National briefs: Sick cruise ship returns to port

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BAYONNE, N.J. -- Passengers aboard a cruise ship on which hundreds fell ill recalled days of misery holed up in their rooms as it returned to its home port Wednesday from a Caribbean trip cut short by what is suspected to be among the largest such norovirus outbreaks in the past 20 years.

Travelers aboard the Explorer of the Seas recounted hundreds throwing up, and stricken passengers having food brought to their rooms. Others were served from covered buffets by crew members wearing gloves and masks during an outbreak that sickened nearly 700 passengers and crew on the ship operated by Royal Caribbean.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said its latest count puts the number of those sickened at 630 passengers and 54 crew members. The ship, on a 10-day cruise that had to be cut short, was carrying 3,050 passengers.

New York lawmaker apologizes

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Michael Grimm of New York, once considered a rising star in the Republican Party, touched off a political firestorm after delivering unusually vitriolic threats against a reporter inside the U.S. Capitol building Tuesday night, just moments after the State of the Union speech.

Mr. Grimm apologized to the reporter Wednesday and also issued a statement expressing regret, but the damage to Mr. Grimm's reputation appeared to already have been severe, as his threats became the subject of widespread denunciation and mockery. He has been the subject of a continuing federal investigation into his campaign fundraising,

McDonald's hustling coffee

CHICAGO -- McDonald's is counting on coffee to give sagging U.S. sales a jolt.

The chain's top priority this year is boosting "coffee-driven visits," according to a document laying out the 2014 to 2016 U.S. strategy.

In a Jan. 28 memo, U.S. operations chief Jim Johannesen and U.S. brand chief Kevin Newell exhorted franchisees to deliver "a gold-standard cup of coffee with every visit."

Snake-filled home

SANTA ANA, Calif. -- A California schoolteacher was arrested Wednesday after hundreds of living and dead pythons in plastic bins were found stacked floor to ceiling inside his stench-filled home in suburban Orange County.

Sondra Berg, the supervisor for the Santa Ana Police Department's Animal Services Division, said William Buchman, 53, told authorities he was involved in a snake-breeding enterprise.

Saline in short supply

WASHINGTON -- A shortage of intravenous saline is causing hospitals and dialysis centers to scramble to manage their supplies of the commonly used solution.

High demand has been prompted in part by an increase in flu cases in recent weeks. Many flu patients who are dehydrated need intravenous saline.

SpyEye creator's plea

ATLANTA -- A Russian man accused of creating SpyEye, a malicious software used to drain bank accounts and steal information from 253 financial institutions, pleaded guilty to U.S. fraud charges.

The plea on Tuesday by Aleksandr Andreevich Panin, 24, is part of a U.S. crackdown on off-the-shelf malicious software and the use of botnets -- networks of computers enslaved by viruses and phishing emails. Mr. Panin was arrested by U.S. authorities on July 1 while flying through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, prosecutors said in court filings.

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