Flooding hits residents around Southern region

Friday, May 9, 2003

Some of the heaviest rainfall in more than a century swamped parts of the South with flooding Thursday, forcing hundreds of people to flee homes and businesses in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.

Some 300 people left West Point, Ga., 75 miles southwest of Atlanta, as the Chattahoochee River rose toward its highest level since at least 1961.

"If this rises much more, it could affect four to five times that," said West Point police chief David Kerr. "The West Point dam is doing its job, or we'd be completely flooded by now."

More than a foot of rain has fallen on the region since last weekend. The swollen Tennessee River has forced as many as 1,600 people out of their homes in the worst flooding to hit Chattanooga, Tenn., in nearly 30 years.

More prisoners released from Guantanamo base

WASHINGTON -- A group of prisoners was transferred Thursday from the U.S. military prison for terrorists suspects in Cuba to Afghanistan, defense officials said.

The 15 prisoners left the naval base at Guantanamo Bay Thursday morning, two Defense Department officials said on condition of anonymity.

They gave no other details on their identities or nationalities.

It wasn't clear whether they were to be freed on arrival in Afghanistan or further detained for questioning or prosecution by that government.

That left some 645 prisoners from more than three dozen countries held at Guantanamo, without charges or access to lawyers. Officials refuse to identify them or their countries or say exactly how many there are.

The release comes as American officials try to more quickly sort out which terrorist suspects held in the high-security facility can be set free.

Senate committee votes to pass $500 tax credit

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Finance Committee passed a tax cut plan Thursday that would give stockholders at least $500 in tax-free dividend income.

Democrat Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas joined Republicans in a 12-9 vote to pass the bill, which would reduce taxes $350 billion over the coming decade. "I certainly felt like I could move it along the process," she said, offering no guarantee she will vote for the bill when it is debated by the full Senate.

Lincoln supported the tax cut after Republicans agreed to make the entire $1,000 child tax credit refundable to give the full benefit to lower-income taxpayers. She also won tax law changes that would create a single definition of a child, rather than the current five, and add a new deduction for homeowners who pay private mortgage insurance.

Duke fund to honor transplant error victim

DURHAM, N.C. -- Three months after Jesica Santillan's botched heart-lung transplant, Duke University Hospital announced a $4 million fund in her memory Thursday to help families of other young Hispanic patients.

"Jesica's sad outcome profoundly affected all of us at Duke," said Dr. Ralph Snyderman, head of Duke's health system. "It is especially appropriate that Duke Hospital create a significant fund that will help keep Jesica's memory alive forever."

Santillan, a 17-year-old smuggled across the border from Mexico in hopes of receiving better medical care, died Feb. 22 after a second heart-lung transplant. The first transplant involved organs of the wrong blood type.

Procedural errors have been blamed for the mistake. Duke officials have said the transplant surgeon also wrongly assumed donated organs for the first transplant matched Jesica's blood type.

Explosion aboard Navy ship injures 11 Marines

NORFOLK, Va. -- Eleven Marines were injured when a piece of munitions exploded in a trash can aboard the USS Saipan in the Persian Gulf, the ship's commanding officer said Thursday.

One Marine received a bad arm wound in the explosion Wednesday evening and was operated on by the ship's surgeon, then taken to a field hospital in Kuwait, Capt. Norma L. Hackney said in a statement e-mailed to families of those aboard the Norfolk-based ship and posted on the Saipan's Web site.

"This morning, the report is very favorable," Hackney said. "He is stable and will be transferred to the hospital in Germany."

The rest of the Marines had minor injuries, she said.

The explosion occurred in a sleeping area, the Navy's Fifth Fleet in Bahrain said in a statement.

--From wire reports

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