- The Washington Times - Monday, December 4, 2006


Wind-driven fires destroy 2 homes

MOORPARK — Fires driven by strong Santa Ana winds yesterday destroyed two homes and a storage building and endangered hundreds of others in canyons and hillsides, authorities said.

Fire officials called for voluntary evacuations in Ventura County.

A fire that started about 7 a.m. destroyed two homes and a building containing farm equipment. The blaze as well as another, which began about 2:30 a.m., had scorched about 2,000 acres, or 3 square miles, said Capt. Ron Nelson of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. A third fire had burned up 30 acres, authorities said.

Roughly 70 mph winds hampered several hundred firefighters. Water-dropping helicopters also were used.

No containment figures were available, and no injuries were reported.

The cause of the fires was under investigation.


Virus strikes 384 on cruise ship

MIAMI — More than 380 passengers and crew aboard the world’s largest cruise ship were sickened by a virus during a seven-day Caribbean cruise, cruise officials said yesterday.

Norovirus sickened 338 passengers and 46 crew members on the Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas, and they were treated with over-the-counter medication, the Miami-based company said.

The ship, which had roughly 3,800 passengers and 1,300 crew members, returned yesterday as scheduled to the Port of Miami. Crew members sanitized railings, door handles and elevator buttons after the short-lived outbreak began, officials said.

A guest previously exposed to norovirus, characterized by symptoms similar to the stomach flu, likely brought it on board Nov. 26, the company said.


Hospital fast food worries researchers

CHICAGO — Having fast-food restaurants in children’s hospitals influences patients’ families to eat fast food and to think that it’s relatively healthy, research suggests.

At least 59 of the nation’s 250 children’s hospitals have fast-food restaurants, the study found. That is a troubling phenomenon, particularly given rising obesity rates, said the study’s lead author, Dr. Hannah Sahud, a pediatrician at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.

“We’re giving two different messages by being in the health care profession and promoting health and saying obesity is a huge medical problem … and then implicitly encouraging it,” she said.

Dr. Sahud conducted the research while at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital, which has one McDonald’s inside and another across the street.

Her study appears in December’s Pediatrics journal, scheduled for release today.


Jail trusties foil inmate’s escape

LAUREL — Jones County authorities are crediting two inmates with thwarting the escape of a third.

Sheriff Larry Dykes said a trusty at the jail, Danny Lamar Odom, 47, bolted Thursday from a work crew toward a field behind the jail.

Sheriff Dykes said Odom had been working in the kitchen and was helping unload food boxes from a delivery truck.

He said two younger trusties, Reginald Ducksworth and Jacob Lambert, also were helping unload the truck. They chased down Odom, who was serving time for possession of a firearm by an ex-felon, and brought him back to the jail.


Many still feel wallop of storm

ST. LOUIS — The temperature barely rose into the 20s yesterday as hundreds of thousands waited for electrical service that was knocked out by ice and snow.

Tawana Jean Cooper and her family spent the day at a Red Cross warming center in St. Louis, which they were able to reach on Saturday from her suburban home after roads were cleared of ice, downed power lines and broken tree limbs left by Thursday’s storm.

“The American Red Cross has been a God’s blessing,” she said. About six dozen others also spent the night at the shelter.

Missouri National Guardsmen had been sent into the area to knock on doors and make sure people were safe.

The storm was blamed for at least 15 deaths as it spread ice and deep snow from Texas to Michigan and then blew through the Northeast late Friday and early Saturday.


Wiccan war widow dedicates plaque

RENO — The widow of a soldier killed in Afghanistan saw a Wiccan symbol placed on a memorial plaque for her husband Saturday, after fighting the federal government for more than a year over the emblem.

Roberta Stewart, widow of Sgt. Patrick Stewart, and Wiccan leaders said it was the first government-issued memorial plaque with a Wiccan pentacle — a five-pointed star enclosed in a circle. More than 50 family members and friends dedicated the plaque at Northern Nevada Veterans Cemetery, about 30 miles east of Reno.

They praised Gov. Kenny Guinn, a Republican, for his role in getting the Nevada Office of Veterans Services to issue the plaque in September. The agency cited its jurisdiction over maintenance of the state cemetery.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes more than 30 symbols, including more than a dozen variations of the Christian cross and the atomic whirl used by atheists, but not the pentacle.


E. coli outbreak sickens 11

NEWARK — An outbreak of E. coli bacteria has sickened at least 11 persons in New Jersey over the past two weeks, officials said.

“This is a significant outbreak of a serious disease, and a significant amount of people are ill,” Middlesex County Health Director David Papi told the Star-Ledger.

Investigators are trying to figure out how and where the victims became infected, the newspaper reported yesterday.

Nine of the 11 ate at a Taco Bell restaurant in South Plainfield that was voluntarily closed on Thursday because of the investigation, but Mr. Papi said inspectors did not find any significant health code violations there two weeks ago. The restaurant’s 21 employees are undergoing tests to determine whether any are infected.


Police subdue attacking python

UNIONTOWN — A police officer used a stun gun to subdue a python that had wrapped itself around a man’s arm and would not let go.

Steve Crilly, 47, was feeding a rat to the 8-foot-long albino Burmese python, which belongs to his daughter, when it bit his left hand and wrapped tightly around his left arm Wednesday night, Uniontown police Officer Ray Miller said.

“The snake was on his arm and was eating his hand,” Officer Miller told the Herald-Standard of Uniontown.

In an effort to free the man without permanently harming the snake, Officer Miller said, he shot the animal with his weapon that sends an electric shock through wired darts. The snake immediately went limp and released its grip.

Mr. Crilly was treated by paramedics at the scene for what Officer Miller called “a nasty cut” on his hand. The snake was not injured and remained at the home, Officer Miller said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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