Across the Southeast

Group fights Segway ban at theme parks


ORLANDO, FLA. - Advocates for the disabled want two theme parks to lift a ban on Segways, saying the scooters give people who can't walk a degree of freedom not afforded by wheelchairs.

Some employees at Walt Disney World use Segways, but officials there and at SeaWorld Orlando said the two-wheeled scooters could be dangerous if used by visitors.

"We're not turning people away," said Disney World spokeswoman Kim Prunty. "We're turning away a particular form of transportation."

Disability Rights Advocates for Technology, which raises money to donate Segways to disabled U.S. military veterans and pushes for their acceptance, is asking the parks to lift the ban.

Disney officials said they see serious safety concerns if untrained visitors ride the scooters on the same crowded walkways as toddlers, the elderly and other people with disabilities. They also worry because Segways can go faster than 12 mph, they say.

SeaWorld spokeswoman Becca Bides said the park had similar concerns.

Universal Orlando permits disabled riders on Segways on a case-by-case basis, park officials said.

Convention will pick GOP Senate candidate

RICHMOND, VA. - Virginia Republicans will hold a convention instead of a primary to choose their candidate to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. John W. Warner, upsetting critics who say it makes the party appear closed off.

The state party's central committee voted 47-37 on Saturday in favor of a convention. No date or location was decided.

Former Gov. Jim Gilmore and U.S. Rep. Tom Davis have expressed interest in seeking the GOP nomination. Supporters of Mr. Gilmore wanted a convention, while Davis backers had argued for a primary.

John Warner, 80, announced in August that he would not seek a sixth consecutive Senate term next year. Two weeks later, Democrat Mark R. Warner - a popular multimillionaire former governor who is not related to the senator - announced his candidacy for the seat.

Supporters of a convention argued that it's more economical and that the party would avoid a divisive public squabble between GOP rivals in a primary.

Black wing of state party backs Clinton

HOOVER, ALA. - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton won the endorsement Saturday of the black wing of the Alabama Democratic Party by capitalizing on long friendships that Barack Obama couldn't match.

The Alabama Democratic Conference endorsed Mrs. Clinton by an overwhelming voice vote moments after she addressed the audience of about 700. No other candidate was nominated for an endorsement.

A conference member, Madison County Commissioner Bob Harrison, of Huntsville, said Mr. Obama was the sentimental favorite for him and many others, but Mrs. Clinton was the practical choice.

"This is the political reality of what the outcome is going to be for the Democratic nomination," he said.

Obama regional organizer Anthony Johnson passed out Obama buttons outside the event and predicted strong black support for the Illinois senator in Alabama's presidential primary Feb. 5.

"We have a lot of anonymous support," he said.