Nation digest 12/05/01

Firm head asks to let cloning research go on

WASHINGTON -- The president of the company that claims to have cloned the first human embryo defended his firm's actions Tuesday and urged senators not to hastily pass a bill restricting the practice.

"We're not talking about the cloning of humans," Michael West, president of Advanced Cell Technology, told a Senate appropriations subcommittee. "We're talking about the cloning of cells."

"I would argue rather than slow medical research, we take the time to carefully learn these issues," West said.

The Worcester, Mass., company sparked a worldwide debate last month when officials announced they had succeeded in cloning a human embryo for the first time, growing it to six cells before it quit developing.

The company's ultimate goal is to cull, from a cloned embryo, stem cells that could then be grown into custom medical treatments for patients. The company's first embryo was too small to generate stem cells.

Striking teachers sent to jail for defying order

FREEHOLD, N.J. -- Dispensing a lesson in the ABCs, a judge went down a list of names in alphabetical order and jailed 23 more striking teachers Tuesday for defying his back-to-work order. That brought the total jailed to 27.

"You are holding the keys to the jail," Superior Court Judge Clarkson S. Fisher Jr. said in handing Middletown Township teachers one-week jail sentences. "Any time you want to come out, let me know and you are out."

More than 700 teachers in Monmouth County's largest school district walked out Thursday, unwilling to continue working without a new contract. The old contract expired June 30.

At issue in the dispute is a board of education proposal that would require the teachers to pay more for their health insurance.

O.J. Simpson's home searched in drug probe

MIAMI -- Federal agents searched O.J. Simpson's home for more than six hours Tuesday as part of an investigation into an Ecstasy drug ring also suspected of laundering money and stealing satellite TV equipment.

Nine people were arrested in Miami and two in Chicago as part of Operation X, FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela said. Simpson was not among those arrested.

Simpson's attorney, Yale Galanter, said no drugs or large amounts of money were found at the home and that his client had done nothing wrong. He said Simpson's only connection to the case is that his name was mentioned in a phone conversation involving some members of the ring that was taped by federal authorities.

Bankrupt Enron gets financing to operate

HOUSTON -- Enron Corp. stock's price surged Tuesday as investors responded to news that the embattled energy trader had secured short-term financing after seeking bankruptcy protection.

Tuesday's jump showed that investors are somewhat encouraged by a move by two banks to arrange up to $1.5 billion to keep Enron afloat as it tries to resurrect its crucial energy marketing business, said Mike Heim, an analyst with A.G. Edwards & Sons.

Enron shares were up 53 cents, or 132 percent, to 93 cents in midday trading Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange. A year ago, Enron shares were worth more than $80.

Enron, once the world's biggest buyer and seller of energy, imploded in recent weeks after acknowledging it engaged in questionable accounting practices and overstated its profits by more than half a billion dollars over the past four years.

-- From wire reports