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Billions left unspent from anti-terrorism grants

Tue., June 26, 2007

Nearly a third of the anti-terrorism money the government has doled out to states and cities since 9/11 hasn’t been spent by police and emergency workers who would respond to future attacks and natural disasters.

Almost $5 billion of $16.04 billion in grants approved by Congress for states and the District of Columbia from fiscal 2002 to 2007 remain in federal coffers, according to Homeland Security Department budget figures. That’s fueled concerns in the Bush administration and Congress that the federal government has been dishing out money faster than state and local governments can spend it.

“Why put billions more dollars in the hopper when it’s full already?” asks Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., the top Republican on the House Homeland Security appropriations subcommittee.

The grant programs were created after Sept. 11, 2001, to tighten security and pay for the equipment and training responders would need for emergencies. Rogers and others say many of the security gaps have been filled and that handing out billions of dollars in grants amounts to revenue sharing.

In its fiscal 2008 budget request to Congress, the Bush administration asked for $2.2 billion for the grant programs. But the House voted to nearly double that amount and the Senate is poised to do the same next month.

Bowling Green, Ky.

Family reunion’s tour bus rams bridge pillar, killing one

A tour bus carrying members of an extended Alabama family home from a reunion veered off a southern Kentucky highway early Monday and slammed into an overpass, killing one person and injuring 66 others.

State police said the driver apparently dozed off shortly before 3 a.m., while most of the passengers were asleep. The bus veered off Interstate 65, struck an earthen embankment and rammed a concrete bridge pillar about 75 miles north of Nashville.

At least two of the injured were reported in critical condition Monday afternoon, including an 8-year-old boy and the 63-year-old driver, police said.

Trooper Steve Pavey said no charges were pending against the driver, and that the woman who died was ejected from the bus.


Fish oil supplements at center of blindness studies

Taking more fish oil supplements may be a way to protect against three formidable causes of blindness, scientists reported Monday.

Research to test the effectiveness of omega-3 fatty acids as a way to blunt the growth of rogue blood vessels that damage the eyes of premature infants is getting under way at Children’s Hospital in Boston. Others are looking at whether the same fatty acids can help diabetics and older adults with macular degneration.

“When babies are born prematurely, (normal) blood vessels in the eyes stop growing and the retina becomes oxygen starved, causing abnormal vessels to develop,” said Dr. Lois Smith, lead investigator of a research project reported Monday in Nature Medicine. The condition, known as retinopathy of prematurity, occurs when abnormal blood vessel growth causes the the eyes’ retina to detach. The disorder largely affects babies weighing less than 2.75 pounds and born around the 31st week of pregnancy.

Smith and her colleagues will supplement infants’ diets with omega-3 fatty acids in an attempt to stave off blindness.

The National Eye Institute is investigating omega-3 fatty acid supplements as a potential remedy for retinopathy caused by diabetes and for macular degeneration, an eye disorder that primarily affects people 60 and older.

St. Charles, Mo.

Bail revoked for man accused of killing his family

A suburban Chicago man accused of killing his wife and three children in their sport utility vehicle in northern Illinois was ordered held without bail Monday.

Christopher Vaughn, 32, said nothing during the brief hearing as a judge revoked a $1 million bail that had been set earlier. No plea was entered.

Vaughn, 32, a computer consultant from Oswego, Ill., was arrested by Illinois State Police on Saturday at a funeral home in this St. Louis suburb just before he was to attend a memorial service for his family: Kimberly Vaughn, 34, and children Abigayle, 12, Cassandra, 11, and Blake, 8.

Prosecutors in Illinois’ Will County have charged him with eight counts of first-degree murder – two for each victim.

The bodies of Vaughn’s wife and children were found June 14 in their SUV, parked along a service road in Channahon, about 40 miles southwest of Chicago, after Vaughn flagged down a motorist.

Vaughn had superficial gunshot wounds in the leg and arm, police said. His 9 mm handgun was found at the scene, authorities said.

Steamboat Springs, Colo.

Exploding oil tank catapults partying teens to deaths

A crude oil storage tank exploded as two teens were jumping on it, hurling the youths 150 yards to their deaths, deputies said Monday.

The tank exploded Saturday night during a party in Routt National Forest, about 135 miles west of Denver, Rio Blanco County Undersheriff Michael Joos said.

Vapor from the 160 barrels of crude oil in the tank may have been forced out through a relief valve by the pressure of the teens jumping on the top, Joos said.

He said deputies were trying to determine whether a campfire or a cigarette lighter ignited the vapor.

Some of the 18 people at the party had lit a campfire, Joos said, but he was not sure how close it was to the tank.

A dog also was killed but no other injuries were reported, Joos said.

The victims were identified as Samuel Hedemark, 17, of Phippsburg, and Christopher King Fuller, 19, of Yampa.

Coroner Randall Cochran said marijuana was found in both teens’ bodies and each had a blood-alcohol level higher than the 0.08 percent legal limit for driving.

From wire reports


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