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Briefs (left)

Israel Likely to Let East Jerusalem
Palestinians Vote

By Greg Myre

Israel now appears likely to allow Palestinians to vote in East Jerusalem in Palestinian parliamentary elections this month, a move that would resolve a pressing dispute with the Palestinians.

Israel’s government has not announced any major decisions since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke on Jan. 4, and political quarrels have largely been put on hold in deference to his condition. Sharon remained in a medically induced coma on Tuesday, though he showed small improvements, his doctors said.

Even so, the Cabinet, led by Ehud Olmert, the acting prime minister, plans to vote Sunday on a proposal that would allow Palestinians to cast ballots in East Jerusalem in the Jan. 25 elections. Israeli officials had said they would oppose voting inside the city, which both sides claim as their capital, because the ballots include candidates from Hamas, an Islamic faction that calls for Israel’s destruction.

Some Turks Have Bird Flu Virus
But Lack Symptoms

By Elisabeth Rosenthal

Two young brothers, ages 4 and 5, who have tested positive for the dreaded H5N1 avian virus but shown no symptoms of the disease were being closely watched at Kecioren Hospital here on Tuesday. Doctors are unsure whether they are for the first time seeing human bird flu in its earliest stages or if they are discovering that infection with the H5N1 virus does not always lead to illness.

In any case, the highly unusual cluster of five cases detected here in Turkey’s capital over the last three days — all traceable to contact with sick birds — is challenging some of the doctors’ assumptions about bird flu and giving them new insights into how it spreads and causes disease. Since none of the five have died, it is raising the possibility that human bird flu is not as deadly as currently thought, and that many mild cases in Asian countries may have gone unreported.

“The two brothers are a very interesting finding that may for the first time give us a chance to monitor the human response to the disease,” said Dr. Guenael Rodier, who is leading a World Health Organization Team now in Turkey.

SEC Plans Overhaul of Corporate
Compensation Rules

By Stephen Labaton

Outlining the details of his first major initiative, Christopher Cox, the new head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, said that next week the agency would propose the most extensive overhaul since 1992 of the way companies disclose compensation to senior executives and directors.

“The marketplace for executive compensation has proceeded apace in the intervening decade and a half and the results have been an increasing amount of executive compensation that is escaping disclosure,” Cox told a group of reporters over lunch at the agency’s headquarters.

Once adopted, the new rules would provide considerable assistance to investors, who are often unable to glean from corporate filings the total compensation of top executives. But the rules would still fall far short of the ambitious corporate democracy proposals made for many years by stockholders and some lawmakers, including one proposal that would give the investors some say in setting pay scales.

Those proposals have gained little political traction in Washington, even as a growing body of evidence has emerged to suggest that at many companies there is no correlation between executive pay and company performance.