- The Washington Times - Friday, February 16, 2007


Space shuttle moves to launchpad

CAPE CANAVERAL — Space Shuttle Atlantis was rolled out to its seaside launchpad yesterday in preparation for a liftoff scheduled in March, the first of five missions NASA hopes to fly this year.

Liftoff of the shuttle and a six-member crew is scheduled for March 15. The shuttle will carry a new solar power module for the International Space Station, a $100 billion orbital project headed by the United States and Russia in partnership with 15 other countries.

The power upgrade will enable modules built by Europe and Japan to be installed later this year. The Atlantis crew plans to conduct three spacewalks to install the new solar panels and carry out other station construction tasks, including folding up an old solar array so it can be relocated on the station.


Talking urinals used in anti-DUI fight

RIO RANCHO — New Mexico is hoping to keep drunks off the road by lecturing them at the last place they usually stop before getting behind the wheel: the urinal.

The state has paid $21 each for about 500 talking urinal-deodorizer cakes and has put them in men’s rooms in bars and restaurants across the state. The new tactic is aimed only at men, who account for 78 percent of the state’s convictions related to driving under the influence.

When a man steps up, the motion-sensitive plastic device says, in a woman’s voice that is flirty, then stern: “Hey, big guy. Having a few drinks? Think you had one too many? Then it’s time to call a cab or call a sober friend for a ride home.”

The recorded message ends: “Remember, your future is in your hand.”


Schools locked down during Batman search

SCOTTSDALE — Holy bad joke: Three schools in a northern Phoenix suburb were on lockdown for about 45 minutes Wednesday after a student at Desert Arroyo Middle School reported seeing a person dressed as Batman run across campus, jump a fence and disappear into the desert.

Officials later said it was false report and disciplinary actions were being considered against the student, who was not identified.

The student had described the masked person as 6 foot 3 inches tall and possibly male. Police investigated the report and helicopters searched the area.

The result: No Batman.

“We encourage students to be honest and forthright, and we feel bad when a student makes a bad decision. We’re in an area where we’re in a desert, and we have to take these reports seriously,” said Nedda Shafir, a spokeswoman for the Cave Creek Unified School District.


Mother cat adopts Rottweiler puppy

MERIDEN — Who says cats and dogs don’t get along?

Workers at the Meriden Humane Society are marveling at a short-haired mother cat that has adopted a 6-day-old Rottweiler puppy who was rejected by his mother.

The tiny pup, named Charlie by Humane Society volunteers, nurses alongside a jumble of black and gray kittens recently born to Satin, who was taken to the shelter by an owner unable to care for her.

Charlie’s mother was found by the side of the road in Meriden a couple of months ago. She gave birth to two puppies, but one was stillborn. As sometimes happens with a stillborn in the litter, the mother refused to accept Charlie.

Research indicated that a suitable substitute could be Satin, who had given birth to four kittens that have quickly warmed to Charlie.


Squirrel forces plane’s landing

HONOLULU — An American Airlines flight made an unscheduled landing after pilots heard something skittering about in the wire-laden space over the cockpit.

The airline blamed the emergency landing of the Tokyo-Dallas flight with 202 passengers on a stowaway squirrel.

John Hotard, spokesman for the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline, said pilots feared the animal would chew through wiring or cause other problems.

Once on the ground late last Friday, the Boeing 777’s passengers were put up in hotel rooms and later rebooked on other flights.

State and federal agriculture and wildlife officials boarded the plane, set traps and captured the eastern gray squirrel.

Mr. Hotard said the plane had flown to Tokyo from New York before the Dallas flight. Honolulu, however, proved to be the squirrel’s final destination. Fearing it may have been carrying rabies, authorities had the rodent killed.


Cigarette likely caused fatal house fire

LOUISVILLE — A cigarette left burning near a chair likely caused the house fire that killed 10 persons earlier this month, a top fire official said yesterday.

“The cigarette is our hot energy source,” said Rob Goodwin, the chief deputy fire marshal. “It starts building from there.”

The victims, four adults and six children in an extended family, all died from smoke inhalation after the Feb. 6 fire in Bardstown. One person survived with injuries that were not life-threatening.

Mr. Goodwin declined to say which of the victims left the cigarette near the chair. Investigators previously said some of the adults in the house were regular smokers.


Man suspected of DEA impersonation

NEW YORK — Federal authorities yesterday arrested a Staten Island man on charges of impersonating a federal agent, drug possession, gun possession and armed burglary.

John P. Gilbride, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s special agent in charge, said Tony Clanton, 34, was the target of a joint investigation that began in November.

Authorities arrested Mr. Clanton at his home after receiving information in the past several months that the suspect was impersonating a DEA agent.

Mr. Clanton is charged with posing as a DEA agent, presenting a fictitious search warrant, stealing money, criminal possession of controlled substances, criminal possession of weapons and criminal possession of stolen property and personal documents.


Widow gives college $100 million

CHAPEL HILL — The widow of a Texas oil executive donated $100 million yesterday to expand a merit scholarship program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The gift from Mary Cain will nearly double the size of the program, which will be renamed the Morehead-Cain Scholarship. The four-year scholarship covers all tuition, fees and other typical college costs.

The scholarship is valued at $80,000 for in-state residents and $140,000 for out-of-state residents, according to the Morehead Foundation, which also will be renamed.

Mrs. Cain’s husband, Gordon, helped start Petro-Tex Chemical, now Texas Petrochemicals Inc. of Houston. He died in 2002 at age 90.

Mrs. Cain approached the school about helping her foundation establish a scholarship similar to the Morehead program, which was set up in 1951 by John Motley Morehead, a large stakeholder in chemical company Union Carbide Corp.


Parents get 2 years after caging youths

NORWALK — A couple who forced some of their 11 adopted, special-needs children to sleep in cages were sentenced to two years in prison each for child endangering yesterday, after emotional statements in which the parents said they were only trying to keep the youths safe.

Sharen Gravelle told the court the children were never confined as punishment but rather to protect them, including a child who wanted to jump out a second-floor window.

“Would you prefer that we let them jump? Either way, we’d be here. The difference is they’re still alive,” she said in a 26-minute statement.

She blamed social services officials for not helping her and her husband, Michael, control the destructive behavior of some of the youngsters.

The children, who suffered from problems such as fetal alcohol syndrome and a disorder that involves eating nonfood items, ranged in age from 1 to 14 when authorities removed them in 2005 from the Gravelles’ home in Wakeman, about 60 miles west of Cleveland.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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