- - Thursday, January 29, 2009


Retirement pay given to Native militia

ANCHORAGE — Alaska’s congressional delegation said the secretary of the Army has decided to use emergency funds to supplement retirement payments for veterans of a largely Native militia that were reduced because of a technicality in a federal law.

Army officials last week said a military analysis had misinterpreted a federal law qualifying time served in the unpaid guard as active federal service. The pay would have ended Feb. 1.

The delegation said an emergency fund will be used for one-time payments for 26 veterans while Congress works to fix the law.


CEO gets jail for bison slaying

FAIRPLAY — A software executive has been sentenced to 10 days in jail for authorizing the slaughter of 32 of his neighbor’s bison that wandered onto his Colorado ranch.

Jeff Hawn of Austin, Texas, pleaded guilty in November to criminal mischief and animal cruelty. He was sentenced Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Hawn gave 14 hunters permission to hunt the bison on his Park County land. The carcasses were found in March.

As part of a plea agreement, Hawn paid $83,000 to the bison’s owner, $70,000 to charities and $4,000 to the sheriff’s department.


Teen in taped beating pleads guilty

BARTOW — One of five teenagers accused in the videotaped beating of a Florida girl has accepted a plea deal.

Mercades Nichols pleaded guilty to battery and tampering with a witness Tuesday. The state attorney’s office said a kidnapping charge was dropped.

Nichols was among a group of teens arrested in 2008 and accused of attacking a 16-year-old classmate. The attack was recorded on video and broadcast around the world.

Nichols also agreed to plead guilty to charges of battery, assault and violation of an injunction in an unrelated case, in which she was accused of stalking a former boyfriend.


Mayor indicted in Katrina fraud

JACKSON — The mayor of a Mississippi city devastated by Hurricane Katrina pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges he lied to get disaster assistance to repair his damaged beachfront home.

Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr is the highest-ranking public official so far to be charged with fraud related to the storm that slammed the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005.

He and his wife, Laura, pleaded not guilty in federal court to charges in a 16-count indictment that was issued Jan. 22 but not made public until Wednesday.

The mayor and his wife are accused of seeking a homeowners assistance grant for a storm-damaged beachfront home they owned but did not live in. The government is seeking forfeiture of $222,798. Mr. Warr, 45, and his wife, 43, also are accused of making false claims to their insurance company.


Workers warned of contamination

LOS ALAMOS — Los Alamos National Laboratory said nearly 1,900 workers and visitors might have been exposed to beryllium, a substance that can cause lung disease.

The lab began notifying current or former employees and visitors after finding beryllium contamination in a storage area. They will be offered a chance to be tested, and decontamination of the area is under way.

Beryllium is a metal used in defense and aerospace industries that’s hazardous in finely powdered form. In rare cases, individuals who inhale the particles can develop a serious lung problem called chronic beryllium disease.


Man quits band over Obama nod

CLEVELAND — An Ohio firefighter says he’s quitting a marching band after he was suspended from the group for nodding and waving to President Obama during last week’s inauguration parade.

Drum Major John Coleman said there are too many hurt feelings over the gesture he made when the Cleveland Firefighter’s Memorial Pipes & Drums marched past the president.

The organization said the firefighter violated the proper decorum required in a military parade. The band leader said members had been warned not to make gestures, and Mr. Coleman was suspended from the group for six months.

Mr. Coleman said Mr. Obama smiled and waved first, and that he was just acknowledging the president.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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