G. Gordon Liddy,
Punxsutawney Phil,
Anna Nicole Smith,
and More!
Arkansas Boy Suspended For Pointing Chicken Finger
JONESBORO, ARK January 31, 2001 (AP) - An 8-year-old boy was suspended from school for three days after pointing a breaded chicken finger at a teacher and saying, "Pow, pow, pow."

The incident apparently violated the Jonesboro School District's zero-tolerance policy against weapons. The boy was suspended last week.

Kelli Kissinger, mother of first-grader Christopher, said she believed the punishment was too severe.

"I think a chicken strip is something insignificant," she said. "It's just a piece of chicken. How could you play like it's a gun?"

South Elementary principal Dan Sullivan said he was prevented by law from discussing Christopher's suspension. Sullivan said the school has zero-tolerance rules because the public wants them.

In March 1998, four students and a teacher were killed and 10 others wounded when two youths opened fire on a schoolyard at Jonesboro's Westside Middle School.

"People saw real threats to the safety and security of their students," Sullivan said.

A school discipline form provided by the boy's mother and signed by Sullivan says the child was suspended because he "took a chicken strip off his plate, pointed it at (a teacher) and said 'Pow, pow, pow,' like he was shooting her."

Sullivan said punishment for a threat "depends on the tone, the demeanor, and in some manner you judge the intent. It's not the object in the hand, it's the thought in the mind. Is a plastic fork worse than a metal fork? Is a pencil a weapon?"

G. Gordon Liddy Defamation Trial Goes To Jury
Associated Press Writer

BALTIMORE JANUARY 31, 2001 (AP) - The $5.1 million defamation lawsuit against Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy went to the jury Wednesday after his attorney accused former White House counsel John Dean of using the case to squash theories that suggest he organized the break-in.

Dean "is using the judicial process to enforce his own official story of Watergate," Liddy attorney John Williams said in closing arguments.

The conventional theory is that the Watergate burglars were sent to Democratic National Committee headquarters in 1972 to find political intelligence for President Nixon's re-election campaign.

But Liddy, now a 70-year-old talk show host, told jurors he now believes the group was sent to find photos of call girls, including Dean's future wife, Maureen, that were kept in the desk of Ida Wells, then a young DNC secretary.

Wells testified that the only thing in her desk were "office supplies, hand lotion and reports." She is the one who sued Liddy for publicly linking her to the alleged call-girl ring.

Jury deliberations were expected to resume Thursday.

Liddy's testimony was his first about the particulars of the botched break-in. He refused to testify during his 1973 trial and was sentenced to more than 20 years in prison. He had served four years and four months when President Carter commuted his sentence.

John and Maureen Dean have denied Liddy's call-girl theory, and both sued Liddy and others for libel in 1992. That case against Liddy was dismissed last year, though it can be refiled.

Wells' attorney, David Dorsen, said Liddy's hatred of Dean -- he testified this week that Dean wasn't worth the bullet needed to kill him -- has blinded him to the truth about his client.

"Not one person has been produced to say Maxie Wells engaged in the horrible conduct that Mr. Liddy has accused her of," Dorsen said.

Liddy's hatred drove him to rely on Phillip Mackin Bailley, a convicted felon, as the source for his claims that photos of prostitutes were in Wells' desk, Dorsen said.

Bailley testified that he doesn't recall significant events in his life from the past three decades and said he was on medication for bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia.

"Mr. Liddy is willing to pin everything and anything or Mr. Dean" and "conveniently ignores anything that stands in his way," Dorsen said.

Williams, however, said Liddy has thoroughly investigated the call-girl theory and he told the nine jurors they were deciding whether it should be excised from history.

"This case is not just about what Mr. Liddy can say in the future. It's about what anybody can say in the future," Williams said. "No one should be able to censor debate by bringing a lawsuit."

Wells' attorney said in rebuttal, "There is no free ride ... to defame somebody when you're talking about Watergate."

Survey Examines Cancer Among Former Atomic Workers
Anchorage Daily News

ANCHORAGE  JANUARY 31, 2001 - At least 20 people who worked on Amchitka Island in Alaska during an atomic testing program three decades ago have developed types of cancers often associated with radiation, and a new health study is under way that could identify others.

So far, 1,060 former Amchitka workers have been identified, and medical screening exams have been conducted on 43.

Results of those tests are back on 37 people, "and we have detected one compensable case through the screening program, of leukemia," said Dr. Knut Ringen, principal investigator for the Amchitka health study.

About 20 workers already known to have radiation-related cancers are not included in the screening results, Ringen said.

The health survey, funded through the U.S. Department of Energy, began last summer and is expected to continue for at least two more years. Ringen's group expects to complete exams on another 300 people by June 30, and on another 750 by June 30, 2002.

The numbers of cancers detected so far, and the number of people examined, are too small to be statistically significant, medical experts said.

A federal law passed last year will provide $150,000 in compensation to Amchitka workers who have developed any of 21 types of cancers, beryllium disease or chronic silicosis believed to be related to their work in the atomic program. The compensation package was included in a defense spending bill passed by Congress last year. Survivors of workers who have died of those diseases may also be eligible.
Punxsutawney Phil Sees Shadow
Associated Press Writer

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. FEBRUARY 02, 2001 (AP) — With temperatures just below freezing, flurries falling and lingering snow crunching underfoot, Punxsutawney Phil — the world's most famous groundhog — saw his shadow Friday morning. According to legend, that means winter will stick around for six more weeks. In the past 155 years, Phil has seen his shadow 101 times.

