National news briefs: 11/3/12

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2nd illness hits steroid patients

Just when they thought they were in the clear, people recovering from meningitis in a national outbreak caused by a contaminated steroid drug have been struck by a second illness, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The new problem, called an epidural abscess, is an infection near the spine at the site where the drug -- contaminated by a fungus -- was injected to treat back or neck pain. The abscesses are a localized infection, different from meningitis, which affects the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. But in some cases, an untreated abscess can cause meningitis. The abscesses have formed even while patients were taking powerful antifungal medicines, putting them back in the hospital for more treatment, often with surgery.

The problem has just begun to emerge, so far mostly in Michigan, which has had more people sickened by the drug -- 112 out of 404 nationwide -- than any other state.

Watergate records unsealed

WASHINGTON -- Some documents sealed in the 1970s as part of the court case against seven men involved in the Watergate burglary must be released, a federal judge in Washington says.

U.S. District Chief Judge Royce Lamberth said in his order Friday that some materials being sought by a Texas history professor should be released. He gave the National Archives and Records Administration a month to review and release the materials.

Luke Nichter from Texas A&M University-Central Texas in Killeen wrote the judge in 2009 to ask that potentially hundreds of pages of documents be unsealed.

Final trek for shuttle Atlantis

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Accompanied by a fleet of astronauts spanning NASA's entire existence, Atlantis made a slow, solemn journey to retirement Friday, the last space shuttle to orbit the world and the last to leave NASA's nest.

Atlantis reached its new home at the Kennedy Space Center's main tourist stop close to sundown.

A couple dozen astronauts spanning NASA's Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programs -- moonwalkers included -- welcomed Atlantis to its new $100 million exhibit, still under construction.

Buffet buys catalog retailer

With the holidays approaching, Warren E. Buffett has found a way to stock up on elf hats and reindeer paper plates: by buying an 80-year-old retailer overflowing with them.

On Friday, Mr. Buffett's company, Berkshire Hathaway, agreed to buy Oriental Trading Co., acquiring a catalog-based arts-and-crafts company whose wares include Santa doorknob kits and a color-your-own Christmas photo holder. Berkshire paid about $500 million, according to people briefed on the matter.

The deal signals the end to a series of ownership changes for Oriental Trading, which has been passed among private equity firms and retooled under bankruptcy protection. Anti-clot medicine approved

WASHINGTON -- Johnson & Johnson and Bayer, makers of stroke preventative Xarelto, won Food and Drug Administration approval for wider use of the medicine to treat blood clots in the legs and lungs and stave off recurrences.

Bleeding, the major side effect with the blood thinner, is similar to other anti-clotting drugs, the FDA said Friday in a statement. Xarelto can now be used to treat clots from deep vein thrombosis in the legs, which can travel to the lungs and block an artery, a condition called pulmonary embolism that kills 30 percent of sufferers, the National Institutes of Health said.

The leg and lung clots can affect as many as 600,000 people in the U.S. each year and together are known as venous thromboembolism. Xarelto's use in lung and leg clots may account for $600 million of a projected $4.2 billion in peak annual sales of the medicine, an industry analyst said.

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