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Archive for Saturday, July 24, 2004

Briefly

July 24, 2004

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SALT LAKE CITY

Fire engulfs business, threatens apartments

A huge fire broke out Friday at a shop that makes furniture for Mormon Temples worldwide, leveling the business and threatening a nearby apartment complex.

The fire was reported shortly after 1 p.m. at Jeffrey Cobabe and Associates in downtown Salt Lake City. No one was hurt.

The blaze began in the ceiling and touched off at least three explosions that spread flames throughout the business.

"It's a total tragedy," said John Jordan, vice president of the company. "Within a half-minute, the entire south side of the building was in flames."

About a dozen people were inside when the fire began, but all were able to escape safely before flames engulfed the building, Jordan said.

The fire was contained about two hours later.

SALT LAKE CITY

Father: Husband denies role in disappearance

The father of the man whose wife vanished this week, allegedly as she went out for a jog, said Friday that his son looked him in the eye and denied having anything to do with the disappearance.

Hundreds of people searched Friday for 37-year-old Lori Hacking, even as questions grew about Mark Hacking's actions the morning his wife was reported missing.

Douglas Hacking said he approached his son -- who has been called a person of interest, but not a suspect, in the case -- and asked if he was to blame.

"I confronted my son yesterday morning, I looked him in the eye, and I said, 'I need you to tell me if you had anything to do with Lori's disappearance,"' Douglas Hacking said. "I have to tell you that he looked me in the eye, and he said, 'No.'

Florida

Court: Transsexuals can't marry as new sex

Transsexual people cannot marry as their new sex under Florida law, a state appeals court ruled Friday in setting aside a divorce ruling between a man, who once was a woman, and his wife.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland said people who underwent sex changes weren't recognized by their new sex under Florida's marriage laws, which ban same-sex marriages.

The ruling came in the case of Michael Kantaras, who underwent a sex change operation in 1987 and married his wife, Linda, two years later.

Michael Kantaras divorced Linda Kantaras in 2002 and was awarded custody of two children: one child who was his ex-wife's from a prior relationship, the other a daughter she bore in 1992 after artificial insemination.

The appeals court said there was no legal marriage for a Circuit Court to dissolve, and remanded the custody aspect of the case for further proceedings.

New York

Security officer charged in beating of tourist

A Homeland Security inspector who forcibly subdued a Chinese tourist he mistakenly believed was involved in marijuana smuggling was charged Friday with violating her civil rights, officials said.

The incident occurred late Wednesday at the U.S.-Canadian border in Niagara Falls, after Customs and Border Protection officers confiscated marijuana from a male pedestrian.

Officer Robert Rhodes, mistakenly believing the woman standing nearby was involved, allegedly sprayed her with pepper spray, threw her against a wall, kneed her in the head as she knelt on the ground and struck her head on the ground while holding her hair, according to witnesses.

The woman, whose name was not released, was treated at a hospital and released.

Pennsylvania

Court rules sperm donor must pay child support

A state appeals court ruled that a verbal agreement between a woman and her sperm donor was invalid, and ordered the man to pay child support for the woman's twins.

The three-judge panel ruled Thursday that the deal between Joel McKiernan and Ivonne Ferguson -- in which McKiernan donated his sperm and would not be obligated to pay any support -- was unenforceable because of "legal, equitable and moral principles."

Despite an agreement that appeared to be a binding contract, the father is obligated to provide financial support, the court decided.

PHILADELPHIA

Animal group kicked out of veterinarian meeting

A dissident veterinarians group was kicked out of the American Veterinary Medical Assn.'s annual convention after it ran a full-page advertisement in The New York Times accusing the medical association of "betraying" farm animals.

The Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights had already paid for its booth at the event in Philadelphia when the ad appeared June 21. The ad accused the medical association of supporting "some of the cruelest conditions for raising farm animals to be found anywhere in the world."

The medical association, which represents 70,000 vets, responded by telling the group it was not welcome at the event, which runs today to Wednesday.

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