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News Briefs

Independent Examiner To Probe Enron Subsidiary


Hoping to resolve a simmering dispute among Enron Corp. creditors, a U.S. bankruptcy court judge said Thursday that he will appoint an independent examiner to review the company’s largest subsidiary.

The examiner will study the finances of Enron North America Corp., an apparently profitable unit that included Enron’s once-formidable energy-trading operation.

Creditors have clashed over the management of Enron NA and the possible payouts it could generate. The confrontation could have major implications for both the future of Enron and for the bankruptcy case.

Energy companies that traded with Enron NA say they should be repaid directly from the unit’s assets, which some estimates put as high as $10 billion. The energy firms worry that the parent company is siphoning cash from Enron NA, thus dissipating their potential recovery.

From Dec. 2 -- the day of Enron’s bankruptcy filing -- through Jan. 23, Enron NA generated $579 million in cash flow, said Rhett Campbell, an attorney at Thompson & Knight in Houston who represents 25 energy companies.

Government Backs Mammograms


The federal government Thursday attempted to quell a growing controversy about the usefulness of mammograms, issuing a far-reaching new recommendation that women get screened every one or two years beginning at age 40 to reduce their risk of dying from breast cancer.

The recommendation is based on a comprehensive two-year evaluation by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent group charged with developing important health recommendations for the federal government. Endorsed by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), these guidelines are intended to be the federal government’s final word on the subject.

The step comes at a time when many women are confused about whether to undergo the tests and many doctors are uncertain about whether to continue to recommend them.

The confusion stems from an influential analysis by a pair of Danish researchers, who reported last fall that the most important studies supporting mammograms were deeply flawed, making their conclusions questionable. Last month, an advisory panel at the NCI agreed.

Red Cross Drops Condom Program From Salt Lake City Games


The American Red Cross has ended its participation in an AIDS prevention program aimed at the crowds attending the Winter Olympics in Utah after protests by antiabortion groups and local donors upset about the distribution of free condoms.

The Greater Salt Lake Area chapter of the American Red Cross objected to what it called “the circus-like approach” of some volunteers with the Safe Games 2002 program, which plans to distribute 250,000 condoms during the Olympics.

Chapter chief executive Susan Sheehan said the protests, which included two demonstrations at the chapter’s headquarters, “had nothing to do with it.”

But the head of the prevention effort disagreed. Luciano Colonna, one of the Safe Games founders, said: “It’s my feeling Red Cross gave in to the pressure from protesters. The responses we’ve had about our volunteers have been very positive -- and the American Red Cross trained them. And did a good job in training.”