Infant with spina bifida flying to U.S. for treatment

Saturday, December 31, 2005

ATLANTA -- Even in war, people have hope and try to save lives. An Iraqi infant with a severe birth defect began her journey Friday to the United States, where she will receive medical care at the urging of U.S. soldiers who discovered her during a raid. Noor al-Zahra, who is 3 months old, and family took off in a military transport plane from Baghdad airport, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. They will fly to Kuwait and then board a commercial flight, said social and medical workers who have arranged for her care. It is not yet clear how much physicians will be able to do to help her after she gets to Atlanta, said Dr. Roger Hudgins, the pediatric neurosurgeon who agreed to take the case. The child has spina bifida, a birth defect in which the backbone and spinal cord do not close before birth.

Train passengers stalled for hours in Fla., Ga.

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Exasperated passengers were stuck on an Amtrak train for close to 20 hours while engineers waited for a derailed freight train to be removed. Amtrak Train 98 started to move again Friday around 1:30 p.m., with the hopes of reaching New York by Saturday. Two passenger trains behind it were delayed for less time. The train had left Orlando, Fla., on Thursday around 1 p.m., but was delayed in Jacksonville for roughly 12 hours because of the derailment. It started moving again about 4 a.m., but stopped again in a patch of forest outside Savannah about two hours later.

Tropical Storm Zeta forms in Atlantic Ocean

MIAMI -- Tropical Storm Zeta formed Friday in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, another installment in a record-breaking hurricane season that officially ended last month. Zeta formed Friday about 1,000 miles south-southwest of the Azores islands, according to an advisory posted on the National Hurricane Center's Web site. The center said it would send out a full advisory later Friday. It was not immediately known if this is the latest a tropical storm has formed in the Atlantic.

Feds estimate 2,000 sex offenders fled Gulf region

WASHINGTON -- Governors in states that accepted Katrina evacuees are being urged to locate about 2,000 registered sex offenders who fled the Gulf region during the hurricane's mayhem and may have vanished from legally required tracking. "When sex offenders know they're being watched, when they know they're being monitored, they are less likely to offend again," said Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the Department of Health and Human Services. "When they no longer believe they are being monitored or watched, they can be tempted to offend again." The Administration for Children and Families estimated that about 30 states are affected. In November, agency officials matched the names of sex offender registries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama with the names of evacuees who applied for disaster assistance. The agency came up with more than 2,000 matches. The find led Horn to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on a system that would allow state law enforcement agencies to find registered sex offenders who are receiving disaster assistance. All states are required to have sex offender registries, and people convicted of sexually violent offenses are required to register their current addresses.

Catholic church offers to settle more abuse claims

BOSTON -- The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has offered to settle another round of sexual abuse claims for less per person than it paid in hundreds of cases two years ago, according to two lawyers for alleged victims. The offer was for $5,000 to $200,000 per claim, depending on the severity of the abuse and the strength of the allegations, said the attorneys, who represent about 100 alleged victims. The Boston Globe, quoting unidentified plaintiffs' attorneys, reported Friday that the payout would total about $7.5 million for about 100 plaintiffs. That would amount to an average payout of about $75,000 if everyone were paid. The 2003 settlements, to 554 people, averaged $153,000. The archdiocese set a Feb. 2 deadline for the plaintiffs to accept the settlement offer, and several plaintiffs' attorneys plan to meet Tuesday to discuss the offer, Durso said Thursday.

-- From wire reports

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