- - Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Birth control packs recalled after mix-up

INDIANAPOLIS — Birth control pills are known to be nearly 100 percent effective when taken properly, but a recall of the drugs could send a shudder through women of childbearing age.

A manufacturing mix-up by Pfizer Inc., the world’s largest drug manufacturer, led to some packets being distributed with the pills out of order. That means a patient could have unknowingly skipped a dose and raised her risk of an accidental pregnancy.

Pfizer has recalled about 1 million packets of Lo/Ovral-28 and its generic equivalent, but the company estimates that only about 30 packets were flawed. The pills were made and shipped last year.

Each packet contains 28 days’ worth of the prescription, with 21 pills containing the active ingredient that prevents pregnancy and seven placebo pills. The pills are normally color-coded to note the difference.


$400K more sought for city receivership

PROVIDENCE — The cost of the state-appointed receiver and legal fees related to bankruptcy proceedings in the Rhode Island city of Central Falls is nearly $400,000 more this fiscal year than budgeted, and the total spent on the receivership is expected to reach $2.26 million by July.

State Revenue Director Rosemary Booth Gallogly said a supplemental budget request released Tuesday by Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee includes $392,000 in funds for the salary of the state-appointed receiver, Robert G. Flanders Jr., and attorneys’ fees to several firms. If legislators approve the extra funding, the state would spend at least $1.09 million on the receivership this fiscal year.

But it’s Central Falls that is on the hook for that amount, Mrs. Gallogly said, under the receivership legislation approved by the General Assembly in 2010. The state has sent the city a bill for $1.17 million to cover costs associated with the receivership last fiscal year.


Mercy rejected for condemned arsonist

COLUMBUS — A death row inmate’s theory that a mysterious “man in red” could have started the arson fire that killed his 3-year-old son is “an extraordinary stretch of the imagination,” the state parole board ruled Wednesday in unanimously rejecting his plea for mercy.

Michael Webb doesn’t dispute that the 1990 blaze was arson, but he denies starting it and says investigators using now-discredited methods came to the wrong conclusion about where in the house the flames broke out. He says the correct determination points to someone else as the culprit.

Investigators say Webb set the fire to kill his family, collect the insurance and start a new life with his mistress.

The Webb case is one in a series across the U.S. that represents a new legal frontier: Defense attorneys in Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and other states are using advances in the science of fire investigation to challenge arson convictions, in much the same way they are employing DNA to clear those in prison for murder and rape.


50,000 arrested on pot charges after policy eased

NEW YORK — New state data show New York City police arrested more than 50,000 people on low-level marijuana charges last year. That’s despite a drop-off after officers were told not to use tactics that critics decry as tricking people into getting arrested.

New York State Division of Criminal Justice figures show arrests for the lowest-ranking marijuana misdemeanor rose slightly to 50,700. The Drug Policy Alliance obtained the statistics and provided them to the Associated Press. The alliance opposes the national war on drugs.

Small amounts of marijuana must be openly visible to warrant arrest in New York, but critics say police arrest people after finding the drug in pockets or bags.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly reminded officers of the law in September. He said most arrests result from officers seeing the drug in public.


W.R. Grace proposes $19.5M asbestos settlement

KALISPELL — A proposed settlement in the W.R. Grace and Co. bankruptcy case would pay $19.5 million into a trust for people sickened by asbestos exposure from the company’s now-shuttered vermiculite plant in Libby.

Jon Heberling, the lawyer representing the Libby claimants, said Tuesday that the Libby Medical Plan Trust would ensure that the company doesn’t terminate the Libby Medical Program, which began in 2000 after news reports first documented the widespread disease and deaths among residents of the northwestern Montana town.

The Libby Medical Program is a voluntary plan that can be terminated whenever Grace chooses, though it has operated while bankruptcy proceedings have gone on since 2001.

Claimants also will be eligible to receive distributions from the separate Asbestos Personal Injury Trust to be established as part of Grace’s reorganization plan, Mr. Heberling said.

The company said Tuesday that the money for the trusts will come from a variety of sources, including cash, insurance, stock, payments from third parties and deferred payment obligations.


11th victim found days after deadly crash

ORLANDO — A pickup truck involved in a deadly interstate pileup was so badly burned and crushed that it took investigators more than two days to find a third body inside, authorities said Wednesday.

The discovery brings the death toll from the weekend crashes on Interstate 75 to 11. The condition of the wreckage also has prompted investigators to enlist anthropologists to help identify victims.

The newly discovered victim was inside a Dodge pickup truck that crashed into a tractor-trailer as it traveled south early Sunday in smoky and foggy conditions, authorities determined Tuesday. The pickup’s driver and another passenger were discovered earlier, but none of the three had been identified Wednesday.

Anthropologists from the University of Florida were looking for any bone fragments and teeth that may help identify the bodies from the pickup.


University, ex-student settle suit over fondling

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa has agreed to a $130,000 settlement with a former student who was pressured to let a troubled political science professor fondle her in exchange for a higher grade, her attorney told the Associated Press on Wednesday.

The settlement avoids a potentially embarrassing and painful trial over the university’s handling of misconduct allegations against Arthur H. Miller, who committed suicide in 2008 after he was charged with trying to trade higher grades for sexual favors from the plaintiff and three other female students.

The plaintiff’s attorney, Sara Riley, said Tuesday that the settlement required her and her client not to disclose the terms, including the amount to be paid. But after AP reported on the deal Wednesday, Ms. Riley said a state attorney dropped the confidentiality clause and she revealed the $130,000 payment for damages and attorneys’ fees.

She said that amount was 130 times what the university’s general counsel offered to settle the case in December 2009, a $1,000 tuition refund, an amount her client found insulting. She may have been willing to settle at that point for $25,000, Ms. Riley said, but is now glad to have the case over.


Pope asks for prayers for Cardinal Bevilacqua

PHILADELPHIA — Church leaders called on parishioners Wednesday to pray for the soul of retired Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who led them for more than 15 years but was also an uncharged central figure in a child sex-abuse case that involves the alleged shuffling of predator priests.

Cardinal Bevilacqua, who was 88, died in his sleep at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood after battling dementia and an undisclosed form of cancer, according to archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Farrell. He had been the spiritual leader of the 1.5 million-member Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1988 until his retirement in 2003.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput encouraged all Catholics to “join me in praying for the repose of his soul.”

Cardinal Bevilacqua, trained in both civil and canon law, was sharply criticized but never charged by two Philadelphia grand juries investigating child sex abuse complaints lodged against dozens of priests in the archdiocese. He died just days after attorneys battled in court over his competency as a potential witness in the upcoming trial of a longtime aide.

Cardinal Bevilacqua, a native of Brooklyn, was ordained a priest in 1949.


Treasure hunter takes aim at $3B sunken bounty

PORTLAND — A shipwreck hunter says he has found the wreck of a World War II merchant ship that was torpedoed by a German U-boat off Cape Cod with a load of platinum now valued at $3 billion, perhaps the richest hoard ever discovered at the bottom of the sea.

Greg Brooks of Sub Sea Research, in Gorham, Maine, said a wreck in 700 feet of water 50 miles offshore is that of the Port Nicholson, a British vessel sunk in 1942. He said he and his crew positively identified the hull number using an underwater camera.

Salvage operations should begin this month or in early March aboard a 220-foot vessel called Sea Hunter with the assistance of a remotely operated underwater vessel, he said.

Mr. Brooks said the Port Nicholson was going from Nova Scotia to New York and carrying 71 tons of platinum when it was torpedoed. The platinum was intended as payment from the Soviet Union to the United States, he said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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