national briefs 4a 4/6

Saturday, April 6, 2002

Postal chief: No more rate hikes for two years

WASHINGTON -- Following a 3-cent rate increase expected this summer, the cost of sending a letter won't go up again for at least two years, Postmaster General John Potter said Friday.

Once the new rates are in place, "I am committed to maintain that rate schedule until at least calendar year 2004," Potter told a National Press Club audience.

The postal governing board is expected to give final approval next week to an increase boosting first-class stamps to 37 cents this summer.

Chemist arrested for radioactive material

SANTA ANA, Calif. -- An Egyptian arrested after radioactive materials were found at his home is no terrorist, just a sloppy commercial chemist with a record of run-ins with regulators dating to the 1980s, officials said Friday.

Riad Mohamad Ahmed, 62, who pleaded no contest last year to illegal possession of radioactive material that resulted in a lab explosion, was arrested Thursday for allegedly possessing such material again. He was released Friday on $50,000 bail.

"I have great concerns because Dr. Ahmed has repeatedly demonstrated a matter of utter disregard for the health and safety of the public and his employees, and for the appropriate handling of radioactive material," said Orange County Deputy District Attorney Nick Thompson.

Substance on day-care van driver could be pot

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A bag of what appeared to be marijuana was found on the body of a day-care van driver who died in a crash that also killed four children, officials said Friday.

The bag was found in the pants pocket of Wesley Hudson, 27, as his body was being prepared for an autopsy, said Charles Cook, deputy police chief. He said the bag was taken to the crime lab for further testing.

Cook said an autopsy will determine if Hudson had been smoking marijuana at the time of the crash; results could take weeks.

Hudson, who had a prior marijuana offense, and six children were in the Tippy Toes Learning Academy van Thursday when it smashed into the supports of a highway overpass on Interstate 240.

Two of the children survived but were critically injured and remained hospitalized in intensive care Friday.

Nuclear agency sets up office to handle security

WASHINGTON -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Friday it is creating a new, streamlined office for security in response to the September terrorist attacks.

NRC's newly created Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response combines security duties from the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards and the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.

The Nuclear Reactor office handles operating nuclear power plants and non-power reactors. The Nuclear Material office handles non-reactor nuclear sites, such as waste storage facilities.

Company recalls entire line of shaped pasta

WASHINGTON -- A Tennessee company is recalling an entire line of shaped pasta because the products contain eggs that are not listed as ingredients and can possibly cause a life-threatening allergic reaction.

The Pasta Shoppe of Nashville has received no reports of injury, the company said Friday.

Of concern are egg whites in the pasta that weren't listed on the packaging.

People who are allergic or have severe sensitivities to eggs "run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products," the company announcement said.

The recalled pasta, which includes the shapes: "Think Snow," "Crazy for Tennis," "Star of David," "Surfin' the Net," "Ghouly Ghost," and "Cravin' the Crab," among others, comes in clear, 6-ounce bags. The Pasta Shoppe is listed as the manufacturer.

The recall also applies to the varieties of "Ready Set Chili," "Ready Set Soup," "Ready Set Salad," "Ready Set Meals in minutes," and "Easy Cheesy Pasta."

-- From wire reports

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