, the men had transferred more than $455,000 from Asia to the United States to pay to purchase and ship the military equipment. ICE and Defense Department agents seized the money, he said.


Church won’t offer civil marriages

MINNEAPOLIS — A Minneapolis church has voted to stop performing civil marriages for heterosexuals because civil marriage isn’t offered to same-sex couples.

“I will officiate at only religious marriages for same and opposite gender couples alike,” said the Rev. Don Portwood of the Lyndale United Church of Christ.

The vote Sunday makes the church the second in the state to refuse to perform civil marriages.


Stepdaughter tells of syringe rape

AKRON — A young woman testified yesterday that she repeatedly tried to kill herself because of haunting flashbacks of her stepfather impregnating her with a syringe eight years ago.

Shenna Grimm, 23, told the court at John Goff’s rape retrial that he brandished a handgun and said, “If you don’t do this, I will kill your mother.”

Goff, 44, is accused of raping her when she was 16 by forcing her to be inseminated with his sperm because her mother could no longer conceive. Goff acknowledges that he is the father of her child but has argued she agreed to the 1998 impregnation.

He was convicted in 2002 of rape, sexual battery and child endangering and was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but in June an appeals court overturned the convictions, saying a detective’s testimony about statements by Goff’s wife should not have been allowed.


Ex-governor expects cancer recovery

AUSTIN — Former Texas Gov. Ann Richards said Tuesday that she feels “terrific” and expects to recover fully from cancer of the esophagus.

“There is no doubt in my mind I will recover from this,” she said. “If I had known people would be so nice to me, I might have done this sooner.”

Governor from 1991 to 1995 and known for her silver hair and sharp wit, she discussed her health at a press conference announcing that Austin school officials were naming a new all-girls academy after her. The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders is scheduled to open in fall 2007.

She is halfway through chemotherapy treatments. After three more sessions, doctors will determine whether she needs further treatment, which could include more chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. She is being treated on an outpatient basis.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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