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Wednesday, January 19, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Across The Nation

Florida lawmakers stage sit-in to protest governor's order

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A sit-in staged by two black lawmakers to protest Gov. Jeb Bush's decision to cut affirmative-action programs was joined by 20 more lawmakers and about 100 other protesters this morning at the state Capitol.

State Sen. Kendrick Meek of Miami and Rep. Tony Hill of Jacksonville began the sit-in yesterday and spent the night in Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan's office.

Today, 20 other Democratic legislators sat on the floor outside the suite containing both Brogan's and Bush's offices. They were joined by about 200 protesters.

Bush, Brogan and their staffs returned to work today despite the protest.

Bush denounced the sit-in, saying: "It's childish. It's sophomoric. It's unbecoming of an elected official."

Meek and Hill vowed to remain "as long as it takes."

FBI misled Lee, caused false lie-detector test, lawyer says

Federal investigators deceived former Los Alamos physicist Wen Ho Lee into agreeing to a polygraph examination last February and then mistreated him throughout it, causing him to fail, his lawyer argued in a closed hearing before a federal judge.

A transcript of the Dec. 29 hearing released by the Justice Department reveals some details of the government's case against Lee and shows the FBI used highly aggressive tactics in pursuing him.

FBI agent Robert Messemer acknowledged during the bail hearing in New Mexico that investigators misled Lee about the polygraph session, telling him they needed his help investigating China's alleged theft of information about America's W-88 nuclear warhead. Only moments before the test did they inform Lee, 60, that he was a suspect.

Messemer conceded under questioning that the emotional impact of such a last-minute revelation could cause a subject to fail.

Companies to pay record fine, $486 million for health fraud

BOSTON - Subsidiaries of a national kidney-dialysis chain have agreed to plead guilty to fraud and kickback charges and pay $486 million in civil and criminal penalties, federal officials announced today.

The agreement is the largest health-care settlement in the department's history.

The settlement with the Massachusetts-based National Medical Care Inc. includes a criminal fine of $101 million for wide-ranging misconduct, federal officials said.

Also included are $385 million civil fines, penalties and restitution for fraud related to Medicare and other government health-care programs.

The settlement includes allegations that company officials used Medicare and other government health-insurance programs to pay for hundreds of needless tests for patients suffering from kidney disease.

NTSB wants to test medicines for ability to impair driving

WASHINGTON - Drugstore cold remedies and prescription painkillers can cause even the safest drivers to nod off, so federal safety officials want to produce a list of pills that can be safely popped by people who drive trucks, trains, boats and buses.

Pilots killed in plane crashes already are routinely tested for prescription and over-the-counter drugs that can impair driving. Now, the National Transportation Safety Board wants testing done on operators involved in fatal crashes of trucks on the freeway, freight and passenger trains, boats and buses traveling in and out of town.

"Since 1987, the safety board has investigated over 100 accidents in all modes of passenger transportation that involved prescription or over-the-counter medications whose effects could potentially impair the vehicle's operator," the NTSB said in issuing its recommendation.

Another execution in Texas: Man committed 1991 killing

HUNTSVILLE, Texas - A man who killed a woman and stole her Cadillac in 1991 was executed by injection yesterday. Spencer Corey Goodman, 31, was convicted of killing Cecile Ham, 48, whose husband managed the band ZZ Top.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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