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Memorial to slain gay student is dedicated

LARAMIE, WYO. --- The nation -- and the city of Laramie -- has become more accepting of gays and lesbians in the 10 years since a gay University of Wyoming student was beaten, lashed to a lonely fence and left to die, his mother said Saturday.

"We've learned a lot, we've talked a lot; we do it in public forums now," Judy Shepard said at a ceremony dedicating a bench to her son, Matthew Shepard. "So it's a wonderful tribute to Matt that these kinds of things are discussed."

Mr. Shepard died Oct. 12, 1998, five days after he was found brutally beaten and tied to the fence outside Laramie. The two men who killed him are serving life sentences.

The crime triggered nationwide sympathy and revulsion and brought a re-examination of attitudes toward gays.

Dennis Shepard, Matthew's father, said he hopes people enjoy the bench, which sits outside the university's arts and sciences building.

A plaque affixed to the bench, paid for by the foundation, reads: "Matthew Wayne Shepard Dec. 1, 1976-Oct. 12, 1998. Beloved son, brother, and friend. He continues to make a difference. Peace be with him and all who sit here."

Ohio says Ike to blame for millions in damage

COLUMBUS, OHIO --- Damages caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ike in Ohio could hit $500 million or higher, making it one of the state's costliest natural disasters.

The Ohio Insurance Institute says $500 million is a preliminary figure and it could go higher when the group issues its official estimates this week, spokeswoman Mary Bonelli said Saturday.

The Sept. 14 storm knocked out electrical service for 2.6 million customers in Ohio. Wind reaching 78 mph swept across the region, and at least seven of the 56 deaths blamed on Hurricane Ike -- from Texas to Pennsylvania -- were in Ohio.

The hurricane's remnants also dumped as much as 8 inches of rain on parts of Indiana, Illinois and Missouri, and it spawned a tornado in Arkansas.

Ohio officials say the storm cost local governments at least $34.5 million. However, Tamara McBride, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, says that estimate is based on reports from only 33 of 84 affected counties.

In other news

TWO BROTHERS -- an infant and a toddler -- have been found dead in the smoldering ruins of a Louisiana apartment building that caught fire. Fire officials in Reserve, about 40 miles west of New Orleans, say the building was engulfed in flames by the time they arrived Saturday afternoon.


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