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Award upheld for woman allegedly fired over disease

STROUDSBURG, PA. (AP) -- A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court ruling that awarded $2.3 million to a woman who claimed vaccine manufacturer Aventis Pasteur fired her because she had multiple sclerosis.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Jane A. Gagliardo, who worked at the company from 1987 -- when it was still called Connaught Laboratories -- to 1996.

Gagliardo was fired on May 29, 1996, after the company refused to accommodate her handicap so she could continue her employment, the court said. The appeals panel stated that the lower court trial proved Connaught's "reckless indifference" toward Gagliardo's disability.

Gagliardo, of East Stroudsburg, accused the company of fabricating reasons for her dismissal and of failing to provide reasonable accommodation for her disease, a disorder of the central nervous system.

A jury ruled in Gagliardo's favor in September 2000.

Rocket body flames out in the sky, startling many

SEATTLE (AP) -- A ball of fire streaking across the sky early Thursday had people throughout the Northwest flooding radio and television stations with calls reporting a meteor shower.

It turns out the burning light came from a Russian rocket body re-entering the Earth's atmosphere about 6:15 a.m.

The U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Neb., and the North American Aerospace Defense Command confirmed a Russian rocket fell back to Earth, but did not immediately release further details.

Canadian navy spokesman Gerry Pash said the space junk could be seen across much of western Canada and possibly as far inland as Montana.

The Federal Aviation Administration received calls from Portland, Ore., to the Canadian border Thursday morning.

Callers assuming it was a meteor shower said the light appeared to move more slowly than a shooting star, but faster than a plane. Witnesses said it had a long tail that seemed to break into two pieces.

Leaking natural gas ignites, leveling homes, injuring 4

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) -- Natural gas leaking from a line damaged by a construction crew caused explosions that destroyed four homes and injured four people, none seriously.

One adult and a child were rescued from the basement of one of the demolished houses.

Police evacuated residents of several blocks Wednesday, along with students and staff of an elementary school. Residents were allowed to return by evening.

Four people were treated in St. Elizabeth Medical Center and released.

Police were told that a crew installing a traffic signal had hit a gas line. At least two explosions rocked the area about 20 minutes later, and two more followed over the next couple of hours.

Neighborhood resident Jessie Sewell said a gas smell permeated the area before the first explosion.

"You just don't know how bad the gas smell was," she said. "The gas was so thick, you could see it."

Fire Chief Jim Morrow said authorities didn't know what ignited the gas, adding, "It could have been static electricity off the carpet or answering a telephone."

Separated twins' return to Guatemala is delayed

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The return home of twin girls formerly connected at the head has been delayed, but they could be back in their native Guatemala by Christmas, doctors say.

Maria de Jesus and Maria Teresa Quiej Alvarez, who are 16 months old, were expected to leave Los Angeles late last month, but medical complications have delayed their departure.

The latest setback came Wednesday, when doctors at UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital announced that Maria de Jesus' scalp hadn't healed fully.

Doctors also have learned that Maria Teresa is partially deaf in one ear, probably as a consequence of the 23-hour surgery to separate the sisters.

"We expect them to spend Christmas in their home country," said Dr. Jorge Lazareff, chief neurosurgeon for the twins' medical team.

The girls were born in rural Guatemala but will live in Guatemala City once home.

There, the girls face follow-up surgeries to gradually stretch their scalps to eliminate the skin grafts and allow them to grow full heads of hair.

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