Nation briefs 7/23/04

Friday, July 23, 2004

More than 200 sue R.I., nightclub over 2003 fire

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- More than 200 people affected by a devastating nightclub fire sued the state, club owners and a host of other defendants Thursday, alleging that their carelessness and negligence are to blame for 100 deaths and dozens of injuries. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 146 survivors and the family members of 80 people who died, the largest wave of plaintiffs yet to sue over the 2003 blaze at The Station nightclub in West Warwick.

Amphetamines found more often in drug tests

NEW YORK -- Employers who screen job applicants and workers for drugs saw the number testing positive for methamphetamine surge 68 percent last year, according to the country's largest testing company. The report -- tallying the results of more than 7 million workplace drug tests performed by Quest Diagnostics Inc. -- showed a smaller rise in positives for opiates like heroin, as the overall number of workers failing tests stayed unchanged at 4.5 percent.

Nineteen put on leave at Los Alamos laboratory

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. -- Fifteen employees at the Los Alamos National Laboratory were placed on leave amid an investigation into the disappearance of two computer disks containing classified information, the director of the nuclear weapons lab said Thursday. Four other employees also were placed on leave by director Pete Nanos in a separate investigation involving an intern at the lab who suffered a serious eye injury from a laser.

NASA: Two return-to-flight recommendations met

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA has met two more recommendations that are required for the space agency to return to flight, but remains stymied on inspection and repair methods for shuttles in orbit. Inspection and repair, along with the elimination of fuel-tank foam shedding, are the most technically challenging issues facing NASA as it aims for a spring 2005 launch, the head of an oversight panel said Thursday.

Note leads to Amtrak train search in Newark

NEWARK, N.J. -- A threatening note found aboard a Washington-to-New York Amtrak train prompted police to detain it for an hour and a half Thursday morning while they checked all passengers for identification and examined the overhead luggage racks. After officers videotaped the passengers and searched the cars with at least one bomb-sniffing dog, the train was declared safe and allowed to leave Newark Penn Station to continue on its way.

Workers caught stealing jet fuel at Miami airport

MIAMI -- Contract workers at Miami International Airport falsely classified jet fuel as contaminated and then sold it on the sly, stealing 2.7 million gallons of fuel, prosecutors alleged Thursday. Nineteen people including mechanics, technicians and an airport official were named in arrest warrants issued in the alleged corruption scheme, which also allegedly included unneeded or overpriced repairs and contract fraud, the State Attorney's Office said.-- From wire reports

CDC: Asbestos deaths rocketed since the 1960s

ATLANTA -- Asbestos deaths in the United States have skyrocketed since the late 1960s and will probably keep on climbing through the next decade because of long-ago exposure to the material, once widely used for insulation and fireproofing, the government said Thursday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 1,493 people died from asbestos in 2000, compared with 77 in 1968.

House strips federal courts of gay marriage jurisdiction

WASHINGTON -- Stung by a Senate setback on gay marriage, Republicans passed legislation in the House Thursday to prevent federal courts from ordering states to recognize same-sex unions sanctioned elsewhere. Democrats called the bill an unconstitutional attack on gays and the federal judiciary, and said its passage was just a matter of election-year politics.

Company attempts nonprescription morning-after pill

WASHINGTON -- A maker of morning-after birth control asked the government Thursday to reconsider allowing over-the-counter sales of the pills -- but only for women 16 and older. The Food and Drug Administration in May rejected nonprescription sales of emergency contraception, overruling its own scientific advisers, who had overwhelmingly called easier access to morning-after pills a safe way to prevent thousands of abortions.

Florida reviewing voting database

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida's top elections official Thursday ordered a review of the state's voter database after a list used by county officials to remove felons from voting rolls came under heavy criticism. Secretary of State Glenda Hood acknowledged the list of 48,000 potential felons was flawed and scrapped it: It contained thousands of people who are eligible to vote, such as people who had their charges reduced, and was flawed by a technical glitch that excluded many possible Hispanic felons.

Missile interceptor installed in Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- A ground-based missile interceptor was installed Thursday in Alaska's Interior -- the first component of a national defense system designed to shoot down enemy missiles. Crews at Fort Greely lowered the 55-foot-long, three-stage interceptor into one of six silos built behind a double perimeter fence reinforced by heavy barbed wire.

-- From wire reports

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