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AROUND THE STATE

Gore bars the media from journalism class

NEW YORK (AP) -- Former Vice President Al Gore taught his second journalism class at Columbia University, choosing to bar media from the class to "protect the integrity of the classroom," the New York Post reported Thursday.

Gore's 55 students were allowed to talk to reporters about the classes' contents, something they were not allowed to do after the first class.

The school's decision to make the class strictly "off the record" elicited voluble criticism, causing the school to rethink the policy.

None of Gore's students were allowed to serve as "stringers," reporting the classes' contents for any publication or broadcast station.

The former vice president taught his first class on the effect of technology on the media two weeks ago. Gore also teaches journalism courses at Tennessee's Fisk University and Middle Tennessee State University at Murfreesboro.

"He's very personal, and he really knows what he is talking about," said Columbia student Joy Newton-Small. "He's really funny and witty, but the reading material . . . he assigned put me to sleep."

Refugees eventually become a benefit to local economies

CLINTON (AP) -- Perceived by many as outsiders who become a burden on local communities, refugees living in the Mohawk Valley are an overall benefit to the region's economy, despite an initial cost, according to Hamilton College researchers.

"It's very easy to see the costs. It's very hard to see the benefits," said Paul Hagstrom, an associate professor of economics at Hamilton College who helped direct the two-year study regarding the refugees' overall costs and benefits.

Refugees add to the work force and broaden the local tax base, providing employers with quality low-wage workers. However, at the same time, refugees use social and educational services, potentially adding to the burden shared by local taxpayers, he said.

The Hamilton College study found that the costs for a single refugee household -- primarily in education, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Medicaid -- outweigh the benefits in the early years of resettlement, Hagstrom said.

However, the net benefits become positive after 13 years. Cumulative benefits become positive after 23 years, and they remain positive every year afterward, he said.

State parks chief considered for Bush administration post

ALBANY -- New York Parks Commissioner Bernadette Castro is under consideration by the Bush administration to head the National Park Service, officials said Thursday.

The officials, speaking only on condition of anonymity, said Castro has had several conversations with Bush administration officials about the job.

"She's in the running. . . . It's hard to say which way it's going to go," said a source close to Castro's boss, Gov. George E. Pataki.

A spokeswoman for Castro refused to say if Castro was under consideration for the national post.

"She certainly loves New York State parks and loves this job," said Wendy Gibson of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

"Bernadette has become a national figure because of her leadership on parks and recreation issues," Pataki spokesman Michael McKeon said.

Small-scale human trials start on new HIV vaccine

NEW YORK (AP) -- Pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck & Co. has begun a small-scale human trial of a new experimental HIV vaccine, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The vaccine has so far prevented AIDS in laboratory monkeys that were injected with HIV strains that can sicken humans and monkeys, the newspaper quoted sources as saying.

The vaccine did not stop the animals from contracting the HIV virus, but their bodies have been able to control it, at least for now, people familiar with the experiments told the newspaper.

The company, based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., would not discuss details of the laboratory trials, but said it began testing the vaccine in healthy, uninfected volunteers last week. The initial human trials are only to ensure that the vaccine doesn't harm people, not to test whether it works.

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