Nation digest 11/19/02

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Alabama's Democratic governor concedes race

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Saying he didn't want to hurt Alabama, Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman gave up his bid for a second term Monday and conceded the nation's last undecided governor's race to Republican Rep. Bob Riley.

Riley, 58, will become just the third Republican governor in Alabama since Reconstruction when he is inaugurated in January. The GOP now holds a 26-24 advantage over Democrats in governorships.

Siegelman, who announced his decision at the state Capitol, said he felt he could have won a recount, but it would have taken months of legal wrangling.

"So for the good of the state of Alabama, for the good of our people, I am dropping my request for a recount," Siegelman said.

Siegelman and Riley spent months and more than $22 million trading attack ads.

Court says county can't force chemo on child

CANTON, Ohio -- The parents of a 7-year-old cannot be forced to treat his leukemia with chemotherapy and can pursue a diet-based alternative, a judge ruled Monday.

The parents' decision was carefully researched and does not constitute neglect, Stark County Family Court Judge David Stucki ruled. "These are not parents who refused medical treatment or who elected to take Noah to a witch doctor or a shaman," he said.

The county's social services agency had accused Theresa and Greg Maxin of neglect for pulling their son, Noah, out of a 3 1/2-year chemotherapy plan after three months. The Maxins said they were concerned the chemicals would lead to long-term health problems.

The couple switched Noah to a diet-based regimen designed to strengthen his immune system under the guidance of a physician licensed in both family medicine and holistic treatments.

Child calls 911, reports drunken baby sitter

COVINGTON, La. -- A baby sitter with five children in her car was arrested for drunken driving after she passed out at a rest stop and one of her charges, a 7-year-old girl, used a cell phone to call 911.

Linda Hebert, 40, of Picayune, Miss., was found slumped over the steering wheel Sunday and the car was still running, the St. Tammany Parish sheriff's office said. The children were unhurt.

Hebert's blood-alcohol level registered 0.27 on a breath test, well over the 0.10 limit, the report said. She remained jailed Monday.

Zoo handler crushed by elephant during walk

PITTSBURGH -- A three-ton elephant crushed its handler to death Monday while being taken for its morning walk at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

The accident happened before the zoo opened for the day.

Two zookeepers were walking the 18-year-old female African elephant and her 3-year-old calf when the 6,200-pound adult stopped, said Barbara Baker, zoo president and chief executive.

When one of the keepers, Mike Gatti, 46, tried to get the animal moving, it hit him and knocked him to the ground, she said. The animal then pinned Gatti with her head, crushing him, she said.

Baker said the elephant would not be destroyed because it is an endangered species.

'Harry Potter' earns $88 million over weekend

LOS ANGELES -- Harry Potter hasn't lost any of his magic at the box office.

"Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," the second installment in the fantasy franchise based on J.K. Rowling's novels, took in $88.4 million during its opening weekend, according to studio estimates.

That would be the third-best debut ever, behind the record $114.8 million that "Spider-Man" grossed in its first three days last spring and the $90.3 million haul of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" a year ago.

With generally better audience and critical reaction for the new movie, Fellman said the studio hopes "Chamber of Secrets" will surpass the $317.6 million total of "Sorcerer's Stone."

-- From wire reports

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