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Archive for Saturday, January 8, 2005

Briefly - Nation

January 8, 2005

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Washington, D.C.

Rosemary Kennedy, sister of JFK, dies

Rosemary Kennedy, the oldest sister of President John F. Kennedy and the inspiration for the Special Olympics, died Friday. She was 86.

Kennedy, the third child of Rose and Joseph Kennedy, was born mentally disabled and was lobotomized when she was 23. She lived most of her life in a Jefferson, Wis., institution, the St. Coletta School for Exceptional Children.

She died with her brother, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, and her sisters by her side, the family said in a statement.

"Rosemary was a lifelong jewel to every member of our family," the statement said. "From her earliest years, her mental retardation was a continuing inspiration to each of us and a powerful source of our family's commitment to do all we can to help all persons with disabilities live full and productive lives."

Rosemary Kennedy is shown above at top, with Jean Kennedy, bottom left, and Robert Kennedy, in this family photo made in 1938 at Bronxville, N.Y.

South Carolina

Chlorine threat keeps residents from homes

At least eight people died and more than 250 were sickened after a freight train carrying toxic chlorine gas crashed early Thursday in Graniteville, in one of the nation's deadliest chemical spills in years. Residents of the area will not be allowed to return home until next week.

Authorities said all of the fatalities appeared to have been caused by the released gas.

About 5,400 residents within a one-mile radius were forced to evacuate, with authorities telling people Friday they would not be allowed to return until Tuesday at earliest. A dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed within two miles of the wreck for fear that cool night air would cause the chlorine to settle close to the ground.

New York

Retiree pleads guilty in Masonic shooting

A retiree who accidentally shot a friend to death during an initiation ceremony at a Masonic lodge pleaded guilty Friday to criminally negligent homicide and was sentenced to five years' probation.

Albert Eid, 77, past master of the Long Island lodge, appeared tearful as he told a judge in Riverhead he was sorry for shooting William James.

"William was my friend, and it's terrible," he said.

James, 47, was shot in the face last March. During the initiation, he was seated in a chair, and a small platform with cans was placed near his head. Eid was supposed to fire blanks from about 20 feet away, and another Mason was supposed to knock the cans down with a stick to make James think actual bullets had been fired.

Police said Eid, a retired plumber and a decorated Navy veteran of World War II, mistakenly pulled a loaded .32-caliber handgun from his left pants pocket instead of a .22-caliber pistol with blanks that was in his right pocket.

Washington

GOP urges recount in governor's race

Republican Dino Rossi and the state GOP announced Friday they will contest the gubernatorial election that gave his Democratic foe, Christine Gregoire, a 129-vote victory.

Republicans have been building a case over the past few weeks, gathering evidence of voting irregularities, including illegal provisional ballots and a handful of votes cast by dead people. They are pushing for a revote, an unprecedented step in a statewide election.

Gregoire, a three-term attorney general, lost the first count by 261 votes to Rossi, a real estate agent and former state senator. Rossi won a machine recount by 42 votes but lost a hand recount of 2.9 million ballots.

Gregoire, whose inauguration is scheduled for Wednesday, has called the idea of a revote "absolutely ludicrous" but acknowledged Rossi's right to contest the election.

Denver

Lawsuit dismissed in JonBenet case

A federal judge has tossed out a lawsuit filed by the parents of JonBenet Ramsey against Fox News Channel, saying a network report unfavorable to the couple was not defamatory.

Judge Phillip Figa suggested that John and Patsy Ramsey seek vindication "in the court of public opinion."

In a ruling made public Friday, Figa said litigation in defamation cases could chill constitutionally protected free speech rights and because of that, the facts in such cases must be established with "convincing clarity."

He said the Ramseys failed to meet that standard. He said the case could not be refiled.

The lawsuit was filed over a December 2002 story that aired around the six-year anniversary of the 6-year-old girl's slaying. In it, Denver-based staffer Carol McKinley said there had "never been any evidence to link an intruder to her brutal murder."

A cloud of suspicion has hung over the couple since the 1996 slaying but no charges have been filed. The Ramseys say that an intruder killed their daughter.

Washington, D.C.

Hillary Clinton's former aide indicted

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's former finance director has been indicted on charges of filing fictitious reports that misstated contributions for a Hollywood fund-raising gala for the senator, the Justice Department said Friday.

The indictment, rare for a political campaign, was unsealed in Los Angeles charging David Rosen with four counts of filing false reports with the Federal Election Commission. The charges focus on an Aug. 12, 2000, dinner and concert supported by more than $1.1 million in "in-kind contributions" -- goods and services provided for free or below cost. The event was estimated to cost more than $1.2 million.

The FBI previously said in court papers that it had evidence the former first lady's campaign deliberately understated its fund-raising costs so it would have more money to spend on her campaign.

Rosen reported contributions of about $400,000, the indictment said, knowing the figure to be false.

Los Angeles

Judge throws out FBI spy charges

A federal judge dismissed all charges against a former FBI informant accused of being a Chinese double agent and rebuked federal prosecutors for "deliberate misconduct" in the case.

U.S. District Judge Florence Marie Cooper on Thursday said the government blocked Katrina Leung's access to a critical defense witness -- retired FBI agent James J. Smith, who for years was Leung's lover.

Leung, a wealthy socialite from the suburb of San Marino, allegedly took classified documents from Smith's briefcase. She was not accused of transmitting them to China.

The judge said prosecutors purposely kept defense attorneys from contacting Smith as they prepared for Leung's trial. In doing so, Cooper said, prosecutors violated Leung's due process rights.

Oregon

Archdiocese runs ads aimed at abuse victims

The Archdiocese of Portland has begun running ads in major U.S. newspapers alerting alleged victims of clergy sex abuse to an April 29 deadline to make claims in most cases.

The $250,000 worth of ads, required as part of the church's bankruptcy proceedings, will run in 21 newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, over the next three weeks.

Archdiocese spokesman Bud Bunce said the church was doing everything it could to reach potential claimants. A letter about the deadline has been mailed to more than 81,000 registered Oregon parishioners and roughly 11,000 alumni of the Roman Catholic archdiocese's two high schools.

Last July, the Portland Archdiocese became the first in the nation to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the face of mounting sexual abuse claims. It faces $534 million in pending claims from 72 individual plaintiffs.

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