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Lottery winners vow to aid storm victims

Compiled from wire reports The Spokesman-Review

South Orange, N.J. A New Jersey couple who were the sole winners of a $258 million Mega Millions jackpot say some of their winnings will go to help Hurricane Katrina victims.

Harold Lerner, 60, got a call from a friend telling him someone in Rutherford, where the couple live, had bought the winning ticket from the Sept. 16 drawing.

“Little did I know it was my wife who purchased the ticket. We ran downstairs. On the top of the newspaper were the five numbers, and I read off the numbers,” he said at a press conference Friday.

“She says, ‘Honey, I think we’re millionaires,’ ” he said.

Since Helen Lerner, who bought the ticket, chose the cash option, they will get $156.1 million, lottery officials said. The federal tax bite will amount to about a quarter of that.

FEMA funeral payouts questioned by Florida

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Three out of four funeral claims the federal government paid after last year’s hurricanes in Florida covered deaths unrelated to any of the storms, a state review has concluded.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency gave families up to $7,500 each to bury or cremate loved ones whose deaths were supposed to be a direct result of one of the four hurricanes that struck the state last August and September.

But Florida’s medical examiners reviewed 306 deaths FEMA approved statewide and found just 74 could be blamed on the storms. In the other 232 cases, the cause of death was suicide, unrelated accidents or natural ailments such as cancer, heart attacks or emphysema.

EU nations pushing resolution against Iran

Vienna, Austria Three European Union countries submitted a draft resolution to the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency Friday declaring that Iran had violated treaty obligations by secretly developing a nuclear program that could be used to build weapons.

A vote on the matter by the agency’s board was scheduled for today, sparking complaints from countries that wanted to delay a showdown. The resolution from Britain, France and Germany is slightly softer than an earlier version that would have immediately reported Iran to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions.

Iran, which has said it is developing nuclear technologies for electric power, not bombs, responded Friday by threatening to enrich uranium if its case goes to the Security Council.

Cheney to have knee surgery today

Washington Vice President Dick Cheney will undergo surgery today to repair an aneurysm in his right knee and then have a similar operation later on an aneurysm behind his left knee.

Cheney, 64, is expected to remain in the hospital for up to 48 hours after surgery at George Washington Hospital Center, said Lea Anne McBride, spokeswoman for the vice president. The aneurysms, known as popliteal aneurysms, are not considered life-threatening and doctors say the surgery is minimally invasive. The surgery is to be performed under local anesthetic, Cheney’s office said.

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