- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2008


Penguin warms up to wet suit

SAN FRANCISCO — What’s black and white and warm all over? A penguin in a wet suit, naturally.

Sounds like a joke, but it’s quite serious for biologists at the California Academy of Sciences, who had a wet suit created for an African penguin to help him get back in the swim of things. Pierre, a venerable 25 years old, was going bald.

Unlike marine mammals, which have a layer of blubber to keep them warm, penguins rely on their waterproof feathers. Without them, Pierre was unwilling to plunge into the academy’s penguin tank and ended up shivering on the sidelines while his 19 peers played in the water. Pierre’s species of penguin is accustomed to temperate climates.

Pierre was outfitted with the suit about six weeks ago. Since then, he has gained weight, grown back feathers on his hind parts and is again acting like his feisty, alpha-male self.


Teen suspected of slaying family

EASLEY — A teenager who had recently moved back home after breaking up with his live-in girlfriend is accused of fatally shooting four family members, stunning friends and neighbors.

Nathaniel Dickson, 18, was arrested Saturday night at a home in Belton about 20 miles from where the bodies of his father, stepmother, stepsister and younger brother were found, authorities said.

Those who knew Mr. Dickson grapple with how the quiet teen who loved video games and sports was charged with four counts of murder.

Authorities would not talk about a motive.

Mr. Dickson is the only suspect, and more charges could be filed against him, Sheriff David Crenshaw said.


Truck rolls over; 4 killed, 27 hurt

PHOENIX — A pickup truck jammed with people crashed in remote central Arizona, killing four and injuring nearly 30.

Authorities are investigating the immigration status of those involved in yesterday’s rollover crash.

The truck was carrying 31 people. Pinal County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Vanessa White said 27 survivors have been taken to hospitals. She did not know their conditions.

She said speed, inattention and possibly alcohol are thought to be factors in the crash, which occurred at about 5:30 a.m. roughly 60 miles south of Phoenix.

Miss White did not know whether the back of the pickup was enclosed.


300-pound inmate sues over menu

BENTONVILLE — An inmate awaiting trial on a murder charge is suing the county, complaining that he has lost more than 100 pounds because of the jailhouse menu.

Broderick Lloyd Laswell said he isn’t happy that he’s down to 308 pounds after eight months in the Benton County jail. He has filed a federal lawsuit complaining that the jail doesn’t provide inmates with enough food.

According to the suit, Mr. Laswell weighed 413 pounds when he was jailed in September. Police said he and a co-defendant fatally beat and stabbed a man, then set his home on fire.

Mr. Laswell also complains that he undertakes little vigorous activity.

“If we are in a small pod all day [and] do next to nothing for physical exercise, we should not lose weight,” the suit states.

The suit also asks that the county be ordered to serve hot meals. The jail has served only cold food for years.

The meals, provided through Aramark Correctional Institution Services, average 3,000 calories a day, jail Capt. Hunter Petray told the Morning News of northwestern Arkansas for a story Saturday.

A typical Western diet consists of 2,000 to 3,000 calories a day.


Tap water violates standards

DENVER — Tap water being consumed in 37 small Colorado communities has been found to have violated state health standards, state records show.

State records show that the tap water supply, which is used by 30,000 Colorado residents, had levels of naturally occurring uranium and radium radionuclides higher than current standards, the Denver Post reported yesterday.

Environmental Protection Agency official Jack Rycheky said implementing a better water-treatment system in those affected communities would likely cost millions of dollars.

The new standards for radium in tap water are anything more than 5 picocuries of radiation per liter, while 30 micrograms of uranium in a liter of water is the maximum level.

Higher levels of both radioactive elements would place Colorado residents at a higher risk for both kidney damage and cancer, the Post said.


Runaway python did not get far

NEW FAIRFIELD — A 6-foot python that escaped from a home in Connecticut turned out to have gotten no farther than the yard in two days on its own, neighbors said.

