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News Briefs

Smoker Agrees to Accept $100 Million Damage Award

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- LOS ANGELES

A Los Angeles lung cancer victim has agreed to a record $100 million damage award against cigarette maker Philip Morris, rather than seeking an even larger possible verdict in a new trial.

Richard Boeken, 57, announced Tuesday his approval of the massive award, reduced from $3 billion by a Los Angeles judge earlier this month. His attorney, Michael Piuze, filed his client’s consent in Superior Court late Monday, four days before the court’s deadline for his decision.

Philip Morris, the country’s biggest cigarette maker, said it plans to appeal the award, and will file papers within a few weeks. The company will ask for a complete reversal and retrial on multiple grounds.

Meanwhile, the company will be required to post a $100 million bond with the court, according to the tobacco company’s attorneys.

Under a recent ruling by Superior Court Judge Charles W. McCoy Jr., Boeken had until Friday to agree in writing to the $100 million award or Philip Morris would have been granted a new trial on the punitive damages.

Admiral Encouraged to Stay At Military Academy

THE WASHINGTON POST -- ANNAPOLIS

Instructors at the U.S. Naval Academy this week asked Vice Adm. John Ryan to extend his term as superintendent, praising him for an “inclusive” leadership style that has mended breaches between the institution’s military and academic cultures.

In a unanimous vote, the Faculty Senate passed an unusual resolution asking Ryan to consider staying at the Annapolis military college beyond his four-year tour of duty, which is set to expire next year.

The Senate -- made up mostly of civilian professors -- has had prickly relations with many of the Navy admirals who have run the school and never before has asked any to linger in the job.

“His energy and dedication have just energized the place in a way I’ve never seen before,” said Senate President Charles Cochran, a longtime political science professor at the academy.

“The faculty wanted to make a point of saying, ’We’d like you to stay if you would like to.’ ”

In a statement released by his office, Ryan said he was “honored and humbled by such a resolution, particularly because I hold the faculty in such high regard.”

But his spokesman, Cmdr. Bill Spann, declined to speculate on whether the resolution would prompt Ryan or Pentagon officials to consider an extension.

White House Still Studying Proposal on Leaks

THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON

The White House has not decided whether to support legislation, vetoed last fall by former President Bill Clinton, to criminalize leaks of “properly classified” information by present or former government employees.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has scheduled a Sept. 5 public hearing on the controversial proposal that was authored last year by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., then chairman and now ranking Republican on the committee. Shelby wants to add the same language to the fiscal 2001 intelligence authorization bill that is to be marked up by the panel the day after the hearing.

Shelby, according to a committee aide, has asked President Bush and Vice President Cheney to support the measure but so far has been told only that “the administration position is being worked on.”

“The White House is currently studying whether a new criminal statute is necessary,” a Bush National Security Council spokesman said Wednesday.

A senior intelligence official said the administration is hesitating “because it does not want to take on any additional political problems at this time.”

In vetoing last year’s intelligence authorization bill in order to prevent Shelby’s language from becoming law, Clinton said the measure was “overbroad and may unnecessarily chill legitimate activities that are at the heart of a democracy.”

Intelligence committee chairman Bob Graham, D-Fla., agreed to hold next month’s public hearing after opponents of the measure complained that they had not been heard last year.

Maryland Company to Build Better Heart-Attack Detector

THE WASHINGTON POST -- COLUMBIA, MARYLAND

Meridian Medical Technologies Inc. hopes to cash in on the failings of the traditional ECG. awaits government approval to sell a new version, the Prime ECG electrocardiac mapping system, which Ornato has been testing for almost two years.

The Prime system is designed to detect heart attacks earlier and more accurately than the standard ECG. It uses 80 sensors and sophisticated computer software to translate the heart’s electrical activity into colorful, easy-to-read images that help doctors spot abnormalities.

Today’s ECG, also known as EKG, which uses 12 sensors to measure electrical signals emitted by a patient’s heart, is far from perfect. According to some estimates, it fails to detect up to 60 percent of heart attacks because it can’t spot damage in several key areas of the heart.

“We’ve all known for some time that the 12-lead ECG is the best we had, but it has important limitations,” said Joseph Ornato, a professor and the chairman of emergency medicine at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond.