- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 21, 2000

Judge clears U.S. in Davidian probe

WACO, Texas (AP) A federal judge has cleared the government of any wrongdoing in the deaths of 80 Branch Davidians during the 1993 standoff with federal agents at the cult's compound.

U.S. District Judge Walter Smith's ruling, issued late yesterday, mirrors the conclusions an advisory jury and special counsel John Danforth reached in July. Both have said Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents and others were not responsible for the deaths on the final day of a 51-day standoff.

In his ruling, Judge Smith said ATF agents acted within the limits of the law and could not be held liable.

FBI Director Louis Freeh expressed relief over the verdict.

"In the end, no one fired a shot, the government did not start the fires and the Davidians were found by the court to be solely responsible for the unnecessary deaths that occurred," he said.

Lawyer indicted in alien-smuggling case

NEW YORK A lawyer who runs the largest alien-asylum practice in the United States was indicted yesterday in an unprecedented racketeering case involving the massive smuggling of illegal Chinese aliens.
Robert Porges, 61, who heads the New York-based Porges Law Firm; his wife, Sherry Lu, 47, who manages the firm; and four of its paralegals and support staff were named in the 44-count indictment that was unsealed in Manhattan federal court.
A separate indictment was also unsealed against two former employees who now work at a different law firm.

Woman dies in fire after refusing to leave

PARADISE, Calif. A forest fire engulfed a woman's home yesterday, killing her and injuring a firefighter who stayed until the last minute trying to persuade her to leave.
The fire, about three miles from Paradise in Northern California, started Tuesday and grew to more than 1,500 acres during the night. Crews had expected to contain it by yesterday morning, but shifting wind carried flames across containment lines, California Department of Forestry officials said.
A voluntary evacuation order had been issued for the Paradise area, affecting about 1,000 people.

La Nina weather over after 2 years

Blamed for increased hurricane activity and drought in the United States, the global weather pattern "La Nina" is finally over after two years, government weather experts said yesterday.
James Baker, administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said La Nina, Spanish for "the girl child," and its climatic opposite, El Nino, would not influence global weather for at least the next nine months.

New cancer test catching on

NEW YORK A new screening test for cervical cancer that helps reduce uncertainty in diagnosing the disease is gaining support from doctors and health insurers.
Aetna, the nation's largest health insurer, yesterday became the latest plan to cover the DNA test that checks for the presence of a virus shown to cause more than 99 percent of cervical cancers. The test is used when a Pap smear proves inconclusive, which happens about 5 percent of the time.
Kaiser Permanente, United Healthcare and most Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans already cover the test for human papillomavirus, or HPV, according to the test's maker, Digene Corp. of Gaithersburg, Md.

Hoaxer calls, gives false reports of death

NEWARK, N.J. Hospital officials want to know who's been calling people and falsely informing them that a relative has died.
Members of at least 20 families have rushed to the Beth Israel Medical Center emergency room in the last two weeks, only to learn they were victims of a hoax, hospital spokeswoman Anne McDarby said.
Miss McDarby said the hospital never relays word of a death over the telephone.

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