- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 10, 2010


New endangered pronghorn site eyed

PHOENIX | A handful of endangered Sonoran pronghorns could be moved to the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in western Arizona next winter under a new federal recovery plan.

The proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is part of an effort to bring back a thriving population of the antelope-like creature.

Only about 70 to 90 of the animals now live in the wild in the U.S. Most are in or near southern Arizona’s Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, about 130 miles west of Tucson. Another 40 or so are in a captive breeding program, and about 400 live in northern Mexico.

About a dozen captive-bred pronghorns would be released next winter and up to 20 a year thereafter. A second new release site is planned southeast of Gila Bend.


New set of storms threatens towns

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE | Authorities have called on residents of more than 500 homes in the wildfire-scarred Southern California foothills to evacuate by Tuesday morning, fearing that heavy rains from a new round of storms could cause more mudslides.

Weather forecasters issued a flash-flood watch for Tuesday afternoon through late Tuesday night for neighborhoods below steep slopes that were scorched by the fires last summer.

Officials issued evacuation orders for 541 homes on the hillsides of La Canada Flintridge, La Crescenta and Acton, telling residents to be out by 10 a.m. Sheriff’s deputies also asked residents to move their vehicles and trash cans away from the streets, where water and rocks roared through, smashing cars and concrete barriers together on Saturday morning.


Investigators interview survivors of blast

MIDDLETOWN | Investigators looking into the cause of an explosion that killed five people at a Connecticut power plant under construction are interviewing survivors, while crews work to ensure the badly damaged building is safe.

Deputy Fire Marshal Al Santostefano says crews are slowly and carefully removing more than 100 gas cylinders used for welding and pipe cutting. He says some might be damaged, but the building is metered constantly for any leaks.

Authorities launched a criminal investigation Monday, saying they couldn’t rule out negligence.

The powerful explosion blew apart large swaths of the nearly completed 620-megawatt Kleen Energy plant as workers for the construction company, O&G Industries Inc., were purging a gas line Sunday morning.


Former soldier sent to prison

HONOLULU | A retired Army master sergeant who pleaded guilty to bribery and money-laundering charges stemming from his time in Iraq has been sentenced to three years and four months in prison.

Ronald Joseph Radcliffe was also fined $30,000 when he was sentenced Monday in federal court.

The 43-year-old Radcliffe was in Iraq from January 2004 to February 2005 as a member of the 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks.

According to an indictment, Radcliffe was stationed in Kirkuk as a supply official when he accepted money from a Turkish national in return for steering Army contracts to several of the man’s companies.

Radcliffe has admitted receiving at least $37,600 in return for influencing the contracting process.


Sections of giant elm to be displayed

YARMOUTH | Maine officials say two cross-sections cut from a 217-year-old giant elm named Herbie will be displayed by the town of Yarmouth and the state Forest Service.

The 110-foot-tall tree was the biggest American elm in New England before it was cut down Jan. 19 after losing a battle with Dutch elm disease. Peter Lammert of the Mane Forest Service says each of the 4-inch cross-sections weighed 1,600 pounds.

Word of Herbie and his caretaker of five decades, 101-year-old Frank Knight, continues to generate interest around the region.

Mr. Lammert says a Rhode Island motorist stopped to collect sawdust while foresters were cutting on the stump Monday. Herbie also has several fan pages on Facebook.


Souter to speak at commencement

CAMBRIDGE | Harvard University says retired Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter will be the principal speaker at its spring commencement ceremony.

The school said Mr. Souter is scheduled to return to his alma mater May 27 for the 359th commencement. It will be about 44 years after Mr. Souter received his law degree from Harvard Law School.

The 70-year-old Mr. Souter retired last year after nearly two decades on the nation’s highest court. Since then, he has pushed to help New Hampshire promote civics education in the public schools.

Harvard President Drew Faust says Mr. Souter’s “dedication, humility and commitment to learning with which he has pursued his calling should be an inspiration” to graduates considering a career in public service.

Mr. Souter was born in Melrose, Mass., and moved to New Hampshire at age 11.


Probation for man with scores of dogs

DETROIT | A Michigan man who had hundreds of live and dead Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes in his home has been sentenced to five years of probation in a mental health program and ordered not to own animals.

At his sentencing hearing Tuesday in Wayne County Circuit Court, Kenneth Lang Jr. told Judge Timothy Kenny he loved the dogs like they were his children but knew he had too many of them.

