Nation briefs 12/16/05

Friday, December 16, 2005

CDC reports West Nile cases up on Gulf Coast

ATLANTA -- West Nile virus cases in the United States rose this year, with a marked increase along the Gulf Coast, the government reported Thursday. Health officials had worried that standing water left by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita would allow mosquito populations to grow and the virus to proliferate. The number of human cases in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas increased by about 24 percent from 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Conservation groups sue to protect polar bears

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Three environmental groups sued the federal government Thursday, seeking to protect polar bears from extinction because of disappearing Arctic sea ice. The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco, demands that the government take action on a petition filed earlier to have polar bears listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. The environmentalists hope to force the government to curb emissions of greenhouse gases.

11 million adults in U.S. not literate in English

WASHINGTON -- About one in 20 adults in the United States is not literate in English, meaning 11 million people lack the skills to handle many everyday tasks, a federal study shows. From 1992 to 2003, adults made no progress in their ability to read sentences and paragraphs or understand material such as bus schedules or prescription labels.

Icy weather causes power outages in southern U.S.

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Freezing rain and ice across the South early Thursday closed schools, snarled traffic and caused power outages to more than 350,000 customers. The outages were caused by ice that formed on tree limbs and fell onto power lines. About 160,000 were without power in South Carolina, 102,000 in Georgia and 40,000 in North Carolina.

-- From wire reports

"The trees and power lines are down everywhere on the road. It's just dangerous to be out," said Rebecca Neal, who was using blankets to keep warm in her powerless Greenville home and thinking about finding a hotel for the night. The National Weather Service said the freezing rain was expected to continue in the region through Thursday evening and overnight temperatures were forecast to dip into the 20s. More power lines and tree limbs could snap under ice layers expected to grow to up to three-quarters of an inch thick.

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