- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 24, 2009

FLORIDA

Astronauts take third spacewalk

CAPE CANAVERAL | A pair of astronauts zipped through the third and final spacewalk of their mission Monday, installing an enormous oxygen tank at the International Space Station and accomplishing everything else on their list.

“You mean there’s nothing left for us to do?” Marine Corps Lt. Col. Randolph Bresnik asked as the spacewalk wrapped up. He was assured no work remained.

Col. Bresnik, still celebrating the weekend birth of his daughter, Abigail Mae, was jazzed up for the excursion. He and Dr. Robert Satcher Jr. tackled their biggest spacewalking chore early on, removing the 1,200-pound tank from a newly delivered cargo platform on the station and then letting a robot arm take it from there.

As elaborate directions came from inside the shuttle-station complex, the spacewalkers added their own in a nod to Thanksgiving. “Over the river and through the woods,” Col. Bresnik called out. “To grandmother’s house we go,” chimed in Dr. Satcher.

GEORGIA

Court mows down lawn mower ruling

ATLANTA | A riding lawn mower may have four wheels, a powerful engine and can cost as much as a used car. If it’s stolen, however, the Georgia Supreme Court concluded Monday that it’s not a motor vehicle.

The 4-3 decision overturned the conviction of Franklin Lloyd Harris of felony motor vehicle theft after he loaded a Toro riding mower in 2006 from a Home Depot in Dalton into his van and sped away. Because Mr. Harris was a repeat offender, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Public defender Michael McCarthy told the justices that while Mr. Harris should still be charged with theft, he shouldn’t be punished as if he had stolen a car. A riding mower is many things, a modern mechanical marvel among them, but Mr. McCarthy said it’s not a motor vehicle under state law.

Prosecutors said the state defines a “motor vehicle” as a “self-propelled” device, and a riding mower meets that standard.

The state’s top court concluded in an 18-page decision that the sentence should be overturned because the purpose of a riding mower is to cut grass, not transport people.

HAWAII

Suspect competent to stand trial

HONOLULU | Noshir Gowadia, a Hawaii man accused of selling military secrets to China, was found competent Friday to stand trial.

U.S. Magistrate Kevin S.C. Chang said Mr. Gowadia’s personality may make him a difficult defendant but that his unwillingness to thoroughly consult with his attorneys does not equate with an inability to do so.

Chief U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway can accept or reject Mr. Chang’s recommendation.

Three expert witnesses found Mr. Gowadia suffers from narcissistic personality disorder, but the prosecution argued he can still assist in his own defense.

KANSAS

Defense may use ‘necessity’ claim

WICHITA | Seemingly contradicting his own public statements, an attorney for the man accused of fatally shooting a Kansas late-term abortion provider has argued in court documents that his client has an “absolute right” to present a defense that argues the killing was justified to stop abortion.

A defense motion made public Monday seeks to thwart prosecutors’ efforts to ban the so-called “necessity defense” from Scott Roeder’s murder and aggravated-assault trial. A hearing on the issue is set for Dec. 22.

“For the court to grant the state’s motion to prohibit ‘any evidence’ in support of the necessity defense would be premature, and contrary to Kansas law,” the defense wrote. “In addition, it would be rank speculation on the part of the state (and the court if it were to grant said motion) as to the purpose of any and all evidence that the defendant may seek to introduce.”

Mr. Roeder, 51, of Kansas City, Mo., is charged with one count of first-degree murder in Dr. George Tiller’s death and two counts of aggravated assault for purportedly threatening two ushers who tried to stop him during the May 31 melee in the foyer of the doctor’s Wichita church. Mr. Roeder has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go to trial on Jan 11.

MASSACHUSETTS

Facial hair ‘stressful’ to transgender killer

BOSTON | A convicted murderer who is seeking a taxpayer-funded sex-change operation has asked a judge to order Massachusetts prison officials to provide electrolysis treatments.

An attorney for Michelle Kosilek argued Monday that having facial hair is “intensely, personally stressful to her.”

A lawyer for the Massachusetts Department of Correction says Kosilek has had significant hair removal already through laser treatments and seven earlier electrolysis treatments.

U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf said he’ll rule on the electrolysis request Wednesday.

Born as Robert, Kosilek is serving a life sentence for murdering his wife, Cheryl, in 1990.

Now named Michelle, Kosilek has been living as a woman in an all-male prison in Norfolk, Mass.

MISSOURI

Lockdown blamed on phone call

JEFFERSON CITY | Police said an unfounded report of a hostage situation in a building near the Missouri governor’s mansion was caused by someone calling an elevator phone to warn of a hostage-taking.

Police locked down the Jefferson City office building for several hours Nov. 10. The building houses Missouri utility regulators and several other government agencies. Police searched office by office and found nothing unusual.

Jefferson City police said Monday the hostage report started with a call from a still-unidentified person to a telephone in an elevator in the building warning of an ongoing hostage situation. That phone number is unlisted. A woman in the elevator heard the warning and notified a supervisor, who contacted the building’s alarm company. That company then called police.

PENNSYLVANIA

Public not in danger from radiation

HARRISBURG | Officials were trying Monday to determine how and why radioactive dust unexpectedly blew out of a pipe being cut by workers during weekend maintenance at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant.

The accident at the plant - the site of the nation’s worst nuclear power plant disaster - exposed a dozen employees to radiation, but the public was in no danger, plant officials and government regulators said.

Plant officials likened workers’ maximum exposure to the equivalent of two medical X-rays, while the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the workers were exposed to a small fraction of the annual federal regulatory limit.

“We are back to work and back to normal right now,” plant spokesman Ralph DeSantis said.

The accident happened at about 4:15 p.m. Saturday. A radiation monitor at an entrance to the reactor building “temporarily went up” slightly, but a later survey detected no contamination outside, Mr. DeSantis said.

About 150 workers in the reactor building were sent home, and plant officials contacted authorities a few hours later and decontaminated the building.

Any radiation on an external surface, such as safety suit, can be cleaned off, while it takes two to three days for radiation to naturally leave the body of anyone who breathed it in, Mr. DeSantis said.

TEXAS

Jackson’s doctor back at clinic

HOUSTON | Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson’s physician, returned to work at his Houston medical clinic Monday for the first time since the pop star’s death June 25.

Dr. Murray arrived at the Armstrong Medical Clinic and was greeted by a couple of patients and the pastor of his church. He didn’t speak with reporters before entering the clinic, but a spokeswoman for his attorney said Dr. Murray was looking forward to getting back to work and seeing patients.

A cardiologist licensed in Nevada, Texas and California, Dr. Murray was hired to be Jackson’s personal physician during a world tour. He was with Jackson when the singer died.

The doctor told investigators he administered propofol, a powerful operating-room anesthetic, to Jackson to help the pop star sleep. He has not been charged with a crime.

Patients outside the clinic on Monday praised Dr. Murray’s work as a physician and called him a community role model.

“He’s a good doctor. He’s a kind man,” said Ransom Craddock, 81. “We all in this community welcome him back. We need him in this community.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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