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Archive for Saturday, April 30, 2005

Briefly - Nation

April 30, 2005

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Illinois

Mother faces murder charges in stabbings

The mother of a 9-year-old boy and 3-year-old girl who were fatally stabbed more than 200 times each inside their suburban Chicago home was charged Friday with two counts of first-degree murder, authorities said.

Tonya Vasilev, 34 -- a heavy bandage covering her left wrist -- appeared in court Friday and answered the judge's questions in a soft, shaking voice. The judge appointed a public defender to represent her and ordered her held without bail.

Investigators believe she was at home Wednesday night when Christian and Gracie Vasilev were killed. The children's father and a friend who had been living with the family discovered the bloody scene that evening.

Maryland

Panel reinstates lesbian Methodist minister

A Methodist court Friday reinstated a gay minister who had been defrocked for declaring to her congregation that she was in a relationship with another woman.

The United Methodist Church appeals panel voted 8-1 to set aside the December decision by another church court to oust Irene "Beth" Stroud for violating the denomination's ban on "self-avowed, practicing homosexual" clergy.

The panel said the ban was "null and void" because church procedures were not followed when it was adopted. However, Jim Allen, general counsel for the church's finance and administration agency, said the opinion would have to be endorsed by the highest Methodist court, the Judicial Council, before it became church law.

The church is expected to appeal the decision to the Judicial Council.

Washington, D.C.

FDA OKs new treatment for Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetics got a new option to help control their blood sugar Friday, a drug derived from the saliva of the Gila monster -- but one that must be injected twice a day.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Byetta -- known chemically as exenatide -- the first in a new class of medications for Type 2 diabetes. But for now, it's supposed to be used together with older diabetes drugs, not alone.

Makers Amylin Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly & Co. said the prescription drug would begin selling by June 1.

Some 18 million Americans have diabetes, the vast majority the Type 2 form. It is closely associated with obesity.

When diet and exercise aren't enough to control Type 2 diabetes, patients can try certain oral medications to lower blood sugar. The most common, drugs called sulfonylureas, spur the body to produce more insulin.

When those drugs fail, adding Byetta to them offers patients a new option to try before resorting to injections of insulin.

Los Angeles

Astronomers confirm planet in distant system

New images taken of an object five times the mass of Jupiter confirm that it is a giant planet closely orbiting a distant star, an international team of astronomers reported.

The team of European and American astronomers said this was the first time a planet outside of our solar system had been directly observed -- a claim other scientists also have made.

The team first spotted the object last year as a faint reddish speck of light circling a dim brown dwarf -- or failed star -- 225 light-years from Earth near the constellation Hydra. At the time, scientists guessed the faint light was a planet, but said further observation was needed.

The discovery touched off a debate over whether the object was actually a planet or a background star. Since the mid-1990s, scientists have discovered more than 130 of these so-called extrasolar planets by indirect means, but observing them directly has proved difficult.

California

Governor draws fire on immigration issue

At a time when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hopes to revive his flagging effort to reform state government, his comments on immigration are grabbing all the attention.

Reaction was loud, emotional and pointed Friday, a day after he lauded America's self-styled border patrollers in off-the-cuff remarks to a Southern California radio station.

The furor comes a week after the governor apologized for suggesting that America close its border with Mexico.

The Republican governor, who won 31 percent of the Latino vote, has made an awkward foray into the national immigration debate. And it's a still-fraught topic for the GOP more than a decade after the then-Gov. Pete Wilson successfully pushed for passage of the anti-illegal immigrant Proposition 187.

Chicago

Alleged mob members held without bail

An FBI agent, testifying Friday at a hearing for the reputed head of the Chicago mob, said an informant had linked the man to three murders, including the killing of a Las Vegas mobster portrayed in the movie "Casino."

Judge James B. Zagel ordered James Marcello, 63, and his brother Michael, 55, held without bail, saying they would be flight risks and dangerous to the community if released.

The Marcello brothers, who waved to supporters as they left the courtroom, were among 11 people charged this week in an alleged Chicago mob murder conspiracy dating to 1970. Three additional defendants were charged with other crimes.

At the hearing, FBI Special Agent Michael Maseth testified that codefendant Nicholas Calabrese, 62, is cooperating with the government and had linked James Marcello to three killings. Calabrese is in federal custody after being convicted of loan sharking in the 1990s.

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