Thursday, October 26, 2006

WTC Remains May Yield DNA

NEW YORK -- Human bones unearthed at the World Trade Center site in recent days are so well preserved that they will yield usable DNA, experts predicted Wednesday.

The remains -- found last week after utility crews doing routine work opened a manhole that had been paved over -- are believed to belong to victims of the 2001 attacks on the twin towers, 40 percent of whom have not had any remains identified.

The collection has grown to nearly 200 pieces, including whole bones, shards and one-inch splinters.

"However they got there, it was certainly right at the time of the event, so they've been protected for five years and haven't been subjected to weather," said Bradley Adams, the city medical examiner's lead forensic anthropologist on site.

Virginia-based Bode Technology Group is processing fragments recently found on the roof of a skyscraper south of the site. It is much more difficult to extract DNA from those because they were subjected to rain and extreme heat and cold, and most are not large enough to be tested more than once.

The city has identified 12 underground areas that need to be explored. All are along the western edge of the site, mostly beneath a service road built in March 2002 as the excavation and recovery were underway.

Audit Critical of Storm Aid

Much of the $2.6 million the Agriculture Department gave to victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita was unnecessary, a federal audit said.

The department won praise for quickly placing victims through its Rural Housing Service, the department's inspector general said in an audit.

But officials overlooked some basic controls to make sure that the right amount of rental assistance went to disaster victims, and that only victims got the assistance, the report said.

"Based on discussions with disaster victims, we concluded that much of the $2.6 million in emergency rental assistance that RHS provided to disaster victims was unnecessary," auditors said.

Most housing costs were already covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, auditors said, and several people obtained the aid fraudulently, the report said.

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· BURLESON, Tex. -- A suburban Fort Worth school district that has been teaching students to attack a gunman if one invades a classroom said it has halted the program. The Burleson district, which consists of 11 schools, will continue to train students in how to respond to life-threatening situations but will no longer show them how to take down an attacker, spokesman Richard Crummel said.

· CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Twin spacecraft blasted off on a mission to study huge eruptions from the sun that can damage satellites, disrupt electrical and communications systems on Earth and endanger spacewalking astronauts. The two spacecraft, known as Stereo, for Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, lifted off, stacked one on top of the other, aboard a single Delta II rocket.

· COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in a narrowly divided opinion that publicly funded, privately operated charter schools are constitutional. The 4 to 3 decision was a blow to a coalition of citizens groups, teachers unions, education associations and school boards led by the Ohio PTA.

· MEMPHIS -- A misdirected manatee apparently swam 700 miles up the Mississippi River to a chilly harbor near Memphis's downtown riverfront, prompting rescue plans by wildlife officials. The docile, endangered marine mammal, about eight feet long and 1,000 pounds, is far north of its natural range along the southeastern U.S. coast. Biologists have no idea how it got there and worry that its health is failing because its digestive systems shut down in cooler water.

· NEW YORK -- Son of Sam killer David Berkowitz has reached a settlement with his former attorney, whom Berkowitz sued for allegedly stealing personal property from him, according to his new attorney, Mark Heller. Berkowitz, 52, sued lawyer Hugo Harmatz in June 2005 seeking to get back letters, photos and other items the serial killer had turned over to him for safekeeping. Berkowitz will get all of the property back, and no profits from a book Harmatz wrote will be available to the lawyer.

-- From News Services

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