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Archive for Thursday, April 1, 2004

Briefly

April 1, 2004

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Washington, D.C.

Republican discord sidelines highway bill

A major highway and transit spending bill temporarily stalled Wednesday in the House as Republican leaders struggled to deal with a presidential veto threat and disunity within their ranks.

After hours of closed-door meetings, House Republicans said they were ready to try again today to pass a six-year, $275 billion bill. The veto threat still loomed, although the main point of dispute among lawmakers was how the states would divide up one of the largest pots of money that Washington makes available to state governments.

The legislation, which would spread infrastructure projects around the country and create hundreds of thousands of jobs, is a top legislative priority this year. But it has faced a rocky legislative path, with lawmakers seeking more money to make roads safer and less congested and the administration demanding a smaller budget in the interest of fiscal discipline.

Canada

Study: SARS vaccine showing promise

An experimental SARS vaccine protected mice against the respiratory illness that killed nearly 800 people worldwide last year, but a safe and effective vaccine for humans is probably still a long way off.

Results published in today's issue of the journal Nature show the vaccine triggered an immune response in the mice and dramatically reduced the level of the virus in the lungs of inoculated mice.

But researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which developed the gene-based vaccine, said more experiments were needed to determine whether it would work in humans.

"I don't think it's a home run," said Dr. Robert Brunham, director of the University of British Columbia Centre for Disease Control in Canada.

Minneapolis

Game show host Art James dies

Art James, who was an announcer or host for a dozen TV game shows for three decades, including "Concentration" and "Family Feud Challenge," has died. He was 74.

James, who lived in Chaska, died Sunday in Palm Springs, Calif., his former wife, Sandra Pietron, said Wednesday. Pietron, also of Chaska, said he was stricken by a sudden illness and the cause of death was not known.

James worked as an announcer on "Concentration," which ran from 1958 to 1973.

"One of the gentlemen from his Army days was an executive with NBC and asked Art to audition for this new game show, 'Concentration,' with Hugh Downs, who needed an announcer," said his first wife, Jane Hamilton.

"He was nervous as a cat, but he got it," said Hamilton, who lives in Los Angeles.

Virginia

Defendant executed for store clerk's death

A man was put to death by injection Wednesday night for robbing and murdering a convenience store clerk in Virginia's second execution in as many weeks.

Asked if he wanted to make a final statement, Dennis Orbe quietly said no.

Orbe was accompanied into the death chamber by his spiritual adviser, a Catholic nun who placed a small wooden cross holding a green plastic Jesus to Orbe's lips before she retreated to the witness booth.

Orbe's attorney wept silently in the back row of the booth. Orbe was pronounced dead at 9:13 p.m.

Other witnesses included York County Commonwealth's Attorney Eileen Addison.

"I thought about his mother and his family," said Addison, who prosecuted Orbe. "But you still hope it gives some kind of closure to the victim's family."

Surveillance tape showed Orbe shooting clerk Rick Burnett in the chest at a York County convenience store in 1998.

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