- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2008


Dog calls 911, saves owner

PHOENIX | “Man’s best friend” doesn’t go far enough for Buddy — a German shepherd who remembered his training and saved his owner’s life by calling 911 when the man had a seizure.

And it’s not the first time that Buddy has been there for owner Joe Stalnaker, a police officer said Sunday.

On a recording of the 911 call Wednesday, Buddy is heard whimpering and barking after the dispatcher answers and repeatedly asks whether the caller needs help.

“Hello, this is 911. Hello … Can you hear me? Is there somebody there you can give the phone to,” said the dispatcher, Chris Scott.

Police were sent to Mr. Stalnaker’s home, and after about three minutes, Buddy is heard barking loudly when the officers arrived.

Scottsdale police Sgt. Mark Clark said Mr. Stalnaker spent two days in a hospital and recovered from the seizure.


Down-means-up rule baffles taxpayers

TALLAHASSEE | Michael McKenna was baffled by his property tax assessment this year.

The market value of his Longwood home fell by nearly $52,000, yet its taxable value increased by 3 percent — about $4,000.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” Mr. McKenna said.

He’s among more than a million primary homeowners across Florida who’ve been scratching their heads over the state’s down-means-up “recapture” rule that’s been raising their property taxes.

The rule has been on the books since 1995 but had no noticeable effect until the state’s real estate market collapsed.

That effect would have been even greater if voters had not passed a tax-cutting amendment to the state’s constitution in January. The recapture rule is eating into Amendment 1’s estimated average savings of $240 a year for homeowners if not wiping them out altogether.


School to start 2009 in deficit

MONTGOMERY | Alabama education officials say the state’s school systems will likely enter fiscal 2009, which begins in two weeks, already in the red.

State legislators passed a reduced budget in May, cutting it to $6.36 billion in fiscal 2009, down from the current $6.73 billion.

Losing $370 million means a 3 percent cut for K-12 schools, an 8 percent cut for two-year colleges, and an 11 percent cut for universities.

Officials had hoped to have $64 million left over from the current year, but all of that money was spent to finish out fiscal 2008.


Viaduct set to get $21 million help

DENVER | A 1.6-mile viaduct on Interstate 70 in Denver that has worn joints, corroding steel and cracking concrete is set for repairs but not the $800 million in work needed to rebuild it.

The work that will start in the next work or so is described as a $21.6 million “Band-Aid” by the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Contractors will take at least two years to replace 60 expansion joints on the bridge between Colorado and Brighton boulevards.

Besides worn joints, water and de-icing fluids have leaked through the viaduct’s expansion joints and seeped into concrete piers, girders and columns supporting the structure.

The bridge is one of 125 owned and maintained by the state that is rated in poor condition.


Delays likely at VA hospital

MARION | The head of the nation’s Veterans Affairs system said it still could be months before inpatient surgeries resume at a southern Illinois hospital.

But rehabbing the site’s image after a surge in patient deaths last year may take far longer.

VA Secretary James B. Peake inspected the Marion VA hospital before heading a town hall meeting Saturday to assure roughly 100 veterans and family members that the hospital and its new director — a Navy veteran with 16 years of VA experience — would make things right.

Some veterans appeared unconvinced, with one questioning why many of the Marion VA’s former administrators were transferred or allowed to retire or resign instead of being “held accountable,” perhaps with criminal charges.

“We don’t do public floggings,” Mr. Peake said. “The point is we moved forward with putting responsible people in leadership.”

Mr. Peake also said federal regulations covering employees limited possible firings over the Marion VA’s surgical troubles.

Surgeries were halted a year ago after nine deaths that investigators deemed “directly attributable” to substandard care at the Marion VA.

Of an additional 34 cases the VA investigated, 10 patients died after receiving questionable care that complicated their health, officials have said. Investigators could not determine whether the actual care caused those deaths.


New law may free husband killer early

SPRINGFIELD | A woman convicted 30 years ago of killing her supposedly abusive husband in a well-publicized case may get out of prison early under a new state law aimed at victims of domestic or sexual abuse.

Roberta Borden was found guilty in the February 1978 killing of her husband, Delbert Earl Borden, in their Springfield home. She and her lover, Donald Wayne Pilkerton, shot Delbert Borden through the heart with a sawed-off .22 rifle while he watched television in the couple’s home.

Borden, the shooter, was sentenced to a mandatory 50 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

But that chance could come as soon as Monday when Borden, now 63, goes before a parole board to review her case and determine whether she should receive parole early.

The chance comes under a provision of a law Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican, signed in August 2007.

Mr. Blunt praised the statute as a way to strengthen the rights of abuse victims and included early parole consideration for certain convicts.

To qualify, a convict had to have pleaded guilty or been convicted of killing their spouse or domestic partner in a trial that started before 1991; had no prior felony convictions; has no other recourse for getting out of prison; and was “a victim of continual and substantial physical or sexual domestic violence that was not presented as an affirmative defense at trial or sentencing …”

Borden and four other inmates will be the first to test the law’s early release provision.


State lacks disaster reunification plans

FRANKFORT | A child advocacy group wants the state to adopt regulations that would require day care centers to develop written plans to reunite parents and their kids after disasters.

Save the Children released a report last week warning that Kentucky is among other states that don’t require child care providers to develop reunification plans.

Lack of planning could make it more difficult for parents to reunite with their children if an earthquake or other disaster forced evacuations during work hours. Emergency responders in cities along the New Madrid fault routinely hold earthquake drills.

Kentucky officials say state regulations require child care centers to hold monthly evacuation drills for earthquakes and tornados.


State can’t track use of tax breaks

COLUMBUS | State officials can’t say whether businesses who have received more than a billion dollars in tax incentives to expand or locate in Ohio have actually created the jobs they promised, the Columbus Dispatch reported Sunday.

Officials blamed antiquated computer systems, and the Ohio Department of Development said it’s working to reform the system so that the impact of tax breaks on job creation is better known.

In the past decade, the state has handed companies more than $1.7 billion in tax breaks, loans and grants, the newspaper reported. The businesses promised to create 200,000 jobs.

“There’s a gigantic hole in the process,” said James Newton, chief economic adviser of Commerce National Bank in Columbus. “The state could be frittering away millions upon millions of dollars.”

A yearlong study of the state’s tax incentive programs that is almost completed is expected to recommend computer upgrades and other changes for improved tracking.

“There’s no question that we must do a better job of monitoring the results that come out of the incentives that we commit to businesses,” said Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, who also is the state’s development director.


Episcopal bishop faces ouster

PITTSBURGH | The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church says there will be a vote this week at a meeting of the national House of Bishops on whether to remove Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh ministry.

The step comes as the Diocese of Pittsburgh nears an Oct. 4 vote on whether to secede from the Episcopal Church for a more conservative alignment.

A pastoral letter from Bishop Duncan indicated that he would abide by the Thursday vote of the House of Bishops, but that he doesn’t think it can stop the diocesan effort to secede.

The Pittsburgh Diocese voted in November to realign with the 77-million-member Anglican Communion, which believes the Bible forbids gay relationships, while a majority in the Episcopal Church does not.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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