In Brief

IN BRIEF

January 16, 2009|By From Sun staff and news services

Wiretaps limited only inside U.S., court rules

WASHINGTON: The government does not need a search warrant when it taps the phones or checks the e-mails of suspected terrorists who are outside the U.S., even if Americans might be overheard on these calls, a special intelligence court ruled in an opinion released yesterday. The decision confirms what Bush administration officials and some legal experts have long said: While the Constitution protects privacy rights of Americans against "unreasonable searches and seizures," this principle does not bar U.S. spy agencies from conducting surveillance aimed at foreign targets abroad.

Methane found on Mars, life issue unclear

Scientists from NASA and Catholic University in Washington say they've found what could be evidence of life on Mars: seasonal emissions of methane gas. The methane might be the "exhaled breath of microbes" deep beneath the Martian soil, they said. But it could also be explained by lifeless geochemical processes. On Earth, methane is emitted by cattle and decaying vegetable matter. It is also the main component of natural gas. But it can be produced by salt water interacting with volcanically heated rocks deep under ground. The Martian methane was detected in 2003 by spectrographic analysis of light from Mars, captured by NASA telescopes in Hawaii. The discovery, by a team led by Michael Mumma of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, was reported yesterday in the online journal Science Express.

FOR THE RECORD - A headline on a brief that appeared on Page 17 of yesterday's editions was incorrect. Eli Lilly & Co. paid $1.42 billion in a settlement over its marketing campaign for the drug Zyprexa.
The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

Army chief of staff signs 7,000 apologies

WASHINGTON : The chief of staff of the Army has personally signed more than 7,000 notes to relatives of soldiers killed overseas to apologize for letters sent earlier that began with the salutation "Dear John Do

e." The apologies from Gen. George Casey Jr. were mailed last week as part of the Army's effort to correct the mistake that offended some of the recipients of the earlier letters. Those letters, sent last month to relatives of all Army soldiers killed since the start of the Afghan and Iraq wars, described goods and services that families are eligible to receive. Because of the error, the letters began with the generic "Dear John Doe" salutation.

Russian who killed Chechen teen is freed

MOSCOW: A former Russian Army colonel convicted of strangling an 18-year-old Chechen woman walked out of prison 15 months early yesterday despite an outcry from lawyers and human rights activists. Yuri Budanov snatched Kheda Kungayeva from her father's house during a late-night raid in 2000, killed her inside his tent and ordered underlings to secretly bury the body in an unmarked grave. In court, he said he went temporarily insane and strangled her in a fit of rage because he mistakenly believed she was a sniper. Budanov's release sparked street protests among outraged Chechens, complaint from the Moscow-backed Chechen president and even a disapproving statement from the provincial Russian prison.

Afghan copter crash kills top general

KABUL, Afghanistan: A helicopter carrying one of Afghanistan's most senior army generals and 12 soldiers crashed in bad weather yesterday, killing all aboard, the Afghan military said. Taliban insurgents claimed to have downed the Russian-made chopper in western Afghanistan, but the military said in a statement that poor visibility caused the craft to slam into a jagged mountainside. The general who died, Fazl Ahmad Sayar, was one of four regional commanders.

Lilly pays $1.42 million Zyprexa settlement

INDIANAPOLIS: Eli Lilly & Co. taught its sales force a catchy slogan to peddle the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa for treating the elderly. Company salespeople told care providers that 5 milligrams of Zyprexa at 5 p.m. - or "5 at 5" - would help dementia patients sleep. One problem: Regulators never approved selling the drug for dementia, and federal prosecutors say that kind of marketing led to a record $1.42 billion settlement with Lilly announced yesterday. The Indianapolis company agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commmerce and pay $615 million to resolve the criminal case. It also agreed to pay roughly $800 million to resolve a civil case. The company said in a statement that it admits no wrongdoing.

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