- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 21, 2006

FLORIDA

Atlantis glides to a safe landing

CAPE CANAVERAL — Space Shuttle Atlantis and its six astronauts glided to a safe landing in darkness early yesterday, ending a 12-day mission whose smooth success was briefly upstaged by the high drama caused by mysterious floating debris.

“Nice to be back. It was a great team effort,” commander Brent Jett said immediately after touchdown at Kennedy Space Center at 6:21 a.m. EDT.

Mr. Jett and his crew did the first construction work on the International Space Station since the Columbia disaster 31/2 years ago.

The landing was a day later than planned because NASA ordered extra inspections of the spacecraft’s delicate skin to make sure it was safe to come home. The fear was that a mysterious piece of debris spotted floating nearby on Tuesday may have hit the spacecraft.

PENNSYLVANIA

Cable fire forces evacuations

PHILADELPHIA — An underground electrical cable caught fire yesterday, sending smoke billowing into the streets and forcing several thousand office workers to evacuate, authorities said.

The cable started smoking after it became overloaded. Gases that accumulated in underground ducts caused several manhole covers to blow off, officials said.

Hundreds of office workers milled around the area before being told they could go home. Officials also closed streets in a 25-square-block area.

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said 5,000 people were evacuated. One person was taken to a hospital, but the injuries appeared to be minor, fire officials said.

CONNECTICUT

Father accused of faking boy’s illness

NEW HAVEN — A father was arrested on charges of faking cystic fibrosis in his son by keeping the boy thin and fabricating medical bills — a story that authorities say fooled even his estranged wife.

Michael Bradway, 38, who has a history of forgery and larceny, was arrested Wednesday. The boy, now 9, was put in state care last year and immediately began to gain weight and thrive, according to court papers. He now lives with his mother.

Cystic fibrosis, which can be fatal, causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive system. It affects about 30,000 people in the United States.

Authorities said Mr. Bradway began fabricating bills in 2001, when the boy was 5.

Mr. Bradway told his parents-in-law that the boy probably would need a lung transplant, according to the arrest affidavit. They eventually contributed more than $38,000 for their grandson’s medical care.

GEORGIA

Inability to pay fine kept woman in jail

ATLANTA — A woman held in jail seven months longer than her original sentence because she was too poor to pay a $705 fine was freed Wednesday, her attorney said.

Ora Lee Hurley was ordered to pay the fine and sentenced in August 2005 to 120 days in jail after she was convicted in Georgia of possession of cocaine for personal use and breaking the terms of probation for a similar offense 15 years earlier.

She served the sentence at Atlanta’s Gateway Diversion Center, a halfway house that allows its inmates out on “day release” to work as long as they pay room and board.

Hurley, 45, earned $700 a month working at a restaurant and was supposed to pay the fine with that money, according to a petition filed this week.

ILLINOIS

Cockroach eaters get Six Flags privileges

GURNEE — Why wait in line when you can just eat a cockroach?

That’s the question Six Flags Great America is asking thrill seekers during a Halloween-themed FrightFest. The amusement park is daring customers to eat a live Madagascar hissing cockroach in exchange for unlimited line-jumping privileges.

The promotion, which has Lake County Health Department officials shaking their heads, starts Oct. 7.

Anyone who eats the entire 2- to 3-inch horned cockroach gets a pass for four persons to cut to the front of ride lines through Oct. 29.

Cockroach eaters will have to sign waivers and still pay admission fees, Six Flags spokesman James Taylor said.

MISSOURI

Not-guilty plea offered in baby-abduction case

UNION — The woman accused of slashing a new mother’s throat and kidnapping her baby whispered not guilty to the charges and convulsed in sobs during her arraignment yesterday.

Shannon Torrez spoke only in hushed tones before the Franklin County court. Her legs shook as she stood to enter not guilty pleas to charges of kidnapping, first-degree assault and two counts of armed criminal action.

Prosecutors say Mrs. Torrez, 36, abducted 7-day-old Abigale Lynn Woods on Sept. 15 after slashing the throat of the infant’s mother, Stephenie Ochsenbine, 21. They say Mrs. Torrez tried to pass the newborn off as her own for five days before her sister-in-law became suspicious.

NEW YORK

British billionaire to fight global warming

NEW YORK — British billionaire Richard Branson yesterday committed to spending all the profits from his airline and rail businesses — an estimated $3 billion over the next 10 years — on combating global warming.

The Virgin Group Ltd. chairman, whose company also includes music and mobile phone ventures, already has created Virgin Fuels, which will invest $400 million over three years in renewable energy initiatives as part of his pledge.

But profits from the Virgin Group’s transport businesses, which make up nearly half the company, also will be spent on investments in biofuel research, development, production and distribution, and projects to tackle emissions through a planned Environmental Trust.

RHODE ISLAND

Official scolded in leak of nightclub fire pleas

WARWICK — The judge overseeing the criminal case in a deadly nightclub fire issued a stinging rebuke of Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch’s office yesterday, saying it leaked word of plea agreements for the club’s owners before victims’ relatives learned of the deals.

Judge Francis Darigan called Wednesday’s release of a letter from Mr. Lynch “despicable,” unethical and “devoid of any consideration for the victims of this tragedy.”

The letter detailed plea agreements for Michael and Jeffrey Derderian, whose attorney confirms they will plead no contest to a count of involuntary manslaughter for each of the 100 persons killed in the 2003 fire at the brothers’ West Warwick nightclub.

The judge’s angry comments echoed those of many victims’ relatives, upset not only because of the leak, but also the expected sentences: Michael Derderian is to get four years in prison, and his brother is expected to get no prison time.

SOUTH CAROLINA

VA training clergy to deal with veterans

COLUMBIA — Working with the Columbia Urban League, the Department of Veterans Affairs is training church leaders in South Carolina to help troubled military veterans, particularly those who returned recently from Afghanistan or Iraq.

“This is so the clergy will be better equipped to recognize the signs and symptoms of combat stress disorder,” said Patricia Bradford, one of the program organizers.

The VA is teaching the ministers about the depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder that afflict military veterans and about how these problems can affect the veterans’ families, Miss Bradford said.

Representatives of about 100 churches were asked to participate in an initial seminar. The training could be held in other areas.

A Pentagon study published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 35 percent of Iraq veterans received psychological counseling shortly after returning.

WISCONSIN

Jokester’s obituary features prank photo

MILWAUKEE — Artist and retired art professor Jim Schinneller’s love of laughter didn’t end with his death.

When an obituary for the lifelong jokester appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, it was accompanied with a photo — of the back of his head.

“It’s a family that goes for a little bit of one-upmanship,” Jim Schinneller Jr. told a Journal Sentinel columnist.

He said the family couldn’t resist sending it in, giving his father, who died at home Sept. 9 at the age of 81, a chance for one more joke.

The senior Mr. Schinneller’s companion, Gloria Bosben, said she took the photo as a joke. He gave 5-by-7-inch framed copies to each of his four grown children and her brother two years ago.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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