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News Briefs

Drug Seizures on the Rise, Number of Border Detainees Falls

LOS ANGELES TIMES

U.S. immigration officials credit tougher security measures since Sept. 11 for a sharp drop in the number of people detained trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in the past seven months.

Yet, the number of drugs seized along the Southwest border rose significantly in the same period, as drug traffickers tried to move contraband that had accumulated in the weeks after the terrorist attacks.

Between Oct. 1 and April 28, the Border Patrol caught 518,812 people trying to cross the 2,000-mile border that stretches between California and Texas, according to figures released by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

That is a 34 percent drop from the same period last year, when 786,099 were caught, the largest decline in eight years.

While the figures may include multiple attempts by the same person, apprehensions are viewed as the best measure of how many people try to enter the country illegally.

That number has been decreasing since the end of 2000, the year that arrests for illegal immigration on the Southwest border hit a record of 1.6 million.

INS officials said the decline that followed resulted from a combination of factors, including more border enforcement, an economic downturn in the United States and optimism in Mexico after the election of President Vicente Fox.

Study: Fewer Minorities Enroll in Experimental HIV Treatments

LOS ANGELES TIMES

Black and Latino HIV patients are enrolling in experimental treatments at much lower rates than whites, according to a national study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers say that disparity is caused by minorities’ mistrust of experimental treatments and lack of access to university health facilities.

Those experimental HIV treatments may be the last hope for patients who fail to respond to retroviral drugs, said Dr. Allen Gifford, lead author of the study. As a result, “being able to entertain the option of experimental care is important,” said Gifford, a physician and researcher at the Department of Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System.

The study did not track whether patients enrolled in the experiments had exhausted other more mainstream options.

Gifford’s team analyzed data from a Rand Corp.-sponsored study of 2,864 HIV patients receiving care across the country from 1996 to 1998.

At the study’s outset, 49 percent of the 231,000 Americans receiving any type of HIV treatment were white, 33 percent were black and 15 percent were Latino.

Of those enrolled in trials, however, 62 percent were white, 23 percent were black and 11 percent were Latino, even if whites and minorities had similar education, type of health insurance and degree of illness.

NBC Confirms Meeting With Clinton About Talk Show Plans

LOS ANGELES TIMES

NBC officials confirmed Thursday that they met with Bill Clinton this week in Los Angeles to discuss various TV ideas, although a spokeswoman for the former president downplayed a Los Angeles Times report that he was pitching himself as a talk show host.

NBC executives met with Clinton Wednesday at the offices of producers Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason who, sources say, orchestrated the meeting to pitch the former president as host of a talk show similar to “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” The price tag for Clinton was set at $50 million a year, sources said.

“(The) informal meeting was one of many meetings President Clinton has had with many people over the past year,” said Julia Payne, a Clinton spokeswoman. “President Clinton did not demand a talk show. He went to listen. The president is gratified by the range of opportunities that have been presented to him.”

Payne confirmed the meeting at the Thomason’s offices, but said, “We don’t have a second meeting (planned),” she said.

Privately, an NBC source said it was unlikely that Clinton would go beyond the talking stage and actually do a TV show.

Fossils of Oldest Flowering Plants Found by Researchers in China

THE WASHINGTON POST

Researchers from China and Florida have found fossil remains of what appear to be the oldest and most primitive flowering plant ever discovered, an aquatic progenitor of today’s water lilies that lived in northeastern China at least 126 million years ago.

The delicate imprints, in excellent condition on a slab of stone more than two feet long, offer the best clues yet to how plants made one of the more extraordinary leaps in evolutionary history: the transition from primitive spores and seeds, such as those still used by ferns and pines, to the more sophisticated use of flowers and fruiting bodies.

That transition marked the beginning of a co-evolutionary pas-de-deux involving flowers and insect pollinators that led to an eruption of new plant species and ultimately helped carpet the planet with today’s bouquet of floral diversity.

The newly found fossil offers the first pictorial representation of how nature engineered that seminal advance, which Charles Darwin called an “abominable mystery.” It is forcing scientists to change several conceptions about the origins of flowering plants, or angiosperms -- a taxonomic group that includes not only plants commonly recognizable as flowers, but also many of the crops upon which humans and other animals depend.

“I really think this is the most significant fossil angiosperm ever discovered,” said William Crepet, chairman of plant biology at Cornell University.