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HEALTH

Smallpox shots begin

About 30 Oregon health care workers were vaccinated against the smallpox virus Wednesday as part of the state's plan to prepare for potential bioterrorism attacks.

The workers will be the first to respond to reports of smallpox outbreaks, provide care for anyone who contracts the virus and vaccinate people who are exposed to it.

Jan Poujade, manager of the county's disease control office, said she and several staff nurses volunteered to receive the vaccine.

'If I get a call that there's a possible smallpox outbreak in our community, I may be the one to go out and investigate,' she said. 'We can do the job we need to do and won't be worried about our own safety.'

Smallpox has been considered eradicated worldwide since 1980, though the United States vaccinated members of the military until 1990. The last case of smallpox in Oregon was reported in 1946, according to the county health officials. The United States stopped routine vaccinations in 1971.

After the terrorist attacks in September 2001 and anthrax attacks the next month, the Bush administration devised a nationwide plan to deal with smallpox as a potential 'bioweapon.'

BUSINESS

Restaurateur shifts gears

Why is Anne Hughes closing her Coffee Room in Powell's City of Books after nearly 18 years?

Hughes said she decided not to bid for the space after owner Michael Powell put it out for bid. But Powell said Hughes chose to leave after he asked her to put some money into the operation, beginning with a switch from paper cups and plates to washable kitchenware.

Whatever the case, Powell said he's finalizing negotiations with a new local company to take over the space by April 1.

In the meantime, Hughes is keeping busy. She's planning to reopen Anne Hughes Kitchen Table at 400 S.E. 12th Ave. in May. She closed the restaurant last year because of crime problems associated with the dining hall at the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church across the street.

Hughes said that the situation has improved since the church signed a nuisance abatement agreement with the police in December and that she no longer worries about the safety of her customers.

'I'm actually very excited about reopening the kitchen now,' she said.

PDX adds Mexicana flights

Portland International Airport will add another international flight Ñ to Mexico Ñ when Mexicana Airlines begins regular nonstop service from Portland to Guadalajara in May.

Officials with the Port of Portland, which operates the airport, had been waiting for several months to hear Mexicana's decision on a new destination in the United States. A group of the airline's executives visited Portland a couple of months ago to hear a presentation on the city's merits as a new flight destination.

The three-days-a-week Mexicana flights, which will continue from Guadalajara to Mexico City, will serve tourists, business travelers and the region's expanding population, according to Suzanne Miller, general manager of aviation marketing and customer service at PDX.

CRIME

Crime lab cuts restored

Because of the state Legislature's $500 million plan last week to balance the state budget, most of the staff at the state crime laboratory in Portland is back on the job.

Due to recent budget cuts, the state laid off employees at the Portland lab and all but shut down operations there and in the other labs across the state.

Portland lab director Beth Carpenter said she has invited all 17 of the laid-off scientists to return to their jobs in the firearms, chemistry, toxicology and DNA sections. Thirteen so far have agreed to return.

State funding will be secure only until June, when a new state fiscal year begins. The Legislature is beginning work on that budget.

The lab still lacks funds for five support staff members and two technicians who operate the IBIS system Ñ a million-dollar machine that matches firearms committed in crimes to a national database.

Carpenter is hoping that a federal 'safe neighborhoods' grant will come through to fund that program.

GOVERNMENT

Reservoir plan continues

Despite public opposition, the City Council has voted to proceed with its controversial plan to bury the three open reservoirs in Mount Tabor Park and the two open reservoirs in Washington Park.

Although a grass-roots group called Friends of the Reservoir tried to stop the project, the council authorized the start of the $3.8 million Washington Park project and approved as much as $267,500 in additional services from Montgomery Watson Harza, the project's consultant and design engineer.

Council members have promised not to start construction on the Mount Tabor phase until this summer, when plans for redeveloping a 50-acre site surrounding the three reservoirs have been finalized. Opponents say they will oppose the construction permits and the project before the state Land Use Board of Appeals.

COMMUNITY

Scam uses village name

Organizers of Dignity Village are warning the public that people have been soliciting donations to the homeless community but pocketing the money.

Spokesman Jack Tafari said that unauthorized people reportedly are using brochures the community prepared for a holiday fund drive to collect donations on the street or door-to-door.

Tafari said donations toward the village's operating costs or its fund to buy land for a permanent home should be sent only to Dignity Village, 133 N.W. Sixth Ave., Portland, OR 97209. Donations also can be made online at www.dignityvillage.org.

COURTS

Activist lawyer backs out

Nationally known activist attorney Robert Bloom has decided against representing Portland Muslim terrorism defendant Patrice Lumumba Ford.

Bloom said last month that he would represent Ford, who is accused of conspiring to levy war against the United States and giving material aid to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Bloom changed his mind after deciding that health problems could interfere with his trial work. Bloom has represented such political dissidents as Black Panther Party members and Judy Bari, the late Earth First organizer.

Ford's court-appointed attorney Whitney Boise, who had asked U.S. District Judge Robert Jones to take him off the case, will continue representing Ford.

ENVIRONMENT

Mattel denies request

Mattel's top official in Portland has rejected a request from a citizens group that wanted to see a list of all former workers at a Beaverton toy factory shown to have polluted drinking water.

Amanda Evans, founder of the group Victims of TCE Exposure, asked for a copy of a database of names and addresses of former workers that Mattel officials have shared with health researchers.

Evans lost her father, longtime Mattel employee Gary Evans, last year to liver cancer. She said she wants to inform past employees of the toy plant about the risks of being exposed to the industrial solvent TCE through their drinking water.

Dan Nottage, general manager of Mattel Portland, denied the request this week, saying that the company considers the names and addresses of former employees to be private information.

Meanwhile, another former worker from the toy factory, Brenda Keith, has organized a community meeting in Portland to discuss the TCE issue. The meeting is set for 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Matt Dishman Community Center, located at 77 N.E. Knott St.

EPA fines track

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has fined the owners of the Portland Meadows horse racing track $82,500 for discharging wastewater into a ditch that runs into the Columbia Slough.

The discharges occurred during two recent rainstorms that overloaded the track's new sewage system on Dec. 30 and Jan. 30-31. The EPA fined the track $27,500 per day after tests showed that the E. coli level of the discharged wastewater exceeded maximum levels.

Art McFadden, president of MEC Racing Inc., said his firm will not contest the penalty.

MEC built a new sewage system at the track last April, but it is not intended to be permanent. Under its agreement with the EPA, the company will either need to build a new sewage system by 2005 or else move to a new track.

Ñ Tribune staff