- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2007

CALIFORNIA

Actress Betty Hutton dies at age 86

LOS ANGELES — Betty Hutton, the actress and singer who brought a brassy vitality to Hollywood musicals, comedies and biopics has died in Palm Springs, Calif., at age 86.

The death was confirmed yesterday by a friend of Miss Hutton who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The source refused to provide further details including the time and cause of death.

Miss Hutton was at the top of the heap when she walked out of her Paramount contract in 1952, reportedly in a dispute over her demand that her then-husband direct her films. After that, she did TV, the stage and nightclubs. Unlike other actresses who have been called “blonde bombshells,” Miss Hutton had a screen personality that had more to do with energy and humor than sex.

“Annie Get Your Gun” (1950) was the Irving Berlin musical biography of Annie Oakley, with Miss Hutton playing the part Ethel Merman had made famous on Broadway. Another notable film was “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek,” the 1944 Preston Sturges satire that rattled the censors with the story of a young woman who becomes pregnant after spur-of-the-moment marriage that she can’t remember.

Mr. Sturges called Miss Hutton “a full-fledged actress with every talent the noun implies. She plays in musicals because the public, which can do practically nothing well, is willing to concede its entertainers only one talent.”

FLORIDA

NASA optimistic about shuttle repair

CAPE CANAVERAL — The hail-damaged fuel tank on Space Shuttle Atlantis likely will be repaired at the Florida launch site, minimizing the delay for NASA’s first mission of the year, officials said yesterday.

NASA is hoping the fuel tank will be repaired in time for a late April or early May launch.

A three-day countdown for a mission to the International Space Station had been scheduled to start yesterday, leading to a Thursday liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center.

But a freak storm on Feb. 26 dropped hailstones as big as golf balls on the shuttle, damaging the thermal insulation on the ship’s fuel tank. Managers decided to return the ship to a processing hangar for detailed inspections and repairs to or replacement of the tank.

ILLINOIS

Woman charged in series of fires

CHICAGO — A woman accused of starting a series of house fires near Wrigley Field over the weekend was charged yesterday with four counts of murder, authorities said.

Witnesses had reported seeing an unkempt woman wearing clear plastic bags on her feet near three small fires that broke out in the area late Friday and early Saturday, said Edward O’Donnell, commander of the police department’s bomb and arson unit.

The fourth blaze, reported Saturday morning within walking distance of the others, began in a three-story apartment house’s front stairwell and spread, killing four persons inside, fire officials said.

Mary Smith was questioned after the fires and charged yesterday with two counts of aggravated arson and four counts of first-degree murder, the Cook County state’s attorneys office said. She was described as in her 40s. No further information about her was immediately available.

Police had brought the woman in for questioning after finding her on the street late Saturday with “an odor of smoke,” police spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

NEW MEXICO

Lawmakers agree to require vaccine

ALBUQUERQUE — New Mexico is on the verge of becoming the latest state to require sixth-grade girls to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer, a spokesman for the governor said yesterday.

The state House approved the bill Sunday and Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, will sign it once he receives the legislation, spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said.

“This is an important anti-cancer vaccine, and the governor believes it’s imperative for all girls to be protected against cervical cancer,” Mr. Gallegos said.

He said the bill will go into effect 90 days after it is signed.

Texas is the only state to require Gardasil, the vaccine for human papillomavirus, but other states are considering doing the same.

NEW YORK

Train cars explode, forcing evacuations

ONEIDA — A train carrying liquefied propane derailed yesterday morning, setting off an explosion and fire that forced evacuations from this small central New York city and shut down a section of highway.

The 7 a.m. blast sent a huge fireball into the dawn sky. Thick smoke continued pouring out hours later as about half a dozen propane tanker cars burned, said Police Chief David Meeker. He said the explosion followed the derailment of about 15 of the train’s 80 cars.

Fire crews fought to keep the flames from spreading to other tanker cars, about half of which carried propane.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or fatalities.

The derailment occurred in an unpopulated area on Oneida’s north side. Officials were evacuating an area of about a one-mile radius, covering most of the downtown area of the city of 10,000. Up to 4,000 people live within that area, but the evacuation was mandatory only for homes closest to the blast.

SOUTH CAROLINA

States develop port on Savannah River

HARDEEVILLE — South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said yesterday the states would form a joint port authority and together work on a steamship terminal along the Savannah River.

The governors, both Republicans, met on an 1,800-acre tract of land on the South Carolina side of the river that has been the focus of lawsuits in an ongoing fight over who may develop the property.

“If South Carolina and Georgia are going to maintain our respective, competitive advantages when it comes to being southeastern shipping destinations, the time to act is now,” Mr. Sanford said in a statement.

Mr. Perdue said the plan will benefit both Georgia and South Carolina.

The proposal will create a bistate port authority, which will buy the land owned by the Georgia Department of Transportation. The authority will also ask private companies to submit development proposals.

WISCONSIN

‘Literacy dog’ aims to improve reading

FALL RIVER — See Kayla sit. Sit, Kayla, sit.

Tom Pawlisch, a third-grade teacher at Fall River School, is trying to encourage reading by having his students read to his pet Kayla, the school’s official literacy dog.

The Chesapeake Bay retriever listens to the students, which encourages them to read expressively, said Irene Pawlisch, Kayla’s co-owner.

“The dog doesn’t judge if the kids make a mistake, so the kids relax,” she said. “They sit down and read and get to play with her afterward. They relax a little bit. … It’s about getting kids excited about reading.”

The after-school reading lessons also help with the 8-year-old Kayla’s obedience training, Miss Pawlisch said.

Superintendent Heidi Schmidt and the school board approved the idea of making Kayla an informal part of the school’s faculty.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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