- - Sunday, June 5, 2011


Wildfires threaten small vacation town

GREER — A 225-square-mile blaze that has grown into the third-largest fire in Arizona’s history covered a mountain vacation town in a smoky fog Sunday, as wind blew smoke from the burning pine forest well into nearby New Mexico and Colorado.

Crews have not contained the fire near the New Mexico-Arizona state line, which has forced residents to evacuate from several mountain towns.

In the vacation town of Greer, which has fewer than 200 year-round residents, many voluntarily left Saturday. Those who remained, mostly business owners, dealt with haze heavily tinged with smoke on Sunday.

Among them was the owner of the 101-year-old Molly Butler Lodge, who was hauling out his most valuable items. Allan Johnson spent the morning getting antiques, including an 1886 table brought by covered wagon from Utah and a 1928 Oldsmobile the lodge uses for weddings, out of the fire’s path.

Greer is within miles of the fire, which officials expect will grow given a windy forecast and expected dry lightning Sunday and Monday.


Former Black Panther leader dies outside U.S.

LOS ANGELES — Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt, a former Black Panther Party leader who spent 27 years in prison on a California murder conviction that was later overturned, has died at the age of 63 in his adopted home of Tanzania.

Mr. Pratt died early Friday at home in Imbaseni village, 15 miles from Arusha, Tanzania, where he had lived for at least half a decade, said a friend in Arusha, former Black Panther Pete O’Neal.

Mr. Pratt’s name and his long-fought case with its political backdrop became emblematic of a tumultuous era in American history when the beret-wearing Panthers raised their fists in defiance and carried big guns, striking fear in white America.

The party, founded by Huey Newton in Oakland, Calif., in 1966, was targeted by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in a program that sent infiltrators into their gatherings and recruited informants. One of them, Julius Butler, was the key witness against Mr. Pratt when he was charged in 1968 with the Santa Monica tennis court shooting of schoolteacher Caroline Olson.

Mr. Pratt said he was innocent and maintained there were audiotapes that would prove he had been at a Black Panther meeting in Oakland the day of the killing. His lawyers later said that FBI agents and police hid and possibly destroyed wiretap evidence.


Formerly barred student attends his prom

SHELTON — A Connecticut teen who was briefly barred from prom for his over-the-top invitation to his date finally got to go.

Shelton High School senior James Tate attended the prom Saturday, nearly a month after he was prohibited for posting his invitation to Sonali Rodrigues in 12-inch-high cardboard letters on the school wall.

School officials had said his invitation was a safety risk and suspended him for a day and barred him from the prom. Headmaster Beth Smith later reversed the decision, acknowledging the international attention the case received.

Dressed in a three-piece black tuxedo with a purple flower in his jacket pocket, Mr. Tate arrived at a pre-prom photo event followed by television cameras. Miss Rodrigues, dressed in a lavender prom dress, said he was funny and “pretty cute.”


Mom from ‘16 and Pregnant’ accused of drug crimes

ROME — A Georgia mother who appeared on an episode of MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” has been arrested on drug charges.

Authorities say 37-year-old April Michelle Purvis was arrested Sunday morning during a road check in Floyd County. Ms. Purvis is charged with felony possession of methamphetamine and misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

Ms. Purvis and her daughter, Whitney, were featured in the first season of the popular reality show about teenage pregnancy. A passenger in her car was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession.


Two melanoma drugs show promise in studies

CHICAGO — Two new drugs using very different scientific approaches can extend survival among patients with the deadliest form of skin cancer, offering the first new hope for real progress in many years.

Advanced melanoma patients taking an experimental pill, vemurafenib, developed by Roche and Daiichi Sankyo were 63 percent less likely to die than patients given chemotherapy, according to a new trial presented Sunday at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.

Dr. Paul Chapman of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and the study’s lead investigator called the results an “unprecedented level of difference” for patients with advanced melanoma, who typically survive just eight months on current treatments.

In a separate study presented at ASCO, previously untreated people with advanced melanoma treated with Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Yervoy, or ipilimumab, plus chemotherapy lived an average of two months longer than people who got chemotherapy alone.

Yervoy works by spurring the immune system to fight off the cancer. Vemurafenib is designed for use in patients with tumors that have a mutation in a gene known as BRAF that allows melanoma cells to grow. About half of all melanomas have the genetic aberration.


Three more in Joplin die of tornado injuries

JOPLIN — Three more people have died from injuries sustained during a massive tornado two weeks ago in Joplin.

Officials in Joplin said on the city’s website Sunday that the three additional people died recently from their injuries, bringing the total number of fatalities from the EF-5 tornado to 141. The city did not identify the three victims.

The city says it plans to host a town-hall meeting Monday night at the Taylor Performing Arts Center on the Missouri Southern State University campus. Officials at the meeting are expected to give details on removing debris from the tornado.

The May 22 twister demolished about a third of the southwest Missouri city.


Trial to begin for man accused of 11 murders

CLEVELAND — Cleveland residents will be forced this week to revisit a dark chapter in the city’s history.

Trial resumes Monday for 51-year-old convicted sex offender Anthony Sowell, who’s charged with killing 11 women and hiding their remains in his home and backyard. The victims’ bodies were removed months ago but the stench clings to Mr. Sowell’s boarded-up house.

The smell is a reminder of the horrors that unfolded in November 2009, when police began pulling the remains of the women from the depths of his rundown white duplex.

Angry relatives contend police never bothered to look for their loved ones because they were addicted to drugs and lived in a poor and dangerous part of town. All the victims were black. Most were strangled with household objects.


Man cited for paying $25 bill in all pennies

VERNAL — A Utah man has been cited on a charge of disorderly conduct after paying for a disputed medical bill with 2,500 pennies.

The Deseret News of Salt Lake City reports Jason West went to Basin Clinic in Vernal on May 27 prepared to dispute an outstanding $25 bill.

Assistant Vernal Police Chief Keith Campbell says that after asking staff members whether they accepted cash, Mr. West dumped 2,500 pennies on the counter and demanded that staff count them. Assistant Chief Campbell says the incident upset staff because pennies were strewn about the counter and floor, and Mr. West’s action served “no legitimate purpose.”

Police later issued the 38-year-old Mr. West a citation for disorderly conduct. That carries a fine of as much as $140. Or 14,000 pennies.


Budget panel targets police, fire benefits

MADISON — Wisconsin’s Republican lawmakers reopened the fight over collective bargaining rights Friday, proposing new police and firefighters pay more for their health insurance and pension benefits.

The change, approved by the Republican-controlled budget committee on an 11-4 party line vote, would force some police and firefighters to make the same contributions toward their benefits as other public workers under a bill pushed by Gov. Scott Walker and passed by the Legislature in March.

The measure, which also took away nearly all collective bargaining rights from most public workers, was voided by a circuit court judge last month and hasn’t taken effect. The state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments Monday as to whether it should take the case and allow the law to be enacted.

The Legislature is also considering passing the law again as part of the budget in case the court fails to act or strikes down the law.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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