- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2008

ALABAMA

Rains start drought recovery

MONTGOMERY — While much of Alabama remains in the grip of a yearlong drought, recent rains have improved conditions in some state lakes, where the drought had threatened drinking water supplies.

Three months ago, officials in Centre in northeastern Alabama were worried that lake levels on nearby Weiss Lake would drop so low that the city might not be able to draw drinking water. But Centre Mayor Phil Powell said yesterday that recent rains, including a downpour last week that brought more than 2 inches of rain to the area, have raised the lake’s level to above the normal winter level.

Alabama Power Co. spokesman Michael Sznajderman said recent rains have particularly helped lakes along the Coosa River, such as Weiss Lake and Lake Logan Martin. But Mr. Sznajderman said other lakes, including popular Lake Martin, continue to show signs of the severe drought.

The National Weather Service’s U.S. Drought Monitor showed this week that 38.9 percent of Alabama continues to be in an exceptional drought, the worst level of drought listed.

ARIZONA

Ex-beauty queen charged with kidnap

TUCSON — A law school student and former beauty queen who has posed for a racy calendar while brandishing a weapon has been accused of kidnapping, biting and threatening a former boyfriend with a handgun.

Kumari Fulbright, 25, who is midway through her second year in law school, faces a long prison term if convicted of kidnapping, armed robbery, aggravated robbery and two counts of aggravated assault.

Miss Fulbright, who competed for the Miss Arizona title in 2005 and 2006, recently completed a semester-long unpaid stint clerking for a federal judge, U.S. District Judge Raner Collins, his office said. She also poses wearing a shiny black bikini in a 2008 calendar that features women holding guns.

In the Dec. 18 indictment, Miss Fulbright is accused of holding and torturing her 24-year-old ex-boyfriend in early December with the help of three other men, including another man she had dated.

Authorities think the dispute began because the ex-boyfriend was thought to have stolen jewelry given to Miss Fulbright by the former beau suspected of helping in the attack.

ARKANSAS

Bus driver charged in fatal crash

LITTLE ROCK — A bus driver involved in a crash that killed four persons and injured more than 20 has been charged with homicide after tests showed that he had amphetamines in his system, a prosecutor said yesterday.

Felix B. Tapia, 28, of Brownsville, Texas, faces four felony counts of negligent homicide. He was thought to be in Texas and was not in custody, Arkansas State Police said.

Mr. Tapia could face up to 10 years in prison on each count if convicted, prosecutor Fletcher Long said.

The Tornado Bus Co. coach carrying 46 passengers from Chicago to Dallas crossed a median on Interstate 40 near Forrest City in eastern Arkansas on Nov. 25, hitting a pickup, then a tractor-trailer. Three persons on the bus were killed, as was the driver of the pickup.

About a dozen persons had to be extricated from the wreckage.

IDAHO

Seniors protest funeral home plan

COEUR D’ALENE — Several older residents of this town are protesting plans to open a funeral home across the street from a senior center, saying it would be a little too close for comfort.

About 100 people have signed a petition calling on the City Council to deny James Asper and Mary Hansen, partners in Aspen Funeral Home LLC, a special use permit giving them the right to lease the building across the street from the Lake City Senior Center as a funeral home, senior center manager Vickie Harrison said. They plan to present the petition at a Feb. 5 hearing on the matter, she said.

The city’s planning commission approved a special-use permit in December for the business, but a neighbor appealed the decision, citing concerns over traffic and parking.

Miss Hansen said the building was chosen because it suited the business’ needs, not because of its proximity to the senior center.

Some, like 81-year-old Doy Seng, had a practical view of the proposed funeral home.

“We’re old here. We’re all ready to go,” she said. “I think it will be handy.”

ILLINOIS

Most doctors prescribe placebos

CHICAGO — Placebos are a surprisingly common prescription, according to a U.S. study in which nearly half of the doctors surveyed said they had doled out a dummy pill at some point.

Researchers at the University of Chicago said yesterday that the study raises ethical questions and suggests a need for greater recognition and understanding of placebo use.

“It illustrates that doctors believe expectation and belief have therapeutic potential,” said Rachel Sherman, a medical student at the University of Chicago, whose study was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Miss Sherman and Dr. John Hickner, a family medicine professor at the University of Chicago, sent surveys to 466 internists at three Chicago-area academic medical centers. About half, or 231, responded.

