- The Washington Times - Monday, August 17, 2009


Rail talks are continuing

OAKLAND | Talks aimed at averting a commuter rail strike in the San Francisco Bay Area are ongoing, with negotiators intent on hammering out a deal before Monday’s commute.

Officials from Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) began discussions again Sunday morning in a last attempt to avert a strike that would affect the 340,000 riders who use the rail system on weekdays.

Local 1555 threatened to strike Monday after BART’s board of directors imposed work terms that the union says amount to a 7 percent pay cut. Transportation agencies in the region are preparing to increase service, but warn that a BART strike could overwhelm the region’s freeways and public transit options.


Great pumpkin is from Kentucky

INDIANAPOLIS | A 1,145-pound pumpkin from the “Kentucky Pumpkin Mafia” came in first place at the Giant Pumpkin Contest at the Indiana State Fair on Sunday, officials said.

The Indianapolis Star reported John Van Hook, 42, of Somerset, Ky., grew the winning pumpkin. Mr. Van Hook’s brother, a fellow pumpkin grower, also attended the Indianapolis fair sporting a hat emblazoned with “Kentucky Pumpkin Mafia.”

It was the second year in a row Kentuckians won top awards at the Indiana fair.

Kentuckians have some advantage over the Indiana growers because their warm season starts earlier, admitted Dwight Slone of Prestonsburg, Ky. Mr. Slone and his wife, Karen, entered a pumpkin weighing 1,126 pounds that took second place.

One Northern Indiana grower agreed. “They start their growing the first of April because they can, because it’s warm down there, whereas up north I can’t start mine until the end of April,” said Roger Howard, 61, of Grovertown.

Most other “weigh-offs” are held in October so that everyone is playing on even ground and can catch up, he said.


Offer rejected in Madoff case

BOSTON | Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin’s office has rejected a proposed settlement by an investment firm to repay nearly $6 million to state investors who lost money in Bernard Madoff’s fraudulent investment scheme.

Mr. Galvin’s spokesman Brian McNiff said Sunday that his agency was not accepting New York-based Fairfield Greenwich Group’s offer to fully refund nearly a dozen investors in the state because officials are still trying to identify all the affected investors.

Mr. Galvin filed a civil fraud complaint against Fairfield Greenwich in April, saying officials were coached by Madoff on how to answer federal investigators’ questions and misrepresented how much they knew. The secretary of state’s securities division has set a hearing for Sept. 9.


Musician Dickinson dies at 67

JACKSON | Jim Dickinson, a musician and producer who helped shape the Memphis sound in an influential career that spanned more than four decades, died Saturday morning. He was 67.

His wife, Mary Lindsay Dickinson, said he died in a Memphis, Tenn., hospital after three months of heart and intestinal bleeding problems. The couple lived in Hernando, Miss.

Mr. Dickinson recently had bypass surgery and was undergoing rehabilitation at Methodist University Hospital, his wife said.

Perhaps best known as the father of Luther and Cody Dickinson, two-thirds of the Grammy-nominated North Mississippi Allstars, Jim Dickinson managed an outsider’s career in an insider’s industry. His work in the 1960s and ‘70s is still influential as young artists rediscover the classic sound of Memphis from that era - a melting pot of rock, pop, blues, country, and rhythm and blues.


Bollywood star questioned at airport

TRENTON | U.S. customs officials on Saturday disputed claims that Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan was detained for two hours at a New Jersey airport, saying he was questioned for a little more than an hour as part of the standard process for screening foreign travelers.

Mr. Khan, one of the Indian film industry’s biggest stars, is in the United States to promote his new film, “My Name is Khan,” which is about racial profiling. He did not mention being detained in remarks to a crowd at a festival in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont on Saturday and his bodyguards would not let reporters through to speak with him.

He told Press Trust of India news agency that he was detained because his name came up on a computer alert list at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. “I told them I am a movie star,” Mr. Khan was quoted as saying. The reported detention made top news on TV stations in India.


Man falls down hole in sidewalk

NEW YORK | A man plunged 30 feet through a rusted-out metal plate on a New York City sidewalk as he stepped outside an Off-Track Betting Parlor to smoke a cigar.

Vincent Riggio was rescued by firefighters with just cuts and bruises Saturday afternoon. The 59-year-old businessman had apparently stepped on a corroded plate that was holding doors in place over a TriBeCa clothing-store cellar. A deliveryman called 911, and Mr. Riggio called his wife from the bottom of the cellar.

His wife Joann told the New York Post that her husband said he fell through a hole about 30 feet. When help arrived, a firefighter was lowered by rope down the hole and helped fit a harness around Mr. Riggio, who was then hoisted up. He was treated at a hospital.


Wrestler arrested in parking lot

MCKEES ROCKS | Pro wrestler and Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle has been arrested on charges of possessing a human growth hormone and violating an order of protection in suburban Pittsburgh.

Angle was arrested about 7:50 a.m. Saturday in a Robinson Township strip mall parking lot. His girlfriend, who said she obtained a protection order about 1 1/2 hours earlier after the two fought Friday night, accusing him of circling the lot staring at her as she sat in a coffee shop, according to a police affidavit.

Police said they found the human growth hormone Hygetropin in Angle’s car, and the wrestler told them he had a prescription for the drug. He also told officers he had not seen the woman and was looking for a hotel because he was barred from his home.

Angle, 40, was charged with violating the order of protection, harassment, possession of drugs and paraphernalia and driving with a suspended license.


Chester Arthur birthplace flap

FAIRFIELD | Finding the “birthplace” of former President Chester A. Arthur is easy: Turn left at Town Hall and its Chester A. Arthur Conference Room, go past Chester’s Bakery and turn right on Chester A. Arthur Road.

Nearly five miles up the winding two-lane country road, past rolling hills and dairy farms, is the tiny Chester A. Arthur Historic Site, proclaiming the spot where the nation’s 21st president was born in a cottage.

Or was he? Nearly 123 years after his death, doubts about his U.S. citizenship linger, thanks to lack of documentation and a political foe’s claim that Arthur was really born in Canada and was therefore ineligible for the White House, where he served from 1881 to 1885. “It’s an old rumor that won’t die, political slander,” said John Dumville, who runs Vermont’s historic sites and knows well the legend. “It’s a fun story, and it comes up every year. People latch on to it and they’ve read about it somewhere and they want to know more.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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