- The Washington Times - Monday, January 1, 2007


Employers spared on disabled pay

PHOENIX The state agency that enforces wage laws says it won’t pursue employers who pay disabled workers below the voter-approved minimum wage of $6.75 an hour, at least for now.

The wage law takes effect today.

The ballot measure did not include an exemption for the developmentally disabled, raising concern that some disabled workers could be laid off.


Two dozen hurt in prison riot

CHINO More than 800 inmates were involved in a state prison riot that sent at least two dozen prisoners to hospitals with moderate to serious injuries, a prison spokesman said.

A fight Saturday between two inmates quickly spread through the 1,400-inmate West Facility of the California Institution for Men, prison spokesman Mark Hargrove said.

Guards aided by sheriff’s deputies and police quelled the fighting in about two hours using pepper spray, gas grenades and foam bullets. No officers were injured.

At least 24 inmates were taken to hospitals for treatment of moderate to serious injuries, Mr. Hargrove said. One inmate suffered severe head injuries and puncture wounds to his back.


Snake attacks handler during show

TARPON SPRINGS A 14-foot python bit her handler and tried to drag her into her cage during a show at an aquarium, and wouldn’t release the woman until a police officer zapped the reptile with a stun gun.

Alison Cobianchi, 18, was taking Chloe, a Burmese python, out of her cage for the daily snake presentation Saturday at the Tarpon Springs Aquarium when the snake wrapped herself around the handler’s arm and waist.

Police were called to help. “We either had to Taser it or we would have had to kill it,” police Sgt. Allen MacKenzie said.

Miss Cobianchi suffered puncture wounds on her wrist. The snake was not seriously hurt by the stun gun.


Six wounded in party shooting

CHICAGO Two masked gunman wounded six persons at a party early yesterday in a house on the South Side, and two of the victims were in serious condition, police said.

About 100 people were attending the party in a house in the city’s Grand Crossing neighborhood when the gunmen kicked down a door and fired, police spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

No one had been arrested, she said.

“The difficulty herein lies that we don’t have a description of the offenders because they were masked,” Miss Bond said.

Police also didn’t know whether the shooters were targeting specific victims or if they fired randomly.

The six victims, all men, were taken to hospitals. Two were listed in serious conditions and the other four victims were stable, Miss Bond said.


Boy, 3, found playing on highway

INDIANAPOLIS Drivers swerved cars and trucks into other lanes to avoid a 3-year-old boy, wearing only a diaper and T-shirt, who was playing along a busy highway after wandering away from home while his mother slept, police said.

Some motorists stopped along Interstate 465 on the city’s west side Saturday to take care of the boy until officers arrived, the Indiana State Police said.

The boy, Damon Dyer, was unscathed as at least a half-dozen cars and a tractor-trailer rig swerved into other lanes to avoid him. Temperatures were in the mid-50s as the boy ran barefooted.

Police said they traced the toddler to an apartment at a nearby complex, where they found his mother, Nancy Dyer, asleep in a filthy apartment and his 2-year-old sister eating spaghetti off the floor.

Miss Dyer, 33, was arrested on two counts of child neglect and remained in custody yesterday, officials said.


City to consider new rules for bars

LAWRENCE A string of late-night fights and gun violence downtown prompted city commissioners to look into safety measures and stricter rules for bars.

The City Commission will take up the issue tomorrow. It previously discussed creating “entertainment club licensing” and other measures but never acted on the proposals.


Officer injured in carjacking

NEW YORK The escape of two masked men making their getaway from a Queens bank disintegrated into a bloody gunfight Saturday when they tried to hijack a car from an off-duty policeman.

Officer John Lopez was shot once in the thigh after he leapt from his car and chased the men down a busy city street, but he returned fire and seriously wounded his attacker, police said.

The suspect was hospitalized in critical condition with gunshot wounds to his abdomen and leg. His purported accomplice was captured by officers who found him hiding underneath a parked car with a bag of money at his side.

The suspects were identified as Joseph Pennington and Dion Mines.


Vatican reinstates suspended priest

CINCINNATI The Vatican has reinstated a priest suspended in 2002 over accusations of sexual misconduct and will allow him to return to active ministry after undergoing counseling, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati said.

The decision to reinstate the Rev. James Kiffmeyer was announced Friday, but church officials had not determined where he will serve.

Father Kiffmeyer, who taught high school in Cincinnati and Middletown, was accused of abusing two students in 1990 and about 1986, but the students did not report the accusations until 1997 and 2002.

Father Kiffmeyer was placed on paid leave in 2002. While on leave, he could not celebrate the sacraments or perform other clerical duties. Father Kiffmeyer appealed to the Vatican, which ruled that the students waited too long to report the accusations.


Embezzlement rife in Catholic dioceses

VILLANOVA An overwhelming majority of respondents in a study of financial controls in U.S. Roman Catholic dioceses reported cases of embezzlement in the past five years.

Eighty-five percent of the diocesan administrators who took part in the review told Villanova University researchers that internal thefts had been uncovered in their dioceses.

The report, written by Villanova professors Charles Zech and Robert West and supported by a grant from the Louisville Institute, did not include an estimate of the money lost. But 11 percent of respondents said total embezzlements in the past five years exceeded $500,000, while 29 percent reported cases of less than $50,000.

In nearly all of the cases, police reports were filed, the survey found.


Firefighters trick bogus-call suspect

KNOXVILLE Knoxville Fire Department investigators used a ruse of their own to catch a man suspected of making a series of bogus emergency calls on his cell phone.

After receiving a false report of a gas leak Dec. 14, firefighters compared notes. They confirmed 15 fake 911 calls over a two-month period, including four house fires, six car crashes and various other medical emergencies. All came from the same cell phone.

They called the number and left a message saying the phone’s owner had won a gift card from a major retailer, Fire Capt. Brent Seymour said.

Within an hour, Capt. Seymour received a call back from a man identifying himself as the phone’s owner.

General Sessions Judge Charles Cerny found the evidence strong enough Wednesday to send 15 felony counts of making false reports against Jason Mark Harms to a Knox County grand jury.


Divers seal off broken oil pipeline

HOUSTON Divers sealed a broken oil pipeline yesterday after about 44,500 gallons leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, the Coast Guard said.

The weeklong spill about 30 miles south of Galveston was expected to have minimal effect on the environment. The oil continued to move away from land yesterday and was dispersing quickly, the Coast Guard said.

A portion of the High Island Pipeline System ruptured Dec. 24. The pipeline’s owner, Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline LP, shut down the line after detecting a pressure loss in the system.

A ship trying to moor in the area, where the water is about 90 feet deep, might have dropped its anchor on the pipeline, Plains Pipeline spokesman Jordan Janak said.

It was too early to say when the line would be repaired or how much the damage will cost the company, Mr. Janak said.


Champion liar sums it up

BURLINGTON A bit of funny math helped James Wilberg of Franklin win the title of top liar in a contest.

His winning quip: “There are three kinds of people in the world: those who are good at math and those who are not.”

Mr. Wilberg beat 300 other liars from 14 states and three countries to become World Champion Liar for 2006.

Mr. Wilberg’s prize is a parchment certificate from the Burlington Liars Club, which sponsors the annual contest.

The club was closed in 1979, but the Burlington Area Chamber of Commerce revived it the next year.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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