- - Thursday, October 14, 2010

CALIFORNIA

CVS to pay $75M in meth case fines

LOS ANGELES | CVS Pharmacy Inc. has agreed to pay $75 million in fines for allowing repeated purchases of a key ingredient in the making of methamphetamine in at least five states that also led to a spike in Southern California drug trafficking, authorities said Thursday.

The nation’s largest operator of retail pharmacies will pay what federal prosecutors said was the largest civil penalty ever assessed under the Controlled Substances Act.

The company also will forfeit about $2.6 million in profits earned from the sales of pseudoephedrine, which can often be found in cold medicine and is used to make meth.

Authorities said CVS didn’t provide enough safeguards to monitor how much pseudoephedrine someone was buying, and the company violated federal drug regulations in Arizona, Georgia, California, Nevada, South Carolina and possibly 20 other states.

GEORGIA

CDC: 1 in 22 blacks will get HIV

ATLANTA | Health officials estimate that 1 in 22 black Americans will be diagnosed with the AIDS virus in their lifetime, more than twice the risk for Hispanics and eight times that of whites.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the numbers Thursday. The report says the lifetime risk is 1 in 52 for Hispanics, and 1 in 170 for whites.

Asian-Americans had the lowest lifetime risk, at about 1 in 222.

The data is not considered surprising. Earlier research had shown blacks, especially, have a high risk of HIV infection.

The estimates are based on 2007 death certificates, population figures and HIV surveillance data from 37 states and Puerto Rico. They update similar calculations reported two years ago.

LOUISIANA

Company to fix bad drywall in homes

NEW ORLEANS | A Chinese drywall manufacturer, along with suppliers, builders and insurers, agreed Thursday to repair up to 300 homes in four states and possibly thousands more damaged by corrosive drywall.

In this pilot program, up to 300 homeowners in Florida, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi whose homes had drywall manufactured by Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. will get their homes fixed, lawyers said. Homeowners in Texas, North Carolina and Virginia could be added soon.

Knauf and the other companies have agreed to replace drywall, wiring, fire and alarm systems, and fixtures in damaged homes. Many more of the 2,000 to 3,000 homes built with Knauf drywall might be fixed under similar terms if the pilot program is successful.

Russ Herman, a lead lawyer for plaintiffs, said repairs would take about three months and cost between $40 and $60 a square foot. Knauf and the other companies face paying a total of $30 million to $45 million to fix the 300 homes, not including the cost of temporary housing for the homeowners.

MICHIGAN

Terror suspect overruled on evidence

DETROIT | A lawyer advising a Nigerian man who is accused of trying to use explosives in his underwear to blow up an international flight will get access to the evidence, a judge ruled Thursday over the defendant’s objections.

The 15-minute hearing was the first since Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab sacked his four-lawyer defense team last month and said he wanted to represent himself on charges stemming from the attempted Christmas Day attack.

He said it wasn’t necessary for his standby counsel, Anthony Chambers, to look at the evidence. U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds disagreed and ordered prosecutors to share it.

Mr. Chambers, who was appointed only to advise Mr. Abdulmutallab, needs to see the evidence to answer any questions, the judge said.

Mr. Abdulmutallab, 24, suggested at a hearing last month that he wanted to plead guilty to some charges. There were no such remarks this time.

NEVADA

Hoover Dam bypass complete

LAS VEGAS | A bypass bridge high above the Colorado River near Hoover Dam is scheduled to open officially next week after nearly eight years and $240 million worth of work.

The 1,900-foot engineering wonder perched 890 feet above the water is expected to drastically cut travel time along the main route between Las Vegas and Phoenix, as motorists will no longer have to make their way across the dam and its security checkpoints at a snail’s pace.

The bridge is named for former Nevada Gov. Mike O’Callaghan and Pat Tillman, the former NFL player who quit the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army Rangers. He died in Afghanistan from friendly fire.

Cars previously were routed across Hoover Dam to cross the border between Arizona and Nevada, and checkpoints added after Sept. 11, 2001, often caused miles-long backups of traffic. Federal officials also heavily restricted the types of vehicles and cargo that could cross the dam, sending semi-trailer trucks and other large vehicles an extra 23 miles through the resort town of Laughlin.

It’s the longest bridge built with concrete arches in the Western Hemisphere, according to the U.S. Transportation Department. The arches measure 1,060 feet.

NEW YORK

Coerced testimony cannot be used

NEW YORK | The government cannot coerce a detainee to provide information for intelligence purposes and then use the evidence in criminal proceedings, the judge presiding over the first civilian trial of a Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainee said in a ruling that also branded as a liar the man the government once said was its most important witness.

In the redacted ruling released Thursday, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan explained his reasons for deciding last week to block the witness, Hussein Abebe, from the trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani.

Judge Kaplan said prosecutors failed to show Mr. Ghailani’s rough CIA interrogation at a secret camp overseas played no role in getting the witness to cooperate.

The judge stopped short of expressing an opinion on the constitutionality of the fact that the “CIA, acting upon the highest authority, used coercive methods to gain intelligence.” He said the issue was not before him.

NORTH CAROLINA

Girl possibly alive in mid-September

CHARLOTTE | A missing 10-year-old may have been alive when her family moved to a new home in North Carolina in mid-September, police said Thursday.

Investigators are having trouble finding anyone outside Zahra Clare Baker’s household in Hickory who has seen the girl alive in recent months, making it difficult to narrow down places to search.

Police say the girl, who used hearing aids and a prosthetic leg because of bone cancer, has been killed. She was reported missing over the weekend by her father and stepmother, but police do not believe their story about the last time they saw her in bed.

Deputy Chief Clyde Deal would not elaborate about why authorities think the girl was alive when the family moved from the nearby town of Sawmills.

OHIO

Historic flea market gutted by arson fire

STRASBURG | A fire that gutted a large, historic retail building was one of four fires set intentionally within an eight-mile area, a state fire marshal said.

The fire at the Garver Flea Market in Strasburg was first reported around 11 p.m. Wednesday and drew scores of firefighters from throughout northeast Ohio.

In a statement, fire marshal’s spokesman Shane Cartmill said other fires overnight hit two businesses in nearby Brewster and a church in Beach City. No injuries were reported in any of the fires.

The flea market is in an 1866 building once operated as the “World’s Largest Country Store” by a family named Garver.

PENNSYLVANIA

School band gets apology for slurs

HARRISBURG | Parade organizers apologized to a high school band after people in a predominantly white crowd threw rocks at the students and insulted them with rude comments and racial epithets.

Officials with the Manheim Farm Show parade visited marching band members from William Penn Senior High in York on Wednesday to say they were embarrassed and hoped the students would return for next year’s event.

Seth Kensinger, vice president of the farm show, said the organization was appalled at how the students were abused at last week’s parade.

The band consists of white, black and Hispanic students. York City School District spokesman Jonathan Heintzman said Thursday that people in the crowd hit some of the students with small rocks and sprayed them with soda, directed derogatory comments to girls and used racial epithets. He said he was not sure exactly what was said but that no one was hurt.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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