- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 15, 2006

CALIFORNIA

Conjoined twins ‘doing great’ after surgery

LOS ANGELES — Regina and Renata Salinas Fierros were “doing great” after doctors separated the 10-month-old conjoined twins and rebuilt their bodies during a daylong operation, a hospital spokeswoman said yesterday.

The twins were transferred early yesterday to side-by-side beds in an intensive care unit after their surgeries were complete, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles spokeswoman Janet Dotson said.

The 10-month-old twins were born facing each other, joined from the lower chest to the pelvis. They were born Aug. 2 in Los Angeles to Mexican parents who were visiting relatives in the United States.

FLORIDA

Space shuttle crew has practice countdown

CAPE CANAVERAL — Discovery’s seven crew members put on their bright orange spacesuits and were strapped into the space shuttle for a practice countdown on the launchpad yesterday.

The mock countdown was practice for the astronauts’ expected launch next month and a dry run for the flight controllers in the so-called firing room who will direct the liftoff.

Discovery’s launch will be the first shuttle flight in almost a year and only the second one since the Columbia disaster in 2003.

Tomorrow, top NASA officials are expected to make a final decision on a target launch date and whether the shuttle is safe to fly. The launch window is between July 1 and July 19.

ARKANSAS

Gay foster-parent ban aids children, state says

LITTLE ROCK — Attorneys for homosexual couples told the Arkansas Supreme Court yesterday that a policy banning homosexuals from becoming foster parents is unconstitutional, but the state argued that it protects children’s moral and spiritual welfare.

Because the state has banned homosexual “marriage,” and its Child Welfare Agency Review Board bars unmarried couples who live together from becoming foster parents, homosexual couples cannot have foster children, said Kathy L. Hall, attorney for the Department of Health and Human Services.

The state is appealing a 2004 lower court decision that found the welfare board’s 1999 ban to be unconstitutional.

Leslie Cooper, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that the state’s policy is discriminatory and “couldn’t possibly do anything to protect the interest of children.”

COLORADO

Fires force families from 1,100 homes

DENVER — Wind-blown wildfires threatened more than 1,100 homes in Colorado and Arizona, where drought conditions and winds created ideal conditions for spreading the flames.

In Arizona, a roaring forest fire forced the evacuation of about 1,000 homes on the west side of Flagstaff. The blaze was contained yesterday morning at 150 acres, but winds and a fear of flare-ups was likely to keep residents out of their homes through today, said Coconino County Sheriff’s spokesman Gerry Blair.

In southern Colorado, a wildfire sparked by a downed power line nearly tripled to 700 acres overnight near Westcliffe, where about 100 people had evacuated homes Wednesday.

One house there was damaged, but none had burned yesterday morning, said Steve Segin, a spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team.

KANSAS

Worker buried under grain dies

TOPEKA — A worker attempting to dislodge a clogged chute in a grain storage bin died after he was buried under 20 feet of corn Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.

The avalanche of grain covered the 37-year-old Mayetta man, Scott Grossoehme, while three other Cargill Inc. employees got out of the bin safely, officials said.

Rescuers spent more than three hours trying to move the grain with two front-loaders to reach Mr. Grossoehme, who was trapped near the bottom of the bin, Topeka Fire Chief Rick Pardee said. Mr. Grossoehme, who had worked for the company for about eight months, likely was asphyxiated under the weight of the grain, the fire chief said.

The incident was under investigation, and the plant was closed yesterday.

KENTUCKY

Court rules inmate can be executed

LOUISVILLE — The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the mental age of a death-row inmate does not prevent the state from executing him.

An attorney for Thomas Clyde Bowling had argued that the inmate had the mental capacity of an 11-year-old when he killed two persons in Lexington in 1990, citing testimony from psychologists.

The state high court in Frankfort noted the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year barring executions for killers who were not at least 18 at the time of the crime but said the ruling did not specifically prohibit putting to death someone with a mental age below that.

“There is simply no language to support such a conclusion,” Justice Martin E. Johnstone wrote in a 5-0 opinion.

Justice Johnstone wrote that there is some validity to the idea put forth by Bowling’s attorneys but that the federal high court intentionally established chronological age, not mental age, as the deciding factor.

MASSACHUSETTS

Four die in fire at prayer service

FALL RIVER — A deadly fire that scorched a community center during a prayer service started when candles ignited crepe-paper decorations set up for a weekend festival, fire officials said yesterday.

People in the hall tried to extinguish the flames before calling for help late Wednesday, Fire Chief David Thiboutot said.

Four persons were killed, and at least a dozen were injured.

The flames broke out as members of the Our Lady of Light Society were praying in preparation for a Portuguese religious festival this weekend in this coastal city, which has an active, deep-rooted Portuguese community.

Thirty persons were in the three-story building when someone lighting candles dropped a lit taper onto a decorated shrine in the ground-floor community hall, Deputy Fire Chief William Silvia said.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Woman rescues man pinned under car

LACONIA — A woman rescued a neighbor who was pinned under a car when it fell off its jack. Gene Batchelder, 29, was changing an oil filter when the next thing he remembers is gasping for breath.

He couldn’t yell but kicked a bucket full of tools, attracting Sandra Avellino, 40. Authorities say she jacked the car back up, and Mr. Batchelder was treated for minor injuries.

NORTH CAROLINA

Man kills son, self; another son wounded

CHARLOTTE — A man fatally shot one of his sons and wounded another at their home, then fatally shot himself, authorities said.

The 10-year-old boy died yesterday, a day after he was shot by Mark Minor, authorities said.

The 8-year-old remained hospitalized, and a spokeswoman for Carolinas Medical Center declined to release any information.

Mr. Minor, 44, who worked for the gas department in Monroe, was described by his boss as a dependable employee who had talked of some problems at home in recent days. The boss, Steven Rogers, declined to elaborate on those problems.

OREGON

Environmentalists seek to block logging

MEDFORD — Environmentalists asked a federal judge Wednesday to temporarily block logging in a remote, burned-over section of a national forest that was purchased last week in the first such sale since the Bush administration eased logging restrictions.

Environmentalists said new studies show the logging would kill young trees and increase the danger of wildfire.

Attorneys for the U.S. Forest Service countered that the area is so small that the logging would cause no real harm.

U.S. Magistrate Owen M. Panner said he would rule on the request on Wednesday.

TEXAS

Disease kills 3 at hospital

DALLAS — Ten cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been diagnosed among patients and visitors at a San Antonio hospital, and health officials suspect the facility is the source.

Among those diagnosed at North Central Baptist Hospital, three have died. But health officials said they already were ill. The officials didn’t know how much of a factor Legionnaires’ disease played in the deaths. Six have been treated and released. One remains in the hospital.

Karen May, spokeswoman for the Baptist Health System, confirmed Wednesday the 10th diagnosis of the disease, a rare form of pneumonia, but she wouldn’t elaborate, citing privacy rules.

The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District is investigating, said epidemiologist Cherise Rohr-Allegrini.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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