- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2006

Suit to pull crosses from logo dismissed

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit that sought to stop the city of Las Cruces — a name that means “the crosses” in Spanish — from using three Christian crosses on its logo.

Three plaintiffs had contended the city government’s use of crosses violated the First Amendment by endorsing and advancing a religion.

U.S. District Judge Robert Brack disagreed, saying the city’s use of the crosses could be considered secular.

“When there is no evidence of the original purpose for adopting a practice, the government may propose possible secular justifications for the challenged practice,” Judge Brack wrote.

Washington statue beheaded at cathedral

NEW YORK — Vandals beheaded a statue of George Washington at one of the world’s largest cathedrals and left a dollar bill on what was left of the neck, police said yesterday.

The damage was discovered Sunday at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, near Columbia University, Officer Kathleen Price said.

The statue, near the front of the church, is part of a church collection of historical figures spanning 20 centuries. A statue of William Shakespeare represents the 17th century, Washington the 18th century, and Abraham Lincoln the 19th century.

Police were still investigating the damage yesterday and had not made any arrests.

Ford set to become oldest ex-president

LOS ANGELES — Gerald R. Ford is closing in on a record held by Ronald Reagan — living longer than any other U.S. president.

Mr. Ford, who turned 93 on July 14, will become the oldest president tomorrow by living to 93 years and 121 days.

“The length of one’s days matters less than the love of one’s family and friends,” Mr. Ford said in a statement this week from the Rancho Mirage compound he shares with former first lady Betty Ford, who is 88.

The former president has had a variety of health problems in recent years, and underwent heart procedures at the Mayo Clinic in August.

Mr. Reagan, born Feb. 6, 1911, was 93 years, 120 days when he died June 5, 2004.

College students ban the Pledge

LOS ANGELES — Student leaders at a California college have touched off a furor by banning the Pledge of Allegiance at their meetings, saying they see no reason to publicly swear loyalty to God and the U.S. government.

The move by Orange Coast College student trustees has infuriated some of their classmates — prompting one young woman to loudly recite the Pledge in front of the board in defiance of the rule.

The move was led by three recently elected student trustees, who ran for office wearing revolutionary-style berets and said they do not think publicly swearing an oath to the American flag and government is appropriate at their school.

“That [‘under God’] part is sort of offensive to me,” said student trustee Jason Ball, who proposed the ban.

Martha Parham, a spokeswoman for the Coast Community College District, said her office had no standing on the student board and took no position on the Pledge ban.

Report eyes military and Gehrig’s disease

Military service, particularly in the Gulf War, might be linked to development of Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS, the Institute of Medicine said yesterday.

The evidence, however, is limited and inconsistent, the institute said.

The degenerative nerve disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) gradually destroys the ability to control movement. Patients lose their ability to move or speak, but their minds remain unaffected. Most victims die of respiratory failure within a few years.

According to the report, released as Veterans Day was being observed, five studies have been done on the subject.

Three indicated a higher rate of ALS among veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War; one found a link to veterans who served prior to that war; and one found no link at all.

“The evidence base to answer the question of whether military service increases a person’s chances of developing ALS later in life is rather sparse, so we could not reach more definitive conclusions at this time,” said Richard T. Johnson, chairman of the committee that wrote the report.

Mr. Johnson is a professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University school of medicine in Baltimore.

The individual studies had been previously reported, and the Department of Veterans Affairs asked the Institute to review what was known and provide a new overview.

HIV sufferers living longer

ATLANTA —An American diagnosed with the AIDS virus can expect to live at least 24 years on average, and the cost of health care over those two decades is more than $600,000, new research indicates.

Both life expectancy and the cost of care have risen from earlier estimates, mainly because of expensive and effective drug therapies, said Bruce Schackman, the study’s lead author.

The research found that the average annual cost of care is $25,200 — nearly 40 percent higher than a commonly cited estimate from the late 1990s.

The new research also updates other studies from the 1990s, when life expectancy for HIV-infected people was closer to 10 years.

The study appears in the November edition of the peer-reviewed journal, Medical Care.

From staff reports and wire dispatches

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