- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2006

CALIFORNIA

Agency regrets permit for elephant

LOS ANGELES — A city agency that allowed a spray-painted elephant to appear at an art exhibit is now saying it will not issue permits for such events in the future.

The elephant, named Tai, was given a nontoxic paint job for the Thursday opening of the “Barely Legal” exhibit by British artist Banksy near downtown.

Cards handed out at the opening, which included such guests as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, read: “There’s an elephant in the room. There’s a problem we never talk about.” The statement went on to say that many people live below the poverty line.

Ed Boks, head of the city’s Animal Services Department, said his agency issued permits for the elephant to appear — to his chagrin — and that he tried to have them revoked Friday on public safety grounds. But the exhibit was to end yesterday, and the revocation would have taken five days.

Tai’s owner denied that the 38-year-old Indian elephant, who lives on a ranch, had been abused.

“Tai has done many, many movies,” said Kari Johnson, who with her husband owns the company Have Trunk, Will Travel. “She’s used to makeup.”

DELAWARE

Car repossessed with boy inside

WILMINGTON — A 5-year-old boy took an unexpected ride inside a car that was repossessed and driven to a car dealership, authorities said.

A 27-year-old woman called police Friday morning to report that her car had been stolen from the front of her home and that her son was inside the vehicle, said county police spokesman Cpl. Trinidad Navarro.

Cpl. Navarro said the woman had strapped the child into his booster seat, then went back inside her home to make a phone call.

Thinking the 1997 Saturn most likely had been repossessed, officers called the dealership, where an employee confirmed the repossession. The employee then walked outside and found the child crying in the back seat of the vehicle, Cpl. Navarro said.

The 56-year-old man hired to repossess the vehicle was taken into custody but later transported to Christiana Hospital after complaining of chest pains. The man, whose name was not released, will not face charges, Cpl. Navarro said.

FLORIDA

Helene becomes Category 2 hurricane

MIAMI — The two hurricanes in the open Atlantic both strengthened yesterday, but neither Gordon nor Helene posed a threat to land, forecasters said.

Helene’s top sustained winds intensified from 85 mph to 105 mph, making it a strong Category 2 hurricane, the National Hurricane Center said.

At 5 p.m. EDT, Helene was centered about 920 miles east-northeast of the northern Leeward Islands and moving northwest at 9 mph, forecasters said.

Gordon had been inching over the ocean at 3 mph but picked up speed yesterday, forecasters said. Its eye was centered about 1,430 miles west of the Azores and moving north-northeast near 14 mph.

It had top sustained winds near 80 mph, up slightly from earlier in the day.

MINNESOTA

Storm kills girl, damages homes

ROGERS — A severe storm swept through this Minnesota town, killing a 10-year-old girl, damaging hundreds of homes and scattering debris across the city, officials said yesterday.

The girl was at a neighbor’s house with her 19-year-old brother when the home collapsed about 10 p.m. Saturday, Police Chief Keith Oldfather said.

“The roof is in the basement,” Chief Oldfather said after an aerial view of the damage yesterday morning. He said 200 to 300 homes were significantly damaged in Rogers, which is about 26 miles northwest of Minneapolis.

Six other persons were injured, and two remained hospitalized yesterday morning.

The National Weather Service was viewing the damage to determine whether it was caused by a tornado or straight-line winds.

OHIO

Children taught to enjoy vegetables

MILAN — Bobby Jones hopped off his John Deere tractor and herded a dozen children to a row of cherry tomato plants.

“You can’t come to the farm without picking a tomato and eating one that’s warm from the sun,” he told the children.

A few backed away. Most, though, pulled the bite-sized bulbs off the vine and popped them into their mouths. “It was sweet,” said a surprised 7-year-old Emily Hutlock of Lorain. That was the reaction Mr. Jones anticipated.

It’s the idea behind “Veggie U,” an effort that began a year ago and encourages children to appreciate and enjoy healthier food. The children at Mr. Jones’ farm were getting a one-day seminar, but the program usually is taught over five weeks in the classroom — 125 at last count — in 21 states. Organizers expect it to reach 500 classrooms by the end of the school year.

The hope is that encouraging children to eat broccoli and carrots will help curb childhood obesity.

VERMONT

Wives raise funds for guardsmen visit

MONTPELIER — Amanda Tyrell thought she wouldn’t see her husband for a year and a half when he left in July for training and then military service in Iraq.

But she got to see him one more time yesterday before he eventually departs to Iraq. She and other wives raised money to pay to fly about 74 Vermont National Guard members home for a visit.

“Through everyone’s help they are going to be able to come home,” she said Saturday as she prepared to drive to Burlington with her two young children, stay at a hotel and meet the early morning arrivals.

The members of the 131st Engineering Unit will be on leave from training in Fort McCoy, Wis., until Thursday. They head to Iraq soon.

WISCONSIN

School plot suspect bullied, mother says

GREEN BAY — The mother of a teenager arrested in a foiled Columbine-style plot to bomb and shoot students at a high school said the boys were victims of bullying and harassment at school.

Elizabeth Sturtz, 48, the mother of 17-year-old Shawn Sturtz, said Saturday that bullies often called her 300-pound son, who had a learning disability, fat and stupid, so she understands how her son could have been angry.

She said that despite the taunting she saw nothing in her son’s past or recent behavior showing he would plot a Columbine-like attack on the school.

Police arrested Mr. Sturtz and William Cornell, also 17, on Thursday, and Bradley P. Netwal, 18, on Friday, on suspicion of conspiracy to commit homicide and arson.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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