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Anthrax widow sues for $50-million

By Wire services
Published September 25, 2003

WEST PALM BEACH - The widow of a photo editor killed in the nation's first anthrax attack in 2001 sued the federal government on Wednesday, alleging lax security at an Army lab caused his death.

Maureen Stevens is seeking more than $50-million in what is believed to be the first lawsuit to attempt to hold the government accountable for producing and mishandling the deadly strain.

Robert Stevens, an editor for the Sun tabloid, is believed to have contracted the disease from a tainted letter sent to the Boca Raton headquarters of American Media Inc.

The Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., is the primary custodian of the strain of anthrax found in envelopes sent to the victims.

Senate finally approves Texas redistricting plan

AUSTIN, Texas - After four turbulent months, three special legislative sessions and two Democratic walkouts, both houses of the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature have adopted redistricting plans that could give the GOP control of the state's congressional delegation.

The Senate gave final approval to its redistricting legislation Wednesday in an 18-12 vote mostly along party lines. The House adopted its map last week.

Negotiators from both houses have to work out their differences before the new map becomes a reality.

Computer virus holds up visa background checks

WASHINGTON - A virus seriously disrupted computer systems at the State Department, including the database for checking every visa applicant for terrorist or criminal history. The outage left the U.S. government unable to issue visas worldwide for nine hours.

Effects of the virus crippled the department's Consular Lookout and Support System, known as CLASS, which contains more than 15-million records from the FBI, the State Department and U.S. immigration, drug-enforcement and intelligence agencies. Among the names are those of at least 78,000 suspected terrorists.

Stuart Patt of the State Department said the "Welchia" virus did not affect data on the name-checking system and the agency's classified computer network, used to send its most sensitive messages and files, was not affected.

Elsewhere . . .

STUDENT SHOT, KILLED: A 15-year-old freshman opened fire at a Minnesota high school Wednesday, killing a student and critically wounding a second before a teacher apparently talked the boy into dropping the gun, authorities said.

The suspect was taken into custody after the late-morning shooting at Rocori High School in Cold Spring, a small town about 60 miles northwest of the Twin Cities.

MEDICARE DEADLINE SET: Determined to speed work on a Medicare prescription drug bill, Republican leaders in Congress on Wednesday set Oct. 17 as the target date for agreement on a compromise in the negotiations.

FAKING CANCER RESULTS IN PRISON: An Ohio husband and wife who admitted faking their daughter's leukemia to gain thousands of dollars in donations were sentenced to prison Wednesday.

Teresa Milbrandt was sentenced to 61/2 years and Robert Milbrandt got four years and 11 months for soliciting about $31,000 in donations.

CHILDREN BLUDGEONED: A Las Vegas woman bought a baseball bat and bludgeoned her two children to death, then stepped into the path of a truck in an apparent suicide attempt, authorities said Wednesday.

Sylvia Ewing, 40, was hospitalized in critical condition. Police Lt. Tom Monahan said she will face murder charges if she recovers.

YO-YO GETS WARNING: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a warning Wednesday about the risks associated with the "yo-yo water ball."

The commission said it received 186 reports of children getting the toy's stretchy cord wrapped around their necks. Children often twirl the toy around their heads like a lasso.

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