- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2006

Appeals court allows ‘Choose Life’ plates

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A federal appeals court yesterday allowed Tennessee to offer pro-life license plates bearing the message “Choose Life.”

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati overturned a lower-court ruling that the tag illegally promoted only one side of the abortion debate.

“Although this exercise of government one-sidedness with respect to a very contentious political issue may be ill-advised, we are unable to conclude that the Tennessee statute contravenes the First Amendment,” Judge John M. Rogers said in a 2-1 ruling.

The plaintiffs, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, said they were still reviewing the ruling.

Fossett claims record for flight

SALINA, Kan. — Adventurer Steve Fossett said yesterday that he had broken the record for flying farther than anyone departing and landing at the same spot, traveling more than 25,000 miles in three days.

Mr. Fossett landed his lightweight experimental aircraft at Salina Municipal Airport a few hours ahead of schedule, at 9:06 a.m. CST, more than 74 hours after he took off from the same place.

Certification of the record could take two weeks to a year.

‘Sister Ping’ gets 35 years

The woman known as “Sister Ping,” who was accused of leading an international alien-smuggling operation, has been sentenced by a federal judge in New York to 35 years in prison based on her conviction last year on conspiracy, alien-smuggling and money-laundering charges.

Cheng Chui Ping, described by federal law-enforcement authorities as “one of the first and, ultimately, most successful alien smugglers of all time,” was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Michael B. Mukasey.

U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia said evidence at trial showed that Sister Ping led a multinational smuggling empire and that by the time of her April 2000 arrest, she had reached the pinnacle of her criminal trade — smuggling thousands of aliens into the United States, sometimes hundreds at a time.

State struggles with school funding

AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Rick Perry yesterday called a 30-day special session to revamp the way Texas pays for its public education system.

Last year, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that using mostly property taxes to pay for the $4.3 billion school system is unconstitutional and must be changed by June 1.

If the deadline isn’t met, the courts will prevent the state from sending money to its 1,037 public school systems until legislators devise a new system. The session is to start April 17. It will be the fourth special session Mr. Perry has called on the issue in the past two years. All have ended in failure.

Money ordered for teaching English

PHOENIX — A federal judge yesterday ordered that public schools receive $21 million in fines paid by the state for missing a deadline to revamp programs for students learning English.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins in Tucson granted the state’s motion to distribute the money to school districts and charter schools on a per-student basis.

The money will be used to teach Arizona’s approximately 150,000 English Language Learning students.

The fines began accruing in late January, about six years after another federal judge ordered Arizona’s governor and lawmakers to improve programs for students learning English. The two sides have been unable to agree on how to do that.

WTC developer offers new plan

NEW YORK — Hoping to restart stalled talks on the future of ground zero, the developer of the World Trade Center offered a new proposal yesterday intended to address complaints that he was demanding too much in exchange for giving up his rights to part of the project.

Larry Silverstein sent the proposal a day after appealing to Gov. George E. Pataki to force the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the trade center site, back into talks. A leading state official had said that talks wouldn’t resume without a new offer from Mr. Silverstein.

“If this is what takes to get the Port Authority back to the table, we’re happy to offer them some new thoughts to get the conversation going,” said Janno Lieber, who oversees the trade center site project for Mr. Silverstein.

From staff reports and wire dispatches

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