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Briefs (left)

FDA Approves Drug Meant
To Help Short Children Grow

By Lawrence M. Fisher

The Food and Drug Administration gave approval Wednesday to Increlex, the first new drug in 30 years for the treatment of abnormally short stature in children.

It is the first drug approved for Tercica, a biotechnology company based in Brisbane, Calif., whose stock rose 21.2 percent on the news, closing at $11.31.

In clinical studies submitted to the FDA, Increlex prompted growth in children who did not respond to injections of growth hormone, the standard treatment. An estimated 6,000 children in the United States have the specific condition for which the FDA approved the drug, although some doctors expect Increlex to be more broadly prescribed to children with less severe growth abnormalities.

The drug’s price has not yet been set, but it is expected to be similar to that for growth hormone, which is roughly $20,000 per year. In clinical trials, patients given the drug through twice-a-day injections grew an average of about an inch more a year than patients not given the treatment.

Fires Lead France to Assess
Unsafe Buildings in Paris

By Katrin Bennhold

Under public pressure after two fires killed 24 African immigrants here in the last week, the French authorities pushed ahead Wednesday with an inventory of the city’s most dilapidated buildings, preparing to evacuate those deemed unsafe.

Last Friday, a fire killed 17 people, mostly immigrants from Mali who had been waiting for years for public housing. After the second blaze, which killed seven squatters Monday night, the police stepped up efforts to gather information on living conditions in about 100 illegally occupied buildings and several hundred other rundown structures in Paris.

On Tuesday, the interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, proposed the evacuation of all squatters, drawing sharp criticism from leftist opponents who called the plan unrealistic given the current housing shortage. They also called it an attempt to link the issue to the controversy over illegal immigration.

After Decades, Nations
Focus On Rights Abuses

By Larry Rohter

After years of inertia, governments throughout Latin America have recently shown surprising vigor in prosecuting human rights violations that occurred, in some cases, 30 years ago or more. Chile, for instance, has offered reparations to torture victims and forced the army to apologize for its abuses, while the Supreme Court in Argentina in June declared unconstitutional a pair of amnesty laws from the 1980s.

Why this sudden activity? After all, reopening issues like forced disappearances, torture and state-sanctioned murder is painful for any society and hardly as popular with voters as, say, creating jobs or building roads or schools.

“What’s happening now is not a coincidence, or like some kind of flower that has blossomed overnight,” argues Vmctor Abramovich of the Center for Legal and Social Studies here, one of Argentina’s leading human rights group. “It’s a regional process that has taken years to mature.”

Indeed, even nations that for years did their utmost to forget the past have now been confronting incidents once thought safely buried. In Uruguay, a leftist government, led by Tabare Vazquez, took power for the first time in March and a former president, Juan Maria Bordaberry, was indicted three months later for the 1976 murders of two political leaders.