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Nation in brief

SARS vaccine is years away, Congress told

By Times wire services
Published April 8, 2003

On a day when cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome climbed to more than 2,600, U.S. officials said achieving a vaccine against the disease will take several years.

Simultaneously, the government of China released information showing the disease has spread widely through the country, and health officials in Hong Kong said they are bracing for a potential 3,000 cases by the end of the month.

There are 2,608 known cases of SARS, authorities said Monday: 148 in the United States and 2,460 in 17 other countries. There have been at least 98 deaths, all outside the United States.

In a Senate hearing, federal health officials said developing a SARS vaccine will take several years of accelerated research.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tentatively identified the cause of SARS as a previously unknown coronavirus, from a family that causes mild respiratory diseases in humans and more serious illness in animals.

Though the CDC has not confirmed that coronavirus causes SARS, the National Institutes of Health has begun working with an inactivated version of the virus, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

A vaccine could be ready within a year, but testing it for use on humans could take several years, he said.

Fauci and Dr. Julie Gerberding, the CDC's director, told the committee it is still too early to know how severe the epidemic will be.

Scientists clone endangered species

Scientists have for the first time created a healthy clone of an endangered species, offering powerful evidence cloning technology can play a role in preserving and even reconstituting threatened and endangered species.

The clone - a cattlelike creature known as a Javan banteng, native to Asian jungles - was grown from a single skin cell taken from a captive banteng before it died in 1980. The cell was one of several that had remained frozen in a vial at the San Diego Zoo until last year, when they were thawed as part of an experimental effort to make cloned banteng embryos.

Scientists transferred dozens of such embryos to the wombs of standard beef cows in Iowa last fall, and the first baby banteng clone was born April 1 after gestating for a standard 91/2 months.

Watergate papers sold for $5-million

WASHINGTON - Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporters who uncovered the Watergate scandal, have sold their Watergate notes and other papers to the University of Texas for $5-million, the university said Monday.

The material will be cataloged and stored at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, a research library on the campus in Austin. Most of the material will become public within a year, but the identities of confidential sources will be kept secret until after the sources die, including the one known as "Deep Throat," the university said.

Student shot, killed in La. school

NATCHITOCHES, La. - A gunman opened fire in a classroom at a Louisiana trade school on Monday, killing one student and wounding another, police said.

Calvin Joseph Coleman, 22, was arrested about an hour after the shootings, said Assistant Police Chief Chris Stanfield. Police said he had registered at Louisiana Technical College, but had not attended classes for several weeks.

Coleman will be charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and bringing a firearm on campus, Police Chief Ralph Peters said.

Mob boss drops act, pleads guilty

NEW YORK - Mob boss Vincent "The Chin" Gigante admitted Monday that his bathrobe-clad jaunts through Greenwich Village and other bizarre behavior were an act to avoid prison.

The Genovese family boss entered a guilty plea on obstruction of justice charges and then publicly dropped his "Oddfather" persona for the first time in decades. Gigante chatted amiably with his son, Andrew. He shook hands with defense lawyers and sipped water at a table in federal court.

The 75-year-old was sentenced to three years in prison for obstruction of justice - deliberately misleading doctors considering his ability to stand trial.

[Last modified April 18, 2003, 13:36:42]