- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2006

ARKANSAS

Worker killed in plant explosion

STUTTGART — An explosion rocked a soybean processing plant yesterday, killing one worker, company officials said.

Two workers at the Riceland Foods plant were repairing an empty tank used to process soybean oil when the explosion occurred about 8:30 a.m., company spokesman Bill Reed said. No one else was injured.

The company was investigating the cause of the explosion. The workers’ names were not released.

CALIFORNIA

‘Paraplegic’ makes run from police

SAN BERNARDINO — Authorities say a paraplegic who repeatedly filed claims and lawsuits for noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act was a con artist without any physical limitations.

After her arrest this month by Las Vegas police, Laura Lee Medley, 35, of Alhambra leapt from her wheelchair and ran for freedom, officials said.

After complaining earlier that she was having medical problems, the woman was taken by police to a Las Vegas hospital for treatment, said David Wert, spokesman for San Bernardino County.

“That’s where the great miracle occurred,” he said. Miss Medley “made a break for it,” leading police on a brief foot pursuit before she was captured, Mr. Wert said.

Miss Medley was charged with filing false documents, attempted grand theft and two counts of insurance fraud. She is in a Las Vegas jail awaiting extradition to San Bernardino.

GEORGIA

Airport christensfifth runway

ATLANTA — Officials christened a fifth runway at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport yesterday, saying the strip will help cut airport delays and increase passenger capacity.

Airport firetrucks symbolically doused the runway with fountains of water, and a few hundred dignitaries boarded two jets for ceremonial flights from the runway. It will open for commercial flights May 27.

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Marion Blakey, said the $1.284 billion runway is an example of improvements her department plans at airports nationwide.

LOUISIANA

Cockfighting ban passes Senate panel

BATON ROUGE — A state Senate committee unanimously approved a ban on cockfighting yesterday, a surprising vote from a panel that has killed many such bills in past years.

Louisiana and New Mexico are the only states where the bloody practice remains legal. Louisiana lawmakers who represent rural areas where cockfighting remains popular have put up strong opposition in past years, easily killing similar bans over the objections of animal rights activists.

The measure still must pass the full Senate and faces certain opposition in the House.

Sen. Art Lentini, the bill’s sponsor, said he was surprised the legislation cleared the Senate Agriculture Committee so easily. He attributed its approval to newfound attention focused on Louisiana’s politicians since Hurricane Katrina.

NEBRASKA

NAACP challenges school district divide

OMAHA — The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sued Nebraska’s governor and a state committee yesterday over a new law that divides Omaha Public Schools into three racially identifiable districts.

The law, passed by the Legislature at the end of its recent session, splits the Omaha district starting in 2008 into three districts: one mostly black, one largely Hispanic and one predominantly white.

It was aimed at solving a dispute over school boundaries in the state’s largest city after Omaha Public Schools tried to take over some suburban schools.

The NAACP’s federal lawsuit says the law violates the constitutional principals embodied in the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, which said separate but equal facilities have no place in public education.

RHODE ISLAND

‘Survivor’ champ sentenced to prison

PROVIDENCE — Richard Hatch, the first winner of the hit reality-television show “Survivor,” was sentenced yesterday to four years and three months in federal prison for tax evasion.

Once described by a fellow contestant as a “snake,” the $1 million jackpot winner on “Survivor” in 2000 also was ordered to undergo psychological counseling upon release and file amended income-tax returns for 2000 and 2001 that fully reflect his winnings.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge Ernest Torres said he had increased the sentence above a term suggested in a January trial because he determined that Hatch had lied repeatedly about his earnings, taxes, use of charitable funds and extent of property.

UTAH

Bigamist loses legal challenge

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Supreme Court upheld the 2003 bigamy conviction of a former police officer yesterday, ruling that the state law banning polygamy is not unconstitutional.

The court said that religious protections of the U.S. and Utah constitutions “do not shield [Rodney] Holm’s polygamous practices from state prosecution.”

Holm was convicted of felony bigamy and two counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, and had argued that the state’s bigamy statute violated his right to practice his religion. The former Hildale police officer was sentenced to a year in jail and is now on court-supervised probation.

WASHINGTON

Woman rescued 3 days after fall

LA PUSH — A hiker who fell from a 25-foot-high cliff and broke her leg was spotted on the beach below after she spent three days there without food or water, Coast Guard officials said.

Dana Crane, 19, of Brunswick, Maine, was found Monday by an Olympic National Park volunteer who was hiking below the park’s cliffs, about 110 miles west of Seattle, Coast Guard Petty Officer Jason Wilder said. Miss Crane, a student at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., was severely dehydrated but conscious, he said.

She was listed in stable condition after being flown by Coast Guard helicopter to Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles, where she was being treated for a broken leg and injuries to the pelvis, sternum and lower vertebrae.

The hiker apparently had been standing on rock that crumbled, a common feature throughout the park, park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said.

WISCONSIN

Couple wed at Jelly Belly Store

PLEASANT PRAIRIE — Even the giant jelly bean went formal for a wedding at the Jelly Belly Store.

The bride, Lori Woolery, was walked down the aisle by a big, bright red candy — or at least a costumed candy impersonator — in top hat and gold bow tie. That sight was enough to amaze 6-year-old Jack Downey from Elk River, Minn., visiting the store with his aunt.

“Why would a girl want to marry a jelly bean?” he asked. She actually was marrying Daymon Tracy, a truck driver, and they chose the unique location for whimsical reasons.

The Rev. Larry Schneekloth performed the ceremony last week in a corner of the store known as Jelly Belly Junction. After the ceremony, the couple and the wedding party took a ride on the Jelly Belly train that carries visitors on a tour of the premises.

“We put a ‘just married’ sign on it,” store manager Mary Plebanek said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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