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Briefs (left)

Male Circumcision Is Promoted
In Africa As Way to Fight HIV

By Sharon Lafraniere

For well over a decade, southern Africans have battled the spread of AIDS with everything from condoms and abstinence campaigns to doses of anti-retroviral drugs for pregnant women — and generally found themselves losing.

Now a growing number of clinicians and policymakers in the region are pointing to a simple and possibly potent weapon against new infections: circumcision for men.

Armed with new studies suggesting that male circumcision can reduce the chance of HIV infection in men, and perhaps in women, health workers in two southern African nations are pressing to make circumcisions broadly available to meet what they call a burgeoning demand for them.

The validity of the approach is still being tested. But in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, surgeons at the University Teaching Hospital began offering circumcisions for about $3 some 18 months ago and are urging the government to expand the service across the country.

Bush Visits New Orleans in Bid
To Highlight Rebuilding Effort

By Jim Rutenberg

Facing renewed criticism of his administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina, President Bush came to this still storm-ravaged city on Thursday promising to make federal rebuilding efforts “as efficient as possible” while signaling that his administration was listening to its critics.

“All of us in positions of responsibility appreciate those who are working to helpus to understand how to do our jobs better,” Bush said on a visit to the heavily damaged 9th Ward.

Bush’s trip was planned to highlight the progress of the rebuilding efforts in the Gulf Coast and, this being national volunteer week, the role that volunteers have played in it. But it came on a day that a bipartisan panel of senators called the Federal Emergency Management Administration the living “symbol of a bumbling bureaucracy” that should be eliminated.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One en route here, Fran Townsend, Bush’s homeland security adviser, said that with hurricane season approaching again, “now is not the time to really look at moving organizational boxes” when it comes to emergency management.

Surviving Miner Says Air Masks
Failed to Work

By Ian Urbina

Providing new details about the final desperate hours of the Sago Mine disaster that left 12 miners dead in West Virginia, a letter sent this week by the sole survivor said that at least four of the oxygen masks meant to protect the men from dangerous smoke and fumes did not work.

“The first thing we did was activate our rescuers, as we had been trained,” said the letter, which was sent on Wednesday by Randal McCloy Jr. to the families of the victims. “At least four of the rescuers did not function. There were not enough rescuers to go around.”

Describing how the men were forced to share the few functioning air packs, the letter said that the miners tried to escape but had to retreat because of smoke and fumes.

“We found a sledgehammer, and for a long time, we took turns pounding away,” McCloy wrote, describing their frantic efforts to get the attention of rescuers several hundred feet above the trapped miners.

Eventually realizing they were not likely to escape alive, the men recited a “sinner’s prayer,” and began quietly penning farewell notes to their families, the letter said.