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Nation in brief

FDA advises all blood workers to check for clumps

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 8, 2003

The Food and Drug Administration advised blood centers Friday to take extra steps to examine bags of blood meant for transfusion, and to avoid using blood that might contain mysterious white clumps. The clumps were noticed in blood bags in late January in Georgia and northern Florida.

The extra steps include placing the bag on a flat surface, not moving it for 10 minutes and then looking for particles.

Dr. Jesse Goodman, director of the FDA center that regulates blood, said transfusions are safe and the benefits of transfusion far outweigh the risks for patients in need of blood. Other experts noted transfused blood is routinely passed through filters that would screen out the clumps.

Since the initial reports, more than 100 bags of blood with clumps have been found in Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri. But, the FDA said, most reports have come from Red Cross blood centers in the Southeast. And most reports have involved a certain type of bag made by Baxter Healthcare Corp., based in Deerfield, Ill.

13 injured in explosion at R.I. chemical plant

CRANSTON, R.I. -- A pipe exploded at a chemical plant Friday, starting a raging fire that sent acrid smoke billowing through the building. Twelve people were injured, one critically.

As many as 200 people were evacuated from the neighborhood for about four hours.

Authorities said the pipe exploded after a worker banged on it with a hammer in an attempt to clear it. The worker was severely injured and in critical condition.

Schools must let students pray or lose funding

WASHINGTON -- Schools that don't allow students to pray outside the classroom or ban teachers from holding religious meetings among themselves could lose federal money, the Education Department said Friday.

The guidance reflects the Bush administration's push to ensure that schools give teachers and students as much freedom to pray as the courts have allowed.

The department makes clear that teachers cannot pray with students or attempt to shape their religious views.

Bush and Congress ordered the department to release the guidelines as part of an education overhaul signed last year.

Man dies after more than a year with artificial heart

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The longest-living recipient of a self-contained artificial heart died Friday after nearly 17 months with the plastic-and-titanium device pumping in his chest.

Tom Christerson was 71 and died at Jewish Hospital. He became the second recipient of the AbioCor artificial heart in a surgery Sept. 13, 2001. Two other recent recipients of the device remain alive.

When he received the device, Christerson was given little chance of surviving more than a month with his failing heart.

"I didn't have any idea it would last this long," Christerson said in September.

Texas executes man involved in gay shooting

HUNTSVILLE, Texas -- An apologetic Henry Dunn Jr. was executed for participating in the fatal shooting of a man who was abducted and targeted for robbery because he was gay.

Strapped to a gurney Thursday night, he expressed love for his family and asked for forgiveness from his victim's relatives.

Dunn was pronounced dead at 6:15 p.m., six minutes after the injection began.

In a written statement released after his death, he said the death penalty in Texas is broken. He said unqualified attorneys were appointed for him under state law.

Dunn, 28, was the eighth Texas inmate executed this year and second this week. Three are scheduled for lethal injection this month.

6-year-old treated for chill after wrong bus stop

DES MOINES, Iowa -- A 6-year-old who got off his school bus at the wrong stop walked 2 miles in 19-degree weather before a stranger came to his aid, officials said.

When Bruce Scapecchi spotted kindergartner Tuan Pham wandering along a busy city street late Tuesday afternoon, he put Tuan in his car to warm him and called police.

The boy was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he was treated for exposure and released to his family.

Tuan apparently slept through his regular bus stop, ending up about 3 miles from home. When his 9-year-old sister arrived home without him, Tuan's father called authorities.

Greenwood Elementary School officials said a substitute was driving Tuan's school bus, and they plan to review their safety procedures.

Student charged with trying to kill teacher

PHILADELPHIA -- A 13-year-old student who allegedly poured cleaning fluid into a teacher's fruit juice has been charged with attempted murder, police said Friday.

Grover Washington Jr. Middle School math teacher Carol Cook, 43, fell ill immediately after drinking the juice in a classroom Thursday, police said. She drove herself to a hospital, where she was treated and released.

Calif. court exonerates tobacco companies in suit

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A state court jury ruled Friday two tobacco companies are not responsible for a longtime smoker's illness.

Laurence Lucier, 52, a former accountant who said his 30-year pack-a-day habit left him with terminal cancer, sued Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. under a products liability law alleging the tobacco companies engineered and sold a product they knew was addictive and harmful.

Lucier had asked for $3.6-million for medical expenses, loss of income and the pain and suffering that Lucier's illness had caused his wife and their 6-year-old daughter.

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