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News Briefs

Ad Campaigns Come on Strong In Same-Sex Marriage Debate


Trailing in opinion polls, foes of a ballot measure to ban recognition of same-sex marriage in California took their campaign onto television this week, hoping to sway voters against an initiative they call mean-spirited and unnecessary.

With 19 days remaining before the March election, opponents are scrambling to pump up the volume on their campaign, which was hampered early on by sluggish fund-raising.

In two new ads, foes tell viewers that the initiative -- just 14 words long -- is not as simple as it looks, concealing an “extremist” subtext that harms gays and lesbians and intrudes on people’s private lives.

One spot, which began airing Tuesday, says the measure’s author, Republican state Sen. William “Pete” Knight of Palmdale, Calif., has a gay son of whom he disapproves and is making Californians “vote on his private problem.”

The other, which debuted Wednesday, says the initiative could lead to increased violence against gays and lesbians and spawn new laws discriminating against them.

Chechen Civilians Detail Torture By Russian Security Forces


Chechen civilians detained during the Russian offensive in the region have been routinely beaten and tortured by their captors at “filtration camps” run by Russian security forces, according to former prisoners and human rights monitors.

Former prisoners, interviewed in separate locations, described masked guards delivering repeated blows with rubber truncheons and sometimes with metal bars or hammers. Some cited rapes of male and female prisoners. At a prison in Chernokozovo -- a closed filtration camp where rebel suspects are “filtered” from the mass of detainees -- beatings were said to begin the moment prisoners arrived.

“The guards hit me and said, ‘What, you never learned to crawl’?” said Ruslan, 21, who was detained by Russian forces on Jan. 16 and taken to Chernokozovo, where he said he was forced to crawl to his interrogation sessions. “They said I would leave there half a man.”

Viruses Not Contaminated In Experiment, says FDA


Batches of genetically engineered viruses that were injected into sick children as part of a gene therapy experiment in Tennessee were not contaminated with the AIDS or hepatitis viruses as initially feared, according to followup tests conducted by the Food and Drug Administration.

The negative finding, released by the FDA late Thursday, puts to rest some of the concerns raised last week when FDA officials said they had been informed of the possible contamination by researchers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

But the agency said Thursday it’s still looking into the circumstances that led to the contamination scare, including apparent lapses in safety testing and record keeping at St. Jude and questions about whether federal officials were notified “promptly” of the potential problem as required by regulations.