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NATION IN BRIEF

Sunday, February 27, 2005; Page A10

Child's Sign-Reading Saves Mother

WESTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- A mother's decision to teach her 3-year-old daughter sign language may have saved the woman's life.

Kristin Comeau began to cough uncontrollably and have difficulty breathing on Wednesday. The Long Island mother dialed 911, but her throat closed up and prevented her from speaking.

Comeau, who had taught her daughter, Ruby, sign language as a hobby, said she signed the word "help" and the little girl repeated it to the 911 operator.

Ruby also gave the operator her address, as she had been taught by her father.

Comeau was taken to a hospital, where she recovered from what she believes was an allergic reaction.

Third Aide Sues Gorilla Foundation

WOODSIDE, Calif. -- A third woman has filed a lawsuit claiming a caretaker for Koko, the world-famous sign-language-speaking gorilla, pressured her to expose her breasts as a way to bond with the animal.

Iris Rivera, 39, sued the Gorilla Foundation last week in San Mateo County Superior Court, saying the foundation's president, Francine Patterson, repeatedly told her to expose her breasts.

Rivera, an administrative assistant at the foundation until she quit last month, claims Patterson told her last year that Koko was signing that "she wants to see your nipples."

Two other former employees of the foundation, Nancy Alperin and Kendra Keller, filed similar claims last week.

But while Alperin and Keller refused to expose themselves to Koko, Rivera acquiesced, the lawsuit states.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The words "gay," "lesbian," "bisexual" and "transgender" are being restored to the title of a government-sponsored workshop on suicide after a federal health agency was bombarded with e-mail protests over their removal. The local organizers of the panel discussion said they had been warned that if they did not change the original title, the workshop might be canceled by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which is funding it.

HOMOSASSA, Fla. -- Police and volunteers scoured the community and nearby woods Saturday for a 9-year-old girl who vanished from her bedroom. More than 250 people joined the search for Jessica Marie Lunsford. Buses took volunteers to the woods and marshes of western Citrus County, about 60 miles north of Tampa.

-- From News Services


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