Nation & World Briefs 07-09-14 Forgotten vials of smallpox found in old storage room

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ATLANTA -- A government scientist cleaning out an old storage room at a research center near Washington made a startling discovery last week -- decades-old vials of smallpox packed away and forgotten in a cardboard box.

The six glass vials were intact and sealed, and scientists have yet to establish whether the virus is dead or alive, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday. Still, the find was disturbing because for decades after smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980, world health authorities said the only known samples left were safely stored in super-secure laboratories in Atlanta and in Russia.

Officials said this is the first time in the U.S. that unaccounted-for smallpox has been discovered. At least one leading scientist raised the possibility that there are more such vials out there around the world.

The CDC and the FBI are investigating.

It was the second recent incident in which a U.S. government health agency appeared to have mishandled a highly dangerous germ. Last month, scores of CDC employees in Atlanta were feared exposed to anthrax because of a laboratory safety lapse. The CDC began giving them antibiotics as a precaution.

Four dead after homes collapse: Officials in central New York said four people are dead and four homes have been destroyed in building collapses amid severe thunderstorms that rolled through the region. A spokesman for the Madison County emergency management office said the deaths were reported just after 7 p.m. Tuesday in the hard-hit community of Smithfield, located between Syracuse and Utica. No further details were immediately available. Madison County Sheriff Allen Riley did not identify the victims. The storm destroyed four homes, ripping one from its foundation and tossing it onto another house, according to The Post-Standard.

Missouri lawyer pleads guilty: Warren Gladders, a 64-year-old attorney and businessman who already had admitted to robbing three banks, pleaded guilty in Warrenton, Mo., Tuesday another bank heist and to shooting a Missouri trooper. Gladders of Wentzville pleaded guilty to five felony charges in Warren County Circuit Court in the September 2013 armed robbery at the First Bank of Marthasville. He was charged with stealing $43,000 from the bank and then firing four shots at a Missouri Highway Patrol trooper. The trooper, who was shot in the chest, was wearing a bulletproof vest and was unharmed. Gladders had pleaded guilty on Monday in U.S. District Court in St. Louis to stealing $7,000 from a Creve Coeur bank in July 2013 and $5,000 from a Weldon Spring bank one month later, as well as the Marthasville bank robbery. Under the plea agreement, federal prosecutors are recommending a 25-year sentence, in addition to a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to run consecutive with the longer term. He could have faced up to life in prison.

Ford recalling 100,610 vehicles: Ford is recalling 100,610 vehicles in North America for various safety defects. The company announced the six separate recalls Tuesday. No injuries, accidents or fires related to any of the defects have been reported, Ford said. The largest recall, of 92,022 vehicles, affects the 2013-2014 Ford Taurus, Lincoln MKS and Police Interceptor sedans; 2013-14 Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT crossovers; 2012-14 Edge crossover and 2014 Lincoln MKX crossover. Ford says the right-hand halfshaft, which is part of the axle, isn't properly seated and may disengage over time, making the vehicles inoperable. The vehicles are also at risk of rolling unexpectedly if they are parked without the parking brake on. Ford will notify owners of the vehicles in the halfshaft recall by mail beginning the week of Aug. 25. In all of the cases, dealers will repair the vehicles for free.

Israel hits key Hamas targets: The Israeli army today intensified its offensive on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, striking Hamas sites and killing at least eight people on the second day of a military operation it says is aimed at quenching rocket fire against Israel.

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