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News Briefs

Quarantine on Donated Blood Expanded

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- ATLANTA

Non-emergency surgeries were postponed and hospital officials in parts of the South kept a close eye on blood supplies Monday after the American Red Cross expanded a quarantine issued when an unidentified white substance was discovered in bags of donated blood.

Federal health officials worked to identify the particles, which first were spotted in 110 bags of donated blood in Atlanta late last week, prompting the Red Cross to quarantine almost all of its inventory across Georgia and parts of South Carolina.

On Sunday, officials in Nashville quarantined about two-thirds of the agency’s blood supply for the Tennessee Valley region -- covering mid-Tennessee and parts of Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri -- after a similar substance turned up in 10 bags there. The quarantine applied to blood that was stored in bags manufactured by Baxter Healthcare Corp. of Deerfield, Ill., which also produced the collection bags in which the substance was discovered in Georgia.

Testing by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that the particles were not infectious, officials said. The Red Cross said it had received no reports of harm to any patients.

AOL Time Warner Warns of Increased Debt

THE WASHINGTON POST

AOL Time Warner Inc. has notified credit rating agencies that its $25.8 billion of debt will increase by several billion dollars in coming months, prompting a warning from Standard & Poor’s Corp. that the media giant will face mounting financial pressure and a possible drop in its creditworthiness this year.

In the next few months, the company must add $2.1 billion in debt to restructure the finances of its cable television operations, up to $800 million in debt to purchase an outstanding stake in America Online’s European operations, and $800 million in debt linked mostly to development of AOL Time Warner Center, the company’s new, 53-story Manhattan headquarters.

The company’s efforts to reduce its massive debt hinge on raising billions by selling a portion of its cable television operations and other businesses. But analysts said weakness in financial markets, and uncertainty over the prospect of war with Iraq, could complicate or delay those deals. If that happens, the company’s creditworthiness would decline, its cost of borrowing would increase and its bond rating would be slashed, analysts said.

The company recently renegotiated the terms of its outstanding loans to avoid any technical violation of existing debt agreements related to its falling net worth, according to Wayne H. Pace, AOL Time Warner’s chief financial officer.