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News Briefs

Letter to Nairobi Man Tests Positive for Anthrax


Health authorities in Kenya said a letter mailed from Atlanta to a man in the capital Nairobi tested positive for anthrax, the first such case confirmed beyond U.S. borders since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

The letter, containing white powder and several small bits of cloth, was postmarked Sept. 8 and delivered Oct. 9 to the man, who opened it two days later. A culture test by the state-run Kenya Medical Research Institute on Wednesday came back positive for anthrax spores, health minister Sam Ongeri told a news conference Thursday.

“He saw the letter, he saw the powder and he looked at it and he reported it,” Ongeri said of the recipient, who he declined to identify by name or occupation. The man and four members of his family are undergoing tests for exposure to the pathogen.

Authorities did not identify the man or his family and offered no explanation as to why anthrax might have been sent to them or by whom. There was no evidence other than time and similarity to link the mailing to anthrax cases in the United States.

Kenya is a close ally of the United States. In 1998, a bomb exploded at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, killing 213 people. The Kenyan government cooperated closely in extraditing suspects associated with Osama bin Laden to the United States for trial.

Arctic Drilling Dispute Escalated By Discrepancy in Testimony


When a Senate committee asked Interior Secretary Gale Norton questions about caribou in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, she sought answers from the agency in her department that runs the refuge.

But when Norton formally replied to the committee, she left out the agency’s scientific data that suggested caribou could be affected by oil drilling, while including its data that supported her case for exploration in the refuge, documents show. Norton also added data that was just wrong, stating that caribou calving has been concentrated outside the proposed drilling area in 11 of the last 18 years, when in fact the opposite is true.

The Arctic refuge was already the first issue to pierce the bipartisan consensus that prevailed on Capitol Hill since last month’s terrorist attacks, with drilling proponents pushing for a vote on national security grounds and opponents arguing for delay. Norton’s behind-the-scenes rebuff to the Fish and Wildlife Service -- which is the Interior Department’s front-line environmental agency, but is not yet staffed by any Bush administration political appointees -- is likely to heighten tensions over the nation’s most disputed patch of tundra.

UCLA Surgeons Successfully Implant Artificial Heart


University of California, Los Angeles surgeons successfully implanted a self-contained artificial heart in a patient Wednesday, marking only the fourth time it has been done and the first time in the West.

Dr. Hillel Laks, who headed the surgical team, said Thursday that the 11th-hour procedure “went exceptionally well and the artificial heart is functioning beautifully.”

The patient, a man in his 70s, was said to be resting comfortably. The medical center did not release any other details about the patient.

Abiomed Inc., which manufactures the heart, has been criticized for withholding information about earlier patients who underwent the implant operation until well after their surgeries were completed. But the company has responded by saying that its actions were meant to protect the privacy of the patients’ families and to avoid distracting the physicians from their work.

Surgeons at Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Ky., implanted the device -- the AbioCor artificial heart -- for the first time July 2 in Robert Tools, 59, who was near death from heart disease. They repeated the procedure Sept. 14 on Tom Christerson, 70, who was also near death.

A team from St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston performed the third procedure Sept. 28 on a man who has so far been described only as “desperately ill.” All three patients are doing well on the artificial heart, according to Edward E. Berger, a vice president of Abiomed Inc., of Danvers, Mass.

Swift Officially Announces Candidacy for Governor in 2002


Surprising no one, Acting Gov. Jane M. Swift declared Thursday that she will be a candidate for the state’s top office in 2002.

Swift, 36, has occupied the coveted corner office of the gold-domed statehouse since April, when fellow Republican Paul Cellucci left the governorship to become U.S. ambassador to Canada.

After several missteps as lieutenant governor, Swift, in late-term pregnancy, took office with low approval ratings and widespread skepticism about her ability to do the job. In the ensuing months, she has delivered twin girls -- making her the first governor in U.S. history to give birth while in office -- and has gained public confidence and popularity.

Swift has assumed a high profile since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The two planes that hit New York’s World Trade Center originated at Boston’s Logan International Airport, vaulting Swift and her state into a worldwide spotlight.

Swift announced her candidacy Thursday after a send-off ceremony for 100 National Guard troops headed to Fort Dix, N.J.

“She said all along she would be letting folks know her intentions sometime in late winter,” aide Sarah Magazine said.