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News Briefs

Election of First Female Governor Boosts Japan’s Governing Coalition


Fusae Ota’s election in Osaka as Japan’s first female governor was being viewed Monday as a welcome boost to Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and Japan’s governing three-party coalition.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partners supported Ota’s candidacy -- over the objections of the party’s Osaka chapter -- in the closely watched vote Sunday. She was a longtime bureaucrat in Tokyo who had not run for political office before.

“She’s a bureaucrat, but being a woman, the smell of bureaucracy was less strong,” said Takayoshi Miyagawa, a political commentator and consultant. “Plus, after the sexual harassment scandal, she is regarded as remote from sexual harassment.”

Osaka’s former governor, Knock Yokoyama, resigned in December as he was about to be prosecuted on charges of groping a female campaign worker.

Editorials and analysts noted Monday that what people in Osaka really wanted was leadership to rescue Japan’s second-largest city from the effects of the recession and to deal with the budget deficit.

Russian Assault Targets Fleeing Chechen Guerrillas


With the battle for Grozny over, Russia launched a ground and air assault in central and southern Chechnya on Monday, seeking to crush rebels fleeing the region’s battered capital and those hiding out in mountain strongholds in the south.

Fighting erupted in towns and hamlets west and south of Grozny as Russian jets and helicopters tried to stop the rebels from escaping into the mountains, according to Russian reports and information from refugees crossing into neighboring Ingushetia.

Russian troops surrounded the villages around Gekhi-Yurt, south of Grozny, as well as nearby Katyr-Yurt, firing artillery into areas inhabited by civilians.

The Russians also began ferreting out rebels still holed up behind their lines. In Grozny, soldiers scoured basements for remnants of the guerrilla force that defended the city during five months of heavy bombing and a six-week ground assault.

.Catalytic Antibody Consumes Cocaine in Bloodstream


Using methods seldom applied in drug abuse research, Donald W. Landry built a “catalytic antibody” that eats cocaine in a lab rat’s bloodstream.

And this spring, the Gaithersburg, Md., biotech company MedImmune Inc. will join forces with him to refine his technique to make an antibody strong enough to treat cocaine abuse in humans.

Landry may not have found the “magic bullet” in the war on drugs, but he appears to be as close as anyone. “If he is successful,” said Frank Vocci, director of treatment research and development at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “he would actually have an antibody able to reduce cocaine to an inactive substance as fast as people put it into their bodies.”

Success is by no means assured. Scott Koenig, MedImmune’s senior vice president for research, said that while Landry “has shown conceptually that it can work,” the antibody does not yet function rapidly or efficiently enough to be used in humans.

Koenig said that MedImmune expects to show whether the technique can be commercially viable.