- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2006


Nuclear reactortemporarily shut down

PHOENIX — A reactor at the nation’s largest nuclear-power plant was shut down because of a growing vibration in a coolant pipe.

Arizona Public Service Co. had been operating the reactor, one of three at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, at about one-third of capacity because of vibration, but operators decided to shut it down Tuesday after the vibration rose above acceptable levels.

The unit could be restarted within two days, said Jim McDonald, a spokesman for Arizona Public.


Couple imprisoned in chili finger case

SAN JOSE — A couple who planted a severed finger in a bowl of Wendy’s chili in a scheme to extort money from the fast-food chain were sentenced yesterday to prison terms of at least nine years.

Anna Ayala, 40, who said she bit into the digit, was sentenced to nine years. Her husband, Jaime Plascencia, 44, who obtained the finger from a co-worker who lost it in a workplace accident, was sentenced to more than 12 years.

The two pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to file a false insurance claim and attempted grand theft with damages exceeding $2.5 million. In a tearful plea for leniency, Ayala apologized to the courtroom gallery.


Baby Noor has tube inserted

ATLANTA — Doctors inserted a drainage tube yesterday into the back of Baby Noor, the Iraqi infant who had surgery for spinal birth defects, to help remove a buildup of fluid, hospital officials said.

The swelling in the baby’s back appeared to be a minor accumulation of tissue fluid and not the more dangerous spinal fluid, which could require major surgery and lead to a buildup of life-threatening pressure in the 3-month-old’s brain, according to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Baby Noor will remain in the hospital for a few more days so doctors can determine what caused the fluid buildup.


Lost wallet found after 56 years

BLACKFOOT — When the Bingham County Historical Society met last week, Larry Christian had a special historical item to present to its president, Vestle Wixom.

It was her wallet — lost for 56 years behind a movie theater concession stand.

“After all these years, I’d even forgotten about losing it,” Mrs. Wixom said.

The wallet contained a Blackfoot High School student activity card from the 1949-50 school year and some photos, but no cash. The lack of moisture and light kept the wallet in near-perfect condition.

Mr. Christian said he found the wallet about two months ago when a work crew was cleaning out the area behind a concession stand to install new wallboard at the Nuart Theater. He consulted friends and with some help, found out that Vestle Michelson had married Darwin Wixom.


8 counties switch to Central time

INDIANAPOLIS — In a state where time long has been a contentious issue, the federal government yesterday granted the requests of eight counties to switch from the Eastern to the Central time zone.

Nine other counties that sought the change were turned down by the Department of Transportation, which regulates time zones. The requests were prompted by a state law enacted last year that mandates statewide observance of daylight-saving time beginning in April.

Starke, Pulaski, Daviess, Dubois, Knox, Martin, Perry and Pike counties will begin following Central time April 2. Ten Indiana counties already had been on Central time.

Gov. Mitch Daniels lobbied extensively for the law calling on all counties to follow daylight-saving time, saying it would eliminate confusion and boost commerce. It gained final legislative passage by a single vote in the House.


About 3,200 remain missing after Katrina

BATON ROUGE — More than 3,200 people are officially still unaccounted for nearly five months after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.

Nearly 11,500 people were reported missing to the Find Family National Call Center, a center run by federal and state workers. As of yesterday, all but about 3,200 had been located, the agency said.

It’s possible some of those missing were washed into Lake Pontchartrain, or their bodies remain in the rubble that still blankets much of the city. Some of those still listed as missing likely have been found by relatives but the center hasn’t been notified of their status, the call center said. Others may not want to be found because of criminal or legal problems.


Senators broker deal on power line

BANGOR — An agreement brokered by Maine’s U.S. senators will enable Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. to proceed with plans for an 85-mile power-transmission line from Orrington to Baileyville.

Republican Sens. Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins say the agreement calls for federal officials to issue a permit for the project in a timely manner. The project is expected to save Maine $100 million in electricity costs over six years.


Governor seeks probe of reservoir flood

KANSAS CITY — Missouri’s governor wants a federal agency to look into whether it is partly to blame for a reservoir breach last month that released a torrent of water and injured a family, his office said yesterday.

Republican Gov. Matt Blunt sent a letter to Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) Chairman Joseph Kelliher Tuesday, asking the agency to determine whether it provided proper oversight. FERC oversees the 55-acre power-plant reservoir that feeds a 440-megawatt Ameren Corp. plant.

Mr. Blunt also has asked Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon to consider filing civil or criminal charges against Ameren. FERC spokesman Bryan Lee said the agency was investigating the incident.


2 sailors die in tugboat sinking

WILMINGTON — Two sailors aboard a tugboat died when their boat sank about 40 miles off Cape Fear in gale-force wind and high seas, the Coast Guard said yesterday as a search continued for one sailor who remained missing.

The 135-foot tugboat Valour began sinking late Tuesday while pulling a 500-foot barge loaded with about 5.5 million gallons of petroleum byproduct.

The tug’s crew called the Coast Guard for help after one sailor fell overboard. That crew member made it back aboard the ship, said Petty Officer Lawrence Chambers. A Coast Guard helicopter rescued another sailor and took him to a hospital in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where he remained yesterday.

Another tugboat rescued five other sailors before the Valour sank.

The missing sailor was wearing a “survivor suit” that could allow him to remain alive in the water for up to 30 hours, Petty Officer Chambers said.


State expects wildfires until April

HOUSTON — Wildfires that have scorched about 455,000 acres in Texas are likely to keep burning until the end of April, the state’s emergency-management coordinator said yesterday.

Texas, where months of drought and unseasonably warm weather have turned prairies into tinderboxes, is expected to have little rainfall, low humidity, warm temperatures and high winds through April, said state emergency-management coordinator Jack Colley.

Most of the 2,017 wildfires have struck rural areas, Mr. Colley told reporters during a conference call.

Wildfires in Texas and Oklahoma have been blamed for five deaths since Nov. 1. Dry conditions across the central and Southeastern United States have led many states to ban burning to limit wildfires. From wire dispatches and staff reports

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