THE SALINA JOURNAI T AUCTION NATION WEDNESDAY, MAY 20, 1998 A3 Rug sale becomes silent auction "Navajos 1 hopes dashed when mammoth rug fails to attract a single bidder By.TIM WHITMIRE The Associated Press NEW YORK _ The brutal economics of the auction block disappointed members of a Navajo community Tuesday who had hoped that selling a massive, handmade rug would raise enough money to save their local health clinic. Instead, the 28-by-26-foot rug known as "Little Sister" was removed from sale after no bidders emerged at a Sotheby's auction. It took a dozen weavers in the remote northeastern Arizona town of Chilchinbeto 10 months to make "Little Sister" in 1983 and 1984. But it took just seconds for the Sotheby's expert in charge of American Indian art, Ellen Taubman, to see there were no bidders in the room Tuesday afternoon. "We really wanted to do something for the Navajo," she said. "I personally am disappointed." Bill Battles, the attorney representing the nonprofit clinic, said the people of Chilchinbeto had hoped the rug would sell for as tfiuch as $3.5 million. That would J)e enough to set up an endowment Whose interest would pay the clinic's $300,000 annual operating costs. Battles said residents turned down an earlier offer in hopes of getting more at auction. Now, the clinic will have to try to find another buyer. The predominantly red, gray and black rug, composed of 25 panels, was woven as a giant insurance policy, to be sold if funding for the clinic ever dried up. T CONSUMER SAFETY The Associated Press Navajo Medicine Man Albert Damon Sr. (left) Is assisted by William Battles, both of Window Rock. Ariz., while blessing a Navajo rug titled "Little Sister" at Sotheby's auction house in New York. The Navajo community was hoping to sell the rug to fund its health clinic, but there were no takers. That came last year, when officials for the Navajo tribe and the Indian Health Service said they could no longer fully fund the clinic, which treats about 4,000 patients a year and serves some 12,000 people. Shortly after the clinic scaled back its operations, including emergency care, a string of car accidents claimed the lives of a local elementary school principal and several children. "As these things started to accumulate, (residents) realized they had to take action," Battles said. "This was, frankly, the only thing, they felt they had to sell," he said. "They have plenty of dirt, plenty of sage, plenty of clean air. If they could bottle that, maybe they'd have something." "Little Sister" was the second rug made on a giant loom built in the 1970s by the Office of Navajo Economic Opportunity. The first rug, "Big Brother," measures 38 feet by 26 feet and is the largest handmade Navajo rug in the world. Woven in 1976, a communi- Judge says sprinklers can be recalled By The Associated Press. RICHMOND, Va. — A judge has rejected a sprinkler company's claim that the Consumer Product Safety Commission lacks the authority to seek a recall of 10 million Omega fire sprinklers in use around the nation. The commission took the unusual step in March of asking U.S. Administrative Law Judge William B. Moran to order the recall, saying the sprinklers are too Jikely to fail in a fire. ; The Lansdale, Pa.-based Central Sprinkler Co. had sought dismissal of the agency's recall lawsuit on grounds that sprinklers are not consumer products and that the commission had no jurisdiction over them. The company said fire sprinklers are part of a building's structure and are not marketed or sold to consumers. The agency argued that sprinklers are a consumer product be'- cause they are made for use by consumers and because consumers would be exposed to safety hazards if they didn't work. The judge agreed. "It would be incongruous ... to conclude that a product whose entire function is safety related is outside the Consumer Product Safety Act's scope," he said in a ruling last week. Carmine Schiavone, Central Sprinkler's vice president for customer relations, said Tuesday the company's lawyers are considering an appeal. Omegas are installed in schools, hospitals, hotels, homes and office buildings. They are even in the White House, the U.S. Capitol and 80 other federal buildings. ty ordinance prohibits its sale. Shortly after "Little Sister" was taken off the loom in 1983, a fire destroyed the loom. The clinic's acting director, Elaine Nephew, said she had mixed feelings about the rug not selling. The clinic desperately needs the money, but she also had been worried about selling such an important part of the community. "Both ways, it would have hurt," she said in a telephone interview from Arizona. 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