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Nation in brief

Study says AIDS treatment increases risk of heart attacks

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 14, 2003

BOSTON -- Treatment of HIV-infected people with cocktails of anti-AIDS drugs has strongly increased survival, but a major new study shows that it also increases the risk of heart attacks, researchers said Thursday.

The new study of nearly 24,000 patients provides the first strong evidence linking the treatment to myocardial infarctions.

Every year patients take the drug cocktails increases their risk of heart attacks by 26 percent, Dr. Jens Lundgren of the Hvidovre University Hospital in Copenhagen told the 10th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.

Meanwhile, new studies confirm that an innocuous and relatively common virus can prolong the survival of AIDS victims, researchers said Thursday.

HIV-positive people who are co-infected with the GBV-C virus are 2.5 times as likely to survive as those who are not infected, epidemiologist Carolyn Williams of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told the 10th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.

Killer executed despite support for clemency

McALESTER, Okla. -- A man who killed a woman during a burglary in 1993 was executed by injection Thursday night despite a recommendation from the state parole board that he be given clemency.

The attorneys of Bobby Joe Fields, 39, argued that he should be spared because he had no advance intention of killing 77-year-old Louise Schem.

ELSEWHERE: Three judges in Austin, Texas, criticized their own court -- the state's highest criminal appeals body -- for allowing the execution of an inmate whose attorney was found incompetent by a death row watchdog.

In an opinion issued Wednesday, the judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals said Leonard Rojas, who was convicted of killing his common-law wife and his brother, should not have been executed Dec. 4.

Shaper of Medicare policy leaving administration

WASHINGTON -- Bobby Jindal, 31, a central figure on Medicare policy in the Bush administration, announced Thursday that he was resigning to return home to Louisiana. He is a potential Republican candidate for governor there this year.

The administration's Medicare plan has yet to be formally revealed, and early reports of it drew immediate fire on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers in both parties said any effort to require the elderly to accept a managed care plan as a condition for receiving drug benefits, as contemplated in a draft circulated last month, was doomed.

Democrats file support for affirmative action

WASHINGTON -- More than 100 House Democrats, including presidential hopeful Rep. Dick Gephardt and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, filed briefs Thursday with the Supreme Court in support of the University of Michigan's affirmative action admissions policy.

Gephardt, a Missouri Democrat and a graduate of Michigan's law school, criticized President Bush for opposing the university's policy.

"I believe we must continue to work toward greater inclusiveness in higher education and reject the backward-looking policies of the Bush administration that would deny our nation's compelling interest in ensuring diversity," he said.

Judge dismisses lawsuit by former Chiquita lawyer

CINCINNATI -- A judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a former Chiquita banana company lawyer who accused the Cincinnati Enquirer of exposing him to prosecution by failing to protect his identity as a confidential source.

U.S. District Judge Herman Weber ruled Tuesday that no reasonable jury could conclude that the newspaper breached a promise not to identify George Ventura as the source for articles about Chiquita Brands International.

Tests find no cause for tainted units of blood

ATLANTA -- Tests of blood collection bags conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cannot explain the white particles and oily patches that have appeared in units of blood from Georgia to New England.

After two weeks of testing, the Atlanta-based agency said Thursday that its labs have found no difference between blood collection bags associated with the contaminants and other bags made by the same manufacturer.

Posthumous medal recognizes WWI veteran

WASHINGTON -- More than 80 years after fighting off a German raiding party in World War I, Henry L. Johnson on Thursday was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross -- the nation's second-highest military award -- at an emotional Pentagon ceremony.

Although the award fell short of what his survivors and a number of lawmakers have sought -- the Medal of Honor -- the event capped a decades-long effort to gain official recognition from the U.S. military for the African-American soldier's heroism.

Conductor killed when coal train derails

SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. -- A fully loaded coal train derailed Thursday in this western Nebraska city, piling up debris 20 feet high and killing the conductor who was buried in the rubble.

The accident was believed to have occurred when the coal train collided with a switch engine.

Two engines and about 20 cars went off the tracks.

Mother who struck girl offered plea agreement

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A woman who was videotaped while repeatedly striking her 4-year-old daughter in a parking lot was offered a plea agreement, prosecutors said Thursday.

Deputy Prosecutor Michael Gotsch declined to disclose details of the offer, saying he was waiting for a response from the attorney for Madelyne Toogood.

A surveillance camera recorded Toogood, 26, hitting and shaking her child as she put the girl into a car seat outside a department store in September.

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