- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Baby’s death tied to virulent bacteria

LOS ANGELES — The death of a second infant has been linked to an infection by a virulent germ at an East Los Angeles Medical Center, where the neonatal intensive-care unit remains closed to new patients while hospital officials investigate.

The infant, who died Monday, was among five patients in that unit at White Memorial Medical Center who were infected by Pseudomonas aeruginosa — a common bacterium that is potentially deadly for people with weak immune systems.

Dr. Rosalio Lopez, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said he was confident the outbreak had been contained.

Dr. Lopez said tests confirmed that an improperly sterilized medical instrument was the probable source of the outbreak.


School board drops evolution sticker case

ATLANTA — A suburban Atlanta school board that put stickers in its high school science books that said evolution is “a theory, not a fact” abandoned the legal battle yesterday after four years.

The Cobb County board agreed in federal court never to use a similar sticker or to undermine the teaching of evolution in science classes.

In return, the parents who sued over the stickers agreed to drop all legal action.

The school board placed the stickers on the cover of biology books in 2002 after a group of parents complained that evolution was being taught to the exclusion of other theories, including the biblical story of creation.

The stickers read: “This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.”


Streetcar line back in partial service

NEW ORLEANS — The city’s iconic St. Charles Avenue streetcar line returned to partial service yesterday for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, but it has a long way to go before serving the full length of its old route.

The Regional Transit Agency (RTA) put cars back on track between Canal Street and Lee Circle.

“This is great day for the city of New Orleans. It just gives our citizens more comfort that the city is coming back bigger and better than ever,” Mayor C. Ray Nagin said at a ceremony.

The RTA had planned to begin a gradual replacement of the line’s electrical system in September 2005, but Katrina derailed that plan when it struck Aug. 29, 2005, ripping down power lines and destroying the substation that supplied them.

The RTA hopes to reopen the route between Lee Circle and Napoleon Avenue by next summer, with service from Napoleon to the end of the line at Carrollton Avenue to reopen in spring or early summer of 2008, officials said.


Repairman’s error suspected in fatal fire

JEFFERSON CITY — Hours before a fatal fire at a Missouri group home, a maintenance man trying to fix a furnace shorted the electrical wiring running through the attic where investigators think the fire started, according to documents released yesterday.

The investigation report by the state fire marshal’s office did not pinpoint an exact cause of the Nov. 27 fire that killed 10 and injured dozens at the Anderson Guest House. But it listed an electrical short or overload in the attic as a potential cause.

The information about the maintenance man’s work on Nov. 26 was included in the fire marshal’s investigation report released to the Associated Press under a state open-records law request. The report labels the investigation as noncriminal.


Convict sentenced in trooper’s death

MAYVILLE — An escaped convict who admitted killing a New York state trooper and wounding two others during the largest manhunt in state history was sentenced yesterday to life in prison without parole.

Ralph “Bucky” Phillips, 44, unsuccessfully asked to withdraw his guilty plea and then apologized to the troopers’ families before being sentenced in Chautauqua County Court. He pleaded guilty last month to the aggravated murder of Trooper Joseph Longobardo and the attempted murder of Trooper Donald Baker Jr.

But at his sentencing, Phillips told Judge Richard Kloch he never intended to kill anyone.

“My intentions were to humiliate them,” Phillips said. “Tie them up with duct tape and call 911.”

Judge Kloch denied the request to withdraw the plea: “You knew what you were doing.”


Closing phase begins in ‘caged kids’ trial

NORWALK — A couple charged with forcing some of their 11 special-needs adopted children to sleep in cages had worked under difficult circumstances to provide a loving family environment, a defense attorney said in closing arguments yesterday.

But Huron County prosecutor Russell Leffler argued that having difficult children “doesn’t mean you put children in cages or boxes.”

Sharpen and Michael Gravelle are charged with eight counts each of felony child endangering, misdemeanor child abuse and misdemeanor child endangering. The endangering charges accuse the couple of putting the children at a substantial risk of mental health impairment.

“They were cruel to children,” Mr. Leffler said. “The Gravelles aren’t good parents. They never have been.”

Attorney Ken Myers, representing Sharpen Gravelle, said wire and wooden enclosures were used because of intolerable behavior by the children.


Saab owner to get new car free

MILWAUKEE — Peter Gilbert has been given a brand new Saab for free, but he first had to log more than 1 million miles on his old one.

Last summer, Saab executives verified the mileage on Peter Gilbert’s old car and talked about exhibiting it in a Swedish museum but didn’t.

Mr. Gilbert, a traveling salesman, then donated the 1989 Saab 900 SPG to the Wisconsin Automotive Museum, telling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at the time he was a little disappointed he hadn’t gotten so much as a Saab T-shirt, much less a replacement auto.

Once Mr. Gilbert’s story was told, the company decided to provide him with a new Saab 9-5 Aero and offer one to anyone who put 1 million miles on a Saab as the original owner.

Mr. Gilbert is due to get his new car early next year. “I am on cloud nine right now. This is exactly the car I wanted,” he said Monday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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