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News Briefs

Report Destroyed Under Order of Shell Official

The New York Times -- WASHINGTON

A senior executive at the Royal Dutch/Shell Group told a subordinate in an e-mail message in December that the employee’s preliminary analysis of the company’s oil and gas reserves problems was “dynamite” and “needs to be destroyed” because it was incomplete, a person involved in the company’s internal inquiry said on Thursday.

The senior executive, Walter van de Vijver, the head of Shell’s exploration and production unit at the time, was dismissed on March 3, along with the company’s chairman, Sir Philip Watts.

Their dismissals came two months after the company stunned investors by lowering its estimates of proven reserves, a crucial financial indicator, by 20 percent, or 3.9 billion barrels. The company is under investigation by regulators and prosecutors in Europe and the United States.

In London, the combined boards of Shell are discussing whether to ask other executives at the company to step down, an executive close to the situation said on Thursday. The board members of Royal Dutch Petroleum and Shell Transport and Trading, the two companies that make up Shell, meeting in The Hague on Thursday and Friday to discuss the results of the internal investigation, which is being conducted by the company’s audit committee.

FDA Barred Testimony on Anti-Depressants’ Danger to Children

The New York Times -- Top officials at the Food and Drug Administration admitted Thursday that they barred the agency’s top expert from testifying at a public hearing about his conclusion that anti-depressants cause children to become suicidal because they viewed his findings as alarmist and premature.

“It would have been entirely inappropriate to present as an FDA conclusion an analysis of data that were not ripe,” Dr. Robert Temple, the Food and Drug Administration’s associate director of medical policy, said. “This is a very serious matter. If you get it wrong and over-discourage the use of these medicines, people could die.”

Temple was seeking to quell a growing controversy into whether the agency’s warnings on March 22 that anti-depressant therapy could lead patients to become suicidal were sufficient. He dismissed allegations from some in Congress that the agency is involved in a cover-up that could endanger children’s lives.

“There is concern that we hid data,” said Temple. “We did not hide data. It was there for all to see.”

Recent studies have shown that children given anti-depressants are more likely to become suicidal than those given placebos. But the studies have become a collective ink-blot test for psychiatrists, leading to wildly different interpretations.