Originally created 06/05/06

Across the southeast

South needs culture of learning, report says

NEW ORLEANS - Improvements in education and development of a culture of innovation and learning are keys to the South's economic future, according to a report released Sunday by a North Carolina-based think tank.

The Southern Growth Policy Board said its findings were based on the opinions of 4,000 Southerners, gleaned from surveys and from opinions voiced at retreats and community forums around the region.

The report bemoans the United States' declining role in research and development of new technology worldwide and said the South's overall spending on industrial research and development has stagnated.

Students found dead inside helium balloon

LUTZ, Fla. - Two college students were found dead in a large deflated helium balloon after apparently pulling it down and crawling in, officials said.

The deaths of Jason Ackerman and Sara Rydman, both 21, appear to be accidental, Hillsborough County sheriff's Maj. Bob Schrader said.

Their bodies were found Saturday partially inside the deflated balloon at the entrance of a condominium complex a few miles north of Tampa. The 8-foot-wide balloon was used to advertise the complex.

The county medical examiner said Sunday that the cause of death won't be released for six weeks. Inhaling helium can quickly lead to brain damage and death from lack of oxygen, according to the Compressed Gas Association.

High court might look at prisoner's sanity

RICHMOND, VA. - Percy Walton's attorneys describe their client as a man who has lost all touch with reality: He keeps no personal effects in his death row cell, save for a mountain of salt and pepper packets.

When asked what he believes will happen to him if he is executed, Mr. Walton responds that he'd go to Burger King, the attorneys say.

Whether Mr. Walton - who is scheduled to die by injection Thursday - is indeed insane and mentally retarded has been debated for nearly a decade.

The question of his sanity is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, which has just days to decide whether to take the case and determine whether Mr. Walton should be executed for the 1996 slayings of three neighbors.

Mr. Walton, 27, pleaded guilty in 1997 to the murders of Jessie and Elizabeth Kendrick, a couple in their 80s, and 33-year-old Archie Moore.


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