News in Brief

Published March 28, 2002

City council shooting leaves 8 dead


A part-time school hall monitor armed with semiautomatic pistols sat silently through a six-hour city council meeting yesterday, then rose and methodically killed eight city officials. As he was restrained he shouted: "Kill me, kill me!"

Nineteen people in the city council chamber were wounded in the attack in the Paris suburb of Nanterre.

As authorities sought a motive, the shooter's mother said her son, Richard Durn, was deeply disturbed, had been in psychiatric treatment for years and had spoken of wanting to die "probably 10 to 20 times."

A shocked Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, who rushed to the scene in the early morning darkness, called the shooting rampage "a case of furious dementia."

It is "a horrifying tragedy that harms democracy - a city council meeting in action," Jospin said.

President Jacques Chirac, who met with grieving family members, described the events as "a completely unimaginable drama."

Rightist presidential candidate Alain Madelin called the shooting, "This American-style byproduct, we wished not to have in France."

Companies sued for slavery reparations


A woman whose ancestors were slaves sued three companies for allegedly profiting from slavery for nearly two centuries - a long-simmering concept that could pick up steam if more blacks are allowed to join the lawsuits.

Plaintiffs' lawyers said the lawsuits were the first to seek slavery reparations from private companies. They were filed against the Aetna insurance company, the FleetBoston financial services group and railroad giant CSX on behalf of the 35 million American descendants of African slaves.

At a news conference announcing the lawsuits Tuesday, Deadria Farmer-Paellmann said she spent five years researching the topic after writing on her law school application that her dream was to build the case that would win slavery reparations.

She said she became interested in the quest as she listened to her grandparents, including descriptions of her great-great-grandmother's escape from a rice plantation on the eve of the Civil War, when she stole a boat and ran away, surviving two weeks in swamps. Farmer-Paellmann graduated from law school in 2000.

Hundreds dead from powerful aftershocks

NAHRIN, Afghanistan

Strong aftershocks jolted mountain villages yesterday, setting off landslides that blocked relief convoys trying to reach earthquake survivors who were burying their dead and searching the rubble for survivors. The United Nations said the death toll appeared less than first feared.

Yesterday's temblors, one aftershock measuring magnitude-5.4, rumbled through villages at the base of the snowcapped Hindu Kush mountains. A 6.1 quake Monday devastated Nahrin and many surrounding villages 105 miles north of Kabul.

Interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai flew to the stricken region and said about 1,000 people died. U.N. disaster relief officials said the final count probably would be somewhat lower.

An onsite investigation of 42 villages indicated the death toll was probably under 800. No foreigners were believed among the dead.

Senate questioning Health candidates


Difficult issues of cloning and how to best prepare doctors for terrorism face a surgeon and radiologist seeking Senate approval for the nation's top health posts.

President Bush on Tuesday nominated Richard Carmona, a Tucson, Ariz., trauma surgeon who moonlights on the SWAT team, to be surgeon general and Johns Hopkins University radiologist Elias Zerhouni to direct the National Institutes of Health.

They're rags-to-riches candidates with Hollywoodesque credentials.

Now Carmona is ready to assume the nation's health bully pulpit, the surgeon general's job that traditionally means cajoling, even scolding, Americans to improve their health. On Bush's priority list is for Carmona to push a national fitness campaign.

Quadruplets' birth a 1-in-11 million event


A mother gave birth to four identical quadruplet girls, a phenomenon that only happens in every 1-in-11 million births.

What is also unusual is that Ornsee Khamsa and Verek Muy conceived the children without the aid of fertility drugs, an extremely unusual situation in cases of multiple births, doctors said.

Born Monday at Sutter Memorial Hospital after only about 30 weeks gestation, the largest baby weighs 2 pounds, 8 ounces. The smallest is 2 pounds, 5 ounces. Khamsa, 22, and Muy, 20, named the newborns Preana, Audreana, Natalie and Melody.

The couple, who live with relatives in West Sacramento, also have a 4-year-old son named Raymond. They said they plan to marry soon.