- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2008


Rare pennies sold for $10.7 million

LONG BEACH — A penny saved is not necessarily just a penny earned: One man’s collection of rare American cents has turned into a $10.7 million auction windfall.

The collection of 301 cents featured some of the rarest and earliest examples of the American penny, including a cent that was minted for two weeks in 1793 but later abandoned because Congress thought Lady Liberty looked frightened.

That coin and a 1794 cent with tiny stars added to prevent counterfeiters each raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the Dallas-based auction house Heritage Auction Galleries, which held the sale Friday night in Long Beach.

The coins came from the collection of Burbank resident Walter J. Husak, the owner of an aerospace-part manufacturing company. Mr. Husak became interested in collecting at age 13, while visiting his grandparents who paid him in old coins for helping with chores.


Refinery had prior explosion

SAVANNAH — Dust collected in a piece of safety equipment caused a small explosion at a sugar refinery weeks before sugar dust beneath the plant’s silos ignited to cause the deadly blast that killed nine workers, a federal investigator said yesterday.

Stephen Selk, investigations manager for the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, had few details about the previous explosion at the Imperial Sugar refinery in nearby Port Wentworth. He could not say whether the earlier blast contributed to the massive explosion Feb. 7.

“It is far too early to reach conclusions about the relationship between that event and this one,” Mr. Selk said.

Mr. Selk said no one was injured in the earlier explosion. He did not know the exact date, but said it happened “weeks ago.”


Twisters strike South; ice blankets Midwest

PRATTVILLE — Severe weather howled through much of the nation yesterday, producing damaging tornadoes in the South that injured nearly 30 people and treating winter-weary parts of the Midwest to freezing rain, snow and flooding.

A tornado damaged or destroyed about 200 homes and businesses in Prattville, outside Montgomery, where Mayor Jim Byard said crews searched for people trapped in the wreckage.

No fatalities were reported, but two persons were critically injured, said fire department official Dallis Johnson. Twenty-seven persons had minor injuries, officials said.

About 9,000 homes and businesses lost power in Prattville after storms swept across the South, damaging homes elsewhere in Alabama and in the Florida Panhandle.

A tornado destroyed four homes in Escambia County, Fla., while several others were damaged, county and National Weather Service officials said. Across the border in Escambia County, Ala., two houses were destroyed by a suspected tornado in rural Dixie, the Weather Service said.

The storm damaged some structures in Covington County, Ala., and toppled trees, said Jeremie Shaffer, assistant director of the county emergency management agency.

The Weather Service warned of tornado threats and winds of 70 mph as the storm system moved into Georgia.

Freezing rain and snow fell across the southern two-thirds of Wisconsin, still weary from a major snowstorm that stranded hundreds of motorists and snarled travel for days.

Many crashes were reported, and authorities urged drivers to stay off roads. The Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for much of Iowa and Wisconsin, and flood warnings in parts of the two states.

The conditions forced closures of shopping malls, libraries and churches.

Heavy snow and slush closed the Kansas City International Airport for almost six hours — the longest closure in its 35-year history, authorities said. Dozens of flights were canceled.


More parking proposed for canyon

PHOENIX — Federal officials are considering plans to cut down several trees at Grand Canyon National Park to add hundreds of parking spots and ease traffic at the popular South Rim.

The park has 1,200 parking spaces available during the day, and many visitors carve out their own spots along roadsides and cut through the forest as they make their way to the canyon edge.

The National Park Service is exploring three proposals to change the traffic system for the nearly 4.4 million people who visit the area each year. Officials will ask for public comment next month.

Each plan would clear trees to make room for parking lots. They also would expand bicycle access to the community of offices, hotels and shops at the South Rim known as Grand Canyon Village. In addition, the plans call for shuttle-bus access to Mather Point, one of the first places where people entering the park can see the canyon.

Park officials also are considering a plan that would leave the park unchanged.

National Park Regional Director Michael Snyder is expected to pick a plan in May.


Reagan in hospital after falling

SANTA MONICA — Former first lady Nancy Reagan was hospitalized yesterday after falling in her home in Bel Air but is doing well, her spokeswoman said.

Mrs. Reagan, 86, was taken to St. John’s Health Center, where doctors determined she did not break a hip as feared, spokeswoman Joanne Drake said.

