- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2006

CALIFORNIA

Man faces charges in wildfires

BANNING — A man arrested on charges of setting two wildfires this summer also is considered a person of interest in the Southern California mountain fire that claimed the lives of five firefighters.

Raymond Lee Oyler, 36, was arrested Tuesday at his mother’s home in Banning on two counts of arson linked to June wildfires in the Banning Pass area and two counts of possessing fire-making materials, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

Mr. Oyler, of Beaumont, was not named as a suspect in the deadly wildfire that started last week and roared across more than 60 square miles, but he is considered a person of interest. He remained in custody yesterday in lieu of $25,000 bail. Prosecutors were deciding whether to file criminal charges before a court hearing set for today, said Ingrid Wyatt, a spokeswoman for the Riverside County district attorney’s office.

Four U.S. Forest Service firefighters died last week as they tried to protect a house from wind-driven flames in the San Jacinto Mountains. A fifth firefighter, Pablo Cerda, 23, of Fountain Valley, died Tuesday evening. He had suffered burns over 90 percent of his body when flames swept over the crew.

COLORADO

Pumpkins left all over town

BOONE — Nobody knows who, but someone with a lot of Halloween spirit decorated this small southern Colorado town with hundreds and hundreds of pumpkins.

Residents woke up Tuesday to find virtually every surface covered with the orange holiday icons. There were pumpkins left on front porches and at front gates, on the front and back steps of a church and along the boundary of the city park.

Larry Taylor said there weren’t any pumpkins when he walked his dogs at about 10 p.m. on Monday in the town of about 330 people. But by the time Postmaster Nancy Pennington drove to work at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, they were everywhere.

At Boone Grocery and Hardware, pumpkins were placed on top of the concrete parking stops out front.

“It’s kinda cool,” said employee Bill Coyle. “It’s kinda unique. Throughout the town, there’s probably a couple of hundred of them. They’re everywhere.”

GEORGIA

Father sentenced for mutilating girl

LAWRENCEVILLE — An Ethiopian immigrant was convicted yesterday in the genital mutilation of his 2-year-old daughter and was sentenced to 10 years in prison in what was thought to be the first such criminal case in the United States.

Khalid Adem, 30, was found guilty of aggravated battery and cruelty to children. Prosecutors said he used scissors to mutilate his daughter in his family’s Atlanta-area apartment in 2001. The child’s mother, Fortunate Adem, said she did not discover it until more than a year later.

Adem, who had no criminal record, could have been sentenced to up to 40 years in prison. He held his face in his hands and wept loudly after the jury’s verdict was read.

During her father’s trial, the girl, now 7, clutched a teddy bear as she testified on videotape that her father “cut me on my private part.”

Federal law bans the practice of genital mutilation, but many states do not have a law addressing it. Georgia lawmakers, with the support of the girl’s mother, passed an anti-mutilation law last year. But Adem was not tried under that law because it did not exist when his daughter was cut.

KANSAS

Official gets records from abortion clinics

TOPEKA — The state attorney general said Tuesday night that his office has received the records of 90 patients from two abortion clinics and is reviewing them for possible crimes, the culmination of an effort that prompted concerns over patient privacy.

Attorney General Phill Kline, one of the nation’s foremost abortion opponents, said the targets of his investigation are rapists, sex offenders with child victims and doctors involved in illegal abortions. Those could include doctors performing illegal late-term abortions or those failing to report abuse of a child.

The clinics had argued that giving the attorney general access to the records would invade patients’ privacy.

Shawnee County District Judge Richard Anderson subpoenaed the records at Mr. Kline’s request in September 2004, concluding there was probable cause to suspect that they contained evidence of crimes.

Although Judge Anderson didn’t give Mr. Kline unfettered access to the records, the state Supreme Court imposed guidelines for having them reviewed and edited before they were given to the district court.

MASSACHUSETTS

Doctors succeed in heart treatment

BOSTON — Doctors are reporting surprising early success with a novel treatment that they hope will one day cure congestive heart failure in thousands of dying patients: They shrink the bloated heart with drugs while an artificial pump temporarily takes over the workload.

Though small, the British study revealed more than triple the usual recovery rate among patients with severe heart failure, a common killer once viewed as unstoppable. Eight of 24 patients seem fully recovered, although their dying hearts had once ballooned up to twice the normal size. And the benefit has lasted at least four years and counting.

The findings were published in today’s New England Journal of Medicine.

The technique must be confirmed in larger studies and probably will not spread anytime soon in the United States, because one of the drugs isn’t approved for general use here, doctors say. Also, heart pumps can cost $200,000, including hospital care. The study was backed by pump maker Thoratec Corp. of Pleasanton, Calif.

MICHIGAN

16 houses burned on Devil’s Night

SAGINAW — Sixteen houses, most of them vacant, burned during a pre-Halloween arson spree on what is known as Devil’s Night, officials said.

Widespread arson on the night before Halloween, called Devil’s Night in the Detroit area, started years ago in that city. Saginaw, a city of about 60,000 people, later began seeing copycat arsons.

At least five of the 16 fires this year were rekindles — symptomatic of a fire department understaffed to deal with the high volume of fires, fire Battalion Chief Donald Coleman said. Fire officials said almost all the blazes are likely to prove to be arson.

Resident Felicia Hooker said arson isn’t just a Devil’s Night problem in Saginaw, which has been struggling with violence.

“Every night, a house goes up in flames around here,” she said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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