- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2006

NEW JERSEY

State workers return after shutdown

TRENTON — For state employees in New Jersey, the weeklong, unexpected break is over.

State workers headed back to work yesterday after a government shutdown halted most state services last week and closed Atlantic City’s 12 casinos for three days.

The shutdown, spurred by a budget impasse between Gov. Jon Corzine and his fellow Democrats who control the state Legislature, ended Saturday morning after the Assembly and the Senate passed a compromise $30.8 billion spending plan that boosted the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent. The casinos reopened shortly thereafter.

The shutdown began after the state failed to have a balanced budget in place by July 1, as mandated by the state constitution.

State parks and beaches reopened to large crowds on Sunday, and state courts, Motor Vehicle Commission offices and auto inspection stations resumed operations yesterday morning.

WISCONSIN

Resort explosion kills 2

ELLISON BAY — At least one explosion damaged three buildings in this resort community early yesterday, killing two persons and sending seven others to hospitals, authorities said.

The blast struck a grocery store, a cottage and a maintenance building that contained living quarters in Ellison Bay, on the Door County peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan, said Chief Chris Hecht of the Sister Bay/Liberty Grove Fire Department.

Investigators had not pinpointed the cause of the blast, but suspected a propane gas leak was involved, said Charles Most, chairman of the Door County Board and the Liberty Grove Town Board.

Authorities relocated about 70 people after the explosion.

ARIZONA

Indian graduations climb 13 percent

PHOENIX — After generations of poor showings, high school graduation rates for American Indian students in Arizona climbed 13 percent from 2000 to 2004, the latest year with complete statistics.

Slightly more than 63 percent of American Indians in the class of 2004 graduated in four years. That still trails the state’s overall graduation rate of 77 percent.

GEORGIA

State appeals block of voter ID law

ATLANTA — Georgia’s attorney general filed an emergency appeal yesterday of a court order that blocks the state from enforcing its new voter photo identification law during next week’s primary elections.

The law requires that every voter who casts a ballot in person produce a valid, government-issued photo ID. Elections officials have distributed several dozen of the photo IDs to voters, primarily seniors, who don’t have a driver’s license, passport or other qualifying photo ID.

Supporters say the ID requirement is needed to crack down on voter fraud. Opponents say it unfairly affects the poor, rural voters and minorities — people least likely to have a valid picture ID.

The motion, filed in the Georgia Supreme Court, seeks to stay the temporary restraining order issued Friday by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Melvin Westmoreland.

In his sharply worded ruling, Judge Westmoreland said the voter ID law “unduly burdens the fundamental right to vote rather than regulate it” and would cause “irreparable harm.”

IDAHO

Guard leader sets parachuting record

TWIN FALLS — The commander of an Air National Guard squadron in Oregon set a world record by parachuting from Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls 201 times in 24 hours.

Capt. Dan Schilling jumped off the 486-foot bridge roughly once every seven minutes. His record-setting stunt raised money for scholarships for children of fallen soldiers.

ILLINOIS

Fish in diet linked to eyesight protection

CHICAGO — Two new studies give one more reason to eat a diet rich in fish: prevention of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in old age.

The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish such as salmon already are known to help the heart and brain stay healthy. The new studies, appearing yesterday in the Archives of Ophthalmology, add to evidence that fish also protect the eyes.

The new studies aren’t the strongest level of scientific evidence, but they confirm the findings of previous studies that also link fish consumption with prevention of macular degeneration.

A study of 681 elderly American men showed that those who ate fish twice a week had a 36 percent lower risk of macular degeneration. In the other study, which followed 2,335 Australian men and women over five years, people who ate fish just once a week reduced their risk by 40 percent.

The U.S. study also found that smokers nearly doubled their risk of the eye condition compared with people who never smoked.

KANSAS

Short wheat harvest drives up flour prices

WICHITA — A paltry winter wheat harvest in the nation’s breadbasket has driven up the cost of flour for consumers, with more price increases feared as drought takes a growing toll on the nation’s spring wheat crop as well.

Among those noticing the rising flour prices at the grocery store is Dale Eustace, a professor of grain science at Kansas State University. Mr. Eustace, who retired as the college’s flour mill superintendent, said 25-pound bags of flour that had been running $9 or $10 before the winter wheat harvest are now $2 to $3 higher.

The raw ingredient is more costly because of this season’s short wheat crop and low stock carry-over from last year. Also, flour mills across the nation are having to scramble to find the classes of wheat their customers want to buy. The only bright spot is crop quality: Test weights and protein levels for winter wheat are both exceptionally good this year.

“It is kind of like the price of gas: It just keeps going up,” Mr. Eustace said. “It is the same problem with flour.”

OHIO

Roller coaster mishap injures 27 riders

CINCINNATI — A malfunction on an amusement-park ride Sunday sent 27 persons to hospitals, most with minor chest and neck injuries, a park official said.

The accident happened on the Son of Beast roller coaster at Paramount’s Kings Island just northeast of Cincinnati. WCPO-TV reported that witnesses saw the roller coaster come to an abrupt stop about 4:45 p.m.

Riders complained of discomfort after the coaster completed a circuit and pulled back into the boarding area, said Maureen Kaiser, a spokeswoman for the park.

Park officials shut down the ride and were examining it, Miss Kaiser said.

TEXAS

Yates jurors view teary explanation

HOUSTON — A videotaped jail interview played for jurors yesterday showed Andrea Yates weeping after she told a psychiatrist why she drowned her five children in a bathtub.

“In their innocence, I thought they would go to heaven,” Mrs. Yates told Dr. Lucy Puryear about five weeks after the June 20, 2001, drownings. “I just — since they were so young,” she stammered before trailing off and starting to cry.

Dr. Puryear, a specialist on reproductive-related psychiatric disorders, was called by the defense at Mrs. Yates’ murder trial.

Her attorneys say Mrs. Yates suffered from severe postpartum psychosis and did not know that killing 6-month-old Mary, 2-year-old Luke, 3-year-old Paul, 5-year-old John and 7-year-old Noah was wrong.

Court ended at midday yesterday because of a scheduling conflict. Testimony resumes today. Defense attorneys had said they planned to wrap up their case this week.

WASHINGTON

Boy sent to prison for killing playmate

EPHRATA — A boy convicted of stabbing a playmate to death when he was 12 was sentenced yesterday to the maximum 26 years in prison.

A jury convicted Evan Savoie, now 15, of first-degree murder in the 2003 stabbing death of 13-year-old Craig Sorger, a developmentally disabled playmate. Despite Evan’s youth, prosecutors tried him as an adult.

Evan has repeatedly proclaimed he is not guilty. He said Craig fell from a tree while they were playing and that he left him injured — without a pulse — on a wooded trail but didn’t kill him.

The key to the prosecution’s case was the testimony of Jake Eakin, another 12-year-old playmate at the time. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder by complicity last year, two years after Craig’s death, and is serving 14 years in prison.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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