Originally created 05/10/04

Across the southeast



Returned hostage gets church greeting

MACON, Miss. - Former hostage Thomas Hamill was greeted with hugs from fellow churchgoers Sunday as he attended services with his family.

The Rev. Greg Duncan told a congregation of more than 100 people at Calvary Baptist Church that he thanked God for the family's strength and called Mr. Hamill's wife, Kellie, "a special mother" for her fortitude through her husband's ordeal.

Mr. Hamill, who had expressed a desire "to get back to some normalcy" after the excitement of his return from Iraq early Saturday, did not speak to reporters Sunday.

Mr. Hamill, 44, a truck driver, was wounded and captured when his convoy was ambushed April 9. He escaped May 2 from a farmhouse about 50 miles north of Baghdad and ran a half-mile to a patrol of U.S. military vehicles.

Accident kills woman who was held in Iran

RECTORTOWN, VA. - Elizabeth Ann Swift Cronin, one of two women held hostage for 444 days after the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran, in 1979, died Friday in a horseback riding accident. She was 63.

Ms. Cronin was the ranking political officer at the embassy when Iranian students angered by American policies seized the compound. She and Kathryn Koob, then the director of the Iran-American Society, were kept largely separated from the 50 men also taken captive.

After her release in January 1981, she continued her State Department career with postings in Greece, Jamaica and London and served as a deputy assistant secretary of state for overseas citizens services. She retired in 1995.

Florida botanists brace for weed fight

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. - Environmentalists in Florida are gearing up for a new plant menace that smothers vegetation, robs wildlife of valuable habitat and could be worse than that well-known Southern scourge kudzu.

It's called the Old World climbing fern, a weed that starts as shoots of just 2 to 5 inches with several pairs of yellow-green leaves.

Left to its own devices, it can climb 90 feet high into tree canopies and create a tangle of vines so thick that birds and animals have difficulty navigating through it.

"The alarm level is staggering to those of us that have lived with it since first reports," said Mike Bodle, the senior scientist for the South Florida Water Management District and chairman of the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, who said the plant's spores can be carried for miles by the wind. Researchers are looking for control methods.