- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 6, 2006


Finding gives clue to planet formation

LOS ANGELES — Scientists think they have solved the mystery of how planets form around a star born in a violent supernova explosion, saying they have detected for the first time a swirling disk of debris from which planets can rise.

The discovery is surprising because the dusty disk orbiting the pulsar, or dead star, resembles the cloud of gas and dust from which Earth emerged. Scientists say the latest finding should shed light on how planetary systems form.

“It shows that planet formation is really ubiquitous in the universe. It’s a very robust process and can happen in all sorts of unexpected environments,” said lead researcher Deepto Chakrabarty, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Details appear in today’s issue of the journal Nature.


Informal talks held in transit strike

DENVER — With a transit strike in its third day and the governor refusing to intervene, union and transportation agency representatives sat down with a federal mediator yesterday to try to resolve the stalemate.

The talks were informal, and no formal negotiations between the two sides were scheduled.

Nearly 1,750 bus drivers, light-rail operators and mechanics walked off the job early Monday in a wage-and-benefits dispute, starting the Denver area’s first transit strike in nearly a quarter-century. Only limited bus service has continued on a system that had been averaging 275,000 rides a day.

The union asked Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, to order binding arbitration, but he refused Tuesday and blamed the strike on union leaders who had unanimously recommended the proposed contract but couldn’t persuade their members to approve it. Fifty-five percent of workers rejected the offer.


Woman gives birth at courthouse

DERBY — Verdicts and summons weren’t the only things that emerged from Superior Court earlier this week.

A woman visiting the courthouse for a small-claims matter gave birth in a bathroom stall Monday, aided by courthouse marshals.

Marshal James Fraulo and fellow Marshal Jack Getlein said they were called to the second-floor bathroom after a 911 call, and discovered that the unidentified 33-year-old woman had begun delivering the child.

Marshal Getlein unwrapped the umbilical cord from the infant’s neck and they wrapped the child in Marshal Fraulo’s T-shirt.


New brutality charges filed against police

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Police Department, its image already suffering in the post-Katrina spotlight, is investigating new accusations of brutality: claims that three white officers beat up the wife of a black officer earlier this week.

Less than a week earlier, two former officers — both white — were indicted on felony charges of beating of a black retired teacher. The violence in the French Quarter was caught by an Associated Press news crew covering the hurricane’s aftermath in October.

Yesterday, Jonie Pratt, the wife of Desmond Pratt, a 10-year veteran of the New Orleans Police Department, had a black eye, a swollen forehead, and a brace on her fractured left wrist. Her mother-in-law, Dulcie Scott, said the injuries were inflicted after police pulled over Mrs. Pratt, claiming she ran a stop sign.

The FBI is engaged in a preliminary inquiry to determine whether the case warrants further investigation, FBI spokeswoman Sheila Thorne said.

The police department said yesterday that the case remained under investigation and the officers had been reassigned pending the outcome.


2 hurt, 3 arrested in baby shower brawl

SPRINGFIELD — An argument at a baby shower escalated into a brawl in which one man was shot and the pregnant guest of honor was beaten with a stick, police said.

Three persons were arrested after the fight, described by police as a “baby shower gone bad.”

Authorities said the shooting victim, Aristotle Garcia, got into a fight with a man who is dating his ex-girlfriend. The argument, over whether the woman let their 5-year-old daughter drink beer, escalated and drew in two other persons — Jazz Rivas and Juan Velazquez, said Police Lt. Cheryl C. Claprood.

When the baby shower’s hostess tried to intervene, Mr. Rivas began hitting some of the guests, including the 22-year-old mother-to-be, with a large stick, she said. Mr. Velazquez fired a gun into the crowd, hitting Mr. Garcia, 26, in the stomach, police said. He was in stable condition at Baystate Medical Center. The mother-to-be was treated after the incident Saturday and released.

Mr. Velazquez, 19, was arrested Tuesday and charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, armed assault with intent to murder. He pleaded not guilty yesterday. Antonio Santiago, 25, and Mr. Rivas, 22, have entered not guilty pleas.


Lottery winners give to homeless

LINCOLN — Three of the meat-processing plant workers who won the largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history dropped in on a homeless shelter with a $6,000 donation for people living there.

Alain Maboussou, Quang Dao and Dung Tran became multimillionaires in February when they and five co-workers won the $365 million Powerball jackpot.

On Tuesday, the three made a surprise visit to People’s City Mission and announced the donation, equal to about $40 per person once distributed.

Pastor Tom Barber, who runs the mission, said one of the three had stayed a few nights at the mission before winning the jackpot.


First patient applies for medical marijuana

PROVIDENCE — A multiple sclerosis patient who hopes to use marijuana to ease the painful symptoms of her disease yesterday became the first person to apply for state permission to use the drug legally under a Rhode Island law.

Rhonda O’Donnell submitted a two-page application and a $75 check to the Department of Health. Once the department confirms her doctor’s diagnosis, she will be issued a photo ID card and will be allowed to buy or carry up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana.

Rhode Island in January became the 11th state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. The drug remains illegal under federal law, however, and even those who receive permission from their states to use the drug could still be prosecuted by federal officials.


Indians protest butte beer license

STURGIS — To American Indians, Bear Butte is a place to pray and meditate, where colorful prayer cloth and pouches with offerings of tobacco and sage are tied to tree branches along a hiking trail.

For business owners, the 4,422-foot peak is a destination for thousands of bikers who fork out good money for beer and a place to camp during an annual rally each August in nearby Sturgis.

Despite strong opposition from Indian groups hoping to prevent further encroachment on the mountain, Meade County authorities on Tuesday unanimously approved a beer license for a campground, biker bar and concert area near the butte, on the fringe of the Black Hills.

Dean Wink, a county commissioner, said he understands the significance Indians attach to the butte. But he said other businesses in the area have received alcohol licenses and to forbid Jay Allen the same opportunity would be to deny him his rights.

Mr. Allen said he hopes to have the campground and biker bar ready for this year’s motorcycle rally, which officially runs one week.


22 Chinese held in smuggling attempt

SEATTLE — Twenty-two Chinese nationals were in custody yesterday after they apparently let themselves out of a 40-foot cargo container that had been used to smuggle them from China, officials said.

The 18 men and four women, all thought to be in their 20s and 30s, seemed to be in good physical condition after about two weeks in the container, said Michael Milne, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Port of Seattle security guards spotted the group about 1 a.m.

Mr. Milne said the stowaways were thought to be part of an organized smuggling ring, but he had no information about how much they paid for the voyage or who ran the operation.

Mr. Milne said it could take investigators several days to determine whether they would be deported, be held as material witnesses or face other proceedings, such as asylum hearings.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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