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FORT MEADE, Md. — It’s one of the rarest infectious diseases, affecting an average of only 100 babies a year in the United States, but infant botulism infected two babies living on the same street at Fort Meade in recent months, puzzling researchers.

Clusters of the illness are not unprecedented, experts say, and the ubiquity of the bacterial spores that causes infant botulism makes isolating one cause almost impossible.

Both of the children survived the ordeal, but one family confirmed Friday that it has hired a lawyer who will likely sue the Army, claiming military officials have been negligent in seeking out the cause of the outbreak.

Missing hard drive contains vets’ infoWASHINGTON — A portable hard drive that may contain the personal information of up to 48,000 veterans may have been stolen, the Department of Veterans Affairs and a lawmaker said Friday.

An employee at the VA medical center in Birmingham, Ala., reported the external hard drive missing on Jan. 22. The drive was used to back up information on the employee’s office computer. It may have contained data from research projects, the department said.

The employee also said the hard drive may have had personal information on some veterans, although portions of the data were protected. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson said that the VA and the FBI are investigating.

Grandmas arrested for protesting troop ‘surge’PORTLAND, Ore. — Police arrested six women, most of them grandmothers, as they blocked access Friday to a military recruiting center to protest President Bush’s decision to increase troops in Iraq.

The protesters — ages 49 to 75 — sat in front of the recruiting center and refused to let anyone in or out, and some used wheelchairs as props, said Cristy Murray, a spokeswoman for the Surge Protection Brigade.

Yongsan gas station to close for renovationsYONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Base residents are being advised to fill up their vehicles Monday because the gas station will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service station will be closed for two days so construction crews can work on underground pumps and pipes as part of a renovation project, according to an Area II news release.

“We chose Tuesday and Wednesday because of low traffic,” AAFES General Manager Ron Daugherty was quoted in the release as saying. “We looked at pay days and took everything into consideration when coming up with the best time to close.”

The renovation — expected to be finished in late February — will bring a “pay-at-the-pump” option to the station.

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