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News Briefs

U.S. Seeks to Neutralize Iraqi Support For Insurgents From Syria

The Bush administration is considering imposing new sanctions on Syria to prod it to crack down on Iraqis there who are providing financial and logistical support to insurgents in Iraq, senior U.S. counterterrorism officials said Tuesday.

The Syrian government has not taken action against the network of Iraqis, the officials said, despite months of quiet protests from the United States. Among the steps being considered is a Treasury Department action that could essentially isolate the Syrian banking system.

The network includes former officials of Saddam Hussein’s government, U.S. officials have said, adding that intelligence gathered in recent months from informants, captives and intercepted communications suggested that the network’s role in providing support to insurgents in Iraq was more extensive than previously suspected.

As Congress Opens, House Passes Bill to Protect DeLay

House Republicans pushed through a significant change in the handling of ethics complaints over strong Democratic objections Tuesday as the 109th Congress convened with a burst of pomp and partisanship.

The House, on a vote of 220-195, enacted a change that would effectively dismiss a complaint in the event of a deadlock among members of the ethics committee, which is divided equally between Democrats and Republicans. Its approval followed a Republican retreat Monday on other proposed ethics revisions.

At the heart of both actions were calculations about how far Republicans should go to protect the House majority leader, Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas. There was widespread dissatisfaction in the party over three admonishments delivered to DeLay last year by the ethics committee. At the same time, some Republicans were uncomfortable retaining a party rule adopted in November that was intended to shield DeLay from having to step down from his leadership post if he was indicted in a campaign finance investigation in Texas. Republicans said the new approach to handling a deadlock on the ethics panel would instill more bipartisanship in the process and protect lawmakers from purely partisan attacks.

Study Calls for Stronger Discipline Of Incompetent Doctors

Experts retained by the Bush administration said Tuesday that more effective disciplining of incompetent doctors could significantly alleviate the problem of medical malpractice litigation.

As President Bush prepared to head to Illinois on Wednesday to campaign for limits on malpractice lawsuits, the experts said that states should first identify those doctors most likely to make mistakes that injure patients and lead to lawsuits.

The administration recently commissioned a study by the University of Iowa and the Urban Institute to help state boards of medical examiners in disciplining doctors.

“There’s a need to protect the public from substandard performance by physicians,” said Josephine Gittler, a law professor at the University of Iowa supervising part of the study. “If you had more aggressive policing of incompetent physicians and more effective disciplining of doctors who engage in substandard practice, that could decrease the type of negligence that leads to malpractice suits.”