- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2008


Snow blankets wildfire area

DENVER — Snow yesterday blanketed the foothills and grasslands on a southern Colorado Army post, where a fast-moving wildfire claimed the life of a firefighting pilot earlier in the week.

The blaze, which burned across 15 square miles of Fort Carson, was 20 percent contained. Two other fires, including one that killed two firefighters, in the state this week were 100 percent contained Wednesday.

The National Weather Service could not say how much snow fell on the Fort Carson fire, but 2 inches had fallen in nearby Colorado Springs.

Pilot Gert Marais of Fort Benton, Mont., was killed Tuesday when his single-engine plane crashed after dumping fire-retardant slurry on the blaze.


Rare turtle discovered in Vietnam

CLEVELAND — Researchers from the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo have discovered a rare giant turtle in northern Vietnam, giving scientists hope for a species they thought was extinct in the wild.

The three other known Swinhoe’s soft-shell turtles are in captivity, said experts from the zoo’s Asian turtle program. The discovery represents hope for the species, said Doug Hendrie, the Vietnam-based coordinator of the zoo program.

Turtle expert Peter Pritchard, president of the Chelonian Research Institute, confirmed the find based on a photo Mr. Hendrie showed him. The turtle was discovered late last year, probably in December, zoo spokeswoman Sue Allen said yesterday.


Tree-killing germ found to evolve

BERKELEY — U.S. scientists said they have discovered that the pathogen causing sudden oak death, a disease that has killed millions of trees along the Pacific Coast, is evolving.

University of California at Berkeley researchers said the pathogen was first seen in California forests near a nursery in Santa Cruz and at Mount Tamalpais in Marin County. It eventually spread, killing millions of oak and tanoak trees. The researchers said their findings provide, for the first time, evidence of how the epidemic unfolded.

The researchers said the pathogen is evolving in California, with mutant genotypes appearing as new areas are infested. That finding suggests that movement of infected plants in areas where sudden oak death is established should be minimized, said Matteo Garbelotto, an adjunct professor who led the study.


Pregnant woman dies after shooting

HARTFORD — A pregnant woman has died, officials said, days after her boyfriend was accused of shooting her in front of their two children.

A Hartford Hospital spokeswoman said Amanda Realie, 27, died yesterday morning. Doctors were not able to save her unborn baby.

State police Lt. J. Paul Vance said prosecutors probably will upgrade charges against Alfredo Ferrer, 43. He already has been charged with attempted murder.

Police said he shot his girlfriend and then took his children to the parking lot of Bidwell Tavern, where he worked. Police said he threatened to kill himself while holding his 2-year-old child. Officers persuaded him to hand over the child and then subdued him with a stun gun.


Bomb threat empties university buildings

DEKALB — Two buildings at Northern Illinois University were evacuated briefly yesterday afternoon because of a bomb threat that was later determined not to be credible, school officials said.

The evacuations did not affect any classrooms, and classes were held as scheduled at NIU, where a gunman killed five students and himself inside a lecture hall Feb. 14.

Authorities received a bomb threat targeting the health services building about 2 p.m., according to the school’s Web site. That building and the adjacent telecommunications building were evacuated but reopened about two hours later.


Town voters split on beer, wine sales

TISBURY — Tisbury voters, it seems, are split on whether to allow restaurants in town to put beer and wine on the menu.

Exactly split.

A ballot question on whether to allow sales of alcohol at restaurants and inns in the Martha’s Vineyard community tied 690-690 in Tuesday’s election.

If it’s a tie, the place stays dry. So those favoring the change have begun an effort to get a hand recount, town clerk Marion Mudge said.


Judge blocks gun ordinances

PHILADELPHIA — A judge yesterday temporarily blocked the city from enforcing five gun-control ordinances pending a challenge from the National Rifle Association.

The NRA argues that state law prevents Pennsylvania municipalities from regulating guns, a view that the city’s crime-weary district attorney shares. City attorneys contend that Philadelphia can pass gun-control ordinances if the laws are outside the scope of state measures.

City ordinances approved April 10 ban the sale of assault weapons, require owners to report a lost or stolen gun within 24 hours, and limit firearms purchases to one a month.


Man pleads guilty to strangling girl

PROVIDENCE — A man admitted yesterday that he strangled an 8-year-old neighbor after abducting the girl and sexually molesting her in the woods.

Joshua Davis, 22, apologized softly to the family of Savannah Smith after pleading guilty to first-degree murder, kidnapping of a minor and child molestation. He said he knew an apology wasn’t enough.

Davis faces a sentence of life in prison without parole, the toughest punishment available. Rhode Island does not have the death penalty.


Smoke in cockpit prompts evacuation

SEATAC — More than 100 people were evacuated from an Alaska Airlines 737 yesterday because hazy smoke appeared in the cockpit shortly after the plane landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, officials said.

No major injuries were reported.

The crew of Flight 529 from Los Angeles reported a potential problem 23 minutes before landing, but all appeared normal until “a light gray haze … not thick smoke” appeared on the flight deck five minutes after touchdown, said Mike Fergus, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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