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Archive for Saturday, April 2, 2005

Briefly - Nation

April 2, 2005

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Florida

Schiavo autopsy done; funeral plans begin

The medical examiner completed the autopsy of Terri Schiavo on Friday, clearing the way for the release of the body to her husband, who plans to cremate her remains and bury the ashes without telling his in-laws when or where.

Results of the autopsy may not be released for several weeks, the medical examiner's office said. Husband Michael Schiavo hopes the autopsy will settle questions about her medical condition, but experts differ on whether that will happen.

Michael Schiavo and his in-laws spent Friday planning separate funerals for the 41-year-old woman, who died Thursday -- 13 days after her feeding tube was removed.

Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have scheduled a funeral Mass for Tuesday in nearby Gulfport. The Mass will be preceded by a gathering for people to express their condolences.

Michael Schiavo's family has said he plans to take the cremated remains to Pennsylvania, where she grew up, but her parents want to bury her body in Florida so her parents and siblings can visit her grave.

Minnesota

Officials say more teens knew about shooting

As many as 20 teenagers may have known ahead of time about plans for the March 21 shooting spree that resulted in the deaths of 10 people on the Indian reservation in Red Lake, tribal and federal officials said Friday.

Sgt. Dwayne Dow of the tribal police told a group of shocked parents, teachers and staff at a three-hour school board meeting that authorities think as many as 20 students were involved.

One law enforcement official said the FBI thought as many as four students -- including gunman Jeff Weise and Louis Jourdain, a classmate arrested Sunday -- were directly involved in planning an attack on Red Lake High School, while well more than a dozen others might have heard about the plot.

FBI agents seized 30 to 40 computers from the high school computer laboratory in order to perform forensic analysis on the machines, FBI and school officials said. Investigators hope to learn more from the computers, because much of the alleged discussion among Weise and his friends occurred through e-mails and instant messages.

Chicago

Pharmacies must fill birth control orders

Gov. Rod Blagojevich approved an emergency rule Friday requiring pharmacies to fill birth control prescriptions quickly after a Chicago pharmacist refused to fill an order because of moral opposition to the drug.

The emergency rule takes effect for 150 days while the administration seeks a permanent rule.

"Our regulation says that if a woman goes to a pharmacy with a prescription for birth control, the pharmacy or the pharmacist is not allowed to discriminate or to choose who he sells it to," Blagojevich said. "No delays. No hassles. No lectures."

Under the new rule, if a pharmacist does not fill the prescription because of a moral objection, another pharmacist must be available to fill it without delay.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation also has filed a formal complaint against the Chicago Osco pharmacy for the Feb. 23 incident.

Miami

Forecaster predicts active hurricane season

Hurricane season is still two months away, but the first hint of potentially stormy news arrived Friday: It may be another unusually active year.

Private forecaster William Gray, a professor at Colorado State University, is predicting 13 tropical storms that grow into seven hurricanes, three of them intense. Those numbers are higher than the long-term average, but lower than the number of storms that developed last year.

The long-term average is about 10 tropical storms that develop into six hurricanes, two of them with intense winds above 110 mph. Last year, the tropics produced 15 named storms that grew into nine hurricanes, six of them intense.

The six-month season begins June 1.

Washington, D.C.

FAA order to replace, improve insulation

Airlines would have to replace or upgrade old insulation in more than 800 Boeing jetliners to meet newer, more stringent fire safety standards, under a rule proposed Friday by the Federal Aviation Administration.

John Hickey, director of the FAA's aircraft certification service, said the agency did not think the problem posed an imminent danger. However, he said, "Fire and airplanes are a bad mix, so when you have the opportunity to reduce the risk you take it."

Airlines will get six years to complete the work, which involves replacing the insulation between the jets' skin and cabin. Civil aviation authorities around the world usually follow the FAA's lead and issue similar directives. About 1,600 planes would be affected worldwide.

Canadian investigators have said Swissair Flight 111 plunged into the ocean off the Nova Scotia coast in 1998 because of a fire fed by insulation in the cockpit. All 229 people aboard were killed.

Since that crash, the FAA has embarked on an aggressive fire safety program that includes improving the fire-resistance of materials used in planes.

New York

GM unveils, takes first fuel-cell truck for a spin

General Motors Corp. rolled out the world's first drivable fuel-cell truck Friday and handed over the keys to an exacting patron: the Army.

