- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Palin implicated in ethics probe

ANCHORAGE | An independent investigator has found evidence that Gov. Sarah Palin may have violated ethics laws by accepting private donations to pay her legal debts.

The report obtained by the Associated Press says Mrs. Palin is securing unwarranted benefits and receiving improper gifts through the Alaska Fund Trust, set up by supporters.

An investigator for the state Personnel Board says in his July 14 report that there is probable cause to believe Mrs. Palin used or attempted to use her official position for personal gain because she authorized the creation of the trust as the “official” legal defense fund.

The fund aims to help Mrs. Palin pay off debts stemming from multiple ethics complaints against her, most of which have been dismissed. Mrs. Palin says she owes more than $500,000 in legal fees.

A call seeking comment from her lawyer was not immediately returned.


Largest telescope coming to volcano

HONOLULU | A consortium of American and Canadian universities Tuesday announced it has decided to build the world’s largest telescope in Hawaii.

Mauna Kea volcano was picked by Thirty Meter Telescope Observatory Corp.

The $1.2 billion telescope should allow scientists to see about 13 billion light years away - a distance so great and so far back in time that researchers should be able to watch the first stars and galaxies forming.

The telescope will be built by the University of California, the California Institute of Technology and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy.

Its mirror will stretch 30 meters, or almost 100 feet, in diameter. That’s about three times the diameter of the current world’s largest telescopes, which are located atop Mauna Kea.

Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano, is already home to 12 telescopes. It is popular with astronomers because its summit sits at 13,796 feet, giving scientists a clear view of the sky for 300 days a year.


Cemetery worker spoke out of anger

ALSIP | A gravedigger who helped expose a purported scheme to dig up graves and resell plots at a suburban Chicago cemetery said he only spoke up after a co-worker warned him to keep his mouth shut or risk losing his job.

Willie Esper told the Associated Press on Monday that he told a supervisor at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip that he spotted bones while practicing digging graves.

He said he wasn’t going to push the issue until a co-worker asked him how he would feed his young son without a job. Mr. Esper said he got angry and started talking within earshot of a colleague he knew would spread the word.

Mr. Esper’s version of events is fairly consistent with what prosecutors have said in court documents. Four people were charged in the case.


Lobstermen in turf shooting

MATINICUS | A lobsterman has been charged with shooting a fellow lobsterman in what police said was a fishing turf dispute.

Vance Bunker, 68, was being held Tuesday on an elevated aggravated assault charge. He was accused of shooting Chris Young in the neck Monday on a Matinicus Island pier.

Maine State Police spokesman Steve McCausland said an argument over fishing territory escalated to the point where a marine patrol officer was called to the island, 20 miles off Rockland. He said the shooting happened in the officer’s presence.

Mr. Young was flown to the mainland and taken to a hospital, where he was reported in stable condition.

These are tough times for lobstermen. Prices are so low that some are talking about tying up their boats while waiting for prices to rebound.


Train topples coal plant building

WHARNCLIFFE | Four workers are injured when a freight train derailed Tuesday at a West Virginia coal plant and caused a nearby building to collapse.

Authorities said the train’s conductor and two coal plant workers pulled from the wrecked building suffered minor injuries. A fourth worker had to be airlifted to a hospital with serious injuries.

The Norfolk Southern Corp. train was pulling up to loading equipment when it derailed and hit a support. The loading equipment collapsed and knocked down a building. Authorities did not immediately provide more details about the building.

The Black Bear Preparation Plant in southern West Virginia employs about 30 people. It belongs to a subsidiary of Abingdon, Va.-based coal producer Alpha Natural Resources.


Agents say wife was rampage target

FAYETTEVILLE | State authorities said the man accused of killing six people was targeting his estranged wife and killed the others first so they couldn’t stop the attack on her.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Kristin Helm said Tuesday that agents think Traci Shaffer, 38, was the last person to die.

Her husband, Jacob Shaffer, 30, was arrested Saturday in Fayetteville. He was charged with stabbing five people to death in two Fayetteville homes and fatally beating a sixth person in Huntsville, Ala.

Miss Helm said agents think Mrs. Shaffer’s father and brother were killed so they “wouldn’t interfere with him killing his main target.”

Investigators think Mr. Shaffer then crossed the street and killed his stepson and a neighbor, both 16, before killing his wife.


Fan injury trial starts

DAYTON | A prosecutor said that a minor-league pitcher wanted to hurt someone during an on-field brawl when he threw a baseball that hit a fan in the stands.

Assistant Montgomery County Prosecutor Jon Marshall said in openings statements Tuesday that Julio Castillo, 22, committed an act of violence during the 10-minute, bench-clearing clash last July in Dayton.

Mr. Castillo, of the Dominican Republic, is on trial on two counts of felonious assault. He has pleaded not guilty.

Defense attorney Dennis Lieberman said Mr. Castillo threw the ball at the dugout fence and had no intention of hitting anyone.

Mr. Castillo was pitching for the Peoria Chiefs against the Dayton Dragons. The fan was treated at a hospital and released.


More families failing to claim bodies

LOS ANGELES | The Los Angeles County morgue is handling more unclaimed bodies because the weak economy means more people can’t afford burials for their loved ones.

The number of unclaimed bodies that the morgue cremated was up 25 percent in the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2008. The county crematorium had to stop accepting bodies earlier this year. Two private crematories were hired to handle the overflow.

Unclaimed bodies typically are cremated after 30 days. The ashes are held for two years and then buried in a common grave.

It costs $200 to claim a body from the county, or $352 to receive the cremated ashes.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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