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Va. House approves bill on Ten Commandments



Published: Sat, February 9, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Va. House approves billon Ten Commandments

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia's House of Delegates approved a bill Friday that would allow public schools to post the Ten Commandments.

The measure, which now goes to the Senate, would require the state board of education to write guidelines for displaying the Ten Commandments in classrooms, along with the text from three secular documents: the First Amendment, the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Constitution.

It would be up to local school officials whether to display the texts.

The House voted 52-46 on Friday to send the measure to the Senate. Gov. Mark Warner has not taken a position on the bill.

The bill's Republican sponsor, Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter, said he went to great lengths to ensure the measure passes constitutional muster.

The bill originally applied only to the Ten Commandments, but was amended to include the nonreligious documents. The state attorney general's office has said the measure did not appear to violate the constitutionally required separation of church and state.

Marines recognize manas Navajo Code Talker

WASHINGTON -- The Marine Corps has concluded that David Tsosie served as a Navajo Code Talker during World War II and is entitled to a Congressional Silver Medal that had been denied to him.

Tsosie, 79, had expected to get his medal during a ceremony last year honoring hundreds of other Navajo Code Talkers. But the Marine Corps said it lacked proof that Tsosie had actually been one of the group, which shipped messages coded in their native language in the war's Pacific theater.

But after further investigation, the Marine Corps found that Tsosie graduated from Navajo Communications School on Sept. 7, 1943, and that he was entitled to an award, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said Friday.

The two members of Congress, who sponsored the legislation to honor the Code Talkers with congressional medals of honor, had urged the Pentagon to investigate Tsosie's status.

"Because Code Talkers were sworn to secrecy, they were not properly honored until a few short months ago, some 50 years after the end of World War II. But for Mr. Tsosie, the wait has been even longer," Bingaman said in a statement.

OSHA: Forest Servicedisregarded safety

YAKIMA, Wash. -- The Forest Service willfully disregarded employee safety at a wildfire last summer in which four firefighters were killed, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Friday.

OSHA said the Forest Service did not provide a place of employment that was "free of recognized hazards that could cause serious harm or death."

It noted, as the Forest Service had in its own investigation, that fire managers violated 10 basic firefighting safety rules and ignored or disregarded 10 of the 18 warnings signs for danger.

OSHA also found that the Forest Service failed to follow its own guidelines for work and rest; that there were questions about who was in charge at different times during the fire; and that there were not good plans for deploying fire shelters when the firefighters couldn't escape the flames.

The Thirty Mile fire, started by an abandoned campfire, blew up July 10, going from 25 acres to 2,500 acres in less than three hours. Fourteen Forest Service firefighters and two campers were trapped by the inferno in the narrow Chewuch River canyon in Washington state's Okanogan National Forest.

Tom Craven, 30, Devin Weaver, 21, Jessica Johnson, 19, and Karen FitzPatrick, 18, died from breathing superheated air in their emergency fire shelters on a rock slope.

A fifth firefighter, Jason Emhoff, was seriously burned after he fled his shelter and ran.

Court halts execution

ANGOLA, La. -- The U.S. Supreme Court halted the execution of a Louisiana inmate Friday night less than a half-hour before he was scheduled to die.

Warden Burl Cain told inmate Leslie Martin and witnesses that the justices had blocked the execution so they can consider whether to hear Martin's appeal.

"The prisoner was a little bit stunned, a little bit shocked," Cain said. He said Martin, a Buddhist, was sitting on the floor of his cell with his spiritual adviser when he got word of the stay.

Martin, 34, was convicted of raping, killing and mutilating 19-year-old Christina Burgin in Lake Charles in 1991. Her parents were among witnesses at the prison.

Appeals centered on several issues, including Martin's claim that prosecutors had no physical evidence of rape -- an important element since rape was an aggravating factor which backed up the death sentence under Louisiana law.

Defense attorney Clive Stafford-Smith has also challenged testimony that Martin confessed to another inmate while in jail.

Prosecutors said Martin choked the victim, cut her throat, gouged her eyes out, put a board on her neck and jumped up and down on it, then left her body in a shed.




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