- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 17, 2009

ARKANSAS

Help sought in finding boy

LITTLE ROCK | Investigators searching for a missing 3-year-old boy in southern Arkansas have exhausted almost all their leads.

FBI agent Thomas Browne said Monday authorities are asking the public to come forward with any information that might help find Dominick Arceneaux. He disappeared from his home in Ouachita County a week ago.

Authorities have searched a nearby lake and are looking into whether the boy was abducted.

The investigation slowed significantly after a thorough search of the surrounding area and interviews of residents and registered sex offenders.

FLORIDA

Fire guts trailer where Lunsford died

HOMOSASSA | A suspicious fire burned down a mobile home where 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford was raped and buried alive four years ago this month, authorities said Monday.

The child’s abduction and murder by John Evander Couey prompted lawmakers in Florida and other states to pass Jessica’s Law to keep better track of sex offenders and punish repeat offenders more severely.

A fire late Sunday gutted the vacant trailer where Couey, a repeat sex offender, had lived in a wooded neighborhood of mobile homes about 60 miles north of Tampa.

Firefighters deemed the blaze suspicious. State fire marshals are investigating.

KANSAS

Tax refunds halted; payroll in turmoil

TOPEKA | Kansas is suspending income tax refunds and may not be able to pay its employees on time.

The state is strapped for cash in its main budget account. Republican legislative leaders on Monday blocked an effort by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to transfer funds into the account.

Mrs. Sebelius, a Democrat, wanted to move $225 million from other accounts throughout state government, allowing the state to pay its bills.

Now Budget Director Duane Goossen said he is not sure the state can meet its payroll. State employees are to be paid again Friday.

Mr. Goossen said the state stopped processing income tax refunds last week.

Republican leaders want Mrs. Sebelius to sign a bill making $326 million in adjustments to the budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

MICHIGAN

First beaver seen in river in 75 years

DETROIT | Wildlife officials are celebrating the sighting of a beaver in the Detroit River for the first time in decades, signaling that efforts to clean up the waterway are paying off.

The Detroit Free Press reports that a beaver lodge has been discovered in an intake canal at a Detroit Edison riverfront plant. Officials think the beaver, spotted by the utility’s motion-sensitive camera, marks the animal’s return to the river for the first time in at least 75 years.

Photos and video were taken in November, but Detroit Edison didn’t want to release them until they could ensure the animal’s safety.

John Hartig, Detroit River refuge manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the cleanup along the river has also brought back sturgeons, peregrine falcons and other species.

MISSOURI

Meningitis kills soldier, ails another

ST. LOUIS | One soldier is dead of meningitis at Fort Leonard Wood and a second is “very seriously ill,” according to officials at the Army base in southern Missouri.

Fort Leonard Wood officials announced the cases in a news release Sunday but released few details and did not identify either infected soldier. A media spokesman at the base did not respond to a call seeking comment Monday.

Meningitis, an infection of the fluid of the spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the brain, kills about 300 people in the U.S. each year.

Both cases at Fort Leonard Wood involved noncontagious forms of meningitis, authorities said. The two soldiers were members of the same unit, but no connection has been found between the cases.

The first soldier died after being diagnosed on Feb. 5. The second soldier is a 28-year-old in basic training who was diagnosed Friday with a strep pneumonia infection leading to meningitis. The base said that soldier is “very seriously ill” but in stable condition at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield.

MONTANA

Crow Tribe’s chairman dies

HARDIN | Crow Tribal Chairman Carl Venne, praised by President Obama as a leader who engaged in a “fervent quest for a better life for his people,” has died. He was 62.

Mr. Venne was found dead Sunday in his sister’s home, according to the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office. He apparently died in his sleep of natural causes, the office said.

“I was honored to have worked with Chairman Venne, a strong tribal leader, who implored us to uphold treaties and honor Native ancestors,” Mr. Obama said in a statement released by the White House.

Mr. Venne greeted Mr. Obama last summer during a campaign stop in Crow Agency. The Crow adopted Mr. Obama as a member of the Black Eagle family. Last month, Mr. Obama watched Mr. Venne lead Crow horsemen during the inaugural parade in Washington.

TEXAS

Fireball a meteor, not wreckage

DALLAS | The fireball that streaked across the sky and alarmed many Texas residents was likely just a big meteor and not wreckage from colliding satellites, experts said Monday.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Roland Herwig said the fireball seen across a wide stretch of the state Sunday morning probably was a natural phenomenon and not debris from last week’s collision between an Iridium communications satellite and a Russian military space vehicle.

Preston Starr, observatory manager at the University of North Texas, said it probably was a meteor about the size of a pickup truck with the consistency of a chunk of concrete.

The Williamson County sheriff’s office in central Texas said it received so many emergency calls about the light in the sky that it sent deputies out in a helicopter to look for a plane crash.

The FAA had said during the weekend that the fireball possibly was caused by falling debris from the satellites. It also posted a weekend warning telling pilots to watch out for satellite debris but rescinded the warning Sunday, Mr. Herwig said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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