National Digest


March 18, 2003

In Washington

$15 billion package for global AIDS fight advances in House

House lawmakers have agreed on a $15 billion package to fight the global AIDS epidemic, compromising on how the money will be used and sidestepping a divisive abortion issue.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee also prepared a vote for Thursday on a similar anti-AIDS plan, outlined by President Bush in his State of the Union address in January.

The House plan, written by International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, an Illinois Republican, and the panel's top Democrat, Tom Lantos of California, would approve $3 billion a year over five years for international efforts to fight the global threat from HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

Gas prices rise 1.6 cents to record $1.728 a gallon

Gasoline prices jumped 1.6 cents this week to a national average of $1.728 a gallon, eclipsing the record high set in May 2001, the Energy Information Administration said yesterday.

The EIA has predicted that prices would continue to soar at the pump because of tight supplies and high crude oil costs and reach an average of $1.76 cents a gallon next month. Motorists probably will pay more than 1.70 cents a gallon through the summer driving season, the agency said.

Before this week, the highest average gasoline price recorded by the EIA was in May 2001, when motorists paid an average of $1.71 a gallon at pumps across the country.

Colleague Dodd backs Lieberman for president

Democratic presidential hopeful Joseph I. Lieberman won the endorsement yesterday of fellow Connecticut Sen. Christopher J. Dodd.

Dodd, who announced two weeks ago that he would not pursue the presidency, said yesterday that he would serve as honorary chairman of Lieberman's campaign.

Lieberman, who was former Vice President Al Gore's running mate in 2000, is one of nine Democrats vying for the presidential nomination next year.

In The Nation

Groups seek pesticide ban in playground equipment

BETHESDA - Environmental groups asked the government yesterday to ban the use of an arsenic-based pesticide on wooden playground equipment because they say it can increase children's risk of cancer.

Wood preservative manufacturers say treated play sets are not dangerous. They also say a ban is unnecessary because an agreement between the industry and the Environmental Protection Agency will stop the chemical from being used in most consumer products by January.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said last month that children could face an increased lifetime risk of developing lung or bladder cancer from using playground equipment treated with chromated copper arsenate.

11 Miami officers framed suspects, prosecutors say

MIAMI - Eleven Miami police officers schemed to plant guns on unarmed suspects who had been shot and then lied under oath to protect each other, a prosecutor charged yesterday in the closing arguments of their federal conspiracy trial.

Defense lawyers countered that there was no proof and that prosecutors were relying on the testimony of two officers who made plea deals to protect their pensions and lessen their prison sentences.

If convicted, the defendants could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. The shootings left three men dead and a fourth wounded from 1995 to 1997.

Hormone therapy fails to aid memory, study says

BOSTON - Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy, shown to be bad for older women's physical health, is found to be no panacea for their memory or mental outlook either.

In a challenge to popular belief, a large new study finds that estrogen and progestin pills fail to make older women feel better by improving their memory, sleep and sex lives.

The new results suggest this is nothing more than a placebo effect. The researchers conclude the pills are still an effective treatment for short-term relief from hot flashes and night sweats but nothing else.

Former N.Y. housing chief faces child porn charges

NEW YORK - A former city housing director was accused yesterday of owning child pornography and using public money to pay for personal items - including a car, The Sopranos DVDs and a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon.

Russell Harding, who was director of the city's Housing Development Corp. in the administration of Rudolph W. Giuliani, was arrested at his Manhattan home as federal prosecutors unsealed a six-count indictment charging him with conspiracy, fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and receiving and possessing child pornography.

Harding's attorney, Gerald Shargel, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

FBI arrests 8 in scheme to defraud investors

SAN DIEGO - The FBI said yesterday that it had broken up a "cult-like" investment-fraud and money-laundering ring that may have cheated investors around the nation out of more than $50 million.

Eight people, including alleged ringleader John Franklin Harrell, were arrested early yesterday on federal charges of fraud, money laundering and conspiracy in the year-old investigation. Search warrants were executed in San Diego, Las Vegas and Dallas.

Harrell, 69, claimed to be in charge of an offshore trust created by Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon church, worth $1.6 trillion, said the FBI. Investors were told that money would be available to them if they gave him enough seed money to start an insurance company called Good Samaritan.

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