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Briefs (right)

Official Quits FDA, Citing
Delay on Morning-After Pill

By Gardiner Harris

The director of the Food and Drug Administration’s office of women’s health resigned Wednesday to protest the agency’s decision last week to further delay approving over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill.

“I feel very strongly that this shouldn’t be about abortion politics,” Dr. Susan F. Wood, who is an assistant FDA commissioner, said in a telephone interview. “This is a way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and thereby prevent abortion. This should be something that we should all agree on.”

In an e-mail message to staff, Wood wrote that she could no longer serve at the agency “when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled.”

In the interview, Wood said that she “doesn’t find persuasive” the explanations offered Friday by the FDA commissioner, Lester M. Crawford, to justify the agency’s decision regarding the morning-after pill, known as Plan B. And she said that the agency was unlikely to make a decision on the Plan B application “in the foreseeable future.”

Agency staff members, she said, are glum about Crawford’s decision and openly worrying that it will severely damage the agency’s credibility.

China-U.S. Talks in Trouble,
But Will Continue

By Chris Buckley

Talks to curb China’s surging textile exports to the United States will continue on Thursday, after two days of negotiations here ended at an apparent impasse.

A spokesman for the U.S. trade representative, Neena Moorjani, said Wednesday that the two sides would reconvene in the morning. Her announcement followed comments by American textile executives in Beijing, who said that the talks were all but dead.

“The United States and China continue to hold discussions on textiles trade in Beijing,” Moorjani said in a statement. “Negotiating teams from both countries are set to reconvene talks at 8:30 a.m. in Beijing.”

The American industry executives were here to follow progress in the talks, and they promised Wednesday to seek further restraints on China’s surging clothing exports after the talks apparently failed to produce any agreement.

The negotiators from China and the United States met to reach a broad deal on how to limit the flood of Chinese-made garments that began after the expiration of an international agreement containing quotas at the beginning of the year. The United States imposed “safeguards” on some items in May.

Cass Johnson, president of the National Council of Textile Organizations, said that the talks closed with the two sides sharply at odds on even the basics of an agreement. The textile council represents many clothing manufacturers in the United States.

Apple Is Accused of Violating Singapore Firm’s Music Selection

By Laurie J. Flynn

Creative Technology Ltd., a maker of portable music players, has accused Apple Computer of violating a newly granted software patent that covers the way users navigate music selections.

Creative Technology, which is based in Singapore and has U.S. operations in Milpitas, Calif., said it would consider every option available to defend the patent, including possible legal action. Apple declined to comment on the patent.

The patent, which the company refers to as the Zen Patent, covers Creative’s software interface for portable music players, which allows users to select a song, album or track by navigating a succession of menus. The patent office awarded the patent on Aug. 9.

Creative uses the navigation technology on many of its portable music devices, which account for 3.3 percent of the market, according to the NPD Group. Apple’s iPod, which in large part owes its popularity to its easy-to-use navigation system, has about 74 percent of the American market.

Craig McHugh, president of Creative’s U.S. operations, said on Wednesday that Apple was the only company that Creative had identified so far that was in violation of the patent, though Creative was investigating others.

J.P. Morgan Chase to Acquire Sears Canada’s Credit Card Unit

By Ian Austen

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. has agreed to purchase the credit card business of Sears Canada for 2.4 billion Canadian dollars in cash and the assumption of 1.1 billion Canadian dollars in debt.

The announcement caused Sears Canada’s stock to soar 24 percent, to 30 Canadian dollars (about $25), as shareholders anticipated a rich payout.

Sears Canada, which is based in Toronto and is 54 percent owned by Sears Holdings of Hoffmann Estates, Ill., expects to receive about 2.2 billion Canadian dollars ($1.84 billion) after taxes and debt settlements. The company said most of that would be distributed to its shareholders.

The purchase marks J.P. Morgan’s entry to the credit card business in Canada. When the transaction closes, Morgan will gain about 10 million accounts with about 2.5 billion Canadian dollars in unpaid balances. Most of the cards are Sears’ in-house brand, a service that Morgan will provide the stores for at least 10 more years, along with some co-branded Sears MasterCards. About 1,000 employees in four Sears offices will join J.P. Morgan.

While the announcement drove up Sears Canada’s shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange, the Dominion Bond Rating Service was more pessimistic about the long-term implications for Canada’s third-largest department store chain.