- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2006

ARIZONA

Inmates offered English classes

PHOENIX — An Arizona sheriff known for his tough jail policies is offering basic English classes to inmates who don’t speak the language.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said the language barrier has caused problems for his jail officers and even prompted complaints from English-speaking prisoners.

Sheriff Arpaio, who is known for making inmates wear pink underwear and take part in old-style chain gangs in striped uniforms, said the inmates are so eager to learn English that there’s a waiting list for the two-week courses, which began Monday.

GEORGIA

3 Mexican nationals held in drug raid

ATLANTA — Federal drug agents yesterday arrested three Mexican nationals here after a monthlong undercover investigation into a suspected drug-trafficking operation that specialized in cocaine and crystal methamphetamine.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, working with Georgia law-enforcement authorities, confiscated $27 million worth of the drugs, arresting Leonardo Garcia-Miranda, 30; Ramon Luis Soto-Maciel, 29; and Rafael Heredia-Ramos, 42. They were described as citizens of Mexico living in the Atlanta area.

Nearly 150 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, also known as “ice,” and about 160 pounds of cocaine were seized.

DEA spokesman Garrison K. Courtney in Washington said an investigation into the suspected conspiracy began a month ago and ended this week when DEA agents and police in DeKalb County, Ga., negotiated what he described as a controlled purchase of two pounds of cocaine from Mr. Soto-Maciel.

ILLINOIS

Building-collapse fear shuts transit line

CHICAGO — A six-story building that caught fire beside a busy downtown commuter train line was in danger of collapsing yesterday, forcing the city to shut down the nearby stretch of tracks indefinitely.

The building still had hot spots smoldering yesterday, Fire Commissioner Raymond Orozco said. It was vacant when the fire broke out Tuesday, and emergency officials planned to bring in a wrecking crew to figure out how to safely tear it down, he said.

The Chicago Transit Authority suspended service indefinitely on the nearby elevated track, which serves two major rail lines, including the line connecting the Loop to Midway Airport. The threat of a collapse also prompted Columbia College, which has two buildings directly across from the burned building, to cancel classes through tomorrow in those buildings.

Fire department spokeswoman Eve Rodriguez said the fire appeared to have started in the building’s basement and spread to its roof. One firefighter and another person were injured by the blaze, but both were in good condition.

MONTANA

Principal suspended for giving ‘wedgie’

LIVINGSTON — A high school principal received a six-day suspension and a letter of reprimand for giving one of his students a “wedgie.”

Eric Messerli pulled a Park High School senior’s soccer jersey over his head and yanked upward on the waistband of the boy’s underwear at a soccer game Oct. 5. Other school officials said he was joking around with the student and did it playfully.

He was suspended for two days without pay and four days with pay before the school board decided Monday to let him return. He tearfully told the board: “I’ve made mistakes in my life, but none have had the impact that this one has had.”

Mr. Messerli, who was back on the job Tuesday, will be required to talk with students and staff members about the incident to restore respect and authority.

MISSISSIPPI

Thinner Barbour sets example for state

FLOWOOD — Promoting a healthy lifestyle in one of the unhealthiest states in America is a difficult job, but Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is off to a good start — losing 18 pounds since he announced his initiative five months ago.

Mr. Barbour, 59, rises before the sun five days a week and spends 45 minutes on his elliptical exercise machine. When the Republican governor attends events where food is served, he skips the bread and sugar, opting for fruit and vegetables instead. Mr. Barbour hopes to eventually shed another 15 pounds from his 235-pound frame.

Mr. Barbour began his statewide initiative in June, urging schools, businesses, churches and communities to get involved in various programs that would help residents adopt better eating and exercise habits.

OHIO

Charter schools ruled constitutional

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Supreme Court ruled yesterday in a narrowly divided opinion that publicly funded, privately operated charters schools are constitutional.

The 4-3 decision was a blow to a coalition of citizens groups, teachers unions, education associations and school boards led by the Ohio PTA.

The court upheld the state legislature’s ability to create and to give money to common institutions of learning, even if they are not all the same.

Teachers unions, later joined by the other groups, sued Ohio in 2001 over the state’s 1998 charter-school law, under which the alternative schools have grown from 15 in 1998 to 250 last year. As the movement has grown, criticism has intensified, particularly over charter school students’ lagging standardized test scores.

PENNSYLVANIA

Teen’s death spurs ouster of officials

PHILADELPHIA — The case of a 14-year-old girl who wasted away under the nose of the city’s social-services agency, weighing just 46 pounds when she died, has helped lead to the ouster of two of the agency’s top officials.

Danieal Kelly, bedridden, infested with maggots and nearly paralyzed with cerebral palsy, died, dehydrated, during a heat wave on Aug. 4, nine days after the last scheduled visit by a company hired to help care for her, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported yesterday.

The case was a key factor in Mayor John F. Street’s decision last week to force the resignation of Human Services Commissioner Cheryl Ransom-Garner and the termination of her deputy, John McGee, city officials told the newspaper.

WEST VIRGINIA

Candidate for sheriff arrested by incumbent

HARTS — A write-in candidate for Lincoln County sheriff is accused of striking the local Democratic Party treasurer in the face at a party rally and was arrested by his opponent, the incumbent sheriff.

Clayton Alford, a 52-year-old retired state police trooper, was charged with assault and battery, authorities said. He is accused of hitting County Administrator Judy Johnson in the face on Saturday.

Lincoln County Sheriff Jerry Bowman, who is running for re-election, took his opponent away in handcuffs.

Mr. Alford said Tuesday that it was an accident and that he thinks Miss Johnson, who is the local party treasurer and secretary, intentionally got him riled up to try to damage his election chances. She started yelling and poking him in the chest and face after she found out he’d tried to enlist one of her friends to help in his campaign, he said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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