- The Washington Times - Monday, January 9, 2006


Wildfires force hundreds to flee

AGUILAR — Wind-whipped wildfires destroyed at least five houses in southern Colorado and forced the evacuation of several hundred residents yesterday, authorities said.

Two fires had burned more than 5,400 acres in Huerfano and Las Animas counties, not far from the New Mexico line. One of them had started as a controlled burn earlier in the week that flared up again despite efforts to keep it down.

Wind gusting up to 50 mph prevented authorities from using airplanes to drop slurry onto the fires, said Pam Martinez of the Huerfano County Sheriff’s Department.

Firefighters were investigating the extent of the damage and watching for more flare-ups.

Drought conditions and gusting wind have spread dozens of wildfires across Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico over the past two weeks. At least 475 homes have been destroyed by the winter blazes, and five persons have been killed.


Skydivers killed in failed landing

HONOLULU — A skydiving instructor and a student from Japan died when their tandem parachute missed Oahu’s Dillingham Airfield and landed in rough surf 300 yards from shore, authorities said.

Skydive Hawaii instructor Erich Mueller, 69, was declared dead shortly after arriving at a hospital emergency room Friday, and student Saori Takahashi, 33, of Hokkaido, Japan, died later that night, the medical examiner’s office said.

Fire Capt. Kenison Tejada said both victims were tangled up in the parachute. Rescue workers said they had been underwater 15 to 30 minutes before they were freed.

Witnesses said the parachute fully opened, and winds were blowing at about 15 mph, but they missed the landing zone.


Foes to attend forum on intelligent design

LAWRENCE — Attorneys who blocked intelligent design from being taught in Dover, Pa., schools plan to participate in a forum in Kansas. Eric Rothschild and Stephen G. Harvey, who argued the case in which a federal judge ruled that intelligent design is repackaged creationism, will appear Jan. 28 at the University of Kansas.

State officials haven’t endorsed intelligent design but did change science standards to include more criticism of evolution.


Delegation to study flood-control systems

NEW ORLEANS — Sen. Mary L. Landrieu is leading a delegation to the Netherlands today to study the flood-control systems protecting a nation much farther below sea level than New Orleans.

The Louisiana Democrat said the Netherlands ambassador invited her after Hurricane Katrina broke floodgates and levees, flooding most of New Orleans and all of neighboring St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes.

“The Netherlands is 21 feet below sea level,” Mrs. Landrieu said.

The Netherlands has completed a 50-year program to build dams, sea walls and surge barriers designed to protect the south of the country against almost any storm. It includes twin rotating gates that can seal the mouth of Rotterdam’s harbor against a storm surge, and a set of 62 big gates that can close off the Oosterschelde estuary in Zeeland.


Sisters give birth on consecutive days

ST. CHARLES — The first surprise was when three sisters discovered they were pregnant and due about the same time.

The bigger surprise came last month when their babies were born on three consecutive days at the same hospital in this St. Louis suburb. The sisters live in Warrenton, about 40 miles away.

Tracey Mueller, 28, was the first to give birth; Sophia Ann Mueller arrived at 7:07 a.m. Dec. 28. Labor pains next struck Trisha Duvel, 31, who delivered Jack Thomas Duvel at 9:39 p.m. Dec. 29. Jamie Roden, 24, checked into St. Joseph Health Center the next afternoon, and Kara Grace Roden arrived at 9:23 p.m.


Jury finds apparent crack cocaine

CAMDEN — A jury looking at the bloody coat of the victim in an attempted-murder trial found something the authorities missed: 30 bags of what appeared to be crack cocaine.

The deliberations were stopped after the discovery Thursday, and the jury was told to return to the courthouse this week.

Charles Gould, 25, is on trial in the shooting of Dwaun Drayton in 2003.


Meth raids reduced after registry rule

EUGENE — The number of methamphetamine labs found in Oregon dropped by more than half last year, after the state imposed a registry of the over-the-counter cold remedy used to make the illegal drug.

Police raided 447 meth labs in 2004. The total for 2005 fell by 59 percent to 185 labs, said state police Lt. Mike Dingeman, who supervises a drug task force.

“The drop started immediately after that rule went into effect” in April, Lt. Dingeman said.

The registry rule requires the state’s 800 pharmacies to record the identities of customers buying cold medications containing pseudoephedrine, which can be reformulated to produce meth.


Police break up mob gambling ring

SCITUATE — State police said they broke up a mob-connected gambling ring that collected more than $3 million a month in illegal sports wagers. More than 20 people were arrested, and 16 were charged with both racketeering and bookmaking.

Col. Steven Pare said police think those charged were paying the Patriarca crime family, which controls organized crime in much of New England.


Theater resists ‘Brokeback Mountain’

SALT LAKE CITY — A movie theater owned by Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller abruptly changed its screening plans and decided not to show the film “Brokeback Mountain.”

The film, an R-rated Western homosexual romance story, was supposed to open Friday at the Megaplex at Jordan Commons in Sandy, a suburb of Salt Lake City. Instead, it was pulled from the schedule.

A message posted at the ticket window read: “There has been a change in booking and we will not be showing ‘Brokeback Mountain.’ We apologize for any inconvenience.”


GPS device leads to robbery suspect

SPOKANE — Moments after a bank was robbed, police found a duffel bag full of cash — and the Global Positioning System device that bank workers had tucked inside.

The device used satellite signals to relay the location of the getaway minivan to police shortly after the Wednesday robbery.

The driver, Thomas R. Fricks, 38, was ordered held without bond Thursday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno.

“You guys are good,” Mr. Fricks said as Spokane police Officer Tim Moses arrested him shortly after the Washington Trust Bank branch robbery, according to documents filed in federal court.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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