Take Note: Of Wedding Gifts And Childhood Fifths

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The students at Lana'i Elementary and High School in Hawaii recently got a belated and generous wedding present of sorts, courtesy of one of the world's wealthiest men.

As part of a legal settlement between a Seattle television reporter and Bill Gates, the chairman and co-founder of the Microsoft Corporation in Redmond, Wash.; the Dole Food Company; and the Portland, Ore.-based public relations company Waggener Edstrom, Lana'i's only school will receive thousands of dollars in scholarship money and free computers.

Scott Rensberger, a reporter with KIRO television, filed a lawsuit claiming that his civil rights were violated when he was ejected from the resort island in January 1994 while taping for a story on Mr. Gates's wedding, which had occurred on the island on New Year's Eve.

As part of the settlement, Mr. Gates apologized to Mr. Rensberger, and the Dole company, which owns more than 90 percent of the island, reportedly agreed to pay $25,000 into a scholarship fund. In addition, Karen Frey, Mr. Gates's publicist for the wedding, agreed to supply the school with 40 computers, valued at $67,000.

Peter Daniels, a spokesman for the 20,000-student district, said it is unclear how the school was chosen to benefit. But, he added, the settlement "is a blessing" for the school's 599 students.

Given Mr. Gates's vision of "a computer on every desk top and Microsoft software in every computer," it seems fitting that the machines will come loaded with Microsoft programs.

It seemed like another case of sick-building syndrome.

But a school in Pawtucket, R.I., actually was experiencing an outbreak of a common childhood illness called fifth disease.

A mysterious rash struck students at Potter-Burns Elementary School this month, confounding state health officials. The district suspected the school, so officials closed the building for a three-day cleanup that cost about $8,000. But blood tests found the virus was to blame.

Health officials said fifth disease--so called because it ranks fifth among common childhood viruses--was hard to pinpoint because the children did not exhibit the usual symptoms.

The trademark red rash usually strikes the face. But itchy rashes initially appeared on the hands and arms of students at the school.

--Peter West & Joanna Richardson

Vol. 14, Issue 31

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