- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2007


State to take over struggling school district

JEFFERSON CITY — The state school board voted yesterday to strip the accreditation from the St. Louis school district and take control of its struggling schools.

The board voted 5-1 after students chanting, “No takeovers,” temporarily shut down the meeting. Capitol Police handcuffed one student after a brief foot chase.

The decision authorizes state and district officials to form a transitional, three-member board to take over the St. Louis schools on June 15. The locally elected board will remain in place but have no power.

The roughly 32,000-student district has struggled academically and financially for years.


Yellowstone grizzlies lose federal protection

HELENA — Grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park no longer need Endangered Species Act protection, the federal government said yesterday.

The area had 136 to 312 grizzlies when the species was listed as threatened in 1975, but has more than 500 of the bears today, the government said.

The Interior Department said in 2005 that it intended to delist grizzly bears around Yellowstone in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. The species remains protected in parts of Idaho, Montana and Washington. Alaska, where the bear was never threatened, is the only other place where the species roam.


Green groups sue Navy over sonar

LOS ANGELES — State coastal regulators and environmental groups separately sued the Navy yesterday because of its decision to continue sonar training exercises off California without precautions that opponents contend are necessary to protect marine life.

Earlier this year, the California Coastal Commission approved the exercises during a two-year period only if the Navy took safeguards to protect marine mammals and sea turtles. Among the restrictions were avoiding coastal waters with a large whale and dolphin population and lowering sonar levels during periods of low visibility, when it is harder for ship personnel to spot sea life.

Commissioner Sara Wan said the Navy’s unwillingness to comply with the restrictions left the state with no choice but to file the federal lawsuit.


Camera hidden in shampoo bottle

MANCHESTER — A man landed in hot water after he hid a tiny camera in a shampoo bottle to watch two of his female roommates as they took showers, police say.

A male roommate, curious why the shampoo wasn’t moved for some time, found wires protruding from the back of the bottle, then called police, authorities said. The camera recorded through a pinhole, and the images were sent to Steven Thibodeau’s television, police said. Mr. Thibodeau, 25, had placed the camera to record the women showering and made video of one of them changing clothes, according to police.

Mr. Thibodeau was arraigned Wednesday on 15 counts of voyeurism and one count of evidence tampering, which accuses him of trying to delete some images. He was being held in jail on $250,000 bail.


Ex-astronaut pleads not guilty to scheme

ORLANDO — Former astronaut Lisa Nowak’s attorneys formally entered a not guilty plea yesterday to charges that she tried to kidnap a rival for a space shuttle pilot’s affections.

The 43-year-old mother of three and Navy captain did not appear at the brief arraignment. Her attorneys had entered a written not guilty plea.

Capt. Nowak was arrested Feb. 5 after she drove from Houston to Florida to confront Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman in an Orlando airport parking lot and then pepper-sprayed her, police say. Capt. Shipman, who was dating astronaut Navy Cmdr. Bill Oefelein, was able to escape.

Police reported finding a BB gun, a steel mallet, a knife and rubber tubing in Capt. Nowak’s car.

Capt. Nowak’s trial is scheduled to begin July 30.


TB cases hit all-time low

ATLANTA — Cases of tuberculosis in the United States hit an all-time low last year, but health officials say they are wary of a continuing trickle of foreign cases of dangerous drug-resistant TB.

About 4.6 cases of tuberculosis were reported for every 100,000 Americans, a total of 13,767 cases last year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday.

The TB rate in the United States has been falling for years. But hidden in the good news are some disturbing rises in TB cases in some states, as well as the continued appearance of a form of the disease that is resistant to both first- and second-line antibiotics.

Twenty states reported more cases from 2005 to 2006. The biggest jumps were in Texas, which reported 50 more cases than in the previous year, and North Carolina, which had 45 more.


Abortion foes accuse judge of misconduct

TOPEKA — Abortion opponents filed an ethics complaint yesterday against a judge who dismissed 30 misdemeanor criminal charges against one of the few U.S. doctors to perform late-term abortions.

The complaint claims District Judge Paul W. Clark violated rules of judicial conduct by not disclosing that he had received campaign contributions in 2004 from a law firm representing Dr. George Tiller and Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston.

Former Attorney General Phill Kline had filed the criminal case against Dr. Tiller in December, accusing the doctor of performing illegal late-term abortions and failing to properly report the details to state health officials. Judge Clark dismissed the charges on jurisdictional grounds.


Hispanics denounce anti-illegals campaign

TRENTON — Hispanic lobby groups are attacking two New Jersey disc jockeys as racists for urging listeners to denounce suspected illegal aliens to federal authorities.

Craig Carton and Ray Rossi were unapologetic at a press conference broadcast yesterday on their show, “The Jersey Guys,” and denied “Operation Rat a Rat/La Cucha Gotcha” targets Hispanics.

“It is our goal to make New Jersey and the USA a safer place to live, and the way we want to do that is to rid the state of illegal immigrants,” Mr. Carton said from station WKXW 101.5-FM.

Some Hispanics say the campaign is racist because the disc jockeys play Latin music when they discuss it and have announced it will end on Cinco de Mayo.

“The name itself is racist. It sounds like the Spanish word for cockroach [cucaracha],” said a spokesman for Wilfredo Caraballo, the speaker of the New Jersey Assembly.


DEA arrests 28 in pharmaceutical raid

NEW YORK — Federal agents yesterday raided a suspected pharmaceutical drug ring that authorities said filed thousands of fraudulent prescriptions. A total of twenty-eight residents of Nassau County and Queens County were arrested.

“Diverting pharmaceuticals is a crime. And in this case, the drug deals occurred behind a pharmacy counter,” said John P. Gilbride, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration special agent in charge who heads the New York field office.

DEA spokesman Garrison K. Courtney said prescription-drug abuse has risen more than two-thirds nationwide over the past five years.

Court records show that Howard Topchik, suspected as the ring’s leader, was charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance in the first degree. He and his wife were the owners of Terrace Pharmacy in Oceanside, a business that sold nearly twice the amount of the painkiller Vicodin, a brand of hydrocodone, as the average pharmacy in the United States in 2005. Records show that Terrace Pharmacy sold more than 149,300 doses of the prescription drug in 2005.

Investigators uncovered the pharmacy’s inordinate sale of Vicodin while examining a series of burglaries and an armed robbery that had occurred at the pharmacy between October and December 2005.


Trapped teen said final prayer

PITTSBURGH — A 14-year-old boy confessed his sins to God as he waited for rescue while trapped for two hours under a slab of concrete and struggling to breathe, the teen said yesterday.

Robert Maust left a hospital yesterday, less than two days after the accident. He was treated for cuts and bruises but did not break any bones.

He told reporters at a press conference at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh that he was sitting on the upright 3-by-6-foot slab, used as a retaining wall along a roadway, and jumped from it across a ditch to retrieve a ball. Then he heard a “crack sound.” The slab pushed him across the ditch, pinning him against the bank.

“I spent two minutes trying to move just so I could breathe,” he said. “I didn’t say anything. Then I said the Act of Contrition and prayed to God.”

A 3-inch tree root and a rock helped prevent all 3,800 pounds of the slab from bearing down on him. Rescuers inflated air bags under the slab to relieve pressure until they could lift it with harnesses.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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