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Archive for Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Briefly

December 29, 2004

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Washington, D.C.

FDA approves drug for severe pain

The government approved a drug Tuesday that offers a new way of fighting severe pain, an option for patients who no longer benefit from morphine and other traditional pain medications.

It's the first in a new class of drugs that selectively blocks the nerve channels responsible for transmitting pain signals. It will be marketed as Prialt and should be available by the end of January.

The drug is part of a new class known as N-type calcium channel blockers. It is known chemically as ziconotide.

Prialt has been studied in patients with cancer, AIDS and other chronic pain, such as back pain. More than 1,200 patients took part in three clinical trials.

There are side effects, and the FDA was including a "black box" warning -- the government's strongest warning short of a ban. Side effects may include dizziness, drowsiness and altered mental status, with patients confused at times.

Ohio

Bush, Kerry about 300 votes closer in recount

Election officials finished the presidential recount in Ohio on Tuesday, with the final tally shaving about 300 votes off President Bush's six-figure margin of victory in the state that gave him a second term.

The recount shows Bush winning Ohio by 118,457 votes over John Kerry, according to unofficial results provided to The Associated Press by the 88 counties. Lucas County, home to Toledo, was the last to finish counting.

The state had earlier declared Bush the winner by 118,775 votes and plans to adjust its totals to reflect the recount later this week.

Kerry gained 734 more votes in the recount, and Bush picked up 449, mostly from disqualified ballots that were counted in the second tally.

Seattle

GOP seeks voter list; challenge uncertain

Republicans are demanding a list of voters in Washington state's most populous county as the party considers a court challenge of Democrat Christine Gregoire's razor-thin victory in the governor's race, officials said Monday.

A hand recount put Gregoire ahead by 130 votes out of 2.8 million cast. Previous counts had favored Republican Dino Rossi, an affluent former state senator.

Chris Vance, state Republican party chairman, said officials would decide whether to challenge the recount results after studying the voter rolls from King County, a Democratic stronghold that includes Seattle.

"We're mostly posing questions," he said. "King County is where we saw the votes changing. King County is the one county that was allowed to take ballots that were declared dead in November and bring them back to life in December."

Washington, D.C.

FBI names another counterterrorism chief

FBI Director Robert Mueller on Tuesday named Willie Hulon to lead the agency's counterterrorism division, the sixth person to take the high-profile job since the 9-11 attacks.

Mueller also announced Louis M. Reigel III as new head of the FBI division that investigates cybercrime and Thomas E. Bush to manage such programs as the gun purchase background check and fingerprint identification systems under the Criminal Justice Information Services division.

Hulon, a native of Memphis, Tenn., has been a senior counterterrorism official since April after a two-year stint as head of the FBI's field office in Detroit.

Washington, D.C.

Police report 154 officers died in 2004

Law enforcement organizations reported Tuesday that 154 officers died in the line of duty in 2004, nearly half of them in traffic-related accidents.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and Concerns of Police Survivors said the statistics for 2004 were compiled from reports through Dec. 24.

Seventy-two local, state and federal officers died from traffic-related accidents while 57, about one-third, died from shootings, the organizations said. A variety of causes led to the other deaths.

In a six-year period, 1995-2000, officer deaths averaged 159 per year. In 2001, the year of the 9-11 attacks, 234 officers died in the line of duty.

Minnesota

Three workers killed in building explosion

An explosion leveled a small commercial building Tuesday, killing three workers and critically injuring a fourth.

The blast in the suburb of Ramsey caved the single-story building into its empty basement, sheriff's Capt. Robert Aldrich said. The site was strewn with concrete chunks, cinderblocks and shreds of office furniture. Above, rescue workers are shown searching the site Tuesday.

A gas leak was the most likely cause of the explosion, but nothing was immediately ruled out, Aldrich said.

Bob Smith, 60, was hospitalized in critical condition with burns. The three dead workers were women, officials said. Their names were not immediately released.

The building housed a real estate business and bank offices.

Los Angeles

Firing upheld for worker without cosmetics

Harrah's Casino in Reno, Nev., had the right to fire a female bartender because she refused to wear makeup despite the fact that she had consistently high employment evaluations, a sharply divided panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

Harrah's grooming policy that requires women to wear makeup also requires men to have neatly trimmed hair that does not extend below the shirt collar and prohibits men from wearing makeup or having long fingernails.

The policy does not place a greater burden on women than on men and therefore is not a form of discrimination by sex, the court ruled.

The case was brought by Darlene Jespersen, now 49, who was hired by Harrah's as a dishwasher in 1979 and became a bartender the next year.

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