- The Washington Times - Monday, March 13, 2006

ALASKA

Lawsuit aims to stall oil, gas development

ANCHORAGE — Environmental groups are suing the Interior Department to block expanded oil and gas exploration in an ecologically sensitive area of Alaska’s North Slope.

The 18-page lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Juneau focuses on the government’s decision in January to allow drillers to lease previously closed acreage in the northeastern corner of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

The Bush administration’s decision opens up 389,000 acres for leasing, giving drillers a chance to find and produce an estimated 2 billion barrels of oil and 3.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the tundra north and east of Teshekpuk Lake.

The plaintiffs contend that the Bureau of Land Management, an Interior agency, violated the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws in failing to properly analyze the potential impacts of oil and gas activity in a region that is a magnet for migratory geese. They say the agency paid inadequate attention to the potential for industrial sprawl that could chop up an Arctic haven for animals of great importance to subsistence hunters.

CALIFORNIA

Illegal alien dies when lost in snow

ALPINE — An illegal alien died Saturday in the freezing, snowy countryside of eastern San Diego County, officials said. Six others were rescued.

The seven Mexican men became disoriented near Corte Madera in Pine Valley, a high-elevation rural area about 60 miles from the border that received as much as 1 feet of snow during the weekend, Border Patrol spokesman Richard Kite said.

The victim, whose identity was not known, was pronounced dead at the scene. The others were treated at the scene, possibly for mild hypothermia, Mr. Kite said.

GEORGIA

Iraqi baby undergoes new skull surgery

ATLANTA — An Iraqi infant brought to the United States to be treated for severe birth defects underwent surgery Friday to drain fluid in her skull, doctors said.

The tube that was inserted into Noor al-Zahra’s skull was needed to prevent permanent brain injury, officials at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta said. The procedure was successful, said her physician, Dr. Roger Hudgins.

Doctors say Noor, now 5 months old, is likely to remain paraplegic but otherwise healthy.

U.S. troops found Noor during a raid on a home in Iraq in December and noticed paralysis and a growth on her back. They arranged medical care in the United States for her condition, spina bifida, in which the backbone and spinal cord do not close after birth.

HAWAII

Soldier dies in training accident

POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA — One soldier died and four others were injured during a live-fire training exercise on the Big Island, the Army said Saturday.

The soldiers, based out of Schofield Barracks on Oahu, were training for a summer deployment to northern Iraq for a yearlong mission, said Army spokesman Kendrick Washington.

The Army would not say what caused the accident Friday at Pohakuloa Training Area or what kind of training the soldiers were doing.

The identities of the soldiers and the conditions of those injured were not released.

INDIANA

Police chief eyes Dillinger gun

VALPARAISO — A 19th-century jail cell displayed at the Porter County police headquarters soon could include a machine gun that John Dillinger had when he escaped from a northwestern Indiana jail in 1934.

County Deputy Chief Dave Lain says he wants to display artifacts that include the 1921 Colt Thompson submachine gun stolen by Dillinger. The gun has a reported value of $1 million.

MISSISSIPPI

House approves civil rights course

JACKSON — The House gave final approval to a bill that would allow a civil rights history course to be taught in public schools.

The idea for the bill came from Susan Glisson, executive director of the Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, which is based at the University of Mississippi.

The bill now goes to Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Moose gets tangled in swing set’s chains

MILAN — It was a tempting green hedgerow for the hungry young moose. Somehow, a child’s swing set got in the way.

The moose, who was trying to snack on a backyard hedge Thursday, got tangled in the swing set’s chains. The homeowner called police for help.

Lt. Jean LeBlanc decided he needed backup, so he called Don Valliere, maintenance man for the Berlin Police, and asked him to bring a pair of bolt cutters. Photos snapped by Lt. LeBlanc show Mr. Valliere balanced on a beam of the swing set, snipping the chains — just a couple of feet from the 400-pound adolescent moose.

The rescue went smoothly, and the moose was freed. It left without looking back.

NEW YORK

Blind sports reporter weds at home plate

NEW YORK — This Yankee Stadium home run wasn’t celebrated with a high-five or a handshake. It was sealed with a kiss.

The hallowed Bronx ballpark Friday became a wedding chapel for baseball fan Allison Pheifle and Ed Lucas, a radio baseball reporter who was blinded as a child when hit between the eyes by a line drive.

The 67-year-old from Union, N.J., and his 51-year-old fiancee were wed at home plate on a day when the sun warmed the winter air to an unseasonable 72 degrees. They were introduced several years ago by Yankees Hall of Famer Phil Rizzuto.

In addition to a love of baseball and each other, the couple share one other thing: The bride, also from Union, N.J., is legally blind.

TENNESSEE

House fire kills nine family members

EVENSVILLE — A house fire killed nine members of a family, including six children, in eastern Tennessee early Saturday, officials said.

The fire may have started on the second floor of the two-story house, where the victims were sleeping, said Rhea County Sheriff Mike Neal.

Joseph Alexander, a 19-year-old member of the family who was the only one asleep on the first floor, jumped out a window and escaped unharmed, officials said.

Next-door neighbor Jack Green said he called 911 after seeing the entire second floor on fire. He said he tried to extinguish the fire with his garden hose.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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