- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Court may review gay marriage ban

SAN FRANCISCO | California’s attorney general on Monday urged the state Supreme Court to consider whether a gay marriage ban passed by voters this month is legal.

The state’s top lawyer, former governor Jerry Brown, said the court should keep the ban, known as Proposition 8, in place while it considers the issue - and it should rule quickly.

The state’s ban marked a major reversal for same-sex couples, who had won state Supreme Court approval to marry in the trend-setting state in May.

Only a handful of states, provinces and European countries recognize same-sex marriage, and gay marriage advocates have demonstrated vocally across the country since the Nov. 4 vote.

Gay marriage advocates have argued in court that the ban vote was improper, since it was passed in an amendment process requiring majority approval - the ban won 52 percent support.


Astronauts hitch crate to station

CAPE CANAVERAL | Astronauts hitched a giant shipping crate full of home improvement “goodies” to the International Space Station on Monday, a critical step for boosting the population in orbit.

It was the first major job for the crews of the linked space station and space shuttle Endeavour, and highlighted their first full day together.

“We’re here to work,” the space station’s skipper, Mike Fincke, said. “This is the can-do crew.”

Gear weighing more than 14,000 pounds was stuffed into the 21-foot container that flew up on Endeavour and was hoisted onto the space station. It held an extra toilet; refrigerator and kitchenette; exercise machine and sleeping compartments; and a new recycling system for converting urine into drinking water.


FBI investigating foreclosure scam

HONOLULU | The FBI is investigating several local companies that purportedly bilked Native Hawaiian homeowners out of more than $300,000 across Hawaii.

The company charged between $2,500 and $10,000 to attend seminars or counseling sessions on avoiding foreclosure. Homeowners were told they would receive bonds worth $1 million that could be used to pay off the outstanding balance of a mortgage.

Officials said the bonds were bogus and no mortgages were paid off.

“These scams have cost homeowners and lending institutions hundreds of thousands of dollars and have led to foreclosure proceedings affecting many families in Hawaii,” said FBI Special Agent Brandon Simpson.

Victims have been reported on Oahu, the Big Island and Maui.


Age limits sought for safe-haven law

LINCOLN | Nebraska legislators opened a public hearing Monday on adding an age limit to a safe-haven law that has allowed nearly three dozen children - some close to adulthood - to be abandoned at hospitals.

Lawmakers are in a special session called by Gov. Dave Heineman, who has proposed allowing parents and guardians to drop off only infants no older than 3 days at hospitals without fear of prosecution for the abandonment.

Some legislators want a higher limit; Sen. Chris Langemeier of Schuyler said Monday it should be 30 days.


Man who had ricin gets federal prison

LAS VEGAS | A man who made enough ricin to kill hundreds of people - and kept it with him for a decade as he moved to various Western states - was sentenced Monday to 3 1/2 years in federal prison for possessing the deadly toxin.

Roger Bergendorff, 57, said at his sentencing in Las Vegas that he never intended to hurt anyone.

“I know it sounds crazy. I made it just to have - and that’s why I kept it,” he said.

Authorities have characterized Bergendorff as a troubled man, but no terrorist. Their concern had been heightened in February, when the ricin was found in the unemployed graphic designer’s Las Vegas motel room while he lay unconscious in a hospital bed.

Bergendorff detailed a life of personal torment and grief before he was sentenced, but said he never was motivated to use the deadly poison.

“I fear God’s judgment,” he said.


Heavy snow hits Great Lakes states

CONSTABLEVILLE | A blast of cold wind spread snow along the Great Lakes from Michigan to New York on Monday, dumping 2 feet on this central New York town.

Moisture from the lakes produced lake-effect snow on the eastern and southern shores of the lakes.

The deepest was in this snow-prone section of New York. The National Weather Service said 24 inches had fallen at Constableville, at the east end of Lake Ontario on the Tug Hill Plateau. In western New York, moisture from Lake Erie had turned into 23 inches of snow by midmorning at Ellicottville, south of Buffalo.


Ex-professor pleads guilty to child porn

PHILADELPHIA | A former Ivy League professor pleaded guilty Monday to making child pornography and lying to government officials, charges that stemmed from his relationship with a Brazilian teenager.

Lawrence Scott Ward, 66, persuaded the 16-year-old to engage in sexual acts with him in Brazil and then made and mailed images of that activity to his office, federal authorities said.

Ward was a professor emeritus of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business at the time of the crimes in 2006.

He also lied to the State Department in an attempt to get a visa for the teen from the U.S. consulate in Brazil, according to an indictment filed in March.

Ward is serving a 15-year federal sentence for importing child pornography. Images of the same victim were found on his laptop by customs agents at Washington Dulles International Airport when he returned from Brazil in August 2006.


Copy of famed Lincoln letter found

DALLAS | A Texas museum hopes a document found in its archives turns out to be an authentic government copy of Abraham Lincoln’s eloquent letter consoling a mother thought to have lost five sons in the Civil War.

The famed Bixby Letter, which the Dallas Historical Society is getting appraised as it prays for a potential windfall, has a fascinating history.

The original has never been found. Historians debate whether Lincoln wrote it. Its recipient, Lydia Bixby, was no fan of the president. And not all of her sons died in the war.

The letter, written with “the best of intentions” 144 years ago next week, is “considered one of the finest pieces of American presidential prose,” said Alan Olson, curator for the Dallas group.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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