- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Wildfire began in marijuana area

LOS ANGELES | Investigators are looking for marijuana growers tied to a Mexican drug cartel that they suspect of igniting a blaze that has charred more than 87,000 acres of a national forest.

The La Brea fire, which erupted Aug. 8 in the Los Padres National Forest in the remote Santa Barbara County mountains northwest of Los Angeles, is thought to be the first major wildfire in the state caused by drug traffickers, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Jim Turner said Monday.

In a statement Saturday, officials said the blaze was sparked by a “cooking fire in a marijuana drug trafficking operation believed to be run by a Mexican national drug organization. … Although the La Brea fire started more than one week ago, there is evidence that the unburned marijuana garden area has been occupied within the last several days.”


First population decline since 1946

JACKSONVILLE | Researchers say Florida’s population has declined for the first time in 63 years, and economists are blaming the recession.

Stan Smith, director of the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, said Monday that the state’s total population dropped by 58,000 in the past year, the first decline since large numbers of military personnel left the state in 1946 after World War II.


A pack of dogs likely killed couple

ATLANTA | A former college professor and his wife apparently were attacked and killed by nearly a dozen dogs along a rural northeast Georgia road, where their bodies were found mutilated, authorities said Monday.

Preliminary autopsy results from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation showed that Sherry Schweder, 65, likely died of injuries suffered in a dog attack, Oglethorpe County Sheriff Mike Smith said. Autopsy results for her husband, Lothar Karl Schweder, 77, were not available, but Sheriff Smith said it’s likely he was also attacked by dogs because the scene was so grisly.

The sheriff said officials were going to round up at least 11 dogs seen in the area where the couple’s mutilated bodies were found Saturday morning by five passers-by. It was unclear whether the mixed-breed dogs were feral or someone’s pets.


Gay clergy proposal passes first hurdle

MINNEAPOLIS | A proposal to allow people in same-sex relationships to serve as clergy in the country’s largest Lutheran denomination has passed its first hurdle.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s national convention began Monday in Minneapolis. A proposal likely to get a final vote Friday would let individual congregations hire gays in committed relationships as pastors.

Critics of the proposal moved Monday to require a two-thirds supermajority of the 1,045 voting delegates for approval, rather than a simple majority. But the effort fell short, with only 43 percent of delegates supporting it.

ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson said the majority versus supermajority vote shouldn’t be seen as strongly indicating the debate’s ultimate outcome.


Polygraphs touted for candidates

TRENTON | A political consultant for New Jersey lawmakers said the state needs to do something radical to fight its corruption problem and has proposed requiring lie-detector tests for candidates and officeholders.

Republican consultant George Dredden said Monday that the polygraph tests would be a means of reform for a state where more than 130 public officials have pleaded guilty or have been convicted for corruption this decade.

Mr. Dredden told the state Assembly Republican Policy committee that plenty of laws are on the books to deal with corrupt politicians once they’re in office, but his suggestion would weed them out before they get there.


Reader’s Digest files for bankruptcy

NEW YORK | The publisher of Reader’s Digest, the country’s most popular general interest magazine, said Monday that it would file for Chapter 11 protection with a plan to swap a portion of its debt for ownership of the company.

Reader’s Digest Association Inc., which also markets books and publishes dozens of other magazines and Web sites, said it has reached an agreement in principle with a majority of lenders to erase a portion of $1.6 billion in senior secured notes. The lenders will get ownership in return.

The magazine has been searching for a new niche as the Internet upends the magazine industry’s traditional business models.


Study: Ibuprofen better for children

MILWAUKEE | Children with broken arms do better on a simple over-the-counter painkiller than on a more powerful prescription combination that includes a narcotic, a study finds.

It tested ibuprofen - sold as Advil, Motrin and other brands - against acetaminophen plus codeine, a combination called Tylenol No. 3 that is also sold in generic form.

The children on ibuprofen did better, said the study leader, Dr. Amy Drendel of the Medical College of Wisconsin in suburban Milwaukee.

“They were more likely to play, they ate better and they had fewer adverse effects,” she said.

Results were published online Tuesday by the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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