National briefs: New charges in hepatitis C case

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A traveling medical technician who is believed to have infected at least 39 people with hepatitis C through his use of stolen hospital drugs and syringes was indicted late Wednesday in New Hampshire on 14 new charges.

The technician, David Kwiatkowski, was arrested in July and charged with tampering with a consumer product and illegally obtaining drugs.

After a lengthy investigation that ranged over several states, he was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Concord, N.H., and charged with seven counts of tampering with a consumer product and seven counts of illegally obtaining drugs.

If convicted on the pending charges, Mr. Kwiatkowski, 33, faces as much as 10 years in prison for each count of tampering with a consumer product and up to four years in prison for each count of obtaining controlled substances by fraud. Each offense is also punishable by a fine of $250,000.

Mr. Kwiatkowski had pleaded not guilty to the original charges and remains in federal custody in New Hampshire.

Mr. Kwiatkowski wandered in and out of hospital jobs from the desert Southwest to New England to Pittsburgh where he worked for UPMC in 2008.

Privacy bill advances

WASHINGTON -- A Senate committee on Thursday backed digital privacy protections that would require the government to obtain a warrant from a judge before gaining access to email and other electronic communications.

The 1986 Electronic Privacy Communications Act was written before the Web was born and long before Americans started sending, receiving and storing so much of their personal communications and documents online. Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the law's original author, is now trying to make sure that the government needs to prove probable cause before rummaging through it all.

Fast-food workers strike

NEW YORK -- A week after hundreds of Wal-Mart employees walked off their jobs to demand better wages and the freedom to form a union, fast-food workers from some of the nation's largest chains are staging a similar walkout.

Employees from McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, Taco Bell and KFC staged protests Thursday in locations around New York City, demanding $15 an hour in pay -- more than double the minimum wage some receive -- and the right to form a union.

Drought spreads in U.S.

BOSTON -- The worst level of drought in the contiguous 48 states reached its highest point in a year as the dryness that crippled crops, narrowed shipping channels and thinned livestock herds hangs on.

At least 6.4 percent of the region is now in the grip of "exceptional" drought, the most since the 8.1 percent recorded Nov. 22, 2011, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Also in the nation ...

Drakes Bay Oyster Co., a historic Northern California oyster farm along Point Reyes National Seashore, will be shut down and the site converted to a wilderness area, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced on Thursday. The move will bring a close to a years-long environmental battle over the site. ... Former President George H.W. Bush, 88, is being treated for bronchitis at Methodist Hospital at the Texas Medical Center in Houston and is expected to be released within 72 hours, a hospital spokesman said.



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