- The Washington Times - Friday, December 25, 2009


Ornament ban ends after outcry

SANTA ROSA | The top official in California’s Sonoma County has rescinded a ban on stars and angels on Christmas trees in county buildings.

After a barrage of criticism, County Administrator Chris Thomas on Wednesday reversed his order banning the ornaments two days earlier. He apologized in an e-mail to employees for “any inconvenience and disruption.”

Mr. Thomas’ order was prompted by a complaint from Santa Rosa resident Irv Sutley, who says the county should not show favoritism to any religion.

Local church leaders spoke out against the ban. At least one county employee openly defied it, and County Supervisor Shirlee Zane said it was a decision that should involve the full board of supervisors.

Mr. Sutley said he would consult with attorneys before deciding whether to sue.


Grandmother gave pot cookie to tot

DENVER | A Denver grandmother who recently took her own life was under investigation for giving her 3-year-old grandson a marijuana cookie.

Family members say 44-year-old Erin Marcove gave the toddler at least one peanut butter cookie made with cannabis butter on Dec. 4. The next day, she had trouble rousing the boy and called an ambulance.

A week later, relatives told KMGH-TV the grandmother took her own life. Marcove was an advocate for medical marijuana and had used the drug for chronic back pain most of her life.

Police seized a jar of cannabis butter at her home, and a police report showed the little boy had the drug in his system when he was taken to the hospital.


Peacocks a colorful scourge on island

LONGBOAT KEY | Officials on Florida’s Gulf Coast island of Longboat Key have started trapping several peacocks because of repeated complaints that the colorful birds are creating a mess and destroying property.

Resident Kip O’Neill worries the birds will return for Christmas and ruin her family’s holiday. The fowl have already pecked her Lexus so fiercely that she’s had to have the car repainted - twice.

Officials are planning another roundup in the next month to cull the population, which is estimated to be at least 80 strong in Longboat Key.

But not everyone wants to see them go. Others say their feathered neighbors are beautiful symbols of a laid-back Florida lifestyle.


Friends pack place with gifts in prank

CHICAGO | A Chicago man could be unwrapping the hundreds of Christmas gifts spread around his apartment for days, even weeks.

Trouble is, they aren’t really presents. They’re his own belongings meticulously wrapped by friends as a prank while he was out of town.

Louie Saunders’ packages contain everything from couch cushions to the beer in his refrigerator.

His friend, Adal Rifai, masterminded the scheme after Mr. Saunders gave him a spare key. It took 16 people, 35 rolls of wrapping paper and eight hours to finish the job.


Court rules O.J. jury answers are public

LAS VEGAS | The Nevada Supreme Court says jury questionnaires are public, and the judge in the O.J. Simpson case should not have kept them from the media in Las Vegas in 2008.

The court ruled 6-0 Thursday in favor of the Associated Press and the Las Vegas Review-Journal that questions put to prospective jury members are public.

The justices said Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass erred in withholding jury answers and then redacting them before release.

But the court says the matter is moot as far as the Simpson case is concerned.

The former football star was convicted and sentenced more than a year ago to nine to 33 years in prison for kidnapping and armed robbery in a hotel room confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers.


Lawyer: Madoff suffered dizziness

BUTNER | A lawyer for the hospitalized Bernard Madoff says his client has experienced dizziness and high blood pressure.

The Bureau of Prisons said Thursday that the 71-year-old disgraced financier remains under medical care for a seventh day.

Prison officials have declined to reveal why he was transferred from a North Carolina federal prison to a hospital. But bureau spokeswoman Traci Billingsley did say there have been no assaults at the prison in the past week.

Lawyer Ira Sorkin tells the Associated Press that Madoff has “had some dizzy spells and some high blood pressure.”

Duke University Medical Center says Madoff was released Monday. Miss Billingsley says he is now in a prison medical facility.

Madoff has been imprisoned since March after pleading guilty to fraud and admitting cheating thousands of investors out of billions of dollars.


Carbon monoxide illnesses suspected

CARBONDALE | Nine people at a Pennsylvania YMCA have been taken to hospitals with possible carbon monoxide poisoning.

Emergency workers responded to the YMCA in Carbondale about 10 a.m. on Thursday after reports of nausea and lightheadedness.

Lackawanna County emergency management director Robert Flanagan says nine people were taken to hospitals.

He says the injuries are not believed to be serious. The source of the fumes is being investigated.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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