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News Briefs

28 Boys Die in Fire at Russian School for Deaf


Twenty-eight boys at a boarding school for the deaf died early Thursday morning when fire swept through the aging facility in southern Russia, officials said. More than 100 other boys were hospitalized for smoke inhalation and burns, 22 of them in critical condition.

There was apparently no system for alerting the deaf children to danger, said Sergei Lupanov, a federal fire official in Moscow. After the fire began, school employees, neighbors and passersby raced from cot to cot, shaking the students to awaken them.

Fire officials said the fire was caused by an electrical short-circuit, a common event in the faulty wiring in Russia’s deteriorating buildings.

Local residents complained that the first fire engine had no water, that the fire ladders were too short to reach the second-floor dormitories, and that three out of the four ambulances had no oxygen, according to reporters at Novoye Delo, the largest daily newspaper in the capital.

House Rejects Higher SUV Fuel Standards


The House on Thursday thwarted an effort to force automakers to raise the fuel-economy standards of SUVs and other vehicles as it moved toward approval of a comprehensive energy bill.

Democrats from auto-producing states joined Republicans wary of government regulations to defeat the measure, which would have required the vehicles to meet an average standard of 30 miles per gallon by 2010.

Currently, fleets of light trucks -- including sport-utility vehicles, minivans and pickups -- must meet an average of 20.7 mpg, due to rise to 22.2 mpg for the 2007 model year. The “corporate average fuel economy” for cars is 27.5 mpg.

The 268-162 vote against the stricter rules came during a daylong debate on a Republican-drafted bill that, among other provisions, would provide $18 billion in tax breaks to encourage more energy production and conservation.

Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., said that while U.S. troops are securing oil fields in Iraq, Hummers roam the streets of the United States consuming gas at the rate of 11 miles a gallon.

SARS Scare Puts Workers in Quarantine


Canadian health officials placed employees at a technology plant in Ontario under quarantine after one worker showed up for work despite showing symptoms of severe acute respiratory syndrome, officials said Thursday.

Authorities said the quarantine order affected employees of a Hewlett-Packard (Canada) plant in Markham, Ontario, near Toronto.

“One individual has caused 197 other individuals to be isolated in quarantine and it has impacted that workplace. It has impacted society in general,” said Hanif Kassam, acting medical officer of health in York Region.

Kassam said health officials were in regular contact with the unidentified worker at the factory, who has now been hospitalized and is being treated for symptoms of the ailment, now commonly known by its acronym SARS.