The prospect of six more weeks of winter wasn't welcome news to Miriam Wise, 11.

"I want spring so I can go barefoot and start planting,'' Miriam said as she walked along a downtown street toward the library which is the makeshift zoo for the groundhog.

Bill Cooper, president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle, was charged with interpreting Phil's predictions. He interpreted Phil's squeaks and body language after the groundhog exited from his hole.

"Groundhogese is like no other language. I can just take a look at his expression and tell,'' Cooper said. "He decides. I just interpret what he sees.''

The Groundhog Day tradition is rooted in a German superstition that if an animal casts a shadow on Feb. 2 — the Christian holiday of Candlemas — bad weather is coming.

The Punxsutawney Chamber of Commerce was expecting 15,000 to 20,000 visitors to join Phil in town, more than the 10,000 to 12,000 who arrived last year.

Anna Nicole Smith Rages in Court
Associated Press Writer

HOUSTON FEBRUARY 02, 2001 (AP) — It was a tempest on the stand for Anna Nicole Smith: The former stripper Playboy centerfold ended a round of testimony in her late husband's inheritance trial by storming out of the courtroom and leaving the judge threatening to have her investigated for perjury.

The trial, already 4 months old, pits Pierce Marshall against his disinherited brother, J. Howard Marshall III, 63, in a war over the estate of their multimillionaire father. J. Howard Marshall II died in 1995, 14 months after he married Smith when he was 89, and she was 26.

Smith, now 33, exploded in anger Wednesday when an attorney for Pierce Marshall, her 61-year-old stepson, asked her to post bond to ensure she would be back Feb. 12 to resume her testimony.

Smith dropped out of the trial a month ago after a federal bankruptcy judge awarded her $475 million, about a quarter of the estimated value of the estate. However, she was still compelled to testify because of a countersuit by Pierce Marshall, who says she unlawfully interfered with his inheritance.

Smith's three days of testimony this week have brought life to the trial, with episodes of crying and pouting from the model and sarcastic exchanges between her and Pierce Marshall's attorney, Rusty Hardin.

Probate Judge Mike Wood at one point threatened to slap Smith with a contempt of court citation if she didn't stop repeating a string of unsubstantiated accusations against Pierce Marshall — including claims that he had both his father and his father's former mistress killed.

"She is continually using this as an opportunity to make up stories, and she can't do that,'' Wood told Smith's attorney, Tom Cuningham, while Smith was still on the stand Wednesday. "Try to explain to her she can't say these things.''

Wood said he found reprehensible Smith's accusation that an anesthesiologist, acting on Pierce Marshall's order, delivered a lethal dose of medication to Jewell DiAnne "Lady'' Walker, who had been J. Howard Marshall's previous companion.

"I don't think there's a question she committed perjury on several elements of what she was saying,'' Wood said.

Smith has insisted she didn't lie to the court, though she admits she has no proof to back up the claim. She also has accused Pierce Marshall of shredding documents that showed his father had promised her half the estate.

When Hardin asked Smith for documents proving her late husband wanted her to have half his estate, Smith responded: "I'm sorry. I'll have to get back to you.''

Pierce Marshall is appealing the federal bankruptcy court's award. His attorneys have also claimed the late oilman's estate is actually worth only about $60 million.

The judge denied the request that Smith post bond.

Cell-Like Shapes May Form in Space
AP Science Writer

WASHINGTON JANUARY 30, 2001 (AP) — Scientists exploring ways that the elements for life could have originated in space have demonstrated in the lab that simple chemicals can form cell-like shapes in conditions that mimic the cold and vacuum of space. In a study appearing Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers report that ices made of water, methanol, ammonia and carbon monoxide can spontaneously form membrane-like structures when exposed in a cold vacuum to ultraviolet radiation, conditions like those in space.

The study supports the long-proposed theory that some of the elements essential for life could have formed in space and been delivered to the early Earth by comets, meteorites and interplanetary dust.

"Scientists believe the molecules needed to make a cell's membrane and thus for the origin of life are all over space,'' said Louis Allamandola, a NASA scientist at the Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "This implies that life could be everywhere in the universe.''

The research is the latest of a long line of laboratory experiments that have shown that simple chemicals, when exposed to natural forms of energy, such as ultraviolet radiation or heat, can form into complex molecules that have implications for the formation of life.

The authors noted that earlier experiments demonstrated that organic compounds removed from meteorites could be prompted in the laboratory to produce a variety of self-assembled structures similar to the membranes made in the new experiments.

Life is thought to have arisen on Earth within about 200 million years after the planet formed some 4.6 billion years ago. The planet is thought to have been pounded by asteroids and comets for millions of years. The new experiment supports the theory that the basic ingredients for life could been brought to Earth during this space bombardment.

Astronomers using telescopes have detected around distant stars the presence of complex hydrocarbons and other compounds regarded as essential for the formation of life.

Microbe-like shapes also were found in a meteorite thought to have come from Mars. NASA scientists in 1996 hailed the discovery as possible evidence that primitive bacteria once existed on Mars, but other researchers have disputed that interpretation.


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