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Nation in brief

Tests focus on missing pregnant woman

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 17, 2003

RICHMOND, Calif. -- The investigation into two bodies found in San Francisco Bay is focused on determining whether they were Laci Peterson and the baby she was carrying, a state criminalist said Wednesday.

The state crime lab is comparing DNA from Peterson and her parents with tissue and bone taken from the decomposed bodies of a woman and infant boy found this week a mile apart on the rocky shoreline east of San Francisco.

"We don't have another person in mind," lab supervisor John Tonkyn said.

The 27-year-old substitute teacher vanished on Christmas Eve from her home in Modesto, 90 miles southeast of Richmond. Her husband, Scott Peterson, said he saw her as he left to go fishing that morning in Berkeley, not far from where the bodies were found.

The lab was analyzing cheek swabs taken from the missing woman's parents and hair from her hairbrush. Those findings will be compared with DNA from the bodies that were found.

Tonkyn said the lab wasn't using dental records because they were not provided with teeth from the Contra Costa County Coroner's office. "Sometimes not a full skeleton has been found," Tonkyn said.

Montana bar, called 'ideal' by Jack Kerouac, closes

BUTTE, Mont. -- The M&M Cigar Store, a landmark saloon for miners, gamblers and cowboys once described by beat poet Jack Kerouac as the ideal bar, closed after 113 years after the business manager filed for bankruptcy.

"It was not profitable any more," said Charles Bugni, 78, who had leased the business for nearly three decades. "This isn't a young man's joint, and the old-timers are passing away."

The beat poet Kerouac visited the M&M Bar and described it for Esquire magazine in 1970: "What characters in there: old prospectors, gamblers, whores, miners, Indians, cowboys, tobacco-chewing businessmen! . . . It was the end of my quest for an ideal bar."

Elsewhere . . .

POLLUTION DOWN, STUDY SAYS: Environmental pollution in North America dropped 5 percent between 1995 and 2000, according to a study by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation set up under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The study released today said two of the most notable trends reflected in the overall decline are a 28 percent drop in the amount of chemicals emitted into the air and a 41 percent increase in the amount of chemicals sent largely to off-premise landfills.

COLORADO APPROVES SCHOOL VOUCHERS: Colorado Gov. Bill Owens signed a law Wednesday establishing the first state school voucher program since the U.S. Supreme Court declared such programs constitutional last year.

The law will allow a school district to provide vouchers to children in kindergarten through 12th grade who are eligible for free or reduced-cost school lunches if at least eight of its schools received low or unsatisfactory academic performance ratings.

SALLIE MAE ERRORS: A computer error has forced Sallie Mae, the nation's largest provider of student loans, to increase the monthly payments of 800,000 borrowers.

Sallie Mae spokeswoman Kathleen deLaski said Wednesday the company expects 90 percent of the monthly increases to be $40 or less. The average increase, she added, should be $25 per month.

"It is our error and we're sending out letters apologizing for it," deLaski said.

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