Saturday, October 3, 2009

State begins quest to cure cancer

AUSTIN, Texas | Texas sent man to the moon, but can the Lone Star State cure cancer?

A new state agency in Texas is ready to spend upward of $3 billion over the next decade trying to do so. That would make the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas the nation’s second-largest source of cancer research funding, behind only the National Cancer Institute.

Lance Armstrong, the cycling champion and cancer survivor, helped sell the plan to Texas voters in 2007 through a bond measure. The first wave of funding is expected to be handed out by spring.

Institute leaders said the money will gamble on high-risk research and attract big-name scientists to Texas.

Group to see priest become saint

HONOLULU | A contingent of more than 500 Hawaii residents will be in Belgium this weekend to join festivities leading up to the canonization of a Catholic priest who ministered to leprosy patients in the 19th century before contracting the dreaded disease himself.

The group left Thursday night for the homeland of Father Damien, led by Hawaii Bishop Larry Silva. The group includes 11 residents of the leprosy settlement at Kalaupapa and a 70-member choir.

Pope Benedict XVI will declare Father Damien a saint at a Mass to be celebrated Oct. 11 in St. Peter’s Square.

Company fined for Gadhafi tent

BEDFORD, N.Y. | A town attorney said the firm that rented Donald Trump’s suburban New York estate to set up Moammar Gadhafi’s tent has been fined $1,000 for violating zoning codes.

Bedford Town Attorney Joel Sachs also said Mr. Trump is off the hook because the lease made the tenant responsible for permits.

The tent, which the Libyan leader never visited during his United Nations stay last month, was taken down Sept. 23 at the town’s insistence. But it was re-pitched the next day, triggering the lawsuit.

Mr. Sachs said Belleweather Strategies LLC pleaded guilty Thursday night, and a judge meted out the maximum fine. Mr. Sachs said Belleweather was an agent for the Libyan government.

Robert Gaudioso, who represented Bellewether in court, said Friday he could not comment.

Not-guilty plea in Letterman case

NEW YORK | A CBS News employee is out of jail on bond after pleading not guilty to a charge of trying to blackmail TV late-night host David Letterman for $2 million.

The alleged shakedown spurred the TV host to acknowledge on the air that he had sexual relationships with female staffers on his show.

Robert J. Halderman entered his plea as he was arraigned on an attempted grand larceny charge Friday in a Manhattan court. He posted the $200,000 bail and was released from custody.

Prosecutors said Mr. Halderman demanded $2 million last month in exchange for not releasing information that would ruin Mr. Letterman’s reputation. Mr. Letterman told his viewers Thursday that the threat involved sexual liaisons with female staffers.

Mr. Halderman has been a producer for the true-crime show “48 Hours.”

Palin resigns from oil job

ANCHORAGE, Alaska | The husband of former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has quit his oil field job on the North Slope.

Todd Palin’s resignation as a production operator for oil giant BP PLC comes almost two months after his wife stepped down as Alaska governor and shortly before the release of her highly anticipated memoir.

BP spokesman Steve Rinehart said Mr. Palin’s resignation was effective Sept. 18.

Meghan Stapleton, Mrs. Palin’s personal spokeswoman, said Mr. Palin hopes to return to his union job, but for now is spending time with his family.

State financial disclosures show Mr. Palin earned nearly $34,472 working part time last year for BP and about $51,679 in the family’s commercial fishing business.

Bible verses banned from football field

ATLANTA | When the Warriors of Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High take the field on game night, the football team won’t be running through the cheerleaders’ usual banner bearing a Bible verse.

The school district banned the signs a week ago over concerns they were unconstitutional and could provoke a lawsuit. The ban angered many in the deeply religious north Georgia town of Fort Oglethorpe.

“I’m just kind of unnerved about it,” said 18-year-old Cassandra Cooksey, a recent graduate who often prayed with her fellow marching band members before football games. “It seems like the majority of people in our community want this, and they don’t have a problem with it, so I think they should be allowed to have the signs if they want to.”

Several hundred people attended a rally this week supporting the signs, and more than 8,000 people have joined an Internet group backing the display of biblical messages by the school’s cheerleaders. Some of the banners have read: “Commit to the Lord, whatever you do, and your plans will succeed” and “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.”

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