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First Florida horse dies from West Nile virus

A horse in Jefferson County died from the West Nile virus, the first equine case of the disease this year in the nation, state agriculture officials said Friday.

Confirmation that the horse died from the disease comes as state health officials say they've found two more birds in North Florida that were killed by the mosquito-carried disease, which can also kill people in rare cases.

Health officials said the horse's death is the first-ever finding of that disease in a horse south of Delaware.

So far, no cases of people with the disease have been reported in Florida. Nine people died from West Nile in New York and New Jersey in 1999, shortly after the virus made its first appearance in this country.

Most people bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus aren't at great risk for getting seriously ill. The disease has been fatal mainly for the elderly.

Scientists think the disease arrived in Florida via migrating birds. Health officials have so far confirmed that six birds in Florida died from the virus.

Worker in Scarborough's

district office found dead

FORT WALTON BEACH _ A 28-year-old office worker for U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough was found dead early Friday in the congressman's district office.

A Fort Walton Beach police statement said there were no signs of foul play in the death of Lori Klausutis of Niceville.

"It's my understanding that she had prior health problems," said Medical Examiner Michael Berkland, as doctors were still conducting an autopsy.

Klausutis had worked for Scarborough since May 1999, said Mick Serrano, the congressman's press secretary.

Her body was found on the floor behind a desk by a couple who arrived at the district office for an 8 a.m. appointment, Fort Walton Police Chief Steve Hogue said.

Serrano said Scarborough said Klausutis worked in a two-person office, but she was the only one working Thursday. Somebody spoke with her late Thursday.

"She probably died before 5 o'clock," he said.

Scarborough, a Republican, was in Washington on Friday morning tending to House business when Klausutis' death was reported. He was flying back to his Panhandle area district and was not available for comment, an aide said.

He said last month he was resigning to spend more time with two young sons. A special primary election Tuesday will select nominees for an Oct. 16 general election to replace him.

Court lets canker attack

resume in Miami-Dade

MIAMI _ After winning a third legal victory Friday, the state is preparing to resume full operations in its citrus canker eradication program next month.

The 3rd District Court of Appeal erased a lower court order requiring warrants before state crews cut trees in Miami-Dade County. Other judges sided with the state earlier this month on cutting programs in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

"We are still in the planning stages to resume full operation Aug. 6 in Broward County and now apparently in Miami-Dade County," state agriculture spokesman Mark Fagan said after receiving word of the latest ruling.

Thirty-four crews are at work chopping down trees found infected by the fruit-scarring canker, as well as citrus trees within 1,900 feet of infected ones.

If the project stays on track, the state expects to be able to finish the eradication effort by the end of the year, Fagan said.

State crews have removed more than 830,000 citrus trees since 1996 to protect Florida's $8.5-billion citrus industry.

Diaz-Balart campaign

agrees to $30,000 fine

MIAMI _ U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart's congressional campaign has paid a $30,000 fine to the Federal Elections Commission.

Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, and the commission agreed to the fine for excessive contributions, corporate contributions, failure to accurately report receipts and other violations. The fine, announced this week, was paid in April.

The commission found that the campaign committee accepted $17,700 in excessive contributions from individuals and $10,630 in corporate contributions. Such committees are banned from accepting corporate contributions.

In a May 16 letter to the commission, Diaz-Balart said the violations resulted from "a series of innocent errors by individuals of good intention."

_ Staff, wire reports