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News Briefs

Jury Gives Third Man Life in Prison in Dragging Death

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- HOUSTON

Jurors Thursday found a third white man guilty of capital murder but spared him the death penalty in a shocking 1998 killing that occurred on an East Texas road and became a prism into race relations in America.

Deliberating over two days, the jury in Jasper took far longer than had similar panels that tried Shawn Allen Berry’s cohorts in the crime. Berry, 24, had no comment as he embraced his girlfriend when the verdict was returned.

After a brief penalty hearing, the all-white jury then quickly agreed on a sentence of life in prison. Berry must serve at least 40 years before he has a chance of parole.

In two separate trials earlier this year, Lawrence Russell Brewer, 32, and John William King, 25, were sentenced to death for kidnapping James Byrd Jr., 49, chaining him to a truck and dragging his body until it tore to pieces. In both cases, addition of kidnapping to the murder convictions enabled jurors to sentence the defendants to death.

FDA Convenes Hearings on Genetically Engineered Food

THE WASHINGTON POST -- CHICAGO

With consumer advocates, environmentalists and organic agriculturists occasionally heckling from the audience and staging street-theater demonstrations outside, the Food and Drug Administration Thursday grappled with the controversial issues of best how to regulate genetically engineered food.

In the first of a series of public hearings aimed at engaging the public in discussions about federal policy on gene-altered foods, the agency’s top officials heard that “shooting genes into chromosomes” is, depending upon the viewpoint of who was speaking, either dangerous, unnatural and anti-religious, or a key to solving future worldwide food shortages and a boon to developing safer, more healthful and tastier foods.

After eight hours of testimony by more than 100 speakers and several long debates by two panels of experts, there appeared to be little middle ground, which FDA Commissioner Jane E. Henney may have anticipated when she said at the outset of the meeting that “The FDA is here to listen ... Our goal is not to reach a conclusion at the end of the day.”

From the beginning, the hearing was highly structured and tightly controlled in an apparent effort to avoid a donnybrook over the increasingly contentious use of bioengineering in the production of food.