- - Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Flight attendant’s mom ‘understands’ outburst

THOUSAND OAKS — The mother of suspended JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater said she was sorry the incident between her son and a passenger occurred but that she understood why he had what she described as a very small meltdown.

“I also don’t think that people in the service industry should be abused by anybody, whether it be a passenger or family, anybody,” said Diane Slater, a former flight attendant, of Thousand Oaks. “Nobody should be abusing anybody, and I can understand why he snapped. I would have snapped, too. In fact, I probably would’ve snapped more than he did.

“Probably would have been more girlish about it and gotten away with a lot more than he did. I’m sorry this all happened.”

Mrs. Slater has lung cancer. Her late husband was a pilot, said Ron Franz, a longtime neighbor.

Earlier this week, Steven Slater cursed a passenger over the plane’s loudspeaker as the plane sat on the tarmac in New York, police said. He then grabbed some beer from the plane’s galley and disembarked by inflating the plane’s emergency chute and sliding down it.

He walked across the tarmac and drove to his home in Queens, where he was arrested by officials of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police. He pleaded not guilty to several felony charges Tuesday.


15 injured after small train tips over

MORRISON — More than a dozen people were hurt after a miniature train at an amusement park tipped over.

The accident happened Wednesday at Tiny Town, a kid-scaled replica of an Old West town in the foothills near Denver.

Dan Hatlestad of the Inter-Canyon Fire Department said the engine of the small, open-car train that runs through the miniature town tipped over first, and all five cars followed.

Nineteen people — from children to grandparents — were treated at the scene, and 15 of them were taken to hospitals. Mr. Hatlestad said most of the injuries were bumps and bruises.


Women’s rugby added under Title IX

HARTFORD — Quinnipiac University plans to keep its women’s volleyball team and its competitive cheer squad as it follows a court order to bring its athletics programs into compliance with federal gender-equity requirements.

Quinnipiac also proposes adding women’s golf and rugby teams to provide more athletic opportunities for women under a plan filed Wednesday in federal court.

Several volleyball players and their coach sued Quinnipiac last year after it announced it would eliminate volleyball for budgetary reasons and replace it with a competitive cheer squad.

This summer a judge ruled cheerleading can’t be considered a sport for purposes of Title IX, the law mandating equal opportunities for female athletes. He ordered the school to keep the volleyball team and come up with a compliance plan.


Teen’s body found in flooded creek

DES MOINES — Searchers recovered the body of a teenage girl who died when raging floodwaters swept three cars off a road near Des Moines.

Polk County Deputy Keith Onley said divers recovered the body at 2:20 p.m. Wednesday, about 10 hours after the cars were washed off the road between Altoona and Mitchellville.

Deputy Onley said the girl’s body was found in a creek near the submerged cars. He declined to identify her.

Emergency crews were able to rescue 10 of the 11 people who had been in the cars when they were swept off the road about 4 a.m. They found them clinging to trees and hanging onto logs. Four were taken to the hospital.

Officials have said the fast-flowing waters hampered efforts to find the girl who died.


FBI captures ‘Granddad Bandit’

BATON ROUGE — A man dubbed the “Granddad Bandit” and suspected in 25 bank robberies in 13 states has been captured in Louisiana, the FBI said.

He was arrested by police and FBI agents Wednesday afternoon after a standoff at a home in Baton Rouge that ended peacefully.

FBI Special Agent Howard Schwartz identified the man as Michael Mara, 53,. He had previously been unidentified.

Mr. Schwartz said Mr. Mara was arrested on a warrant for a bank robbery in Richmond, but he is also suspected in the other robberies.

Last week, the FBI began posting his picture on billboards across the country in an effort to catch him.


Teen to pitch peace idea in North Korea

A 13-year-old boy from Ridgeland plans to visit North Korea this week and perhaps meet leader Kim Jong-il to pitch his idea for a “children’s peace forest” in the demilitarized zone.

Jonathan Lee, who was born in South Korea and lives in Mississippi, is scheduled to fly to Pyongyang on Thursday from Beijing with his parents, the family told the Associated Press. They said North Korean officials in Beijing gave them visas Wednesday night.

Jonathan said he expects to meet with North Korean officials and will propose the children’s peace forest, “one in which fruit and chestnut trees would be planted and where children can play.”

The DMZ that has separated North and South Korea for more than a half-century is one of the most heavily guarded areas in the world. Combat-ready troops stand guard on both sides, and the land is strewn with land mines and laced with barbed wire.

The U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with the North and it and the international community have imposed strict economic sanctions over the regime’s nuclear weapons program. In less than a year, North Korea detained four Americans for illegal entry, and one is still in prison there.

It was impossible to get comment from North Korea, which normally makes statements through its state-run news agency.

“It’s supposed to be safe, but I’m a little nervous. It’s a communist country,” Jonathan said. “I’ve watched lots of documentaries. It’s supposed to be really clean and stuff.”


Downed tree leads to Amtrak delays

TRENTON — Train passengers along Amtrak’s busy Northeast Corridor faced delays of up to two hours after a fallen tree knocked out power and rail signals Wednesday.

The tree took down overhead power wires near Hamilton, N.J., around 5:30 a.m., causing delays between New York City and Philadelphia, Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole said. Just before 8 a.m., Amtrak trains were able to move at greatly reduced speeds, he said.

By Wednesday afternoon, Amtrak trains were running up to an hour behind schedule while workers restored signals in New Jersey, Mr. Cole said.


Man wants name to be ‘Boomer the Dog’

PITTSBURGH — A judge is considering whether a Pittsburgh-area man can legally change his name to Boomer the Dog after a short-lived television series.

The man who went to court Tuesday is Gary Guy Mathews, 44, of Green Tree. He is a fan of the 1980s NBC series “Here’s Boomer,” which featured a dog that rescued people.

But he’s also an enthusiast of Anthrocon. That’s an annual convention of people dedicated to anthropomorphism, the practice of attributing human characteristics to animals.

Mr. Mathews said his friends already call him Boomer, as did his late parents.

Allegheny County Judge Robert Folino said he’ll take a couple of days to decide.


Warrant signed to send Jeffs to Texas

SALT LAKE CITY — Polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs won’t face a retrial in his Utah accomplice rape case until his criminal charges in Texas are resolved, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said Wednesday.

The Utah Supreme Court last month overturned Jeffs’ 2007 convictions on accomplice rape charges. The court said faulty jury instructions denied Jeffs a fair trial, and the justices sent the case back for retrial.

After talking with Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap and Texas authorities, Mr. Shurtleff said all sides agreed to let Texas step in.

Jeffs, 54, is the ecclesiastical head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a southern Utah-based church that practices polygamy in marriages arranged by church leaders. Historically, some marriages have involved underage girls, although church leaders say the practice has stopped.


Pot operation in national forest raided

GREEN BAY — Several people were arrested after more than 200 federal, state and local authorities swarmed a large marijuana operation in a national forest in northeast Wisconsin, state officials said.

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said several people were arrested early Wednesday after the nighttime raid.

His office withheld most details, including how many people were arrested or what the tentative charges are. The raid occurred in the Nicolet National Forest.

Mexican drug gangs have been increasing their marijuana farming operations in national and state parks across the U.S.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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