National briefs (12/23/12)
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Nuclear security leader will leave
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Tom D'Agostino, the man who has led the National Nuclear Security Administration since 2007, is stepping down next month after presiding over a 20 percent increase in the agency's budget but also some management missteps that have raised questions about the agency's ability to carry out its mission.
The agency funds and oversees work at the Sandia and Los Alamos national labs in New Mexico, employing about 20,000 people in the state. Mr. D'Agostino was appointed to the post by President George W. Bush.
His announcement came the same day the agency ordered security stepped-up at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Lab spokesman Kevin Roark declined to say why security was increased or if it had anything to do with a new but inoperable $213 million security system around the lab's most sensitive nuclear facilities. The system was supposed to be up and running this summer, but officials now say it will take an additional $41 million and another six months to fix.
More hepatitis C tests needed
CONCORD, N.H. -- Hospitals across the country recommended hepatitis C testing for about 7,900 patients last summer after a traveling medical worker was accused of stealing drugs and infecting patients with tainted syringes in New Hampshire. But five months later, nearly half of those who were possibly exposed to the liver-destroying disease in other states have yet to be tested.
Described by prosecutors as a "serial infector," David Kwiatkowski is accused of stealing syringes of the powerful painkiller fentanyl from the cardiac catheterization lab at New Hampshire's Exeter Hospital and replacing them with saline-filled syringes tainted with his own blood. In jail since his arrest in July, he pleaded not guilty to 14 federal drug charges earlier this month and is expected to go to trial next fall.
Gay conversion ban blocked
SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal appeals court Friday put a hold on a new state law in California intended to prevent therapists from trying to change a minor's sexual orientation, dealing a setback to gay rights groups.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to block the law, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, pending a decision on its constitutionality. A Dec. 4 ruling by U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller in Sacramento said citizens don't have a right to choose a mental health treatment the state has deemed harmful to minors. Parents seeking the therapy can still get it through churches or unlicensed providers, Judge Mueller said.
Bus drivers threaten strike
NEW YORK -- For the second consecutive year, a showdown between New York City's largest union for school bus drivers and City Hall is threatening to strip 150,000 public school students of transportation just after the holidays.
The issue prompting what the Bloomberg administration says is the "strong possibility" of a citywide strike by the union, Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, is the same as last year: the loss of job protection for the most experienced yellow-bus drivers when the transportation vendors who employ them lose city contracts.
The issue dates to 1979, when job protections were first put into transportation contracts after the last bus strike, which lasted 13 weeks.
More Senate jockeying in MA
BOSTON -- Massachusetts voters weary from one of the nation's costliest and most divisive U.S. Senate races are all but certain to find themselves thrown back into another tumultuous election now that President Barack Obama has nominated Sen. John Kerry for secretary of state.
If confirmed by the Senate, as expected, Democrat Kerry would have to resign the seat he's held for nearly three decades, meaning a special election that will be the state's third Senate contest since 2010.
-- Compiled from news services
First Published December 23, 2012 12:00 am