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U.S. Textile Makers Seek To Restrict Chinese Imports

LOS ANGELES TIMES

Domestic textile manufacturers battered by the retail slowdown and a surge in cheap imports filed a petition Thursday with the U.S. government seeking temporary restrictions on imports of knitted fabric and apparel from China, which is fast becoming a center for global manufacturing.

After China joined the World Trade Organization late last year, the U.S. lifted the quotas on some Chinese apparel and textile products. That led to a sharp increase in Chinese textile imports -- up 119 percent in the first six months of this year -- and a collapse in prices, according to the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, a Washington trade group, which filed the petition. In one dramatic case, imports of Chinese knit fabric ballooned 22,000 percent over the same period the previous year and the price per kilogram dropped from $12.66 to $5.03.

“We always knew China would increase rapidly, but people are stunned by the size of the increase,” said Cass Johnson, a spokesman for the institute, which is asking for quotas to be temporarily reimposed on knitted material, gloves, bras, nightgowns and fabric luggage.

Already under fire from its trading partners for recent actions to protect steelmakers and farmers, the United States is now in the awkward situation of responding to yet another controversial request for support from a politically powerful industry. Taking such a step will also make it more difficult for the United States to pressure China to open up its economy to U.S. farmers and high-tech companies and strengthens the position of those within China who opposed the decision to join the WTO, explained Nicholas Lardy, a China expert at the Brookings Institution.

Northern Va. Malaria Cases Shock Health Officials

WASHINGTON POST

Two Loudoun County, Va., teenagers contracted malaria locally last month, an extremely rare occurrence that has prompted officials to launch a search for infected mosquitoes and other stricken residents, local and state health officials said Thursday.

Officials said a 15-year-old boy and a 19-year-old woman who had not traveled abroad and who live within about a mile of each other in suburban eastern Loudoun were likely bitten and infected by mosquitoes that had sipped blood from a someone who contracted malaria overseas.

“The fact that you have a cluster of two cases among people who have not traveled overseas is impressive, and it suggests there is a small malaria outbreak in Loudoun County,” said Peter Hotez, chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Tropical Medicine at George Washington University.

Officials said they were heartened by the fact that the type of malaria found in Loudoun, the vivax strain, is not deadly. The Loudoun boy, a high school student, was hospitalized, while the woman, a college student, was treated and released. Both suffered high fevers, chills, fatigue and headaches.

Canadian Panel Backs Legalizing Marijuana

THE WASHINGTON POST -- TORONTO

A Canadian Senate committee has proposed that Canada legalize marijuana, allow it to be grown by licensed dealers and perhaps be sold in corner stores to people 16 or older. Such a policy would make Canada one of the world’s most tolerant countries toward the drug.

In a report, the committee found that marijuana was less harmful than alcohol and shouldn’t be treated as a criminal problem, but as a public health issue. The report called for amnesty for people convicted of marijuana possession.

“Whether or not an individual uses marijuana should be a personal choice that is not subject to criminal penalties,” Sen. Pierre Claude Nolin, chairman of the committee, said at a news conference. “But we have come to the conclusion that, as a drug, it should be regulated by the state much as we do for wine and beer.”

It wasn’t clear whether the committee’s proposal would become law. But it nonetheless prompted a debate in Canada and the United States about whether it would promote drug use here and increase drug trafficking to the United States.

Consumer-Credit Consultants Targeted In FTC Sweep

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

More than 30 consumer-credit consulting companies have been targeted in a nationwide Federal Trade Commission sweep against credit and telemarketing fraud, officials announced Thursday.

The FTC action, dubbed Operation No Credit, targeted a wide range of fraud allegations involving credit-repair services, payday-loan companies, debt-adjustment programs and advance-fee credit cards.

Officials said that the agency monitors the Internet, e-mail, consumer complaints and television and newspaper advertisements to find and target companies for investigation.

Two Southern California debt-negotiation companies, Jubilee Financial Services Inc. and Jabez Financial Group Inc., used advertisements, spam and telemarketers to attract debt-ridden consumers with promises to reduce their unsecured debt by 40 percent to 60 percent, according to U.S. District Court filings. The companies kept upfront fees, which could total more than $1,000 for an individual case, according to the FTC.

Jubilee and Jabez, housed in the same building in the Los Angeles suburb of Downey, told their clients to stop payment on all unsecured debt. This, the companies said, would put the individuals in a “hardship” condition, strengthening their position in negotiating a settlement with their creditors, according to the filing.