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News Briefs

Aid Groups Say Efforts Hampered in Iraq


With looting and fighting still under way in parts of Iraq, some relief groups say their efforts to deliver aid have been severely hampered even as Iraq faces an outbreak of diseases and a critical shortage of clean water.

A few groups have truckloads of supplies waiting in bordering countries, while others say they have managed to get in small amounts of aid whenever and wherever it’s safe.

Catholic Relief Services, an international aid agency, has four truckloads with $500,000 in medical supplies and food waiting in Jordan to be delivered to Iraq. It will be the agency’s first major convoy of aid into the country. But because of safety concerns, officials say, that could take a week to 10 days.

“We had hoped to go in as early as this week, but it’s just not safe at this point to go,” said Joe Carney, a spokesman for the group. “You can’t guarantee the safety of staff or that the supplies will necessarily reach the people they’re intended for.”

FTC Sues Porn Web Operator As Part of Anti-Spam Efforts


The Federal Trade Commission is suing one of the country’s most active purveyors of pornographic junk e-mail, part of a stepped-up push by the agency to combat spam.

The suit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Illinois, alleges Brian Westby of Missouri violated federal laws by sending e-mail whose deceptive subject lines, such as “What is wrong?” and “Fwd: You may want to reboot your computer,” disguised the actual content: images of scantily clad women and links to 20 porn Web sites Westby operated, many featuring “married but lonely” women.

FTC officials said its spam database, which is receiving about 120,000 pieces of spam per day forwarded by citizens, collected 46,000 from Westby’s various endeavors.

The agency further alleged Westby used “spoofing” -- a common spammer practice that disguises the Internet address of the computer that sends the spam -- and provided a means of unsubscribing from e-mail lists that did not work. The complaint said Westby has netted more than $1 million from his porn operations.

Officials Fear New Transmission Routes for SARS


The SARS virus that infected hundreds of people in a 33-story Hong Kong apartment tower probably spread in part by traveling through bathroom drainpipes, officials said Thursday in what would be a disturbing new confirmation of the microbe’s versatility.

The possible explanation for what has been one of the most baffling and worrisome outbreaks in the epidemic indicates the virus can be transmitted in ways other than close person-to-person contact.

“The possibility that the virus could by aerosol move through a vertical pipe through other pipes ... into the air and affect so many people, that’s not comforting,” said Klaus Stohr, who is leading the World Health Organization’s scientific efforts against SARS -- severe acute respiratory syndrome.

Stohr stressed, however, that even if the virus can spread through plumbing or in other ways, the pattern of the epidemic so far indicates that would occur only rarely.

“If this would significantly contribute to the transmission of the virus, the epidemic would look different. It would spread faster. We’d have many more cases that we could not link to a SARS patient,” Stohr said.

Nevertheless, evidence of the virus has been found in almost every body fluid that has been tested, including blood, feces, urine, saliva and even tears, Stohr said.