- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 7, 2006


Pima bans new lawns to save water

TUCSON — Pima County banned new lawns in commercial developments unless they’re intended as parks or playgrounds.

It’s the toughest rule yet imposed to save water in southern Arizona. The Tucson region already has sliding-scale water rates that discourage lawns and has mandated sprinkler timers.


Glitches may stall shuttle launch

CAPE CANAVERAL — Continually worsening weather forecasts and two late-breaking technical worries created uncertainty yesterday about the planned night launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery.

NASA meteorologists downgraded the chance for good weather at the scheduled 9:35 p.m. launch time tonight to only 40 percent with low, lingering clouds more likely than not to prevent liftoff.

Along with concern about the weather, engineers planned to spend much of yesterday trying to decide whether the two technical problems — a brief power surge and concerns about a glue that helps protect seals in the solid-fuel rocket boosters — were minor or major.


Taco Bell pulls onions over E. coli outbreak

SOUTH PLAINFIELD — Taco Bell ordered scallions removed from its 5,800 U.S. restaurants yesterday after tests suggested they may be responsible for the E. coli outbreak that has sickened at least three dozen people in three states.

The fast-food chain said preliminary testing by an independent lab found three samples of green onions appeared to have a dangerous strain of the bacteria.

The company would not immediately identify the supplier of the scallions, so it was not clear whether contaminated green onions reached other restaurants or supermarkets.

The Taco Bell chain, a subsidiary of Yum Brands Inc., reopened restaurants linked to the outbreak on New York’s Long Island after the outlets were sanitized. And two of three New Jersey Taco Bells implicated have also reopened, with authorities awaiting test results on customers from the third place.

But the fast-food chain closed nine outlets in suburban Philadelphia after health officials reported four persons falling ill from E. coli.


Trade Center area to be tested, cleaned

NEW YORK — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began a $7 million program yesterday to test and clean buildings in southern Manhattan for contaminants from the September 11 attacks.

“We hope that the program will provide peace of mind to the people who live and work in Lower Manhattan,” EPA Regional Administrator Alan Steinberg said in a conference call.

Many emergency responders and downtown residents who breathed smoke, dust and debris during the attacks and in the days afterward suffer from what has been dubbed “World Trade Center cough.” A few subsequent deaths have been linked to health problems stemming from the attacks.

The EPA program covers the same area as a similar effort in 2002-2003, including the Wall Street financial district, Chinatown and Tribeca neighborhoods. The new program is intended to be the last such cleanup and will test air and dust in commercial and residential buildings for four contaminants: asbestos; lead; man-made vitreous fibers such as fiberglass, and policyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are byproducts of fires.


Boy tells of caging during abuse trial

NORWALK — A boy who had been adopted by the couple on trial for caging some of their children testified yesterday that he did not like the enclosure that he slept in because it was small and hot, and said some children were struck as punishment.

The boy, the first of several of the adopted children expected to testify in the trial of Michael and Sharen Gravelle, also told the jury that he was sent to a cage for weeks at a time for punishment.

“Mine was really small. In the summertime, it was really hot in there. We said we liked them because it made us safe. But we really didn’t like them. We said it to make [the Gravelles] happy,” the boy said.

The Gravelles, who deny abusing some of the 11 adopted, special-needs children in their care, are charged with 16 counts of felony child endangering and eight misdemeanor child endangering charges.

The boy on the stand yesterday morning also described other forms of punishment that the Gravelles are accused of using on him and other children, including dunking their heads in a toilet, striking them with two-by-four lumber and smacking across the face.


Villanova locked down after prowler’s gunfire

VILLANOVA — Villanova University was locked down for several hours after a suspected prowler fired shots at police and escaped early yesterday, authorities said.

No injuries were reported.

Police searched the campus in the affluent Philadelphia suburb with infrared cameras, police dogs and a state helicopter, but failed to locate the shooter, authorities said.

Police had received reports of the prowler about 3:15 a.m. and he shot at them when they attempted to question him, authorities said. He later fired on more officers as they arrived.


Mom has son arrested over gift

COLUMBIA — A fed-up mother had her 12-year-old son arrested for reportedly rummaging through his great-grandmother’s things and playing with his Christmas present early.

The mother called police Sunday after learning her son had disobeyed orders and repeatedly taken a Game Boy from its hiding place at his great-grandmother’s house next door and played it.

He was arrested on petty larceny charges, taken to the police station in handcuffs and held until his mother picked him up after church.

“My grandmother went out of her way to lay-away a toy and paid on this thing for months,” said the boy’s mother, Brandi Ervin. “It was only to teach my son a lesson. He’s been going through life doing things … and getting away with it.”

She said he faces an expulsion hearing at his school yesterday.

Rock Hill Police Capt. Mark Bollinger said the boy took a swing at a police officer assigned to the school last month. He has been suspended from school since then.

The boy’s case will be presented to Department of Juvenile Justice officials in York County, who will decide what happens to him, Capt. Bollinger said. His mother hopes he can attend a program that will finally scare him straight.


Parents sue schools over sexual assaults

AUSTIN — Two parents have filed a lawsuit claiming school officials failed to protect their daughters from sexual assault by another girl in their kindergarten class.

The lawsuit claims both girls were subjected to repeated sexual abuse by the third girl during nap periods and on a playground in the fall of 2005.

It says the assaults took place even though the abusive girl’s mother had warned a school official that her daughter had been a victim of sexual abuse and might be a threat to other children.

The lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court, names the Eanes Independent School District and an elementary school principal. It seeks unspecified monetary damages.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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