- The Washington Times - Friday, May 19, 2006

Judge blocks graduation prayer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge yesterday blocked a southern Kentucky high school from including prayers in its graduation ceremony last night.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a federal lawsuit this week seeking a restraining order on behalf of an unidentified student at Russell County High School in Russell Springs, 90 miles south of Louisville.

The student had appealed to Principal Darren Gossage to drop the prayer from the ceremony, but the principal refused, ACLU attorney Lili Lutgens said.

U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley granted the temporary restraining order, prohibiting the school district from having even a student representative say a prayer during the ceremony.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that clergy-led prayer in public school graduations and sporting events is prohibited. Miss Lutgens had said earlier in the week that student-initiated prayer before or after the ceremony would be OK.

Capsized boat captain dies saving passenger

GEORGETOWN, S.C. — The 75-year-old captain of a capsized charter boat stayed in the water with a struggling passenger for hours before suffering an apparent heart attack and disappearing under the water, authorities said.

That passenger and all five others who had been aboard the 26-foot catamaran were rescued Thursday by a Coast Guard helicopter 15 miles off the South Carolina coast, Coast Guard Capt. John Cameron said.

The search for the captain, Robert Clarke, was suspended hours later.

“We saturated the area with our search. If he was alive, we would have found him,” Coast Guard Petty Officer Donnie Brzuska said yesterday.

Mr. Clarke and his mate were taking five passengers on a fishing expedition when the Super Suds II capsized Wednesday about 15 miles off Murrells Inlet, authorities said.

Agents seize car brought from Iraq

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents yesterday seized an armored luxury sedan here that belonged to the former Iraqi regime and was illegally imported from Iraq as a possible “war trophy.”

The white 1988 Mercedes-Benz 560 SEL, which is equipped with armor plates, bulletproof windows, listening devices and various microphones, was seized at a residence in Ridgefield, Conn., by investigators from ICE, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) and the Ridgefield Police Department.

The suspected importer, a first sergeant with the Army Reserves who served in the Iraqi conflict, has said he purchased the vehicle from an Iraqi citizen for roughly $5,000 in April 2003 in an upscale neighborhood of Baghdad. The Army reservist also has said he thought the vehicle belonged to former dictator Saddam Hussein.

ICE and SIGIR agents continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the importation of the vehicle. There have been no arrests in the case.

Runaway bride available again

ATLANTA — The runaway bride and the fiance who took her back have broken up for good, friends and family told People magazine.

“We’re just glad there’s a final resolution,” John Mason’s father, Claude Mason, was quoted as saying. He had planned to be his son’s best man at the wedding.

Jennifer Wilbanks, 33, would not confirm or deny a breakup, saying, “John and I have some things to work out,” the magazine reported on its Web site Thursday.

Miss Wilbanks, her attorney and a family spokesman did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

Miss Wilbanks disappeared four days before her wedding day in April 2005. Hundreds of police and volunteers searched for her for three days before she telephoned Mr. Mason from Albuquerque, N.M., claiming to have been abducted and sexually assaulted.

She later recanted, saying she fled because of unspecified personal issues, and pleaded no contest to telling police a phony story. She was sentenced to two years’ probation.

NASA moves shuttle to launching pad

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA began moving Discovery to the launch pad yesterday in preparation for only the second liftoff of a space shuttle since the Columbia disaster three years ago.

Discovery’s trek of a little more than 4 miles was expected to take about seven hours aboard a crawler-transporter. The shuttle weighs about 4.5 million pounds.

Its move to the launch pad is a major step toward a liftoff sometime between July 1 and July 19.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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