FBI says ricin scare unwarranted

The FBI determined a powdery substance found in a roll of quarters at a University of Texas dormitory was not ricin after initial state tests had indicated it was the potentially deadly poison, a spokesman said Sunday.

The FBI tests did not identify the substance, but they came back negative for the poison that is extracted from castor beans, said San Antonio FBI spokesman Rene Salinas.

“There were no proteins in there to indicate it was ricin,” Salinas said. He said it is unlikely further testing will be done.

The mystery powder spilled onto Kelly Heinbaugh’s hands as she unwrapped a roll of quarters in her dorm room on Thursday. She said she had used five other rolls of quarters her mother had gotten from the same bank and none had powder in them.

Salinas said it is unclear if the FBI will continue to investigate how the substance ended up in the roll of coins.


McKinley climbers to be limited

North America’s tallest mountain is getting crowded – too crowded for safety.

Starting next year, the National Park Service will cap the number of climbers allowed on Alaska’s Mount McKinley at 1,500 a year – not many more than the record 1,340 alpinists who attempted to scale the 20,320-foot mountain last year.

McKinley, known locally as Denali or “the High One,” is “required” climbing for many of the world’s most serious mountaineers. About half the climbers who attempt McKinley come from other countries, according to the Park Service.

It’s too late to restrict this year’s climbing crowd.

The goal is safety and protecting the mountain, said Kris Fister, spokeswoman for Denali National Park and Preserve. She said all but a handful of climbers are on the mountain during a brief period in May and June, and about 95 percent choose the West Buttress route to reach the top.

“You’ve got a lot of people homing in on one area of the mountain for a short period of time,” Fister said.

Since 1903, McKinley has been attempted by 30,049 climbers, and just more than half have reached the summit. Ninety-five climbers have died trying.


VA steps up fight against diabetes

Aging veterans are getting reinforcements in their fight against the twin threats of obesity and diabetes.

The Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services departments are launching a campaign today to promote nutrition, exercise, education, preventive medicine and weight loss.

The VA says that of the 7.5 million veterans receiving its health benefits, more than 70 percent are obese and one out of five has diabetes.

According to a VA news release, 7 percent of the U.S. population suffers from diabetes, a fact that doesn’t sit well with VA Secretary Jim Nicholson.

“This doesn’t have to be,” Nicholson said. “I feel we have a responsibility to better educate our veterans.”


Prison system head steps down

The head of California’s prison system, a reform-minded appointee of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said he’s resigning after more than two years on the job because his efforts lacked political support.

Corrections Secretary Roderick Q. Hickman, 49, said the governor would receive an official letter of resignation today.

Hickman frequently came under fire from legislators, union officials and prison watchdog groups, which criticized his lack of progress cleaning up California’s $8 billion prison system.

The department under Hickman started a new parole program designed to keep more inmates from returning to prison by easing their transition back to a normal life.

Compiled from wire reports

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