- - Thursday, October 21, 2010

COLORADO

Medical pot fees for poor waived

DENVER | Poor medical marijuana patients in Colorado won’t have pay state marijuana registration fees or sales tax for the pot they buy.

The Colorado Board of Health approved a plan Wednesday to waive the $90 registration fee for indigent medical marijuana patients, starting Dec. 1. Patients who want their fees waived will have to show they meet other government standards for indigence, such as qualifying for food stamps.

The Denver Post reported that poor pot patients also will have notations on their cards waiving sales taxes on the pot.

A new medical marijuana law passed by state lawmakers this year called for lower fees for indigent medical marijuana patients.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

New swine flu strain emerges

The H1N1 swine flu virus may be starting to mutate, and a slightly new form has begun to predominate in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, researchers reported Thursday.

More study is needed to tell whether the new strain is more likely to kill patients and whether the current vaccine can protect against it completely, said Ian Barr of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Reference and Research on Influenza in Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues.

“However, it may represent the start of more dramatic antigenic drift of the pandemic influenza A (H1N1) viruses that may require a vaccine update sooner than might have been expected,” they wrote in the online publication Eurosurveillance.

It’s possible it is both more deadly and also able to infect people who have been vaccinated, they said.

GEORGIA

Fatal teen-driver car crashes drop

ATLANTA | Fatal car crashes involving teen drivers fell by about a third over five years, according to a new federal report that partly credits the drop to tougher state limits on younger drivers.

The number of deaths tied to these accidents fell dramatically from about 2,200 in 2004 to 1,400 in 2008, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

The CDC looked at fatal accidents with drivers who were 16 or 17 years old. There were more than 9,600 such incidents during the five-year span and more than 11,000 people died in the crashes.

The rate of these fatal crashes has been declining since 1996. CDC officials credit a range of factors, including safer cars with air bags and highway improvements.

IDAHO

FBI probes shots fired at helicopter

LEWISTON | The FBI is investigating a report that a hunter fired shots at a helicopter in north-central Idaho last week, hitting it twice.

Shoshone County officials say the helicopter was flying over a controlled burn Oct. 14 on land owned by forestland management company Potlatch Corp. when it was fired on four times. They say a suspect has been identified, but no one has been arrested and officials are deciding whether he will face state or federal charges.

Vietnam veteran Earl Palmer was flying the helicopter north of Clarkia. He said he didn’t recognize the first two shots as gunfire, but the third bullet passed within 2 or 3 feet of his head.

The fourth bullet struck and cracked a control tube. Mr. Palmer said that could have caused the helicopter to crash.

INDIANA

Food aid ends for some disabled

INDIANAPOLIS | Indiana has quietly ended a state grocery benefit paid to hundreds of developmentally disabled people who advocates say have no money of their own to buy food.

The state Family and Social Services Administration withdrew the grocery benefit weeks after announcing it would no longer reduce the benefit for those who receive food stamps. That change followed a lawsuit that claimed the reduction violated federal law prohibiting food stamps from being counted against other benefits.

Administration spokesman Marcus Barlow says the decision to eliminate the grocery benefit is aimed at curbing misuse of state benefits uncovered by a review that followed the lawsuit.

MARYLAND

Parents use dogs to find drugs at home

BALTIMORE | Forget urine tests, parents in Maryland can hire dogs to sniff out whether their children are using drugs.

The nonprofit group Dogs Finding Drugs uses canines that can detect even trace amounts of narcotics within seconds.

Owner Anne Willis says parents are clamoring for the service. The rate is about $200 an hour. Dogs Finding Drugs also offers its services to companies and schools.

Similar groups have popped up across the country in recent years.

Dogs Finding Drugs will not confiscate anything, nor does the group notify police.

Elizabeth Robertson of the National Institute on Drug Abuse said parents should talk to their children about potential drug problems rather than hiring a drug-sniffing dog.

TEXAS

Tainted celery kills 4 of 6 victims

SAN ANTONIO | Texas health officials have shut down a processing plant linked to contaminated celery that sickened at least six people this year, four of whom died, and ordered the recall of all of the produce that passed through the plant since January.

SanGar Produce & Processing Co. issued the recall Wednesday after its plant in San Antonio was shuttered. The Texas Department of State Health Services traced six of 10 known cases of listeriosis in the state during an eight-month period to celery processed there. The agency is investigating the origins of the other four cases, which include one death.

Health inspectors found problems with sanitation at the plant, including a condensation leak over a food production area. The health department is trying to determine to whom the now-recalled produce was sold and whether it was used in other products. The agency recommended that buyers throw out or return all SanGar products.

Department spokeswoman Carrie Williams said Thursday that the state asked the company to close voluntarily but it refused.

Kenneth Sanquist Jr., the company’s president, said Thursday that the state used flawed methods to collect its samples. The sample at the plant “appears” to have been taken by someone not wearing proper lab attire and proper gloves, and was transported in a nonrefrigerated container, he said.

VIRGINIA

Civil War text wrong on blacks as rebels

RICHMOND | The state Department of Education is alerting Virginia superintendents and history teachers about a passage in a state-approved textbook that falsely claims that thousands of black troops fought for the Confederacy.

The agency issued the memo after a parent of a Williamsburg fourth-grader, who also is a College of William and Mary history professor, found the passage in the Civil War chapter of “Our Virginia: Past and Present.” The parent, Carol Sheriff, is a 19th-century historian.

The book claims that black troops fought under Stonewall Jackson, an assertion historians overwhelmingly say is unproven.

Author Joy Masoff didn’t return a telephone message left Thursday at her office.

Education officials say “Our Virginia” is one of three approved Virginia history textbooks. The agency doesn’t track how many divisions are using it.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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