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Briefs (right)

Doctors Say Taser Caused
Heart Fibrillation

By Alex Berenson

A shock from a Taser stun gun caused a teenager in Chicago to go into ventricular fibrillation, a usually fatal heart disturbance, according to a letter published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The letter, written by two doctors at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, appears to be the first medically documented case of ventricular fibrillation caused by a Taser gun. Tasers are pistol-like weapons that fire electrified barbs up to 25 feet, immobilizing people with painful shocks.

Taser International, which makes the guns, has said that Tasers cannot cause fibrillation, a condition in which the heart loses the ability to pump blood. If not immediately reversed, fibrillation causes death within minutes. In the Chicago case, which occurred last February, the teenage crime suspect received immediate medical attention and survived after the police shot him with the Taser.

Dr. Wayne H. Franklin, a pediatric electrophysiologist at Children’s Memorial and one of the letter’s authors, said the teenager would have died if he had not been received immediate care. An electrocardiogram, or heart rhythm monitor, given to the teenager after he was shocked by the Taser proved that he suffered fibrillation, Franklin said.

The case illustrates the risks of Tasers as well as the need for police officers to carry defibrillators, which emit a large electric shock that restores the heart’s rhythm, Franklin said. Police should be aware that Tasers can cause fibrillation, even though the risks may be small, he said.

Japanese Retailer Bids $1 Billion To Buy Up 7-Eleven

By Martin Fackler


Japan’s largest retailer, Seven & I Holdings, said Thursday it was offering $1 billion to buy the 27 percent of 7-Eleven, the ubiquitous convenience store chain, that it does not already own.

The deal is one of the biggest investments by a Japanese company in the United States in recent years, and would make 7-Eleven a fully owned subsidiary of the Japanese company. Founded in Dallas 78 years ago, 7-Eleven pioneered the concept of small grocery stores offering convenient long hours and grew into the largest such company in the world.

Ito-Yokado, now a unit of Seven & I, first bought a controlling stake in 7-Eleven in 1991, a time when Japanese companies were gobbling up American companies and properties. The purchase of a household name in American retailing was widely seen as a symbol of Japan’s economic rise, and what many then thought was America’s decline.

Seven & I itself is a newly created holding company that only began official operations on Thursday. The holding company was formed by the department store chain Ito-Yokado, and also Seven-Eleven Japan and Denny’s Japan, the operators of 7-Eleven stores and Denny’s restaurants in Japan.

Seven & I said on its Web site that it was offering $32.50 for each share of 7-Eleven, about a 15 percent premium over the shares’ closing price on Wednesday. The announcement sent 7-Eleven shares soaring 22 percent.

Mississippi and Louisiana Students To Attend Schools Out of State

By Karen W. Arenson

As more offers poured in to take students displaced by Hurricane Katrina, the authorities continued Thursday to assess the damage to the region’s education system.

In Mississippi, state officials said that 271 schools that enrolled nearly 160,000 students — about a third of the state’s total — had been affected, and that many would be closed for weeks or months.

“Katrina has devastated the education community,” Hank M. Bounds, state superintendent of education, said in a statement. “We are aware that we have completely lost some schools and many schools have experienced significant damage.”

Bounds said that his office was still trying to reach school districts to assess the damage, and that schools in neighboring states had expressed interest in adopting schools to provide help. Schools in Texas and elsewhere were offering to take displaced children, he said.

Some colleges and universities shut by the storm began to set up operations in other states. Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president at the American Council on Education, said that Tulane had established a base of operations in Houston, where it had an MBA program, and that Dillard was working on opening an office in Atlanta. Both of those universities are in New Orleans.

Education Law Eased for Failing Chicago Schools

By Sam Dillon

Moving once again to ease the requirements of the nation’s tough new education law, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced Thursday that she would allow the Chicago Public Schools to run federally financed tutoring programs for students at low-performing schools, despite Chicago’s failure to meet academic goals.

It was the second time in a week that Spellings had extended new flexibility in her enforcement of President Bush’s signature education law, known as No Child Left Behind. Earlier, she had extended a waiver to four Virginia districts allowing them to offer tutoring before they offer their children the chance to transfer out of failing schools.

In the Chicago case, Spellings’ decision means that the city will have access to millions in federal aid to tutor thousands of eligible students who would otherwise go unserved. In Virginia, the waivers will allow children to benefit a year sooner from the tutoring, which has proven far more popular among parents than the option to transfer.