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News Briefs

Groups Ask Lieberman To Temper His Talk of Religion


After several weeks of watching from the sidelines, liberal advocacy groups and civil libertarians laid into Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joseph I. Lieberman on Tuesday for what they saw as overt and inappropriate use of religion on the campaign trail.

Conservatives have charged that the groups harbor a double standard, quickly criticizing Christian conservatives when they make religious references while holding their tongues as Lieberman, the first Jewish candidate on a major national ticket, has evoked God at many campaign stops.

After the Anti-Defamation League publicly asked Lieberman on Monday to temper his religiosity, the American Civil Liberties Union, People for the American Way, and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State all lodged their disaffection.

Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way, said Lieberman, a Connecticut senator, “crossed the line” this weekend when he declared in a Detroit church that “there must be a place for faith in America’s public life.”

Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, condemned Lieberman’s “dramatic escalation” in religious rhetoric.

“This has gone way over the edge in both parties,” Lynn said. “It’s time to stop telling us what you think about Deuteronomy and the parting of the Red Sea, and tell us about your positions on economic policy and prescription drugs.”

Clinton Challenges Disbarment


President Clinton challenged a move to strip him of his license to practice law in Arkansas, declaring in legal papers filed Tuesday that such a penalty would be “excessively harsh” and without precedent.

The president’s statement, submitted to an Arkansas state court by Washington attorney David E. Kendall, came in response to a lawsuit filed last month by an ethics panel of the Arkansas Supreme Court. The panel condemned Clinton for “serious misconduct” in allegedly using “dishonesty, deceit, fraud and misrepresentation” to hide his affair with former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky.

The lawsuit stemmed from a lengthy investigation by the ethics committee that was given impetus last year when a federal judge in Little Rock found Clinton in contempt of court for his testimony in the Paula Corbin Jones sexual harassment case.

U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright, who fined Clinton more than $90,000 for contempt, said the president had obstructed justice by giving “false and misleading” answers when asked in a sworn deposition about his relationship with Lewinsky. Wright found that Clinton had been untruthful when he denied ever being alone with Lewinsky or having sexual relations with her.

The ethics panel’s inquiry was launched in late 1998 after the conservative Southeastern Legal Foundation of Atlanta filed a complaint on the same grounds. The issue ultimately will be decided by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Leon Johnson after he considers all the evidence.

Colombia Considers Waging Biological War on Illicit Crops


The next weapon in the arsenal of the war against drugs may well be biological.

Scientists have discovered three microscopic fungi that will cause marijuana plants, heroin poppies and coca bushes to turn yellow, drop their leaves and wither.

While opponents believe that use of such fungi could cause an environmental disaster, supporters see it as a benevolent alternative to fumigation, which defoliates all plants -- including food crops -- underneath the fine mist sprayed by planes.

As President Clinton visits Colombia on Wednesday to initiate formally a controversial $1.3 billion anti-narcotics aid package, the potential use of fungi is becoming an important part of the debate about the most effective way to halt drug production and trafficking. Colombia is the world’s leading producer of cocaine.

“It was a godsend,” said a U.S. official who saw the effects of an anti-coca fungus in Peru’s Upper Huallaga Valley at the beginning of the 1990s. The fungus wiped out 30 percent of the coca crop, and the leaves that survived had lower levels of alkaloid, the active ingredient in cocaine, the official said.

Researchers Discover The Cause of Narcolepsy


California researchers report they have found the long-sought cause of narcolepsy, a mysterious sleep disorder that affects at least 125,000 Americans.

The condition is caused by the death of a handful of cells deep within the brain, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, and Stanford report Wednesday.

The results suggest that it may be possible to treat victims of the disorder, which is characterized by overwhelming sleepiness, and could lead to new ways of attacking other sleep disorders as well, experts said.

Teams at UCLA and Stanford studied preserved brains from narcoleptics and independently found that all were missing cells from the hypothalamus that secrete a hormone called hypocretin. Also known as orexin, the hormone has previously been shown to be involved in the regulation of sleep.

The brains showed clear evidence that the cells had been destroyed, perhaps by a toxin or more likely by an autoimmune attack, said Dr. Jerome M. Siegel of UCLA and the Sepulveda Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

“The findings end a 120-year search for the cause of narcolepsy and open new paths for treating this incurable disease,” he said.