- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 12, 2006

U.S. probes possible case of mad cow

The Agriculture Department is investigating a possible case of mad cow disease, the department’s chief veterinarian said yesterday.

A routine test indicated the possible presence of mad cow disease, said John Clifford, the USDA official. The department would not say where the animal was from. It is conducting more detailed tests at its laboratory in Ames, Iowa, and should have results in four to seven days.

“This inconclusive result does not mean we have found a new case of BSE,” Dr. Clifford said, giving the abbreviation for the disease’s formal name, bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

The cow did not enter the human or animal food chain, he said.

Wife pleads not guilty in husband’s death

SAN DIEGO — A woman has pleaded not guilty to poisoning her husband, a Marine, and using his life insurance money to get breast enhancements and throw parties.

Cynthia Sommer, 32, was extradited from Florida, where she had been held without bond. She was charged with murder with two special circumstances — murder for financial gain and murder by poisoning — that make her eligible for the death penalty if convicted. Prosecutors haven’t decided whether to seek a death sentence.

Mrs. Sommer is accused of killing her husband, Marine Sgt. Todd Sommer, in February 2002.

His death was initially ruled a heart attack, but liver tests later found levels of arsenic 1,020 times above normal, according to a court document.

House fire kills family of six

SHOALS, Ind. — A house fire killed a couple and their four young children early yesterday in a rural area of southwestern Indiana, apparently while the family slept, authorities said.

A neighbor called 911 about 4 a.m. and reported the fire near Shoals, about 90 miles southwest of Indianapolis, said state police First Sgt. Jeff Franklin.

After firefighters put out most of the blaze, they found the bodies of a man, a woman and three children burned beyond recognition, he said. The body of a fourth child was found later, Deputy Coroner Mark Franklin said.

The fire’s cause had not been determined, but state police said there were no signs of foul play.

Storm causes deadly pileup

SAN FRANCISCO — A storm spread rarely-seen snow and sleet across the San Francisco Bay area early yesterday, and two persons were killed in a 28-vehicle pileup on slippery Highway 101 just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, authorities said.

Cars were scattered along a 350-foot stretch of the highway. The northbound lane just north of the Waldo Tunnel remained closed by late morning, causing major traffic backups on the Golden Gate Bridge.

More than a dozen people in other cars suffered minor to moderate injuries, authorities said.

Anthrax patient suffers setback

NEW YORK — A drum maker hospitalized with inhalation anthrax remained in serious condition yesterday after suffering a setback last week, hospital officials said.

Vado Diomande apparently became infected after importing raw animal hides from Africa for use in drums. He traveled in December to Ivory Coast and became ill shortly after he returned, bringing several goat hides with him.

The 44-year-old’s condition was downgraded from fair to serious late Thursday when he “experienced a temporary setback in his recovery,” according to a statement from Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Pa.

Message in bottle makes long trip

LYNN, Mass. — A message in a bottle launched in Lynn two years ago traveled halfway around the world.

In a letter postmarked from Morocco, 26-year-old Assila Ahmed wrote that he’d found a bottle thrown into the water by Genevive Hernandez of Lynn.

Genevive, now a 13-year-old seventh-grader, was among a group of fifth-graders who on Nov. 20, 2003, put messages in bottles and cast them off from Lynn’s shores.

Students received replies from 14 persons before Genevive received hers. Most were from the Cape Cod area, and one made it as far as England.

But Genevive’s bottle had, by far, the longest journey, traveling 3,500 miles.

From staff reports and wire dispatches

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