The snake was found by 8-year-old Michael Ruffino, the Danbury News Times reported. Michael and his parents, John and Diane, live next door to the snake’s owner, Kelly Wiedl, in New Fairfield.

When he and his parents arrived home from church Saturday evening, Michael wondered what a neighborhood cat was looking at in the bushes. It turned out to be the python.

Another neighbor, Mark Lefgren, did the snake-catching, getting the python into a flannel pillowcase.

Mrs. Ruffino said the snake, possibly stunned by low temperatures, was not acting aggressive, although it did hiss at the cat. The cat simply looked bewildered.


Boy, 7, accused of SUV joy ride

PALM BEACH GARDENS — A 7-year-old Florida boy faces grand theft auto charges after taking his grandmother’s sport utility vehicle for a joy ride, police said.

The eight-minute trek left a swath of damage in his Palm Beach Gardens neighborhood Friday. The boy smashed mailboxes, hit parked cars and signposts. He was not hurt.

Police said he literally drove until a wheel fell off. The right front wheel, to be exact, which broke off after the boy hit a sign.

Police spokeswoman Ellen Lovejoy said the boy is unlikely to be prosecuted. They arrested him so he can get some help, noting the excursion was “unusual behavior for a 7-year-old.”


2 Cubans die, 8 rescued from raft

NEW ORLEANS — The Coast Guard has called off the search for two Cubans who were trying to cross the Gulf of Mexico in a raft.

Coast Guard Lt. Anastacia Visneski said the search ended Saturday night without success.

The two missing Cubans were among 12 attempting to cross. Two died and eight were receiving medical treatment.

The Coast Guard said a report was received late Friday from a tanker ship that the raft had been spotted. A Coast Guard cutter was diverted to the scene.

An Air Force helicopter from a Florida base took six of the survivors to a New Orleans hospital. The survivors are in stable condition.


Broken water main floods Boston area

BOSTON — A pre-dawn water main break Saturday turned streets in Boston’s financial district into rivers, forced the shutdown of a subway station and cut off natural gas service.

Water cascaded down three streets after the 12-inch main ruptured. The State Street subway station was closed early Saturday, but train service was not interrupted.

Several residential and commercial customers in the area lost gas service, the Keyspan utility said.

There was little evidence of the break by Saturday afternoon.


Special prosecutor in police misconduct

NEW YORK — A coalition of civil rights advocates yesterday urged changes in the handling of police misconduct and brutality complaints after the acquittal of three officers involved in the death of an unarmed man shot on his wedding day.

They also called for a permanent state-level special prosecutor to investigate such cases.

“The verdict in the Sean Bell case proves it is almost impossible to successfully prosecute cases of police misconduct, especially in homicide cases,” said lawyer Norman Siegel, former head of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Three city police officers were cleared Friday in the November 2006 shooting death of Mr. Bell outside a nightclub where he had just left his bachelor party. Two friends were wounded in the volley of 50 shots; the officers charged said they thought they were in mortal danger.


Cinder block falling signals spring

WEST DANVILLE — Forget what the calendar says. In these parts, spring doesn’t arrive until the cinder block falls through the ice on Joe’s Pond.

The 65-pound block, which is placed on a wooden pallet on the frozen surface of the pond and tied to an alarm clock on shore each winter in a $1-per-chance guessing game, plunged into the water at 5:25 p.m. Friday.

Four people who guessed April 25 at 5:15 p.m. — the closest time — won $1,323 each in the annual Joe’s Pond Ice Out Contest, according to organizer Dave Parker.

Don Rogers, of Swartz Creek, Mich., Janet Egizi, of St. Johnsbury, Roxanne Gorham, of Lyndonville, and Joe Kelly, of Barre, were the winners. The 20th annual contest drew 12,039 entries.

The earliest ice-out date was April 16, in 1998 and 2006; the latest was May 6, in 1992.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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