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News Briefs 1

Yeltsin Hospitalized Again

Los Angeles Times
Moscow

President Boris N. Yeltsin was rushed by helicopter to a Moscow hospital with a heart ailment Thursday, only two days after returning from a New York summit with President Clinton that aides blamed for straining the Russian leader's health.

The sudden aggravation of a heart condition that has plagued Yeltsin for nearly a decade prompted the Kremlin to cancel a state visit to China in two weeks and threw into doubt next Tuesday's scheduled gathering of Balkan leaders in Moscow.

"The condition of the president does not give much ground for optimism. He will hardly be able to return to work within a couple of days," chief presidential aide Viktor V. Ilyushin told journalists at a rare Kremlin briefing on Yeltsin's health.

The attack of miocardial ischemia, which disrupts blood supply to the heart muscle, struck while the 64-year-old president was resting at a dacha in the resort community of Zavidovo, a two-hour drive north of Moscow. He was flown to Moscow's Central Clinical Hospital in the early afternoon after reporting that he felt ill, Ilyushin said.

It was the second time in less than four months that Yeltsin had to be hospitalized with the condition. He suffered a mild heart attack July 11 and spent the next month recuperating. Ilyushin blamed Yeltsin's ambitious autumn travel schedule for his current affliction.

With O.J. Over, Dogg Trial Begins

Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles

You heard about all the allegations of police incompetence in the O.J. Simpson case. Now get ready for Snoop Doggy Dogg.

Jury selection in the murder trial of one of the United States' most popular rap singers is set to start Thursday, and defense attorneys for Snoop, his bodyguard and his friend are planning a full-scale attack on the credibility of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Even Johnnie Cochran Jr., who signed on to represent one of the defendants before Simpson was arrested last year, will be back in court to repeat his familiar theme.

"Want me to say those famous words?" Cochran asked reporters after a pre-trial hearing earlier this week, alluding to the riveting line in his closing argument on behalf of Simpson, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit." In this case, too, Cochran promised, evidence is "going to be a problem again."

At issue is whether 24-year-old Snoop Doggy Dogg (also known as Calvin Broadus) and his associates murdered Philip Woldemariam at a west Los Angeles park in 1993 or - as the defense claims - shot him in self-defense.

Broadus' attorney, David Kenner, promises to show that in addition to destroying evidence, detectives also attempted to influence key witnesses to support their theory that Woldemariam was killed in a drive-by shooting by Broadus' bodyguard, McKinley Lee. Lee, Broadus and Cochran's client, Sean Abrams, were in Broadus' Jeep at the time of the shooting.

Mutant Gene Linked to Birth Defects

Newsday

Discovery of a mutant gene that may be responsible for 15 percent of the disastrous neural-tube birth defects seen in newborns was reported Wednesday by a research team in Ireland.

About 4,000 infants are born every year in the United States with neural-tube defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly. These disorders result from abnormal closure of the developing spinal cord while a baby is still in the womb. Lack of folic acid in the mother's diet before conception and during early pregnancy has been closely linked to the disorder. The gene when it operates normally works with folate to make an enzyme that helps prevent neural-tube defects. The mutant gene fails to produce the normal version of the enzyme.

The mutant, identified by Dr. Steven Whitehead and his colleagues at Trinity College in Dublin, will be announced in the November issue of the Quarterly Journal of Medicine.

According to pediatric geneticist Judith Hall, at the University of British Columbia, the gene also may play an important role in heart disease in adults. Recent studies strongly suggest faulty metabolism of folate may be involved in atherosclerosis, strokes and other vascular disorders. "It's not clear how big a role in plays" in circulatory system diseases, Hall added. "But it may be as important as cholesterol."