Originally created 01/23/04

Across the Southeast



Arkansas high court takes over schools

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -The Arkansas Supreme Court claimed control Thursday over the state's school system, saying the Legislature had missed its deadline to come up with a plan to resolve a decades-long fight over school quality.

The justices said they will appoint a special master to recommend ways to bring education up to constitutional standards. The Legislature can continue its attempts to address the issue, but the court will decide whether they are adequate.

The court did not order the state to fund schools with money earmarked for other services and departments - a move requested by the school district that started the case. Arkansas officials had developed what Gov. Mike Huckabee called a "doomsday" plan to keep essential services running in case justices made such a ruling.

Retirement home fire is traced to outlet

MARYVILLE, Tenn. -A fire that killed three people at a retirement home was traced to a bedroom electrical outlet, and state fire marshals ruled the blaze an accident Thursday.

Special Agent Bob Pollard said an appliance was plugged into the outlet, but fire damage made it unclear what kind. Investigators also could not tell whether the appliance or the wiring caused the blaze.

Lucille Law, 87; Molly Wright, 84, and Rosa Cheeks, 82, died in the fire Tuesday night at Home Away From Home Inc. retirement center in Maryville, about 15 miles east of Knoxville. Twelve others were injured.

Three victims remained in critical condition Thursday at Vanderbilt University Medical Center's burn unit in Nashville. Three others were in stable condition at Blount Memorial Hospital in Maryville.

Official seeks inquiry over graphic e-mail

BATON ROUGE, La. -The president of the Louisiana Senate has asked for an investigation into whether the Senate's top administrator intentionally sent an e-mail containing graphic sexual images and jokes to government workers.

Senate Secretary Mike Baer contends he was trying to delete the items from his e-mail box but accidentally forwarded them Jan. 16 to legislators, their staff and members of the governor's office.

The mailing contained several attachments Mr. Baer received from others, including jokes that contained sexual content. Also attached was a three-minute video that focused entirely on female genitalia.