- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 25, 2010

CALIFORNIA

Cash-strapped city goes after dogs

LOS ANGELES | Cash-strapped Los Angeles is going to the dogs.

The City Council voted Tuesday to have two departments share information in order to track down people who haven’t licensed their pets.

Council President Eric Garcetti estimates two-thirds of the city’s dogs are unlicensed. Licenses cost $15 for a sterilized dog and $100 for an unaltered pet.

Getting all dogs licensed would mean at least an additional $3.6 million in fees to the city.

The Department of Animal Services has eight full-time employees whose job is to find and license dogs. The Department of Water and Power keeps a meter-reader database of homes with dogs.

The council ordered the departments to coordinate to find the pooches.

FLORIDA

Whale kills trainer as guests watch

ORLANDO | A killer whale killed a SeaWorld Orlando trainer who slipped or fell in its tank Wednesday, drowning her in front of a horrified audience.

Dan Brown, president of the Orlando park, said the trainer was one of the park’s most experienced.

He would not answer questions about whether it happened during a performance, but an audience member said a show was just starting.

The whale “took off really fast in the tank, and then he came back, shot up in the air, grabbed the trainer by the waist and started thrashing around, and one of her shoes flew off,” Victoria Biniak told WKMG-TV.

Jim Solomons of the Orlando County Sheriff’s Office, said the trainer slipped or fell into the whale’s tank, which seemed to contradict Miss Biniak’s description.

“This appears to be an accidental death, a tragic death,” said Mr. Solomons.

LOUISIANA

Ex-officer pleads guilty in bridge killing

NEW ORLEANS | A former police lieutenant pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiring to obstruct justice after federal officials say he helped cover for officers who killed two people in the chaos following Hurricane Katrina.

Federal investigators said former Lt. Michael Lohman knew two people fatally shot as they crossed the Danziger Bridge had no weapons, but he and others filed false reports to make the shootings seem justified. Four other people were wounded.

Family members of the victims gathered at the courthouse Wednesday as Lohman arrived to enter his plea. They hope the development means investigators may finally have penetrated the “blue code” of silence that surrounded the case.

Seven officers were charged with murder or attempted murder in the Sept. 4, 2005, shootings on the Danziger Bridge, just days after Katrina smashed levees and flooded 80 percent of the city.

MARYLAND

Out-of-state gay unions win backing

ANNAPOLIS | State agencies in Maryland must now recognize out-of-state gay marriages until the legislature or courts decide otherwise, Maryland’s attorney general said Wednesday after issuing a long-awaited legal opinion.

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler told reporters he thinks his opinion will be addressed “in the near future by litigants.”

Mr. Gansler’s opinion concluded that the state’s highest court likely would rule that legal gay marriages in other states are valid in Maryland, but he noted the matter “is not free from all doubt.”

Maryland law defines marriage as between a man and woman, but Mr. Gansler wrote that the state generally acknowledges couples married elsewhere. Maryland is one of six states that does not specifically address the validity of same-sex marriages from other states.

MASSACHUSETTS

Kerrigan’s brother freed on bail

BOSTON | The brother of figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, charged with assaulting his father in their home shortly before he died, was released from custody Wednesday after his family posted his $10,000 bail.

Daniel Kerrigan, 70, died last month after a fight with his son, Mark Kerrigan. Prosecutors charged Mark Kerrigan with assault and have said they are considering whether to upgrade the charge.

Mark Kerrigan, 45, was freed on bail a day after he completed a psychiatric evaluation at Bridgewater State Hospital. As a condition of his release, he must wear a global positioning device and be monitored for alcohol consumption.

Nancy Sterling, a spokeswoman for the Kerrigans, said the family is “delighted to have Mark back with them.”

MICHIGAN

Chrysler to fix airbags in minivans

DETROIT | Chrysler Group LLC said Wednesday it will replace a front airbag sensor in more than 355,500 minivans, starting in June.

Chrysler’s “safety improvement campaign” covers 355,562 of its 2005-2006 Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans, including 259,437 in the U.S. and 72,035 in Canada.

The move comes after Chrysler found one of the front airbag crash sensors could crack under some environmental conditions and allow water to enter the sensor, potentially causing the sensor to become inoperative.

The company, which is controlled by Fiat SpA , said it is not aware of any complaints, injuries or property damage related to this issue.

Chrysler said the campaign is different from a recall because should problems occur, the vehicles would still meet crash standards outlined by U.S. safety regulators.

NORTH DAKOTA

Indian reservation reaps oil benefits

NEW TOWN | An oil boom on American Indian land in North Dakota has brought jobs, millions of dollars and hope to long-impoverished tribal members.

Oil companies have put dozens of money-producing rigs on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in little more than a year.

Industry officials say other tribes around the country have oil interests but none has likely experienced a recent windfall of this scale.

The reservation is occupied by the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes, known as the Three Affiliated Tribes. They were placed in west-central North Dakota by the federal government in the 1800s, long before anyone knew of the oil.

The federal government flooded more than a tenth of the reservation in the 1950s to create a 180-mile-long reservoir.

RHODE ISLAND

Principal, all teachers fired at school

CENTRAL FALLS | A Rhode Island school district has voted to fire all the teachers at an underperforming school.

The Central Falls School Committee voted Tuesday evening to fire every educator at Central Falls High School, including teachers, guidance counselors and the principal.

It’s the only school in the tiny, impoverished city north of Providence. Only about half its students graduate, and only 7 percent of 11th-graders were proficient in math in 2009.

The plan was developed because of a federal effort to give failing schools a makeover.

The Central Falls Teachers Union said it is reviewing legal options and hasn’t decided what action to take.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan applauded the decision and said “when schools continue to struggle we have a collective obligation to take action.”

VERMONT

Senate: Close nuke plant in 2012

MONTPELIER | The Vermont Senate has voted to block the state’s only nuclear plant from operating after 2012.

Vermont is the only state in the country with a law giving its legislature a say over a nuclear plant’s relicensing. Wednesday’s 26-4 vote against a 20-year extension of Vermont Yankee’s license marks the first time lawmakers have formally weighed in on the question.

Supporters of the move to close Vermont Yankee say it’s getting old and less reliable and that its owner, New Orleans-based Entergy Corp., has not proven itself trustworthy. Backers of keeping it open say Vermont needs the energy from the plant and its good-paying jobs.

The vote may not be the final word. Lawmakers could come back next year — after the November elections — and reverse themselves.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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