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One place you won't see the long fingernails now in vogue is Erie County Medical Center, where the medical staff has been told that such nails are not allowed because of evidence linking them to patient infection.

"We felt a professional obligation . . . to do this in the best interests of our patients," said Kathy Young, the hospital's director of infection control, who added that such policies already exist at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Kaleida Health and Catholic Health System hospitals.

Young said the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued an opinion stating that health care workers shouldn't wear artificial or long nails.

There is medical evidence that in 13 deaths in neonatal units across the country over 14 months there was a "strong association" between the infections that killed the children.

"They were able to isolate the organisms on the hands of those health care workers which linked them to the infant deaths," Young said.

Young said she's aware that some workers believe the restrictions are an infringement on their personal rights but said it's "a small percentage (of staff) that this is really an issue with."

Canada adding 70 customs inspectors

Training for 70 new Canada Customs inspectors has been completed, and the individuals are now being assigned to international border crossings in the Buffalo Niagara region.

The customs officers were hired several months ago to cover staffing losses from attrition and to speed up the flow of traffic at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo and the Rainbow and Lewiston-Queenston bridges in Niagara County, Canadian officials said Thursday.

Pope blesses two who had surgery

Two people who recently underwent radical reconstructive surgery by Williamsville plastic surgeon Jeffrey Meilman received a blessing from Pope John Paul II on Wednesday.

Zhao Bin, a Chinese woman who was horribly disfigured when her boyfriend set her on fire six years ago, and James Huebbers, 12, of Sloan, who suffers from a disease that causes large facial tumors, were selected from a Ukrainian Mass attended by more than 500,000 people to meet with the pope in a group with about 15 other people.

During her three-month stay in Buffalo to undergo surgery, Bin converted to Christianity and was recently baptized. Meilman said the papal blessing was especially profound for her.

"Tears just came pouring down her face," he said.

Computer camp offered for city youths

Parkside Computing, a city-based technology company, will offer a free computer camp for Buffalo high school students from Aug. 27 to Sept. 2 at Camp Pioneer in Angola.

The pilot program is designed to expose disadvantaged youths to computer technology and to promote development of a skilled work force in the region. Participants will be shown the latest in computer technology, software and programs.

Interested students must send a copy of their report card, along with a 500-word essay describing why they want to participate in the program. The application deadline is July 17. Application materials should be sent to: Parkside Computing, Attention: Summer Camp Coordinator, 1598 Hertel Ave., Buffalo, N.Y. 14216.

Computer group taking grant requests

Computers for Children, a nonprofit group that provides computer equipment to local schools, is accepting applications for grants.

Additional information is available by calling 843-8880 or on the group's Web site,

Blood donor sites to be open July 4

All five Buffalo-area Red Cross blood donation centers will be open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Independence Day, Wednesday, to collect blood. Blood types O and B are in particularly short supply, blood officials say.

The centers are located at 786 Delaware Ave.; 502 Dick Road, Cheektowaga; 4350 Bryant & Stratton Way, Clarence; 5161 Camp Road, Hamburg; and 64 Broad St., City of Tonawanda.

To be eligible to give blood, donors must be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health. To schedule an appointment to give, call (800) 272-4543.

No-cash rent policy draws protests

Baker Home and Gates Avenue tenants' councils are continuing their protests against a new requirement by the Lackawanna Municipal Housing Authority prohibiting paying rent with cash. Dorothy Glover, tenant-elected representative to the authority, said other members, over her objections, decided this week that payments have to be by money order or check.

"They say the cash is not safe," Glover said. "It's been safe for the last 50 years or more. We submitted petitions with the names of more than 260 tenants who opposed the change, and the authority ignored us."

A meeting is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Saturday in the Willie Cotton Center, 52 Gates Ave., to discuss how to persuade the authority to reverse the decision.

State grant will benefit Auto Bureau

The Erie County Auto Bureau will benefit from a $115,000 state grant, Assembly Majority Leader Paul A. Tokasz, D-Cheektowaga, and Erie County Clerk David J. Swarts announced Thursday.

The grant will go to all four branches of the bureau -- Buffalo, Amherst, Cheektowaga and Orchard Park, Swarts said. The branches perform several hundred thousand transactions each year, he said.

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