- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2007

CALIFORNIA

Coast Guard nets 20 tons of cocaine

ALAMEDA — The U.S. Coast Guard unloaded nearly 20 tons of cocaine with a retail street value of $600 million into a California port yesterday from what they called the largest drug bust ever at sea.

The armed Coast Guard cutter Sherman stopped the Panamanian cargo ship Gatun about 20 miles off a Panamanian island on March 17. Yesterday, dozens of Coast Guard officials under heavy armed protection hauled bales of tightly wrapped packs of cocaine onto a pier at the service’s West Coast command center near Oakland, Calif.

The find aboard the Gatun, which was heading from Panama to Mexico in the Pacific Ocean, came late at night as the result of a tip from an intelligence source, officials said.

The cargo ship’s 14 crew members were Panamanians and Mexicans. The Panamanians were handed over to Panama and the Mexicans were taken into U.S. custody, said Lt. Brock Eckel, one of the officers from the Sherman who discovered the illegal drugs. The drugs would be transferred to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for eventual incineration.

FLORIDA

Boy, 12, bitten on ankle by shark

HUTCHINSON ISLAND — A 12-year-old boy was treated for puncture wounds after a shark bit him on the ankle, authorities said.

Matthew Honyak told authorities that he saw the mouth of the shark when it bit him Sunday, the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said.

Lifeguards sounded an alarm and rushed to help after a man yelled, “Shark bite!” Matthew was treated at a hospital and discharged later Sunday, according to hospital records.

It was the fourth shark attack in six weeks off Hutchinson Island, along Florida’s east coast. A 29-year-old surfer was bitten on his right hand March 11 and required two hours of surgery. During a one-hour period on March 31, a 9-year-old boy was bitten on the leg and buttock and a 30-year-old man was bitten on the ankle.

INDIANA

11-year-old stops out-of-control van

PERU — An 11-year-old girl stopped a van that went out of control when her diabetic mother became ill, police said.

Indiana State Police Senior Trooper Joe Swisher said Abigail Parker’s actions were “nothing short of heroic.”

State police dispatched an ambulance and troopers to U.S. 31 south of Peru on Saturday after the girl called 911 and another person reported a reckless driver.

Officers found the van stopped, partially blocking the southbound lane of the highway. Deborah Parker, 36, of Muncie, who had been driving, was unaware of her surroundings. She was treated for low blood sugar.

Abigail told police that her mother had started driving erratically at about 80 mph. The girl said she climbed from the rear seat of the van onto the woman’s lap and managed to stop the vehicle before calling 911.

KANSAS

Pro-lifers’ complaint against judge dropped

TOPEKA — A state panel has dismissed an ethics complaint that pro-life advocates filed against a judge who threw out a criminal case against the state’s best-known abortion provider.

The complaint involved Sedgwick County District Judge Paul W. Clark, who rejected 30 misdemeanor counts filed against Dr. George Tiller.

The charges against Dr. Tiller were filed in December by outgoing state Attorney General Phill Kline, a Republican opposed to abortion. Judge Clark dismissed the case the next day on jurisdictional grounds, at the request of county District Attorney Nola Foulston, a Democrat.

A pro-life group said that during Judge Clark’s 2004 re-election campaign, he received contributions of $500 each from a law firm representing Dr. Tiller and from Mrs. Foulston and her husband. They said Judge Clark should have disclosed the contributions in court.

A seven-member panel of the Commission on Judicial Qualifications concluded the complaint against Judge Clark “contained no facts evidencing judicial misconduct.”

MASSACHUSETTS

YouTube poster gets 5,000 calls

SOUTHBRIDGE — Ryan Fitzgerald is unemployed, lives with his father and has a little bit of time on his hands.

So, he decided to offer his ear, to anyone who wants to call. After posting a video with his cell-phone number on YouTube on Friday, the 20-year-old told the Boston Globe that he has received more than 5,000 calls and text messages.

He planned to take and return as many calls he could, but on Monday at 5 a.m., his T-Mobile cell-phone provider will begin charging him for his generosity when he is no longer eligible for free weekend minutes.

“I haven’t quite figured out what I’m going to do about it,” he said. “Come Monday, no way I’m going to just hang up on people and say, ‘I don’t have the minutes.’ ”

Mr. Fitzgerald, who said people consider him “easy to talk to,” was inspired by Juan Mann. YouTube video clips of Mr. Mann offering “Free Hugs” to strangers became wildly popular on the user-controlled Internet site.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Demand for vaccine outstrips supply

CONCORD — Demand for the vaccine against cervical cancer is outstripping supply as New Hampshire offers the shots for free, leading some providers to create waiting lists.

However, the state has no plans to accelerate its distribution program, a public-health official said yesterday.

“We expected all along there would be an initial demand, but there is a finite amount of resources,” said Greg Moore, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Services.

New Hampshire was the first state to approve free distribution of the Gardasil vaccine, which protects against four strains of the sexually transmitted infection human papillomavirus, or HPV, which can cause cervical cancer.

The program started in January and the state expected to vaccinate only about one-quarter of eligible girls this year, but advertising has stimulated demand, said state Public Health Director Mary Ann Cooney.

NEW YORK

13-year-old wins text-message contest

NEW YORK — OMG!

Thirteen-year-old Morgan Pozgar of Claysburg, Pa., was crowned LG National Texting champion on Saturday after she typed “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” from “Mary Poppins” in 15 seconds.

“I’m going to go shopping and buy lots of clothes,” the teen said after winning her $25,000 prize from the electronics company LG.

Morgan defeated nearly 200 other competitors at the Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan to become East Coast champion and then beat West Coast champion Eli Tirosh, 21, of Los Angeles.

She estimated that she sends more than 8,000 text messages a month to her friends and family.

TEXAS

Gas fire erupts at power plant

FORT WORTH — A pillar of fire more than 100 feet high erupted early yesterday at an electric power plant after a safety valve opened on a natural gas line and a spark ignited it, authorities said. No one was injured.

Texas Department of Transportation cameras on nearby Interstate 820 showed the flare at the Exelon Corp. Handley plant, which disrupted traffic after it started at about 7:10 a.m.

The flare happened when a relief valve tripped on a 24-inch natural gas transmission line that feeds the gas-fired plant, said Lt. Kent Worley, a Fort Worth fire spokesman.

The safety valve worked as intended, Lt. Worley said, but a spark ignited the gas plume, and state and local officials will now investigate where the spark came from.

There were no injuries, and a worker was able to shut off the valve after about 20 minutes, killing the flare, Lt. Worley said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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