December 24, 2004 in Nation/World

Briefly

Compiled from wire reports The Spokesman-Review
 

Plane stuck in the mud off runway causes delay of hundreds of flights

Richmond, Va. An aborted U-turn by an American Airlines jet Thursday sent it sliding into a muddy field at Richmond International Airport, creating delays and cancellations that affected at least 100 other flights.

No one was injured in the 8:20 a.m. incident, which occurred as American Eagle Flight 1239, bound for Dallas with 129 passengers, was taxiing before takeoff.

As the twin-engine MD-80 aircraft began turning toward a runway, the pilot “misjudged the radius of his aircraft and got stuck in the mud,” said Arlene Salac, regional spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The entire plane was about eight feet off the runway, mired in up to six inches of mud, witnesses told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The mishap occurred at an intersection between the two major runways, forcing the airport to limit landings and takeoffs to smaller jets able to use a shorter runway.

It took airline crews and airport fire and rescue personnel until late afternoon to extricate the plane.

One of the main runways was back in service by midafternoon, and by 7 p.m. the airport was returning to normal operation

Report: Abuse deaths preventable

Tallahassee, Fla. Ninety-five children died of abuse or neglect in Florida last year – with 35 of those deaths occurring after at least one report of abuse or neglect was filed with the state, according to a report released Thursday.

Ten of the deaths involving previously reported child abuse definitely could have been prevented by the Department of Children & Families or other agencies in the child welfare system, and two others possibly could have been prevented, the report said.

The vast majority of the children’s deaths – 81 percent – could have been prevented by a caretaker other than the one responsible for the death, according to the annual report from the Florida Child Abuse Death Review Team.

The agency had worked toward reforming itself in recent years after criticism over high-profile failures in which caseworkers lost track of children, left them in abusive situations and falsified reports.

Oprah’s OK means big book sales

Provo, Utah A new study confirms what many already knew: Oprah Winfrey’s book endorsements are good as gold to publishers.

“Oprah’s recommendations had a bigger impact on the sales of books than anything we have previously seen in literature, or seen since,” said Brigham Young University economics professor Richard Butler, whose findings were published in the latest issue of the journal Publishing Research Quarterly.

Butler found that Winfrey’s recommendation was enough to lift books from obscurity and to keep them on the best-seller lists longer than other titles.

Using USA Today’s weekly 150-item best-seller list, Butler and his team of students went about examining the 45 non-children’s titles Winfrey picked from her book club’s inception in 1996 until she announced its end in 2002.

Of those books, only 11 had been on the best-seller list before her recommendation, and none of them had gone beyond No. 25. Of the first 11 books that Winfrey picked, all went to at least No. 4 within a week, Butler said.

Among those most affected were “Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver, which was on the best-seller list for 137 weeks, and Billie Letts’ “Where the Heart Is,” which lasted 98 weeks.

Winfrey restarted the picks last summer but now recommends only classics.

Woman charged with dosing shakes

Troy, Mich. A woman tried to kill her husband and teenage son by serving them milkshakes laced with lethal doses of prescription medication, authorities said. Both were hospitalized but recovered.

Mary Ellen Cannon, 46, was charged Monday with five felony counts, including attempted murder and poisoning, said Deborah Carley, an Oakland County prosecutor. The motive was unclear, authorities said.

Authorities say Cannon apparently ground up her own medication to put into the fast food restaurant milkshakes she served to Richard Shaw, 57, and Ian Shaw, 13, on Oct. 26.

Richard Shaw collapsed and went into a coma and the boy became ill later, Carley said. The husband was hospitalized for 11 days and Ian for three.

Tests on the milkshakes detected lethal doses of prescription medication for pain, sleep disorders, panic attacks and blood pressure regulation, authorities said.

Inauguration donations still growing

Washington More than $8 million has been donated by corporations and individuals to fund President Bush’s reinauguration ceremonies, according to figures released Thursday.

The team handling the festivities announced more than 20 new contributors, including seven who donated $250,000, the maximum amount sought.

Six of those are in the financial services industry: Corporate Capital LLC of New Orleans; Argent Mortgage Co. of Orange, Calif.; Ameriquest Capital Corp. of Orange, Calif.; Long Beach Acceptance Corp. of Paramus, N.J.; Town and Country Credit of Irvine, Calif.; and Golden Eagle Industries Inc. of Charlotte, N.C.

Oil company ChevronTexaco Corp. also contributed $250,000. Other energy companies whose donations were announced previously include Exxon Mobil Corp. and Occidental Petroleum Corp.

The committee said two weeks ago that it planned to raise $40 million to $50 million for the inaugural events, scheduled for Jan. 18-21.

Chicago eBay auction nets $242,000

Chicago The city’s eBay auction of Chicago-specific experiences and treasures ended Wednesday night after raising more than $242,000 for the city’s arts and cultural programs – including the winning $7,600 bid for the opportunity to dye the Chicago River green March 17.

The top bid came in at $21,000 for a wedding package that includes catering for 100 in the city’s ornate Chicago Cultural Center overlooking Michigan Avenue. The second biggest draw – dinner for 10 with television broadcaster Bill Kurtis, accompanied by a documentary about the winning bidder’s life – went for $18,600.

A fiberglass “moollennium cow” from the Cows on Parade exhibit went for $8,100. The chance to turn on Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain: $3,026.

The $242,210.48 raised will help three nonprofit groups involved in arts-related education, job training and funding.

Trees put a drag on fuel economy

Montpelier, Vt. Strapping that Christmas tree to the top of a sport utility vehicle can be a real drag.

A couple of engineers at the University of Vermont claim that sport utility vehicles topped with trees have 26 percent more aerodynamic drag than treeless SUVs.

Knowing the energy density of gasoline, typical engine efficiencies and the number of trees sold, they concluded that an extra 53,000 gallons of gas are used each year to retrieve trees.

And given high fuel costs, that translates to a nationwide total of about $100,000.

“It’s a modest impact per vehicle, but nonetheless when you add it all up the gross effect is not negligible,” said Darren Hitt, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the university.

Hitt, whose main research project is with the U.S. Air Force looking at miniaturized compulsion systems for next generation satellites, said he’s part of a research group that favors satire.

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