- The Washington Times - Friday, July 18, 2008


Boy enforces speed in neighborhood

LOUISVILLE | Landon Wilburn, 11, has a future as a cop - a traffic cop.

The youngster, who used to shout at speeders to slow down as they drove through the Stone Lakes subdivision in Louisville, now has taken matters into his own hands.

Dressed in a reflective vest, wearing a bicycle helmet and armed with an orange Hot Wheels brand radar gun, he points and records the speed of passing traffic.

Landon also carries a flashlight with a built-in siren.

“When I saw it happening, I got the biggest kick out of it,” said resident George Ayers, 61. “People were locking up their brakes when they saw him.”

Many in the subdivision are frustrated that motorists tear through the neighborhood at 55 mph despite signs posting a 25 mph limit.


2 children killed, 1 hurt in stair collapse

HOUSTON | A second-story stairwell collapsed Wednesday at a southwest Houston apartment complex, killing two boys and injuring a third as they played beneath it, police said.

Houston fire officials said a 4-year-old and a 10-year-old died in the accident, which occurred about 7:40 p.m. Wednesday at the Westwood Fountains apartment complex.

Assistant Fire Chief Omero Longoria said that a 9-year-old was taken to a hospital with a broken leg. He said none of the three victims was related.

Chief Longoria said fire officials were working to recover the bodies and to shore up unstable walls.

“We have to shore up those walls and then take out the bodies. We also have the city’s building department here to determine the structural stability of the building. We have two to three walls that are showing signs of possible collapse,” he said.


Payday lenders remain open

LITTLE ROCK | A new report said about one-third of the payday lenders that were ordered to shut down have remained open and restructured their businesses to avoid regulation.

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel targeted 156 payday lenders with cease-and-desist letters earlier this year.

He filed lawsuits in May against 20 payday lenders that he said were charging excessive interest.


Welfare worker charged in death

HARTFORD | An employee of the state Department of Children and Families has been charged in the death of a 7-month-old foster child in her care, prompting the agency to seek her dismissal.

State police charged Suzanne Listro, 40, of Mansfield, with manslaughter Wednesday in the May 19 death of Michael Brown Jr., who suffered a blunt trauma head injury at her home. At a court appearance Thursday, a judge set bond at $1 million.

It was not clear whether Miss Listro has a lawyer.

Miss Listro, a children’s services consultant for the department, received a foster care provider’s license earlier this year, despite having been investigated twice within the past two years on allegations she abused another child she adopted, said the agency’s commissioner, Susan Hamilton. The allegations were not substantiated.

Miss Listro has been placed on unpaid leave, and Miss Hamilton is seeking to have her fired.

The agency will start requiring an outside firm to review agency employees who want to be foster parents.


Man sentenced in writer’s death

WEST PALM BEACH | A man convicted of killing “Curious George” collaborator Alan Shalleck in South Florida has been spared the death penalty.

A judge sentenced Vincent Puglisi to life in prison Wednesday after a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder and robbery with a deadly weapon.

His co-defendant, Rex Ditto, was given a life sentence in 2007.

Authorities said the pair went to Mr. Shalleck’s home in February 2006 intending to rob him.

Mr. Shalleck suffered 83 blunt force injuries and more than three dozen stab wounds.

Mr. Shalleck wrote and directed episodes of “Curious George” and co-wrote books with Margret Rey, who created the mischievous monkey with her husband more than 60 years ago.


Couples offered reimbursement

KANSAS CITY | H&R Block Inc. is offering to reimburse part of the cost some gay couples and others in civil unions encountered earlier this year when the company’s online tax filing system refused to submit their returns.

The Kansas City-based company is offering couples who can show documentation that they started with the online product and completed the process at one of H&R Block’s retail offices a $100 coupon toward having their tax returns prepared next year or a free copy of H&R Block’s TaxCut software.

“We don’t discriminate,” said company spokeswoman Denise Sposato. “We want to make sure if anyone tried to use TaxCut online they had a recourse here.”

The American Civil Liberties Union raised the issue in March on behalf of Hartford, Conn., couple, Jason Smith and Settimio Pisu, who tried to file their joint state tax return as a civil union in January. The online network told them the company’s software didn’t support tax returns from civil unions in Connecticut and recommended they complete their returns at an H&R Block office.

ACLU attorneys said that was discriminatory because it was more time-consuming and the couple had to pay an extra $155 to file their taxes that way.

Miss Sposato said the problem involved difficulties in meshing the rules in various states that allow civil unions with the federal tax system, which doesn’t recognize civil unions. She said the company has developed a technical workaround to avoid the problem in the future.


Family of victim awarded custody

CARY | The family of a North Carolina woman found slain at a construction site earlier this week was granted temporary custody of her two young daughters from her husband after filing an emergency petition.

The parents and sister of Nancy Cooper, whose body was found Monday less than three miles from her home, argued that Bradley Cooper was having an affair, is emotionally unstable and posed a danger to the children, ages 4 and 2.

“There is a substantial risk of bodily injury to the children while in the defendant’s custody,” the family said in the complaint.

His attorneys did not return messages Thursday and police said the custody issue was private.

Authorities have not named any suspects in Nancy Cooper’s death and said Thursday they had no update on their investigation.

Bradley Cooper’s attorneys have said he is devastated by his wife’s death and will continue to assist police as they investigate. He has told authorities his 34-year-old wife went jogging Saturday morning and never returned.

A judge will hear a more permanent custody request next week.

Cary is a suburb of Raleigh.


Bear-inflicted damage on rise

FLORENCE | Six problem bears have been killed in the Florence and Yachats area in one of the worst years for bear inflicted damage on the Oregon coast.

The state wildlife department said four of the bears were public safety risks, partly because people had fed them and caused them to lose their fear of humans.

A poor berry crop also is said to be a factor.


Seattle sells 5 troubled toilets

SEATTLE | Seattle’s five problem-plagued public toilets could be yours if you’re flush.

City officials decided to pull the plug on the multimillion-dollar self-cleaning toilet stalls and instead put them on the auction site eBay.

Starting bids are $89,000 apiece.

Neighbors and city-commissioned analysts said the unisex facilities attracted drug users and prostitutes, and were less cost-effective than regular public restrooms.

On May 19, the City Council voted to remove the problem toilets. Council President Richard Conlin said although people were using the high-tech, self-cleaning silver stalls, they also fostered illegal behavior, such as prostitution and drug use.

The German-made automatic, high-tech toilets were installed in 2004 and have cost the city about $5 million. Each has handsfree washing and drying ability and an emergency button that automatically dials 911.

The automated doors on the impact- and graffiti-resistant toilets will close Aug. 1, said Andy Ryan, a spokesman for Seattle Public Utilities. The auction will last 10 days.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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