- The Washington Times - Friday, May 15, 2009

CALIFORNIA

Man convicted in body part scheme

LOS ANGELES | A man has been convicted in a lucrative scheme to buy and sell human body parts donated to a University of California medical school.

A jury found Ernest Nelson of Rancho Cucamonga guilty of conspiracy to commit grand theft, grand theft by embezzlement and tax evasion.

It deadlocked on two special enhancement charges that could have added prison time.



Prosecutors said Nelson, 51, and Henry Reid, the former director of the Willed Body Program at the University of California at Los Angeles, devised the $1.5 million scam in 1999.

Reid pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit grand theft and was sentenced to more than four years in prison.

COLORADO

Ex-Rocky staffers to launch magazine

DENVER | After splitting from financial backers of one online news venture, some former staffers of the defunct Rocky Mountain News plan to launch an online news magazine this summer.

The Rocky Mountain Independent would have free original content but would be supported by advertising and members who pay for benefits like premium content and live chats, co-founder Steve Foster said. Content would come from a staff of about a dozen, plus freelancers and partner blogs that would share content and revenue.

DELAWARE

Sports betting signed into law

NEWARK | Delaware becomes the only state east of the Mississippi River to allow betting on sports after the governor signed the legislation.

Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, signed the bill into law Thursday.

Officials say they expect to have sports betting running in three months and table games such as poker, blackjack, craps and roulette, in play in no more than six months.

The sports lottery is key to Mr. Markell’s plan to address a projected shortfall of more than $600 million for the coming fiscal year.

FLORIDA

Restoration finished at Little White House

KEY WEST | A seven-year, nearly $1 million restoration of Harry S. Truman’s Little White House in South Florida is complete.

The Key West home where Truman spent vacations while president will be rededicated in a ceremony Friday.

Former U.S. senator and 1972 presidential nominee George McGovern will take part. The dedication also begins a two-day symposium where scholars will discuss Truman’s relationship with Congress during his presidency from 1945 to 1953.

Truman White House staff member Ken Hechler and Truman grandson Clifton Truman Daniel will speak.

Truman spent 11 working vacations at the home while in office. It has also hosted former Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

GEORGIA

Swine flu cases top 4,000 in U.S.

ATLANTA | The number of confirmed cases of swine flu in the U.S. jumped Thursday from 3,352 sufferers to more than 4,000 in 47 states plus the District, health authorities said.

The (A)H1N1 influenza virus was confirmed in 4,298 people in the U.S., the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its daily online report.

Only four states - Virginia, Mississippi, Wyoming and Alaska - have no reported cases.

Illinois tops the list with 620 confirmed cases, followed by Wisconsin (510), California (473) and Texas (439).

The virus has spread to North Dakota and Arkansas since Wednesday, according to the report posted on the CDC Web site.

Three people have died of the new strain of swine-origin influenza in the U.S.

MISSOURI

Economist charged with robbery try

KANSAS CITY | An economist on leave from the federal agency that insures bank deposits has been charged with the April 11 attempted robbery of a Kansas City-area bank.

Jeff Walser said he had a bomb in his briefcase and demanded money at the Bank of America branch in Independence, but did not take $41,000 brought to him by an employee, according to an indictment filed Tuesday.

Mr. Walser, 51, surrendered to police and was being held in federal custody, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

He worked for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s Kansas City office and was on leave at the time of the robbery, agency spokesman Andrew Gray said.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Governor will sign revised marriage bill

CONCORD | Gov. John Lynch says he will sign a bill to make New Hampshire the sixth state to legalize gay marriage, but only if it strengthens protections for churches opposed to gay marriage.

The bill has been passed by the legislature, but hasn’t reached Mr. Lynch’s desk.

It would allow churches to decide whether they will conduct religious marriages for same-sex couples. But Mr. Lynch, a Democrat, said Thursday he wants clearer language to ensure that people won’t be forced to violate their religious principles. He says laws in Connecticut and Vermont do that.

The only other New England state not committed to recognizing same-sex marriage is Rhode Island. It’s also legal in Iowa.

NEW JERSEY

Free Lipitor, Viagra given to jobless

TRENTON | Pfizer Inc. says it will provide 70 of its most widely prescribed prescription drugs - including Lipitor and Viagra - free of charge to people who have lost their jobs and health insurance.

The world’s biggest drugmaker said Thursday that it will give away the medicines for up to a year to Americans who have lost jobs since Jan. 1 and have been on the Pfizer drug for three months or more.

The announcement was made amid massive job losses caused by the recession and a campaign in Washington to rein in health care costs and extend coverage. The move could earn Pfizer some good will in that debate after long being a target of critics of drug industry prices and sales practices.

The program also likely will help keep those patients loyal to Pfizer brands.

NEW YORK

Schools closed after outbreak

NEW YORK | New York City has closed three schools in response to a swine flu outbreak that has left one staff member in critical condition and sent hundreds of students home with flu symptoms, in a flare-up of the deadly virus that sent shock waves through the world last month.

A Health Department spokeswoman told the Associated Press that four students and the staff member have tested positive for swine flu at a middle school in Queens. At another middle school in Queens, 241 students were absent Thursday. Dozens more were sick at an elementary school.

New York City’s first known cases of swine flu appeared in late April, when hundreds of teenagers at a Roman Catholic high school in Queens began falling ill following the return of several students from vacations in Mexico, where the outbreak began.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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