- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2007


Lawsuit demands more-open executions

LITTLE ROCK — Several journalists sued the state prisons chief yesterday, demanding he let witnesses see the entire execution process and not just when poison flows into condemned inmates.

Arkansas does not allow reporters and public witnesses to watch as intravenous tubes are inserted and removed from the inmates. The curtains to the execution chamber open to witnesses after the condemned prisoner is strapped to the gurney, and close once the inmate is dead.

“The public has a First Amendment right to view executions from the moment the condemned is escorted into the execution chamber,” reads the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Pine Bluff by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas on behalf of the Northwest Arkansas Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the Arkansas Times Inc. and the editor of the Arkansas Times.

Department spokeswoman Dina Tyler disputed the First Amendment claim.

“The foundation of this lawsuit has a large fault running through it and that is, it assumes that executions in Arkansas are public events, when state law declares them to be exactly the opposite, to be private,” she said.


Rainfall eases Okeechobee shortfall

WEST PALM BEACH — South Florida’s drought problems are far from over, but summer rain has begun to replenish Lake Okeechobee in the heart of the Everglades after an 18-month dry spell led to severe restrictions, officials said yesterday.

The lake, a backup drinking source for millions of residents, remains 4 feet below normal levels, but water resumed flowing last week with the recent rain, and water-use restrictions were loosened.

It had been more than 250 days since water flowed south, depriving Lake Okeechobee of 50 percent of its water supply and dropping its level to record lows. The lake needs about another 5 feet of rain to return to normal levels.

The Army Corps of Engineers began allowing water to flow south from the Kissimmee River basin July 18. It continues to flow at a rate of about 97 million gallons a day, said John Zediak, chief of water management at the corps’ Jacksonville district.


Student arrested in threat of rampage

EDWARDSVILLE — A university student was arrested after he threatened a “murderous rampage” similar to the Virginia Tech shootings that left 32 persons and a student gunman dead, authorities said.

A gun dealer alerted federal authorities about the man, saying he seemed overly eager to get a shipment of semiautomatic weapons, according to an affidavit filed in court by a police detective.

Olutosin Oduwole, who was taking summer classes at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, was charged Tuesday with attempting to make a terrorist threat, a felony. He remained jailed yesterday in lieu of $1 million bail.

According to the affidavit, the 22-year-old wrote a note demanding money be deposited to a PayPal account, threatening that “if this account doesn’t reach $50,000 in the next 7 days then a murderous rampage similar to the VT shooting will occur at another highly populated university. THIS IS NOT A JOKE!” Southern Illinois University was not mentioned directly.

Authorities found the note Friday in Mr. Oduwole’s car on campus, university spokesman Greg Conroy said. Police also said they found a loaded gun in Mr. Oduwole’s dorm room.


Military base sees baby boom

FORT CAMPBELL — Army Spc. John Luckey and his wife, Kerry, had five children and no plans for more when he came home from a year’s duty in Iraq. But there was romance in the California air when the entire family went on a vacation to see the giant redwoods.

Nine months later, Mrs. Luckey gave birth to a daughter, EmLee Rae.

Apparently many military couples at Fort Campbell celebrated like the Luckeys did when about 20,000 soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division came home last fall, because the military hospital here is experiencing a baby boom. The hospital expects to deliver 210 babies a month soon, nearly twice the usual number of deliveries.


Cat predicts deaths in nursing home

PROVIDENCE — Oscar the cat seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing-home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours.

His accuracy, observed in 25 cases, has led the staff to call family members once he chooses someone. It usually means that they have less than four hours to live.

“He doesn’t make too many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die,” Dr. David Dosa said. He describes the phenomenon in a poignant essay in today’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The 2-year-old feline was adopted as a kitten and grew up in a third-floor dementia unit at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. After about six months, the staff noticed that Oscar would make his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses. He would sniff and observe patients, then sit beside people who would wind up dying within a few hours.


Mechanic accused of anti-war threat

SALT LAKE CITY — An aircraft mechanic sent e-mails claiming he would detonate explosives at an Air Force base and kill six hostages if the U.S. did not remove all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, authorities said yesterday.

Five buildings at Hill Air Force Base were evacuated Tuesday after the e-mails began surfacing, but the threat turned out to be false, FBI agent Tim Fuhrman said, adding that the six purported hostages were found unharmed and never seized. They had a connection to the suspect but not the base, he said.

William Stiffler, 39, was unarmed when he was arrested Tuesday in Malad, Idaho, as he prepared to board an employee shuttle to the base, Mr. Fuhrman said.

Mr. Stiffler has worked on C-130 planes at Hill since 2001. He was charged with threatening to kill and injure people and appeared yesterday in federal court in Salt Lake City. He was returned to jail to await a detention hearing tomorrow.


Man who missed flight accused of threat

SEATTLE — A man who missed his flight yesterday said there was a bomb aboard the plane, forcing it to return to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport even though authorities did not think the threat was legitimate, an airport spokeswoman said.

“The plane was brought back, erring on the side of caution, after he made that threatening statement,” Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Jennifer Peppin said. Police confirmed there was no bomb on board hours later, after bomb-sniffing dogs searched the plane, airport spokeswoman Terri-Ann Betancourt said.

The man told a gate agent there was a bomb on Northwest Airlines Flight 980 shortly after the plane left Seattle for Memphis about 12:33 p.m., Miss Betancourt said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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