- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Fuel facility blast kills 3 workers

LITTLE ROCK | An empty gasoline tank undergoing repairs exploded Tuesday at a fuel-storage facility in rural north-central Arkansas, killing three workers, authorities said.

The tank had been cleaned and workers had entered it to prepare to install new equipment when the blast occurred just before 2:30 p.m., said Rick Rainey, spokesman for the facility’s owner, Houston-based energy company Teppco Partners LP.

Three workers died in the explosion south of Searcy in White County, said Tommy Jackson, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management.

Mr. Rainey said the company was in contact with local first responders and federal work-safety officials about the explosion.


VA hospital chief cites contamination

MIAMI | The top Veterans Affairs official in Miami says she was “heartbroken” when she learned patients were exposed to contaminated medical equipment at VA hospitals.

Miami VA Healthcare System director Mary D. Berrocal told the Associated Press on Tuesday she has created a position to supervise training and make sure biomedical equipment works properly.

Five patients have tested positive for HIV and 33 tested positive for hepatitis since February, when the VA started notifying more than 11,000 people treated at three VA hospitals to get follow-up blood checks because of possible exposure to infectious bodily fluids. The equipment is used for colonoscopies and ear, nose and throat procedures.

The hospitals are in Miami; Murfreesboro, Tenn.; and Augusta, Ga.


Flu drug advised for pregnant women

ATLANTA | Pregnant women should take prescription flu medicines if they are diagnosed with the new swine flu, health officials said Tuesday.

So far, the swine flu has not proven to be much more dangerous than seasonal influenza, and it’s not clear whether pregnant women catch swine flu more often than other people. But in general, flu poses added risks for pregnant women, said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Risks from the virus are greater than the unknown risks to the fetus from the drugs Tamiflu and Relenza, Dr. Schuchat said at a news conference Tuesday.

CDC officials recommend Tamiflu for pregnant women.

A 33-year-old pregnant Texas woman who had swine flu died last week, after giving birth through an emergency Caesarean section. At least 20 other pregnant women have swine flu, including three who were hospitalized.

In total, about 3,000 U.S. cases of swine flu have been confirmed through lab testing so far, most of them ages 18 and under. Officials think the actual number of infections is much higher, and that infections are still occurring.

CDC officials said the swine flu may seem to be mild now, but they worry the virus will mutate into something more dangerous.


Ex-SLA fugitive arrives for parole

CHAMPAIGN | A former member of the Symbionese Liberation Army has arrived in Illinois to serve his parole from a California prison.

Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman Derek Schnapp says James William Kilgore checked in with his parole officer Tuesday morning. Mr. Schnapp says he can’t say where Kilgore is.

Kilgore served a six-year sentence for the murder of a California woman during a 1975 bank robbery.

The SLA was known for a string of crimes in the 1970s, including bank robberies and the kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patty Hearst.

Kilgore, who is 61, eluded arrest longer than any other SLA fugitive.

Kilgore’s wife, Teresa Barnes, is an associate professor at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.


Assembly passes gay-marriage bill

The New York state Assembly on Tuesday approved a law to allow gay weddings in the state, but the proposal faces a tougher reading in the state Senate. The vote in the Assembly, the legislature’s lower house, was 89-52.

If it passes the Senate, the law would make New York the sixth and highest-profile state allowing same-sex couples to wed, providing an impetus to other states considering such laws.

The bill approved Tuesday was submitted last month by Gov. David A. Paterson. The same draft law passed the lower house in 2007, but failed in the then-Republican led state Senate. Democrats now have a slim majority there, but observers say that may still not be enough.

The Assembly vote came a week after Maine became the fifth state to allow gay marriage. Opponents in Maine have vowed to repeal the law in a “people’s veto” referendum.


Charges dropped after 20 years

MAYNARDVILLE | Prosecutors have dropped charges against a former inmate who spent two decades on Tennessee’s death row before the U.S. Supreme Court questioned his guilt.

Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood accepted a request from District Attorney Paul Phillips to drop the murder charge against Paul House after a hearing Tuesday.

Mr. House, who spent 22 years on death row, was scheduled to be retried in June in the death of Carolyn Muncey.

In their petition, prosecutors said they still think Mr. House was involved in the crime, but new evidence raises doubts that he acted alone and clouds what his role was.

The U.S. Supreme Court had concluded in 2006 that no reasonable juror would have found House guilty based on DNA tests of semen stains on Miss Muncey’s clothing.


Mine disaster suits settled

SALT LAKE CITY | The owner and operator of Utah’s Crandall Canyon mine has settled lawsuits filed by the families of the miners and rescuers who were killed or injured by two cave-ins in 2007.

The settlement - the largest in Utah mining history - was signed Tuesday by lawyers for the defendants and family survivors of 12 men.

Six miners were trapped by a thunderous collapse at Crandall Canyon in August 2007. Another collapse 10 days later killed three rescuers, including a federal mining inspector, and injured three others.

Ohio-based Murray Energy Corp. subsidiary Utah American Energy Inc. says the settlement resolved costly and challenging technical issues and heads off an expensive trial.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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