- - Monday, September 13, 2010


Boy, 5, wins moose-calling contest

ANCHORAGE | For 5-year-old Andrew Polasky, being loud has paid off.

Andrew was the winner of last weekend’s moose-calling contest at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage.

He lives with his parents, Janessa and Ray, on Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage. He hasn’t been around moose that much, even though they’re ever-present in Alaska’s largest city. Instead, he’s more used to deer from his native Wisconsin.

So what’s his secret for winning a moose-calling contest?

His mom says he just likes making a lot of noise, and, she says, “He’s good at it.”

For his efforts, Andrew won a calendar, a $25 gift certificate to the Moose’s Tooth restaurant and a moose cutout to hang on his wall.


City must return property tax dollars

BELL | Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado signed a bill Monday ordering the return of nearly $3 million in property taxes the state says was collected illegally in the blue-collar suburb of Bell, where one in six persons lives in poverty.

An audit by state Controller John Chiang’s office determined the City Council passed an illegal resolution in 2007 that resulted in a 50 percent tax increase over three years.

The tax rate later was rolled back, but the money collected could not be refunded until Mr. Maldonado signed Assembly Bill 900 into law.

Four of Bell’s five City Council members have been targeted for recall since a wide-ranging scandal surfaced involving the high taxes, huge salaries paid to former city employees and allegations of racial profiling of drivers.

Property owners in the scandal-plagued city learned earlier this year that they were paying the second-highest property taxes in Los Angeles County, ahead of Beverly Hills and other wealthy cities.

The median household income in Bell is $40,556.


Construction accident traps, injures 4

NEW HAVEN | A steel beam collapsed Monday at a Yale University construction site, injuring four people, the mayor’s office said.

Spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said the four were trapped when the beam fell Monday morning at the planned air-conditioning center.

A Yale-New Haven Hospital spokesman said two men being treated there are in critical condition and one is in serious condition. The fourth person is being treated at the Hospital of Saint Raphael for injuries that are considered not to be life-threatening.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and New Haven officials are investigating.


7-foot gator handcuffed near school

OLDSMAR | Deputies had to handcuff a rather unusual suspect Monday — a 7-foot-long alligator.

A crossing guard at a Tampa-area school spotted the gator lounging near an elementary school in the morning around the time children would be walking to school.

As she and three deputies waited for a trapper to arrive, the alligator started walking toward the children. Three deputies roped the gator’s neck and tail as the animal rolled and thrashed. Its tail broke off chunks of stucco from a nearby wall.

Deputies later secured the gator’s mouth with electrical tape and handcuffed its hind legs. Florida Fish and Wildlife officials took custody of the animal until the trapper arrived.


Death of Amtrak passenger probed

ATLANTA | Georgia authorities are investigating whether foul play was involved in the death of a 63-year-old Florida woman who was traveling on an Amtrak train.

Barbara Arteta was traveling with her husband aboard Amtrak Auto Train 53 from Virginia to Sanford, Fla., when she disappeared. Her body was found Thursday near railroad tracks in rural Jesup, Ga.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesman John Bankhead said Monday that an autopsy concluded Mrs. Arteta died from multiple injuries, including a broken neck. He said authorities have yet to determine whether her death was an accident or whether foul play was involved.

Investigators are urging anyone who was aboard the train with the victim to call the GBI tip line at 800/597-8477.


BP fund czar mulls waiving wage requirement

HOUMA | The administrator of the $20 billion compensation fund for victims of the Gulf oil spill said Monday he might waive the current requirement that wages earned from helping out in the cleanup be subtracted from people’s spill claims.

Doing so would be a key concession following strong criticism from residents about the claims process.

Meanwhile Monday, BP crews resumed drilling the final 50 feet of a relief well meant to enable them to permanently seal the blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico. John Wright, who’s leading drilling efforts aboard the Development Driller III vessel, told Associated Press in an e-mail that the operation had resumed. BP said crews started drilling at 1:40 p.m. CDT.

BP and the government have said it would take about four days from the time crews started drilling again to intersect the blown-out well. Once the relief well intersects the blown-out well, crews will pump in mud and cement to seal the well permanently.

At the town hall meeting in Houma, La., fund czar Kenneth Feinberg told hundreds of people who packed a convention center that he is reconsidering the requirement that cleanup wages be subtracted from claims. He said he understands the loud concerns raised by people who are still hurting.

“I’m taking it under advisement,” Mr. Feinberg said. “The last time I said, no way, I’m deducting it. Now, it’s open for discussion.”


Rushdie defends right to build mosque

NEW YORK | “The Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie is not a great fan of organized worship but thinks an Islamic center and mosque should be permitted two blocks from ground zero.

Mr. Rushdie’s satirical novel led in the 1980s to worldwide riots by Muslims and calls for his death. He says he understands the “sensitivities” of building the site close to where thousands were killed during on Sept. 11, 2001.

But he says First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion should be honored. He adds that he is “not personally” a lover of mosques or any place of worship.

But he says that if people “want a mosque, it seems absolutely right they should have it.”


Bankruptcy looming, city sued over debt

HARRISBURG | Pennsylvania’s financially troubled capital city is being sued over debt that threatens to drag it into bankruptcy.

The Patriot-News of Harrisburg said the two lawsuits were filed Monday in an effort to force the city to make payments on debt tied to the problem-plagued renovation of its trash incinerator.

Mayor Linda Thompson says the city doesn’t have the money to make the installment payments and that she is trying to negotiate a new payment plan.

TD Bank filed one suit seeking payment of nearly $35 million due Dec. 15. The bank joined a second suit with M&T Bank and Assured Guaranty to recoup millions in missed debt payments.

TD and M&T banks are trustees for bondholders. Assured Guaranty is an insurer.


Fastest Internet service offered by utility

CHATTANOOGA | The city-owned electrical utility has started offering an Internet service that is among the fastest in the world.

Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board says the service will provide a 1-gigabit-per-second Internet service. In a statement Monday, the utility said the service is more than 200 times faster than the current national download speed average.

But at a cost of $350 a month, it’s also much more expensive than the typical residential plan.

The utility is working with telecom equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent SA on the project.

EPB provides service to more than 169,000 residents in a 600-square-mile area in southeastern Tennessee and northwestern Georgia.


Presidents Park to close this month

YORKTOWN | A Virginia attraction that features giant busts of 43 U.S. presidents is closing by month’s end.

Presidents Park in Yorktown has announced it’s closing on Sept. 30, according to its website and the Daily Press of Newport News, which first reported the closing on Monday.

Founder Everette H. Newman III said the attraction will liquidate the property and its assets. He said 350,000 visitors have toured the park since its opening in 2004.

The park will close without the likeness of President Obama. It was attempting to raise $60,000 to build and install the 16- to 18-foot tall steel-and-concrete bust.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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