The sentence had been expected as part of Lang’s guilty plea last month to a single count of cruelty to 10 or more animals.

In July, authorities found Lang was hoarding the dogs. They say some dead dogs in freezers in the home may have been killed with an injection.


BLM delays scheduling wild horse roundup

LAS VEGAS | Federal land managers will delay rounding up nearly 500 wild horses from a range in eastern Nevada until after the spring foaling season.

Advocates trying to block the mustang roundups said Monday their threat to sue stopped the U.S. Bureau of Land Management from carrying out February horse gathers in the Eagle Herd Management Area.

A BLM statement issued Saturday says there’s not enough time to conduct the roundup before foaling season begins.

The bureau last week finished rounding up more than 1,900 horses from the Calico Mountains Complex north of Reno.

It’s still considering what to do about some 50 horses that have moved outside the Eagle and Silver King herd management areas and are said to threaten the safety of motorists on U.S. 93 near Pioche.


Man gets 44 years for home standoff

TOLEDO | An Ohio man has been sentenced to 44 years in prison on charges that he held his estranged wife at gunpoint at a retirement home where she worked.

Police said Michael Swiergosz was distraught over his pending divorce when he went to the assisted-living center, pointed a gun at an employee and told her to call his wife. The April 28 standoff at the Sunset House in Toledo went on for five hours.

Swiergosz testified in court last month that he only brought the gun to get his wife’s attention.

At his sentencing hearing Monday he apologized and said he wants an opportunity to be a father again. His attorney says he’ll appeal the sentence.

A jury convicted Swiergosz Jan. 28 of charges including felonious assault, kidnapping and rape.


Double hand transplant patient leaves hospital

PITTSBURGH | The nation’s first double hand transplant recipient has left a Pittsburgh hospital after medicine cleared up a rash that signaled he might be rejecting his new hands.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center spokeswoman Amy Dugas says 58-year-old Jeff Kepner, of Augusta, Ga., was discharged Monday from UPMC Montefiore hospital.

Mr. Kepner received the hands at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in May and went home in October. He was hospitalized last week after he developed the rash on both hands. Miss Dugas says the rash went away after doctors applied an ointment to suppress his immune system.

Mr. Kepner, a former pastry chef, lost his hands and feet a decade ago to a bacterial infection. The donor was a 23-year-old Pennsylvania man.


Cause of fatal fire remains unknown

PROVIDENCE | The Rhode Island Fire Marshal says officials have pinpointed the origins of a house fire that killed five people, including a 7-month-old baby, but still haven’t figured out the cause.

Fire Marshal Jack Chartier said Monday that Saturday’s fire started in the ceiling space between the living room and second floor. But he says more forensic testing is needed before the cause can be identified.

The victims included Amanda Villeneuve, her infant daughter, Anabelle, and her fiance Dan Janik. Also killed were Nicholas Jillson and Tayla Lackey. Warwick Fire Chief Kevin Sullivan says the sole survivor of the fire has provided helpful information to establish a timeline leading up to the fire.

Autopsies were done Monday, but the results aren’t ready yet.

Officials don’t think the fire is suspicious.


Fires strike 2 more churches

DALLAS | A sheriff’s dispatcher says fires have struck two more rural east Texas churches, just hours after investigators announced that a blaze last week marked the eighth arson against a house of worship in the state this year.

A Smith County sheriff’s dispatcher says fire struck a Baptist church near Tyler Monday night. Another hit a church about 3 miles away.

The fires come the same day the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced a blaze that happened last week was the seventh east Texas church fire of 2010 to be deliberately set. Bureau agents in Houston say arson also caused a fire that destroyed the sanctuary of a central Texas church last month.

There have been no reported injuries or arrests. Federal officials aren’t saying if there’s a connection.


Man allegedly steals ambulance, patient inside

MADISON | Authorities say a drunken man stole an ambulance from a Wisconsin ski area with the patient and paramedics still inside.

The Dane County Sheriff’s Department says emergency responders were treating a patient in the back of the ambulance at the Tyrol Basin Ski and Snowboard Area in Mt. Horeb on Monday night. They say a 24-year-old Illinois man got into the vehicle and drove it around the parking lot.

The sheriff’s department says deputies arrested the man. But it is unclear how he was stopped.

Fitch-Rona Medical Service Deputy Chief Dale Dow says the ambulance’s emergency brake was on and paramedics were still in the back when the man got inside. He says he doesn’t know what happened after that.

No other details were immediately available.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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