Nation digest 02/09/06

Senate alarm signals nerve agent; test negative

WASHINGTON -- Eight senators were among 200 people who were held in a Capitol parking garage Wednesday night after a security sensor indicated the presence of a nerve agent in their office building. Later tests proved negative. The all-clear came three hours after an air-monitoring sensor indicated a suspicious substance in the attic of the Russell Senate Office Building. It initially tested positive as a nerve agent. Lawmakers, aides and other personnel were evacuated to the nearby West Legislative Garage shortly after 5:45 p.m. as police conducted other tests before concluding that it was a false alarm. "We had this warning system work," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., one of those in the garage. "People in the building followed the directions promptly. There was no panic, no running."

Three convicted in fatal try at smuggling people

HOUSTON -- Three more people were convicted Wednesday in the nation's deadliest human smuggling attempt, a journey that ended in the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants who had been packed into a stifling tractor-trailer. The defendants, all U.S. citizens from South Texas, were convicted of conspiracy and harboring and transporting illegal immigrants. They could get up to 20 years in prison when sentenced May 1 on the conspiracy charge. The other counts carry punishment ranges of 10 to 20 years. Prosecutors said Victor Sanchez Rodriguez, 58, his wife, Emma Sapata Rodriguez, 59, and her half sister, Rosa Sarrata Gonzalez, hid the immigrants in their home and other houses before they were loaded into an airtight tractor-trailer for transport to Houston in 2003.

McDonald's fries have more fats than thought

CHICAGO -- McDonald's french fries just got fatter -- by nutritional measurement. The world's largest restaurant chain said Wednesday its fries contain a third more trans fats than it previously knew, citing results of a new testing method it began using in December. That means the level of potentially artery-clogging trans fat in a portion of large fries is eight grams, up from six, with total fat increasing to 30 grams from 25. Often used by restaurants and in packaged foods, trans fats are thought to cause cholesterol problems and increase the risk of heart disease.

Study: Herbal pill didn't help prostate problems

NEW YORK -- A popular herbal pill used by millions of men doesn't reduce the frequent urge to go to the bathroom or other annoying symptoms of an enlarged prostate, a rigorous new study concludes. The yearlong research found the plant extract, saw palmetto, was no more effective than dummy capsules in easing symptoms for the 225 men in the study. The results contrast with previous research that showed it helped. Until their results are confirmed by more studies, men who take saw palmetto and feel it works should probably keep using it, said the lead researcher, Dr. Stephen Bent, of the San Francisco VA Medical Center.

-- From wire reports