Miss Drake said Mrs. Reagan was doing well and would stay the night in the same room where former President Ronald Reagan stayed after he broke his hip at home in 2001. He died June 5, 2004.

The former first lady is “joking and visiting in her room,” Miss Drake said.

Mrs. Reagan’s family physician recommended the overnight stay “as a precaution,” Miss Drake said.

Mrs. Reagan’s last major public appearance was at the Jan. 30 Republican presidential debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., where she sat with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Man, woman killed in Cessna crash

BENTON — Kansas authorities said yesterday a small plane crash near Wichita killed two persons.

Butler County Sheriff Craig Murphy said a man and a woman were aboard the Cessna, which crashed shortly after taking off from the Benton Airport Saturday night.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.


House explosion injures 5

DETROIT — A house explosion injured five persons early Saturday, including three children, and fire officials are investigating whether someone had tampered with the gas service.

A 4-year-old girl was in critical condition yesterday, fire Lt. Larry Cry said.

Two women in their 40s also were injured, said senior Fire Chief Dennis Dermidoff. The victims suffered second- and third-degree burns.

The home was destroyed, and a nearby vacant house was flattened by the explosion.

Neighbors said the explosion blew out windows in other homes and damaged cars.


Council rejects sign honoring atheist

OMAHA — Citing community opposition, the City Council unanimously rejected a request to erect a commemorative street sign for noted atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair.

The only person to speak in support of the proposal was the man who proposed it — atheist Raymond Zbylut, who said the gesture would honor the civil rights work of Miss Murray O’Hair, who was not from Omaha.

Council members voted 6-0 to deny the request without discussing it. Councilman Garry Gernandt said afterward that nearly 200 constituents contacted him opposing the sign.

“They said we should keep religious and state issues separate,” he said.

Councilman Franklin Thompson said his constituents also urged him to vote against the sign, while Councilman Jim Vokal said it clashed with community mores.

Miss Murray O’Hair, who filed a lawsuit that ultimately led the courts to bar organized prayer in public schools, disappeared in 1995. A former employee was convicted in her murder.


Man arraigned in therapist’s slaying

A man accused of butchering a Manhattan therapist rambled and appeared agitated during his arraignment yesterday before the judge ordered him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

David Tarloff, 39, was arraigned on charges of second-degree murder, second-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault. He claimed his court-appointed attorney, Reginald Sharpe, was “not an attorney.”

“I’ve seen his driver’s license,” Mr. Tarloff said. “I don’t know him.”

Acting Supreme Court Justice Ruth Picholz ordered Mr. Tarloff to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before being brought back to court Saturday.

Mr. Tarloff was arrested Saturday after investigators matched his palm prints with those at the bloody scene where therapist Kathryn Faughey was killed Tuesday evening. Police said his prints were found on a suitcase, filled with adult diapers and women’s clothing, left near the basement door where the killer escaped.

Also found was a smaller bag with rope, duct tape and knives not used in the attack, police said.

Police said Mr. Tarloff told investigators he planned to rob another psychiatrist he said had institutionalized him 17 years ago, then flee the country with his mother, who is in a nursing home but until recently had lived with him.

Police said it was not clear why Mr. Tarloff would have attacked Mrs. Faughey, who was slashed 15 times.


Driver abandons former prisoners

CORSICANA — A driver who apparently took her work rules seriously abandoned a bus full of former prisoners along a highway because her hours for the day were over, police said.

The 40 passengers had been paroled or released from the state prison in Huntsville. Some wore ankle-bracelet monitors. They were aboard a charter bus that was headed Thursday to a terminal in Dallas but wound up 60 miles short.

Police said the bus was chartered from Greyhound Bus Lines Inc. The driver pulled over in front of a convenience store at about 4 p.m. and told the passengers her allotted driving time was up and another driver was on the way.

A clerk in the convenience store called police. Corsicana Police Sgt. Lamoin Lawhon and two other officers stayed with the bus and the passengers.

Just before 7 p.m., a second bus arrived with three drivers — including the one who had abandoned her passengers in the first place, Sgt. Lawhon said.

Police said there were no incidents involving the passengers while they were stranded.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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