- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 25, 2009

Man challenging Cuba travel ban free

LOS ANGELES | A U.S. citizen trying to challenge the ban on travel to Cuba is bemoaning his inability to get arrested or cited - even after he had his passport stamped in Havana and brought back Cuban memorabilia.

Mytchell Mora, a 39-year-old freelance entertainment news producer, says he told U.S. customs officials he broke the law after flying through Costa Rica home to Los Angeles early Friday.

Mr. Mora says officials punched some information into the computer about him and sent him home without punishment. They didn’t confiscate his Cuba T-shirt or postcards.

Mr. Mora hoped to get arrested or cited after his fourth trip to Cuba so he could challenge the country’s travel ban, which he says discriminates against anyone who isn’t Cuban-American.

SMU settles Bush library land dispute

DALLAS | A four-year dispute between Southern Methodist University and condominium owners over land for the George W. Bush presidential library has ended.

SMU reached an agreement Friday with Gary Vodicka on the final unresolved claim.

Mr. Vodicka is an attorney who alleges the university coveted the property as the future site of the library and lied about its intentions. He was forced out of his condominium by SMU to make way for the project.

The settlement terms are confidential, but Mr. Vodicka says they’re fair. He claims that what he’s previously contended about the dispute was proven true.

SMU says the agreement doesn’t assign liability. The university maintains that it followed proper procedures in acquiring title to University Gardens condominiums.

Astronaut plans slower spacewalk

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. | Astronauts aimed for an extra-long spacewalk Friday to give the International Space Station more fresh batteries.

This time, astronaut Christopher Cassidy decided to head out to the work site more slowly. NASA cut short Wednesday’s spacewalk because of rising carbon dioxide levels in his suit. NASA officials say the former Navy SEAL was moving so fast at the start of Wednesday’s spacewalk that his air-cleansing canister did not work as efficiently as it should have.

Mr. Cassidy and Thomas Marshburn will attempt to install four new batteries during the planned seven-and-a-half-hour spacewalk. Two of those batteries should have been plugged in Wednesday.

It will be the fourth spacewalk for Endeavour’s visiting crew.

Wedding aisle groove a YouTube hit

ST. PAUL, Minn. | The video of a Minnesota couple who boogied down a church aisle with their wedding party to the surprise of their guests is a hit on YouTube.

Kevin Heinz and Jillian Peterson, their seven bridesmaids, five groomsmen and four ushers danced down the aisle to the Chris Brown song “Forever” before the couple exchanged vows June 20 in St. Paul.

The bride said Friday on NBC’s “Today” show that she grew up dancing and loves dance as a way of expression. She said she didn’t have any trouble talking her then-fiance Mr. Heinz into it for their wedding.

After posting the video on YouTube for family members, Mr. Heinz said the number of hits just exploded. The video has gotten more than 1.4 million hits on YouTube as of Friday.

Sculpture at shopping plaza turns heads

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. | Parents in Florida are complaining about a sculpture of a nude family outside a shopping center west of Delray Beach.

Parents of children who attend a nearby elementary school say the bronze statue is inappropriate, and the PTA president e-mailed parents Wednesday asking them to complain.

The sculpture is by artist Itzik Asher and titled “Journey to the New.” It is supposed to represent the journey of Russian and Ethiopian Jews from their homes to Israel. It was previously displayed at other locations in the area.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that Mr. Asher’s sculptures have drawn criticism before. In 1995, the Boca Raton City Council made him cover the private parts of several of his sculptures with cardboard fig leaves. The leaves were later removed.

Fledgling fowl takes flight from zoo

PHILADELPHIA | Attention, bird watchers: A flamboyant feathered friend has apparently flown the coop at the Philadelphia Zoo.

Zoo officials say the juvenile sun conure parrot disappeared Thursday during the Festival of Flight bird show. Spokesman Bill Larson says the zoo is very worried about the bird.

Mr. Larson says the birds are trained to fly from one perch to another for the show but can get distracted or frightened and lose their way.

The AWOL avian is mostly yellow with a green tail.

Anyone who catches a glimpse of the bird is asked to alert the zoo.

From dispatches and staff reports.

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