Florida Voucher Law Draws Lawsuit

TALLAHASSEE -- Civil rights groups sued to stop Florida's school voucher plan, a day after the first such statewide program in the nation to help students in failing schools pay for private education took effect.

Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other civil rights groups filed a complaint in state court in Tallahassee to block the plan.

"The state constitution says it's the state's duty to provide a uniform system of adequate public schools," said Andy Kayton, director of legal affairs for the ACLU of Florida. "This does just the opposite. It abandons public schools."

On Monday, Gov. Jeb Bush (R) signed into law education reforms, including a measure that assigns grades from A to F to each of Florida's public schools, based on test scores. Students in schools rated F for two years out of four would be allowed to transfer to another public school or accept vouchers worth up to $4,000 to help offset private school tuition.

`Fen-Phen' Death Case Is Settled

HOUSTON -- American Home Products Corp. said it settled a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a Houston woman who died after using the "fen-phen" diet drug combination.

AHP, which marketed the fenfluramine component of the once-popular diet-drug tandem, said the parties to the settlement were not allowed to disclose details.

Mary Marisa Smith's family had sought at least $25 million, alleging that fenfluramine caused her to develop a rare and ultimately fatal lung disorder called primary pulmonary hypertension. Smith died in 1997 at 35.

AHP, which pulled fenfluramine from the market in September 1997, faces over 3,000 lawsuits linked to the use of fenfluramine and a similar product, dexfenfluramine, which have been used by about 6 million people. One earlier case in Texas was also settled.

`Killer Bees' Found in Florida Port

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Colonies of Africanized honey bees were found at the port of Jacksonville in northeast Florida, the first "killer bees" confirmed on the U.S. mainland east of the Mississippi River, researchers said.

Africanized honey bees are a hybrid produced by mating European honey bees and an aggressive African import introduced to Brazil in 1956 that escaped the next year. Their descendants have been moving north at a rate of about 300 miles a year.

Mexico is already colonized and the bees reached Texas in 1990. Their "killer" reputation comes not from their sting but from the fact that they sting in swarms.

DNA tests proved the Port of Jacksonville colonies were Africanized and indicated their queens had mated with drones from other colonies, said Glenn Hall, a geneticist at the University of Florida.

Whether the Africanized bees will spread further and threaten Florida's $20 million honey industry remained uncertain, said Laurence Cutts, a state apiary inspector.