- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2006


Democratic governor enjoys strong support

PHOENIX — Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano enjoys strong support as she enters an election year in the Republican-dominated state, a poll shows.

The Arizona Republic poll found 83 percent of 602 registered voters surveyed gave the governor high marks for her ability to effectively govern. Miss Napolitano even got strong support among Republicans for the programs she is pushing, including all-day kindergarten.


Zoo to send tigers to Minnesota

LITTLE ROCK — The Little Rock Zoo plans to send a pair of Siberian tigers to the Minnesota Zoo because the steamy Arkansas summers have been deemed uncomfortable for the breed.

The first tiger, Serge, was scheduled to leave yesterday. The Little Rock Zoo will receive two Indo-Chinese tigers from the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Neb., this spring.


Snow shuts schools in Northeast

HARTFORD — A sloppy mixture of rain, sleet and wet snow knocked out power to tens of thousands of people, closed schools and made a mess of highways in the Northeast yesterday, the first business day of the new year.

Snow amounts included more than 14 inches in Granville, Mass.; more than 8 inches at Litchfield, Conn., and in northwestern New Jersey; and 6 inches in New York’s Catskill Mountains.

Schools closed in parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts and eastern New York state.

The heavy snow and ice snapped branches, pulling down power lines. Connecticut Light & Power Co. reported nearly 29,000 outages in the morning. Power to most customers was restored later in the day.

Western Massachusetts Electric Co. said that by early afternoon, its workers had repaired most of the 4,000 power lines that were downed.


Red tide outbreak kills manatees

TAMPA — The 2005 red tide outbreak off southwestern Florida contributed to the deaths of dozens of manatees, researchers said.

Boat collisions killed 72 of the slow-moving aquatic mammals as of last week, about the same number as in 2004. However, the red tide outbreak pushed the total number of deaths to 366, 90 more than in 2004.


Woman tells U.S.: I’m not dead

CROWN POINT — Thelma Saberniak has a message for Uncle Sam: She’s not dead.

The 82-year-old learned of her supposed demise when she tried to apply for Medicare’s new prescription drug benefit last month. She also has lost her monthly Social Security checks.

“I supposedly died November 19,” she told the Times of Northwest Indiana for a Sunday story.

Carmen Moreno, a spokeswoman for the Social Security Administration in Chicago, said there is no way to tell how the mistake was made. She said once Mrs. Saberniak’s identity can be verified, the agency will work to restore her benefits “expeditiously.”

With $12,000 in medical bills, Mrs. Saberniak said she’s borrowing money from children and drawing from her savings.


Legislator announces party switch

AUGUSTA — A Democratic state legislator announced yesterday she has quit the party, leaving the Maine House evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

Rep. Barbara Merrill’s defection will give the two major parties 73 seats each when the 2006 session opens today. Mrs. Merrill becomes one of four unenrolled or independent members. One Green Party member also serves in the 151-seat chamber.

Mrs. Merrill, author of a book in which she makes a stand against political orthodoxies, said she left the Democrats because she is unhappy with the party’s stand on budget issues.


Sex abuse settlement rejected

BOSTON — Lawyers for victims of sexual abuse by priests yesterday rejected a settlement offer by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston that they called “demeaning,” “cruel” and “immoral.”

The archdiocese has offered average payments of $75,000 per person to settle claims from about 100 people who say they were sexually abused during a pedophile priest scandal that surfaced in Boston in 2002 and spread to other U.S. parishes.

“Every part of the proposal is unacceptable,” Carmen Durso, a lawyer representing 33 plaintiffs, said at a press conference.


Two-headed albino snake for sale

ST. LOUIS — For sale: One albino snake. Has two heads. Asking $150,000 or best offer.

The World Aquarium in St. Louis has been home to We, a one-of-a-kind, two-headed albino rat snake, since 1999. President Leonard Sonnenschein has decided to sell the reptile, and bidding on reptileauction.com will start at $150,000.

“It’s an amazing snake,” Mr. Sonnenschein said Monday.

“When people see it they are awe-struck.”

The auction was expected to close within 10 days.


Board rescinds policy on ‘intelligent design’

DOVER — The Dover school board yesterday rescinded its policy of presenting “intelligent design” as an alternative to evolution in high school biology classes, two weeks after a federal judge found the concept was religious and not scientific.

There was no discussion by members of the Dover Area School Board before the voice vote last night.

The policy, approved in October 2004, required that a statement be read to students about “intelligent design” before ninth-grade lessons on evolution. The statement said Darwin’s theory is “not a fact” and has inexplicable “gaps.” It referred students to an “intelligent-design” book.


Van crash kills five family members

TUCUMCARI — A rental van crashed in eastern New Mexico on Monday, killing five of the seven family members in the vehicle, authorities said.

The van left Interstate 40 about 2 a.m., rolled onto its roof and slid, said Peter Olson, New Mexico Department of Public Safety spokesman.

The driver, Anila Nanjwani Surani, 38, was killed, along with her children’s grandmother and grandfather, Khadija Nanjwani, 64, and Sherali Nanjwani, 68. Two of the driver’s children died.

The father, Rafique Rahim Surani, 43, is in critical condition. A third child was treated for minor injuries and was released to the custody of the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department.

The family was returning home to Carrollton, Texas, Mr. Olson said.


State legalizes medical marijuana

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island yesterday became the 11th state to legalize medical marijuana and the first since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that patients who use the drug can still be prosecuted under federal law.

The House overrode a veto by Gov. Donald L. Carcieri, 59-13, allowing people with illnesses such as cancer and AIDS to grow up to 12 marijuana plants or buy 2.5 ounces of marijuana to relieve their symptoms. Those who do are required to register with the state and get an identification card.

Federal law prohibits any use of marijuana, but Maine, Vermont, Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington allow it to be grown and used for medicinal purposes.

The U.S. high court ruled June 6 that people who smoke marijuana because their doctors recommend it can still be prosecuted under federal drug laws.


8-year-old climbs Alps, Himalayas

BOTHELL — He’s only 4 feet tall and 8 years old, but Aidan Gold is an experienced mountaineer who has left tracks on peaks in the Cascades, the Alps and the Himalayas.

Aidan climbed the 20,300-foot Island Peak in the Himalayas in November.

That was the high point of the family’s four-month climbing and hiking adventure, which took them from Switzerland to Katmandu, Nepal.

Aidan and his dad also reached the peak of 10,400-foot Haustock and 13,400-foot Monch in the Alps, and 17,200-foot Awi Peak near Everest. The whole family, including 5-year-old Janick, made it to the 17,700-foot Everest base camp.

Aidan said the toughest stretch for him was a 45-degree face of rock and ice on Haustock. “It’s the worse 3,000 feet I’ve ever done,” he said.

From staff reports and wire dispatches

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