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American Scene: FDA fears more drugs from pharmacy may be dangerous

- - Monday, October 15, 2012

NEW YORK — Two more drugs from a specialty pharmacy linked to a meningitis outbreak are being investigated, U.S. health officials said as they urged doctors to contact patients who received any kind of injection from the company.

The New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Mass., has been under scrutiny since last month, when a rare fungal form of meningitis was linked to its steroid shots used mostly to treat back pain.

The Food and Drug Administration's step Monday followed two developments. One was a report of a meningitis illness in a patient who received another type of steroid made by the company.

The agency also learned of two heart transplant patients who suffered fungal infections after they were given a third product from the company during surgery.

The illnesses are under investigation, and it's possible the heart patients were infected by another source, FDA officials said. They did not say whether fungal meningitis was involved.

The outbreak has sickened 214 people, including 15 who have died.

NORTH CAROLINA

Child dead, 37 sickened from E. coli tied to fair

SHELBY — Health officials say one child has died and 37 others have been sickened in an E. coli outbreak tied to a North Carolina county fair.

The state Department of Health and Human Services said Monday that 22 children and 16 adults who attended the Cleveland County Fair have become sick.

Officials said a North Carolina child died last week and seven people have needed hospital treatment. Gaston County Health Director Chris Dobbins said three people are on dialysis and four have developed a type of kidney failure.

The nine-day fair ended Oct. 7. Health officials said symptoms of E. coli infection could appear up to 10 days after exposure and can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting.

COLORADO

Majority of donations will go to injured, grieving families

DENVER — A mediator overseeing a dispute over donations to families of the 12 people killed and to the 58 injured in the Colorado theater shootings said Monday that the majority of the $5 million in contributions will go to families of people who died and those who suffered permanent injuries.

Mediator Kenneth Feinberg said those victims will get 70 percent of the money, or about $200,000 each, based on current donations.

The remainder will go to people who suffered physical injuries, based on the number of days they were hospitalized.

Mr. Feinberg said claims for the funds are due by Nov. 1.

WISCONSIN

Wolf hunt begins; animal advocates file intent to sue

MADISON — Wisconsin's first organized wolf hunt got under way Monday even as animal welfare advocates demanded that federal officials return Great Lake wolves to the endangered species list.

No hunters had reported kills by late Monday afternoon, which wasn't surprising. The state Department of Natural Resources gives hunters 24 hours to contact the agency, and wolves are elusive.

Only about half of the hunters eligible to buy wolf licenses had done so by Monday. Many said they might wait for snow to make tracking easier. The hunt runs through February.

When federal officials removed wolves in the Great Lakes region from the endangered list this year, Wisconsin and Minnesota set up hunts. Michigan has legislation pending.

In Wisconsin, officials plan to halt the hunt once 116 wolves have been killed.

FLORIDA

Zimmerman wants better management of evidence

ORLANDO — Attorneys for former neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman said in a motion Monday that prosecutors are dragging their feet on turning over evidence.

Mr. Zimmerman's attorneys said prosecutors aren't turning over information in a timely manner and are providing some material in a format that is useless for defense experts to examine. They are asking for monthly hearings to manage the turnover of evidence from prosecutors to defense attorneys.

"The state's approach to discovery has been to require the defense to figure out what the state has failed to provide and then ask for it rather than fulfilling the state's legal obligation to provide complete and timely discovery," attorney Donald West said in the motion.

A spokeswoman for the State Attorney's Office didn't respond to an email and phone call seeking comment.

Mr. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, 17, during a confrontation in a Central Florida gated community in February.

PENNSYLVANIA

'Jihad Jane' faces life in plot to kill Muslim-offending artist

PHILADELPHIA — A Pennsylvania woman who called herself "Jihad Jane" and admitted she plotted to kill a Swedish artist who offended Muslims faces a life sentence in December.

Pennsburg resident Colleen LaRose has been in custody since she returned from Ireland to surrender to the FBI in 2009.

Her arrest was kept secret until several other people were rounded up months later. A Maryland teenager has been charged.

Court papers show LaRose, 48, called herself Jihad Jane in an online video and said she was "desperate" to help Muslims.

LaRose pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder a foreign target and support terrorists and lying to the FBI. The murder plot wasn't carried out.

Prosecutors said Monday that LaRose's sentencing has been scheduled for Dec. 19 in Philadelphia.

KANSAS

Former Kansas soldier gets 10 months for sham marriage

WICHITA — A former Kansas soldier will spend 10 months in federal prison for entering into a sham marriage so he could get additional military benefits and his Jamaican bride could become a legal immigrant, a federal judge ruled Monday.

In a rare move, U.S. District Judge Monti Belot rejected the prosecution's request for leniency for Joshua Priest, saying it was not justified in this case. The former Fort Riley private pleaded guilty in July to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and wire fraud, and testified against his wife, Shannakay Hunter.

"The fact you came in and cooperated is fine, but it doesn't excuse what you did," Judge Belot told the crestfallen defendant during the sentencing hearing.

Judge Belot also ordered Priest to pay nearly $30,000 in restitution for the fraudulently obtained housing and subsistence benefits given to married soldiers.

TENNESSEE

Newspaper ends decades of presidential endorsements

KNOXVILLE — The Knoxville News Sentinel has ended a decades-old tradition of endorsing presidential candidates, saying it no longer has any special access to the candidates.

Editor Jack McElroy said in a column published Sunday that the decision was difficult.

"Citizens can find plenty of opinions about the presidential candidates to weigh against their own, and there is no shortage of community dialogue — far from it," he wrote. "The News Sentinel also has no special access to the candidates, and, in this age of global Internet and 24-hour news, we have no sources of information that every other citizen does not have as well."

The tradition of endorsing a presidential candidate dates to the paper's beginnings in the 1920s.

From wire dispatches and staff reports