Archive for Thursday, February 15, 2001

National briefs

February 15, 2001



Whale hops onto tourist boat

A 20-foot humpback whale leapt onto a whale-watching boat and broke a tourist's knee, a tour official said Wednesday.

The tourist, Sandra Gieb, was sitting in the rear of the 40-foot motorized catamaran on Tuesday when the whale surfaced and placed its head over the back transom, said Doug Phillips, co-owner of Na Pali Eco Adventures. The 1-year-old whale slipped back into the water and swam away, Phillips said.

Gieb was admitted to a hospital in satisfactory condition.


College GOP chief accused

The Republican National Committee is investigating allegations that the head of the party's national college campus operation sexually harassed female colleagues and misused party funds.

The women maintained that Scott Stewart, chairman of the College Republican National Committee, made unwanted advances and regularly spoke in sexually graphic terms to and about female employees. They also claimed that Stewart allegedly authorized the use of several thousand dollars in GOP funds to pay for his own and others' personal expenses, such as cellular telephone bills, plane tickets and campaign mailings.

The Republican National Committee, which provides the college Republicans with office space and much of its budget, was given the affidavits in January, said Jason Zanetti, the campus group's Northeastern caucus chairman, who spoke on the women's behalf.


Victims' to get Cuban funds

The families of three Miami men killed when their planes were shot down by Cuban fighter jets in 1996 will get $96.7 million in frozen Cuban assets Friday, one of their lawyers said Wednesday.

The Treasury Department authorized the release of the funds, Aaron Podhurst said.

"I don't want to equate money with the loss of lives," Podhurst said. "However, there is some gratitude in the sense that justice does prevail."

The release of the Cuban accounts came after years of legal wrangling between the Clinton administration and the families' lawyers over how to collect a 1997 federal court judgment against Cuba. A judge in Miami declared the victims' deaths murder and awarded the families $187 million, including $137.7 million in punitive damages.


Teacher quits in grade swap

A teacher has resigned after being accused of bumping up the grades of students who agreed to give her prescription painkillers.

Michele Opheikens, 30, was charged Tuesday with possession of a controlled substance and burglary, for allegedly entering a student's home in search of drugs. She resigned last week as teacher and coach at Roy High School.

The charges followed a two-week investigation that began after several students reported the teacher's actions, Police Lt. Greg Whinham said.

"Mrs. Opheikens would tell these kids she would give them an 'A' for some pills," a police report said. "She would also offer to pay $5 or $10 to cover their co-payment."

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