Of those, 45 percent said they had used a placebo during their clinical practice, a number that surprised the researchers. But 12 percent of those surveyed said placebos should never be used.

MICHIGAN

$250,000 winnings comes as surprise

BAD AXE — A lucky couple expecting to cash in their winning Michigan Lottery ticket became a bit peeved when a store clerk turned down their request.

Bad Axe gas station and convenience store owner Eli Kabban said the man and woman showed up Wednesday morning with what they thought was a $150 winning ticket they’d bought Friday.

They complained when the clerk told them they would have to collect their winnings in Lansing, the state capital, 150 miles away.

Mr. Kabban said he took the couple into his office and explained that the ticket was actually worth $250,000. He says they were “in shock” at the news.

The couple asked that their names not be released, and Mr. Kabban told radio station WLEW-FM that they are getting financial advice on how to handle their windfall.

MINNESOTA

Boy, 2, wanders outside, found dead

NEW ULM — A 2-year-old boy died after crawling out of bed next to his sleeping mother and wandering outside on a frigid night, authorities and the woman said.

Dara Lenz found the body of her son, Lucas Boldt, in a snowbank about 10 to 20 feet from her home and called police, who tried to revive him. The temperature was minus 9.

The 26-year-old woman said she and Lucas went to sleep in her bed at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, but when she woke up Wednesday morning, he was no longer next to her. He wasn’t in his room, and she raced outside and found him in the snow.

It was not clear whether the doors had been locked.

Police don’t suspect foul play, although Cmdr. Myron Weiland said yesterday that they were still investigating.

NEW YORK

Couple die in fire with door nailed shut

WHITE PLAINS — The elderly couple’s windows were barred, and their front door was nailed shut, apparently because the two feared for their safety. Inside, their home was filled with 5-foot-tall heaps of debris.

The clutter and makeshift security measures turned the home into a death trap Wednesday when a fast-moving fire killed them both, officials said.

Caroline Gorynski, 88, was found dead in a first-floor bedroom of her Yonkers home, in a middle-class neighborhood near the New York City line. Her husband, Leo, 87, was found in a front hallway and died at a hospital, police said.

The fire started when space heaters ignited some of the clothing, papers and other material piled 5 feet high throughout the house, said Deputy Fire Chief John Flynn. He said some clothing lay directly on top of the heaters.

Firefighters called it a “Collyers’ mansion,” Deputy Chief Flynn said, referring to Homer and Langley Collyer, brothers who were found dead in a Harlem brownstone in 1947 amid tons of junk they had amassed over decades.

OHIO

Man kills wife at nursing home

JACKSON — A man visiting his wife at a nursing home Wednesday fatally shot the woman in her room, then committed suicide, authorities said.

The ages of the victims were not released. Both were shot in the head, and the man died later at a hospital, said Sgt. Aric Yates of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

The man was not a resident of the Four Winds Community nursing home, about 70 miles southeast of Columbus, Sgt. Yates said.

PENNSYLVANIA

Couple has second 1st baby of year

GETTYSBURG — A central Pennsylvania couple have a new tradition for ringing in the new year: spending it in the maternity ward.

For the second year in a row, Kyle and Becky Armstrong welcomed the first baby of the year at Gettysburg Hospital.

Faith Lynn Armstrong arrived on New Year’s Day at 5:23 a.m. Her sister, Kaden Skye, was the hospital’s first baby in 2007 — also born on Jan. 1.

Nurse manager Laura Swomley said she’d never seen anything like it in 25 years at the hospital.

“It’s strange,” agreed Becky Armstrong, of Gettysburg. “It’s all very weird.”

TENNESSEE

Soldier accused of beating stepson

NASHVILLE — A soldier has been accused of severely beating his 3-year-old stepson on Christmas after the boy’s grandparents placed a hidden camera in the child’s bedroom and picked up sounds of suspected beatings.

Army Spc. Alfred Gene Bullock, 21, was on leave from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., when he visited his wife’s parents near Jamestown, Ky., about 100 miles east of Nashville.

He is charged with aggravated child abuse and was in custody on $50,000 bail. Sgt. Bullock attended a preliminary hearing Wednesday, and the case is expected to go before a grand jury next week.

His public defender, Paul Crouch, declined to comment.

Sgt. Bullock was arrested at the home and told Deputy Anthony Hinds that he spanked his stepson with a belt and got “carried away and struck [the boy] hard enough to leave marks,” according to the arrest report.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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