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Taliban Kill 6 Afghan Police
In Attack on Army Depot

By Carlotta Gall

Taliban insurgents attacked an Afghan National Army weapons depot south of Kabul on Thursday, killing six Afghan policemen, the state Bakhtar news agency said.

Two men suspected of being Taliban insurgents were killed in the firefight that ensued and one was captured, Bakhtar reported, quoting the Interior Ministry press office. The attack took place in Muqur, a district of Ghazni Province, south of Kabul, a spokesman for the ministry said.

Gunmen also attacked a parliamentary candidate in eastern Afghanistan. The candidate, Safia Siddiqui, a well-known figure and spokeswoman at the national constitutional convention in 2004, was campaigning in her native Nangarhar Province when she came under fire. She was not injured, but three of her supporters were wounded, Agence France-Presse reported.

International and Afghan security forces have tightened security in anticipation of the Sept. 18 elections as the Taliban have increased attacks on candidates and government targets. Six candidates and four election workers have been killed recently, and government officials have warned that there may be more violence, in particular roadside bombs in the provinces and suicide bombs in the cities.

Inhaled Insulin Nears FDA Approval

By Andrew Pollack

The first inhaled form of insulin, a product that could reduce or eliminate the daily injections needed by millions of diabetics, moved closer to federal approval Thursday.

An advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration voted 7–2 to recommend approval of the drug for adults with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, despite some concerns about the long-term impact that inhaling insulin would have on users’ lungs.

The product, called Exubera, and was developed by Pfizer, in partnership with Sanofi-Aventis of France and Nektar Therapeutics, a California biotechnology firm.

The FDA, sensitive to criticism in the last year that it has been lax on drug safety, must still rule on approval. The agency often, but not always, follows the advice of its advisory committees, which are made up of outside experts.

Because Exubera is a novel product that would be taken for years, it is conceivable the FDA will ask for more data before approval, especially given the questions about its effect on the lungs and the fact that Exubera’s advantage over injected insulin is mostly convenience. Data presented by Pfizer showed Exubera was equivalent to injected insulin in controlling blood sugar, but not superior.

Pfizer and its medical consultants argued that approval of Exubera could enhance public health by encouraging more people to use insulin, which would improve control of their blood sugar. Keeping blood glucose levels down has been shown to reduce long-term complications of diabetes such as cardiovascular problems and kidney disease.

Berger Fined for Document

By Eric Lichtblau

Sandy Berger, an influential adviser to former President Bill Clinton who helped shape American foreign policy through the 1990s, was ordered Thursday to pay a higher-than-expected fine of $50,000 but received no jail time for removing and destroying copies of classified documents from the National Archives.

Berger, 59, stood somberly before a federal judge moments before he was sentenced, and admitted that his decision to remove material on terrorism in three visits to the archives in 2003 was “indefensible.” His actions, Berger said, “were wrong, they were foolish,” adding, “I deeply regret them, and I have every day since.”

In a plea deal reached five months ago, lawyers for the Justice Department and Berger agreed to seek a $10,000 fine as part of his sentence. But Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson of U.S. District Court here decided Thursday to impose the $50,000 fine, along with 100 hours of community service and two years’ probation. She also barred Berger from access to classified material for three years.

The judge said the proposed $10,000 fine failed to reflect the severity of the crime or the financial resources of Berger, who founded an international consulting firm after serving as national security adviser from 1997 through 2000.

The sentencing caps an embarrassing 14-month ordeal that Berger’s lawyers acknowledge has badly hurt his reputation. His motivation in taking the documents remains a matter of fierce debate in political circles, and Berger himself did little to shed light on the mystery Thursday, except to say, without elaboration, that he had put his own “personal convenience” in reviewing the documents ahead of federal law.

German Carmakers Scramble
For Hybrid Cars

By Mark Landler and Keith Bradsher

German carmakers, which have long favored diesel engines as their primary response to economic and environmental concerns, are scrambling to develop hybrid gasoline-electric cars as sales of these vehicles soar in many places along with fuel prices.

Volkswagen said Thursday it would develop, assemble and sell a hybrid minivan in China in cooperation with a Chinese automaker, a move that underlines the Chinese auto industry’s rapid move into an advanced technological area of automotive design.

A day earlier, BMW announced that it would join an existing hybrid technology joint venture set up by DaimlerChrysler and General Motors. It did not say when it would roll out its first hybrid vehicle.

Volkswagen’s announcement is its first public confirmation of plans to make and sell a hybrid anywhere in the world. It said it would develop hybrid technology on its own, rather than with a partner, for Europe and the United States, according to Reuters.