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News Briefs

Gateses Hand Out First of Their Minority Scholarship Grants

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- SEATTLE

A day after a federal judge ordered the breakup of Bill Gates’ software empire, it was a college student who moved the Microsoft Corp. chairman to tears. Specifically, it was Filipina-American Charlene Russell, whose voice failed her upon being named one of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s first minority scholarship recipients.

“The friends and the family and the teachers who pushed me ... they believed that something was great inside me. And now I do believe it,” Russell, a business student at Washington’s Clark College, said as she fought back tears.

Gates spoke next and, in a departure from the equanimity he has displayed throughout his antitrust battle, found himself wiping his eyes and fighting a catch in his voice.

“It may not be the most visible thing I’ll do this week, but it’s the most exciting thing of all,” Gates said about handing out the first of this year’s 4,100 scholarships.

A total of 20,000 Millennium Scholars grants will be awarded to low-income minority students over the next two decades. With a $1 billion endowment, it is the largest privately funded scholarship program in U.S. history.

The aim of the scholarships -- which pay for all college expenses beyond basic tuition -- is to boost minority employment in technical fields.

Gore Proposes Criminal Penalties for Trafficking In Social Security Numbers

THE WASHINGTON POST -- WHITTIER, CALIF.

Vice President Gore Thursday proposed making it a federal crime to buy or sell Social Security numbers, the latest in a series of initiatives that he has begun promoting in his presidential campaign to address growing American anxiety about invasions of privacy and identity theft.

Midway through a three-day tour of the West Coast that is devoted mostly to fundraising, Gore told several hundred uniformed deputies gathered here at the Los Angeles County sheriff’s office training academy that he would make stronger protections of confidential financial and medical records a “national priority” if elected president. He said the privacy steps are at the heart of a broad new agenda for American families that he will begin outlining in detail next week.

Joining Gore on an outdoor stage this morning were Tim and Helen Remsburg, a New Hampshire couple whose 20-year-old daughter, Amy, was shot to death last year by a stalker who bought her Social Security number for $45 on the Internet. He used it to find her work address, then ambushed her in a parking lot there. “It should’ve and could’ve been avoided,” said Tim Remsburg, who introduced the vice president.

Mysterious Disease Reminiscent Of AIDS Outbreak Surfaces

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

In a scenario eerily reminiscent of the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic, nearly five dozen intravenous drug users in Scotland, Ireland and England have become ill or died since April of a mysterious illness whose origins health officials have not yet identified.

The baffling ailment is characterized by excessive swelling and redness at the injection site, low blood pressure and a high white blood cell count, often followed by heart failure.

More than half of the victims have died -- most of them about two days after being admitted to a hospital -- despite treatment with broad spectrum antibiotics and other measures.

And while cultures of their blood and tissue have shown multiple organisms, none has yet been identified as the likely culprit.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called two weeks ago by health authorities in the United Kingdom to help in the investigation, said in its first public report on the mystery illness Thursday that “the emergence of a new illness is possible,” but stressed that it appears to be confined to intravenous drug users.