The olive green pickup took a demonstration spin around GM's fuel-cell development center in Honeoye Falls, carrying Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Brig. Gen. Roger Nadeau, commander of the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.

The modified Chevrolet Silverado crew-cab truck will be leased to the Defense Department for noncombat uses at Fort Belvoir, Va., and Camp Pendleton, Calif., and tested in various climates and terrain until July 2006.

Its electric engine emits a high-pitched whine, but a key feature in future fuel-cell models developed with the military will be stealth -- along with better fuel consumption and zero tailpipe emissions.

Instead of gasoline, the fuel cells run on energy produced when hydrogen and oxygen are mixed, and the only byproduct is water vapor.

The truck is powered by two hydrogen fuel cell stacks and can travel 125 miles.

Washington, D.C.

E-mails reveal plan to falsify Yucca data

E-mails by several government scientists on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump project suggest workers were planning to fabricate records and manipulate results to ensure outcomes that would help the project move forward.

"I don't have a clue when these programs were installed. So I've made up the dates and names," wrote a U.S. Geological Survey employee in one e-mail released Friday by a congressional committee investigating suspected document falsification on the project.

The e-mails, written from 1998 to 2000, were in a batch of correspondence released in advance of next week's hearing by the House Government Reform Subcommittee on the Federal Work Force and Agency Organization, chaired by Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev.

Yucca Mountain, approved by Congress in 2002, is planned as the nation's underground repository for 77,000 tons of defense waste and used reactor fuel from commercial power plants.

Arizona

Volunteers prepare for border patrol

About 450 volunteers gathered Friday for a monthlong effort to patrol the Mexican border for illegal immigrants and smugglers, an organizer of the project said.

The idea, according to organizers of the Minuteman Project, is for the volunteers to fan out across 23 miles of the San Pedro Valley to watch the border and report any illegal activity to federal agents -- an exercise some law enforcement authorities and others fear could lead to vigilante violence.

Many volunteers were recruited over the Internet and some plan to be armed. Patrols are to begin Monday.

Chris Simcox, Minuteman field operations director, said 450 people were willing to participate in at least one shift in the desert. He wouldn't say how many had registered or participated in orientation. Others would arrive later in the month, he said.

Jim Gilchrist, a retired accountant who organized the project, has said at least 100 volunteers had registered.

North Carolina

Sergeant competent to stand trial in attack

An Army sergeant charged with killing two officers in a grenade attack in Kuwait two years ago is competent to stand trial, a military judge ruled Friday.

Sgt. Hasan Akbar, 33, is scheduled to undergo a court-martial this month in a March 2003 attack on fellow members of the 101st Airborne Division days after the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Akbar is accused of stealing grenades from a Humvee and using them and a gun in the attack.

If convicted of two counts of premeditated murder and three counts of attempted premeditated murder, Akbar could get the death penalty.

Akbar has confessed several times to the attack and his lawyers plan to use an insanity or diminished capacity defense in his trial.

Washington, D.C.

New rules push NIH researcher to leave

James Battey, chief of the National Institutes of Health's high-profile stem-cell program and director of that agency's deafness institute, will retire in September after more than 20 years at the agency, citing his inability to comply with strict new conflict-of-interest rules that have roiled the NIH internally and prompted a backlash in the broader science and business communities.

Battey is the fourth high-profile NIH researcher to plan to leave since the new rules were announced in February and the first institute director to do so.

Agency scientists say the departures are emblematic of the new reality at NIH, in which rules curtailing what stocks researchers can own and regulating their relationships have set the agency against trends advocating closer ties among researchers, companies and think tanks.

Washington, D.C.

Terror warrants hit record last year

The government requested and won approval for a record number of special warrants last year for secret wiretaps and searches of suspected terrorists and spies, 75 percent more than in 2000, the Bush administration disclosed Friday.

Assistant Atty. Gen. William Moschella revealed the figure in an annual report to Congress. Last year's total of 1,754 approved warrants was only slightly higher than the 1,724 approved in 2003. But the number has climbed markedly since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, as authorities have moved aggressively against terror suspects. In 2000, there were 1,003 warrants approved under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Since passage of the Patriot Act, the FBI can use such warrants in investigations that aren't mostly focused on foreign intelligence.

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