In Brief

IN BRIEF

January 08, 2009

Pakistan acknowledges Mumbai gunman

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan : Pakistan's information minister says an investigation has revealed that the lone surviving Mumbai gunman is a Pakistani citizen, as India has alleged. Up until now, Pakistan had refused to confirm Ajmal Kasab's nationality, saying he was not registered in the country's databases. Information Minister Sherry Rehman confirmed that Kasab was a Pakistani in a text message but gave no other details. The confirmation yesterday came a day after New Delhi handed over a dossier of what it said was evidence linking the Mumbai attackers to Pakistan. Also in Pakistan yesterday, the prime minister announced that the country's national security adviser had been fired. Spokesman Imran Gardaizi said Mahood Durrani was fired because "he gave media interviews on national security issues without consulting the prime minister." Gardaizi did not elaborate.

Army apologizes for 'John Doe' letters

WASHINGTON: The Army issued an apology yesterday after acknowledging that 7,000 families of soldiers killed in the Iraq or Afghan wars mistakenly were sent letters addressing them as "John Doe." Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. was sending a personal letter to all the families who received the improperly addressed letters as the result of a printing error, the Army said. The 7,000 original letters were sent late last month to inform survivors about private organizations that offer gifts, programs and other assistance to families that have lost soldiers in Iraq or other countries where they are deployed for the war on terrorism.

$23 million fails to slow smuggling of rockets

RAFAH, Egypt : Angry at Hamas' ability to fire rockets at Israel, the United States allocated $23 million last year to help train Egyptian officials to stop the smuggling into Gaza through tunnels at a border beleaguered by crisis and corruption. Months later, there is little noticeable effect: Smuggling has continued at a robust pace, allowing Hamas militants in Gaza to get rockets to shoot at Israeli citizens. Israel's military says about 300 tunnels ran under the Gaza-Egypt border before its military offensive began Dec. 27. Since then, Israel has bombed dozens of them. Previous attempts to close the tunnels have largely failed, partly because of the mutual mistrust between Israel and Egypt and partly because of Egypt's inability to rein in corruption and alleviate poverty in the Sinai. The region near Gaza is home to tens of thousands of mostly disaffected Bedouin. Many of these nomads earn their living through smuggling. U.S. officials - including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has helped train Egyptian border guards, and the Defense Department - refused to give details of how and when the $23 million was spent.

Obama friend, scholar in line for regulation post

WASHINGTON: Cass Sunstein, a longtime University of Chicago legal scholar and prominent author, is set to take up a key cause in the Barack Obama administration: regulation. The president-elect is expected to name Sunstein - his friend and informal adviser - to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a transition official said late yesterday . A low-profile position in the current administration, the job is likely to be a higher-wattage one after Obama takes office. He has promised an overhaul to federal regulation, specifically of the U.S. financial markets, and Sunstein's job description suggests a more sweeping agenda. "This office is in charge of coordinating and overseeing government regulations," a transition official said, "and a smarter approach to regulation is key to making government work better and getting better results in terms of protecting health, the environment, etc."

Large study notes risks with early Caesarean

WASHINGTON : The common practice of scheduling a Caesarean section a little early to make childbirth more convenient sharply increases the risk that babies will be born with potentially serious complications, according to the first large-scale study to examine the dangers. The study of more than 24,000 full-term babies found that those delivered through elective repeat Caesareans at 37 weeks were about twice as likely as newborns delivered at the recommended 39 weeks to suffer breathing problems, bloodstream infections and other complications. Even babies born at 38 weeks were 50 percent more likely to have problems; just a few days early the risk was about 20 percent higher. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development sponsored the study in today's issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

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