- The Washington Times - Friday, October 2, 2009

CALIFORNIA

Quakes rattle eastern Sierra

LONE PINE | A moderate earthquake followed by dozens of aftershocks rattled the eastern Sierra on Thursday, but no damage or injuries were reported.

The magnitude 5.0 temblor struck at 3:01 a.m. with an epicenter about 18 miles southeast of the Owens Valley town of Lone Pine.

The quakes hit a rural area near Sequoia National Park about 180 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

FLORIDA

Hundreds leave iconic megachurch

MIAMI | Hundreds of congregants have left a pioneering megachurch in Florida to form their own congregation because they were unhappy with leadership at the church that is seen as a bedrock of the religious right.

The action by the unhappy members at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church was the culmination of a feud between loyalists to an evangelical luminary, the Rev. D. James Kennedy, and his replacement as pastor, the Rev. Tullian Tchividjian, a grandson of the Rev. Billy Graham.

The new congregation met for its first service Sunday, and organizers said more than 450 people attended. Organizers of the still-unnamed church said nearly all of their attendees had been among Coral Ridge’s roughly 2,000 members.

NEW YORK

Letterman discusses affairs, extortion

David Letterman acknowledged on Thursday’s show that he had sexual relationships with female employees and that someone tried to extort $2 million from him over the affairs.

During the taping of his CBS late-night show in New York, Mr. Letterman discussed receiving a threat to either pay $2 million or risk the relationships being made public.

In a release from the show’s production company, Mr. Letterman said he referred the matter to the Manhattan district attorney’s office and that an investigation ended in an arrest Thursday. He did not identify the person arrested.

As part of the investigation, Mr. Letterman said he issued a “phony” $2 million check to the individual and the arrest followed - along with testimony by Mr. Letterman.

“This morning, I did something I’ve never done in my life,” said Mr. Letterman. “I had to go downtown and testify before a grand jury.”

Mr. Letterman and longtime girlfriend Regina Lasko married in March. The couple began dating in 1986 and have a son, Harry, born in November 2003.

NORTH DAKOTA

UND gets extension in mascot issue

The University of North Dakota suddenly has a fighting chance of keeping its Fighting Sioux mascot after a last-minute reprieve from a state education panel.

The North Dakota State Board of Higher Education voted 6-1 Thursday to give the university another 30 days to secure an agreement with two local Sioux tribes over the use of the nickname and logo.

In May, the board ordered the university to begin retiring the Fighting Sioux mascot Oct. 1 unless both namesake Sioux tribes agreed to approve its use. The resolution came after the National Collegiate Athletic Association threatened sanctions against schools with Indian mascots, including the Fighting Sioux, but made an exception for schools that received the blessing of their namesake tribes.

The Standing Rock tribal council has consistently opposed the Fighting Sioux imagery, but Wednesday’s council election could change that. The former chairman, Ron His Horse Is Thunder, was defeated by Charles Murphy, who has supported the university in the past.

The university now has 30 days to secure the approval of the Standing Rock tribe. The second namesake tribe, the Spirit Lake Sioux, voted in September to approve the mascot’s continued use.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Army reports first H1N1 death

COLUMBIA | A 23-year-old soldier from Florida is the Army’s first death from complications of swine flu, officials said Thursday.

The death at Fort Jackson, the Army’s largest training camp, may be the first such loss among the nation’s 1.4 million men and women in uniform.

Pentagon officials said they were trying to confirm details. Last week, Department of Defense spokesmen said no deaths had been recorded.

Spc. Christopher Hogg of Deltona, Fla., died Sept. 10 from “pneumonia due to H1N1 influenza,” said Fort Jackson commander Brig. Gen. Bradley May.

TENNESSEE

Soldier charged in arms sales case

JACKSON | Federal investigators have charged an American soldier with attempting to sell four hand grenades and an anti-tank rocket and launcher to an undercover officer.

U.S. Attorney Lawrence Laurenzi said at a Thursday news conference that the Fort Campbell soldier, Pfc. Joshua Bartlett Etherton, 29, was indicted Sept. 21 and arrested Wednesday night.

The prosecutor said the transaction was arranged after police in the small town of Paris received a tip.

UTAH

Smart recalls daily rapes

SALT LAKE CITY | Elizabeth Smart says she was raped repeatedly each day after she was abducted from her bedroom seven years ago and told she would be killed if she yelled or tried to escape.

Miss Smart testified Thursday morning in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City as part of competency proceedings for the man charged in her 2002 kidnapping.

Brian David Mitchell has twice been found incompetent for trial in state court. Mr. Mitchell and his estranged wife were found with Miss Smart nine months after she disappeared from her Salt Lake City home. Miss Smart testified that Mr. Mitchell was motivated by sex and used religion to get what he wanted.

A judge ruled earlier this week that testimony from Miss Smart, now 21, is relevant to Mr. Mitchell’s mental competency.

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