Thursday, September 3, 2009


Thumbprint rule irks man with no arms

TAMPA | A Florida man born without arms said a Tampa bank would not let him cash a check because he couldn’t provide a thumbprint.

Steve Valdez didn’t have an account at a Bank of America location in downtown Tampa, where he tried to cash a check from his wife last week. However, Mr. Valdez has prosthetic arms and is unable to provide a thumbprint. He said he presented two forms of identification but was still denied.

He said a bank manager told him he could either come back to the bank with his wife or open an account himself.

Bank of America spokeswoman Nicole Nastacie said the bank has apologized to Mr. Valdez, and that the bank should have “offered alternative requirements if an individual is not able to give a thumbprint.”


Conservative group cuts its work force

COLORADO SPRINGS | Focus on the Family announced Wednesday that it is laying off 8 percent of its work force, casualties of the latest budget shortfall at the influential conservative Christian group.

Seventy-five employees will lose their jobs and 57 vacant positions will remain unfilled, said Gary Schneeberger, spokesman for the evangelical ministry founded by child psychologist James Dobson.

The cutbacks are necessary because projections show the group will fall 5 percent short of a $138 million budget for the fiscal year ending this month, Mr. Schneeberger said.


Police: Stranger slaps crying child at store

STONE MOUNTAIN | A 61-year-old man annoyed with a crying 2-year-old girl at a Wal-Mart slapped the child several times after warning the toddler’s mother to keep her quiet, police said.

A police report said after the stranger hit the girl at least four times, he said: “See, I told you I would shut her up.”

Roger Stephens of Stone Mountain is charged with felony cruelty to children. It was not clear whether he had a lawyer, and a telephone call to his home Wednesday was not answered.

Authorities said the girl and her mother were shopping Monday when the toddler began crying. The police report said Mr. Stephens approached the mother and said, “If you don’t shut that baby up, I will shut her up for you.”

Authorities said after Mr. Stephens slapped the girl, she began screaming.


Gay marriage law goes to voters

AUGUSTA | The governor of Maine has signed a formal proclamation putting the state’s gay marriage law up for a vote in November.

Gov. John Baldacci signed the measure Wednesday after election officials verified that gay marriage foes reached the threshold of petitions necessary to put the law on the ballot.

The gay marriage law was supposed to go into effect this month, but it was put on hold while the secretary of state’s office validated the number of petitions.

Gay marriage opponents needed the signatures of at least 55,087 registered voters for the so-called People’s Veto, and they turned in nearly 100,000 signatures.

In May, Maine became the fifth state to allow gay marriage, and New Hampshire followed suit.


FAA will change rules over river

NEWARK | Federal aviation officials said they will change airspace rules over the Hudson River at New York City after a deadly crash last month.

The Aug. 8 collision between a small plane and a tour helicopter killed nine people and focused attention on the river corridor. It is used by many small aircraft.

The new rules include requiring pilots to tune their radios to specific frequencies and restricting speeds.

Aircraft between 1,000 and 1,300 feet would use the same radio frequency as those flying below 1,000 feet.

Last month’s crash occurred between a low level where visual flight rules apply and a higher altitude where air traffic controllers guide pilots.


Butterfly deemed not endangered

ALBUQUERQUE | The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly does not warrant listing as an endangered species and protection of its habitat.

The agency published its finding Wednesday in the Federal Register.

Officials said they identified no current significant threats to the 2-inch butterfly and that none of the factors which could threaten it were likely to increase in the future.


Painkiller stored in safe after thefts

SPOKANE | Robberies involving the narcotic Oxycontin are so common that Walgreens has installed time-delayed safes in its 114 pharmacies across Washington to secure the powerful painkiller.

The drugstore chain is investing heavily in the security measure because Oxycontin robberies in the state are the most in the nation for the company, said Robert Elfinger, a Walgreens spokesman in Deerfield, Ill.

The safes were activated last weekend.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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