- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 24, 2005

Hilton settles lawsuit on mold in hotel

HONOLULU — A judge has approved a $1.8 million class-action settlement between Hilton Corp. and guests who stayed in a mold-infested Waikiki hotel tower during summer 2002, lawyers for the plaintiffs said.

Scientists said the mold was a variety that can trigger asthma and also irritate the eyes, nose and throat, but no serious health problems were reported.

Hilton denied liability but agreed to the settlement, said a statement from the law firm of Davis, Levin, Livingston and Grande. Hawaii Circuit Court Judge Sabrina McKenna gave preliminary approval to the deal Friday.

About 2,900 people who stayed at the now-closed 453-room Kalia Tower in 2002 from June 14 to July 23 will be eligible for $50 in cash or $150 worth of travel coupons for each night they spent there.

New Orleans prepares to demolish homes

NEW ORLEANS — The city is ready to demolish about 2,500 houses deemed threats to public safety because of damage from Hurricane Katrina, but opponents said yesterday they will sue to stop the work to make sure homeowners’ rights are respected.

About 5,534 homes on New Orleans’ east bank of the Mississippi River were marked with red stickers as being unsafe to enter and must be razed, said Greg Meffert, the city’s chief technology officer, who also oversees the department of safety and permits.

Only about 2,500 red-tagged houses that pose an imminent public hazard will be demolished in the next few weeks. The other 3,000 will get a second inspection. City officials are trying to locate homeowners in case they want to remove any belongings before demolition.

However, the Advancement Project of Washington, the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund and some individuals announced that they will file a lawsuit by New Year’s to block the city from bulldozing houses without legal due process.

Dog saved after being frozen to rail tracks

CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. — A Siberian husky has a new name and a new life, thanks to a construction worker and police officer who rescued him last week from a railroad track minutes before a train arrived.

Jeremy Majorowicz thought it was a little strange that the dog had been sitting on the track for an hour-and-a-half in the freezing cold, and stranger still that he wouldn’t accept a bite of muffin.

“I have two dogs myself, so I didn’t want to leave the dog if there was something wrong,” Mr. Majorowicz said.

Animal-control officer Al Heyde said he couldn’t get the dog to budge, and then said he “lifted his tail and hind quarters, and saw he was literally frozen to the tracks.”

Police Officer Tim Strand pulled hard on the dog’s tail and was able to release him, but the dog lost a lot of hair. “He gave a heck of a whelp,” he said. Just 10 minutes later, a train came down the track.

The dog was taken to the Chippewa County Humane Association, where workers named him “Ice Train.”

Firm wins approval for arthritis drug

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. said the Food and Drug Administration has approved a new drug to treat moderate to severe cases of rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic disease that afflicts more than 2 million Americans.

The drug, abatacept, is to be marketed as Orencia and is designed to be given intravenously. The company intends to start selling it by the end of February.

The drug acts by suppressing part of the immune system to treat rheumatoid arthritis, which is marked by swelling, stiffness and pain in the linings of the joints. The linings become inflamed after the body’s immune system acts against them.

Abatacept blocks the activation of T-cells which, when they proliferate, play a role in the body’s immune response.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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