Senate votes to block human pesticide testing

Thursday, June 30, 2005

WASHINGTON -- By a 60-37 vote, the Senate voted to block the Environmental Protection Agency from using studies that expose people to pesticides when considering permits for new pest killers. The Bush administration lifted a moratorium imposed in 1998 by the Clinton administration on using human testing for pesticide approvals. The proposal would block the EPA from using data taken from human testing starting Oct. 1. It would also bar the agency from conducting such testing.

Bret downgraded, moving inland to Mexico from Gulf

VERACRUZ, Mexico -- Tropical Storm Bret was downgraded to a tropical depression Wednesday after moving inland from the Gulf coast of Mexico about 360 miles south of the Texas border. Mexican civil protection authorities suggested some residents in low-lying areas leave their homes in case of flooding, while forecasters warned the depression still could dump up to 10 inches of rain on mountainous areas. The depression was moving west-northwest at 8 mph.

Information gaps helped criminals obtain passports

WASHINGTON -- Governmental failures to share terrorist and criminal data have helped fugitives obtain U.S. passports by slipping through holes in security screening systems. In a review of 67 state and federal fugitives identified by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, 37 successfully applied for passports. One of them was on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list for murdering a Pennsylvania police chief, according to the GAO report that was issued Wednesday.

U.N. goal for treating AIDS likely to miss mark

GENEVA -- A U.N. attempt to put HIV-infected people on antiretroviral drugs will fail to reach its target of 3 million patients by the end of the year, a key health agency official conceded Wednesday. But the 1 million-patient milestone has been passed, and the groundwork for further advances has been laid in developing countries across the world, especially in Africa, said Dr. Jim Yong Kim, AIDS director at the U.N.'s World Health Organization.

Hostages believe Iran's new president to be captor

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Five former American hostages say they got an unexpected reminder of their 444-day ordeal in the bearded face of Iran's new president-elect. Watching coverage of Iran's presidential election on television prompted four of the former hostages to exchange e-mails. And those four realized they shared the same conclusion -- the firm belief that president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been one of their Iranian captors. A fifth ex-hostage, Kevin Hermening, said he reached the same conclusion after looking at photos. Not everyone agrees. Former hostage and retired Air Force Col. Thomas E. Schaefer said he doesn't recognize Ahmadinejad, by face or name, as one of his captors.

Firefighters in Utah tame blaze threatening town

NEW HARMONY, Utah -- Residents of a southwest Utah community that was nearly consumed by a wildfire have returned to their homes. High wind pushed a 12,000-acre the blaze toward a development just south of New Harmony late Monday, and officials ordered the evacuation of about 1,200 residents. Officials believe only about 80 families actually left. Firefighters got unexpected help when the wind calmed, and the evacuation order was lifted Tuesday.

--From wire reports

Army's divorce rate soars over the past three years

NEW YORK -- The Army's divorce rate has soared in the past three years, most notably for officers, as longer and more frequent war zone deployments place extra strain on couples. Between 2001 and 2004, divorces among active-duty Army officers and enlisted personnel nearly doubled, from 5,658 to 10,477, even though total troop strength remained stable.

--From wire reports

In 2002, the divorce rate among married officers was 1.9 percent -- 1,060 divorces out of 54,542 marriages; by 2004, the rate had tripled to 6 percent, with 3,325 divorces out of 55,550 marriages. With divorce rates that have risen more sharply than other service branches, the Army has broadened its efforts to help -- offering confidential counseling hot lines, support groups for spouses, weekend couples' retreats, even advice to single soldiers on how to pick partners wisely. where require frequent deployments.

Jury decides Fresno man who murdered nine of his children should be executed

FRESNO, Calif. -- A jury decided Wednesday that Marcus Wesson, 58, the domineering patriarch of a large clan he bred through incest, should get the death penalty for the murders of nine of his children. Wesson was convicted earlier this month, more than a year after the bodies were found in a bloody pile at his home at the end of a police standoff. All the victims had been shot once in the eye. Prosecutors said he had the children killed for fear authorities were about to break the clan up and take the youngsters away. The standoff began after two Wesson nieces who had escaped from the home went back to try to get their children. In pleading for a life sentence, defense attorney Pete Jones said executing Wesson would not "undo the harm done." He also noted that the jury, in its guilty verdict, found that the prosecution failed to prove Wesson pulled the trigger.

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