- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 15, 2006

ARKANSAS

Newspaper building destroyed by blaze

WEST MEMPHIS — The Evening Times of West Memphis’ building burned to the ground Sunday, destroying a printing press and all the newspaper’s equipment.

Officials don’t know what caused the blaze, which began early Sunday and burned for several hours. Firefighters finished dousing the blaze before noon.

The afternoon newspaper publishes Monday through Friday, with a circulation of about 8,000, Editor Mike Bowie said. The paper has a second office in nearby Marion, where staff will work temporarily.

Yesterday afternoon’s edition was to be printed at the Daily News, a small independent paper across the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tenn., Mr. Bowie said.

CALIFORNIA

Flight evacuated over suspicious item

LOS ANGELES — Police evacuated an Alaska Airlines flight yesterday after a “suspicious item” was found on board that no one claimed, Los Angeles International Airport officials said.

Bomb-sniffing dogs later determined the item did not contain explosives, airport spokesman Harold Johnson said. A Los Angeles Police Department bomb squad and the FBI still planned to search the plane, officials said.

Airport police were notified at 8:20 a.m. that there was a suspicious item on board a plane that was in the air after leaving Guadalajara, Mexico, said airport spokeswoman Nancy Castles. Miss Castles said she did not know what the item was and did not release any additional details.

FLORIDA

Woman crashes car, gives birth

PAHOKEE — A pregnant woman in labor, driving herself to a hospital, crashed her car and gave birth while trapped in the mangled, partially submerged vehicle, authorities said.

Kenyetta Biggs spent more than an hour in the car Sunday morning before she — and her newborn daughter — were rescued and taken to a hospital, authorities said. Her father said she had not told the family she was pregnant.

Miss Biggs, 21, suffered a broken leg, but she and the baby she named Myracle were reported to be doing well.

Palm Beach County sheriff’s Deputy Stephen Maxwell, who discovered the wreck, and another deputy pried open the door to free Miss Biggs. Police said she had been driving to a hospital and a strong contraction caused her to lose control of the car shortly after 5 a.m.

IDAHO

Forest workers die in helicopter crash

YELLOW PINE — A helicopter on a wildfire mission crashed in the Payette National Forest, killing the pilot and all three forest workers aboard, authorities said.

A firefighting team found the wreckage late Sunday afternoon, about a half hour after the helicopter went down on a forest road 100 miles northeast of Boise, forest spokesman Boyd Hartwig said.

LOUISIANA

Judge allows oil, gas lease sale

NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge yesterday dealt Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco a defeat in her campaign to force the government to give Louisiana a bigger share of the royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling.

U.S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt turned down Mrs. Blanco’s request to block tomorrow’s sale of federal natural gas and oil leases in the western Gulf of Mexico.

Mrs. Blanco, a Democrat, has threatened to block such sales until the state is given more royalties to help it recover from Hurricane Katrina. She filed a lawsuit claiming the federal government has not done enough to protect Louisiana’s wetlands from damage.

Judge Engelhardt said there is no reason to block the sale. He said the state might prevail on at least some of its claims once the case goes to trial in November, but allowing the sale to proceed would not harm the state.

NEW YORK

Drunken driving eyed in officer’s death

NEW YORK — An off-duty police officer was killed early yesterday when his motorcycle was rear-ended by a driver, suspected to be drunk, who started following him and flashing a blue emergency light, police said.

Police said the incident began shortly after midnight when the officer, Eric Concepcion, and a companion on another motorcycle pulled up next to the sport utility vehicle on the Henry Hudson Parkway in Manhattan.

At that point, “words may have been exchanged,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

The driver, with lights flashing, followed Officer Concepcion and may have “tried to pull him over” before striking the rear of his motorcycle and running him over, Commissioner Kelly said.

The driver was taken into custody after testing above the legal blood-alcohol limit of 0.08 percent, police said.

NORTH DAKOTA

Trial begins in student’s slaying

FARGO — A convicted sex offender accused of killing a college student after abducting her from a shopping center went on trial yesterday in North Dakota’s first death penalty case in more than 100 years.

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. is charged with kidnapping resulting in the death of University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin, 22, who disappeared from a Grand Forks mall parking lot in November 2003.

A federal prosecutor told jurors in opening statements that Rodriguez stabbed Miss Sjodin, slit her throat and left her to die in a ditch. The defense countered that the case should not be in federal court.

Miss Sjodin’s body was found in April 2004, in a ravine near Crookston, Minn., where Rodriguez, 53, was living with his mother.

TEXAS

Cuban militant asks for freedom

EL PASO — A Cuban militant accused of masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner wants a federal judge to let him out of jail while the U.S. government continues searching for a country where it can deport him.

Luis Posada Carriles was ordered out of the United States last year. But an immigration judge said the government couldn’t send him to Cuba, where he was born, or Venezuela, where he is a naturalized citizen, citing the risk that he could be tortured. No other country has been found.

Posada, a former CIA operative and a fervent foe of Cuban President Fidel Castro who has denied involvement in the bombing, was jailed last year on immigration charges after being accused of sneaking into Texas from Mexico in March 2005.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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