- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2006


Fire crews work to protect homes

SEDONA — A 4,200-acre wildfire that threatened hundreds of homes was 35 percent contained early yesterday, fire officials said.

Although an evacuation order was lifted for some residents of scenic Oak Creek Canyon on Saturday, the blaze still threatened homes in the canyon’s southern end, where crews focused on finishing a protection line. Authorities said it will be about two days before the remaining evacuees can return home. Officials hope to have full containment by Wednesday, barring any weather disturbances that could push the flames.

The fire started June 18 north of Sedona as a transient’s campfire and spread to steep terrain above the canyon. No homes have burned.


Study finds obesity hurts cancer therapy

ATLANTA — Being overweight hurts men’s chances of having successful radiation treatment for prostate cancer, according to a study released today.

The study by researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is being called the first to examine the link between obesity and prostate cancer progression after radiation treatment.

Researchers found that moderately and severely obese men had a 70 percent higher risk of having a tumor recur after radiation treatment than thinner men did.

It’s not clear how being overweight affected the success of prostate cancer treatment. Fat tissue, by secreting certain hormones, may somehow have helped the cancer to progress later, she said.


License granted to uranium plant

ALBUQUERQUE — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued its first license for a major commercial nuclear facility in 30 years Friday, allowing an international consortium to build what would be the nation’s first private fuel source for commercial nuclear power plants.

Construction of the $1.5 billion National Enrichment Facility, under review for the past 2 years, could begin in August, and the plant could be ready to sell enriched uranium by early 2009, said Jim Ferland, president of the consortium of nuclear companies, Louisiana Energy Services.

The southeastern New Mexico plant would be near the small community of Eunice, where support for the project is strong.

Gov. Bill Richardson, a former U.S. energy secretary, said Friday that although the state was largely excluded from the licensing process, he expects that an agreement state officials reached with Louisiana consortium will protect New Mexicans and their environment.

A Kentucky facility owned by the Energy Department and operated by a privatized federal corporation is the only source of enriched uranium for commercial U.S. nuclear power plants.


Plane diverted by fight on board

NEW YORK — A flight to Puerto Rico was diverted to John F. Kennedy Airport shortly after takeoff early yesterday because a fight broke out on board, officials said.

Three women were questioned and one was briefly detained, FBI spokeswoman Christine Monaco said. The FBI was still investigating and would decide later whether charges would be filed, Miss Monaco said.

It appeared that one woman had started a fistfight with the other two, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the area’s airports.

The fight took place on JetBlue Flight 561, which had taken off from Newark Liberty International in New Jersey and landed at JFK about an hour later, said airline spokeswoman Jenny Dervin. The plane took off again from JFK about an hour later with the remaining 147 passengers and six crew members, she said.


Firefighters rescue man stuck in tree

PORTLAND — A man climbed a tree to save his cat but ended up needing to be saved himself.

Ken Sinclair’s white kitten, Breather, got stuck 30 feet up in a fir tree on Friday.

Mr. Sinclair tried calling to him, but the cat wouldn’t budge, so he climbed the tree. He managed to coax the cat down, but then couldn’t find a way back down the tree. Firefighters arrived with a 100-foot ladder in tow.

The cat and owner are now safe.


Handheld device helps the blind read

DALLAS — A whole new world opened up for Tommy Craig as he tested a new handheld device for the blind that converts print to audio.

Mr. Craig was able to “read” everything from menus to cooking directions by positioning the reader over print and taking a picture. In seconds, the device’s synthetic voice read the printed message to him.

“The reader provides access to materials that a lot of times you just didn’t read,” said Mr. Craig, 51, of Austin, Texas, who was one of about 500 blind people who tested the device over the past few months. “It certainly makes you more independent.”

The National Federation of the Blind plans to put the device on sale Saturday, when its annual meeting gets under way in Dallas.

The device, combining a personal digital assistant and a digital camera, was developed by inventor Ray Kurzweil and the membership organization of more than 50,000 blind people. It’s been dubbed the Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader.


Baby wallaby gets human foster mom

TACOMA — When a baby wallaby’s mother died of a bacterial infection last month, a zoo biologist volunteered to become its foster mother.

A.J., the orphaned Parma wallaby, grew accustomed to Jennifer Donovan’s touch and smell. Miss Donovan fashioned a makeshift pouch to make the 7-month-old feel comfortable, but she needed a better way to carry the wallaby around.

So, Miss Donovan, 34, a senior staff biologist at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, called her own mother, Toni, and told her to start sewing. The result was a fleece-lined “joey pouch” Miss Donovan hangs around her neck.

She feeds A.J. formula with a syringe because he refused to eat from a bottle. His weight has doubled to about 3.5 pounds since his mother, Alkina, died May 5. A.J. is about a foot long from nose to rump, plus a 12-inch tail. Average height for adult Parma wallabies is about 1 feet.

Miss Donovan tucks A.J. into the pouch for part of the day while she makes her rounds at the zoo. And she shows up on her days off to care for A.J.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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