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West Nile Virus Test May Have Prevented Infections

THE NEW YORK TIMES

A new test has detected the West Nile virus in more than 600 blood donors across the country so far this summer, preventing transfusions of the contaminated blood, federal health officials said on Thursday.

The figure may rise because infections from the mosquito-borne disease are still occurring, although the season appears to have passed its peak, the officials said.

There is no way to be sure precisely how many cases of West Nile were prevented by the test to screen blood donations, because scientists do not know what proportion of the individuals who receive contaminated blood become ill, the officials said.

Because each unit of donated blood is broken into components and transfused into about two patients on average, and the percentage of patients who have received contaminated blood is very high, the screening tests seem to have prevented a significant amount of illness, the officials said.

“We can presume that we’ve prevented a very large number of infections and some significant amount of clinical disease,” said Dr. Jesse Goodman, an official of the Food and Drug Administration in Washington.

Snow Promises Afghanistan $1.2 Billion More in Aid

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- KABUL, AFGHANISTAN

John W. Snow, the U.S. treasury secretary, promised on Thursday $1.2 billion in new American aid to Afghanistan and said he would urge foreign allies to donate at least a further $1 billion in reconstruction funds during a financial conference this weekend in Dubai.

Snow, who has been touring the Middle East this week, made the pledge in meetings with Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, and other senior Afghan leaders during a stopover in Kabul.

Although diplomats and officials here spoke glowingly of the economic possibilities for a revitalized Afghanistan and praised new laws that lay the foundation for a banking system here, nearly half the American pledge is designated for security spending on the police, highway and border patrols, and the military.

Security in the country remains so tenuous that Snow was continually ringed by an entourage of bodyguards and soldiers with machine guns. He left for Islamabad, Pakistan, aboard a military plane before the sun set.

The United States has already spent $1.8 billion on reconstruction in Afghanistan since it ousted the country’s Taliban leadership in military strikes in late 2001.

Difficulties Abound in Finding Successor to Grasso at NYSE

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- NEW YORK

Even for a job that was once valued at $140 million, finding a successor to Richard A. Grasso as chairman and chief executive of the New York Stock Exchange is not shaping up as an easy task.

Already, many of the gold-plated names bandied about have politely declined -- among them Robert E. Rubin, the former Treasury secretary, Donald B. Marron, the former chairman of Paine Webber, and Frank G. Zarb, the former chairman and chief executive of Nasdaq. Given the hybrid nature of the exchange -- it is both a regulator and a business -- and the scandal that swept out Grasso, filling the top job will hardly be an easy matter, many experts say.