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Briefs (left)

Sri Lanka Accused
On Child Soldiers

By Shimali Senanayake

A U.N. official accused Sri Lankan security forces on Monday of helping to abduct children to serve as soldiers against Tamil separatists.

Allan Rock, a special adviser to the United Nations on children and armed conflict, said the troops had rounded up children for a paramilitary force known as the Karuna Group and had ignored pleas for help from parents who said their children — some as young as 13 — had been taken by the group.

“We encountered both direct and indirect evidence of security forces’ complicity and participation,” Rock said after a 10-day mission in the war-ravaged North and East.

The Karuna Group broke away from the Tamil Tigers in March 2004 and has been fighting the Tigers in eastern Sri Lanka. International monitors here to monitor a now-shattered 2002 cease-fire have accused the government of being allied with the group, a charge the military has denied. The cease-fire was supposed to end a two-decade war between the government and the Tigers.

Finance an Effort
To Help Rival Software Mesh

By Victoria Shannon

Microsoft plans to unveil a technology industry alliance on Tuesday to make software from competing companies and partners work better together, company executives said.

Bob Muglia, the Microsoft senior vice president who has led the company’s so-called interoperability efforts for the last year, will announce details of the alliance in Barcelona, Spain, at an event for European software developers.

The move is Microsoft’s latest effort to move from being a company that insists on the advantages of its own products to one that can adapt when customers use other companies’ goods.

Eleven days ago, for instance, Microsoft struck a deal with Novell, a longtime rival, to ensure that Novell’s version of the Linux operating system operates with Windows in corporate data centers.

Analysts saw the partnership as a concession by Microsoft that open-source software like Linux was a rival it could not defeat.

Others say Microsoft is trying to take the lead in interoperability so it can manage the relationships, rather than cede management to others.

Studies Find Danger to Forests
In Thinning Without Burning

By Jim Robbins

Thinning forests without also burning accumulated brush and deadwood may increase forest fire damage rather than reduce it, researchers at the Forest Service reported in two recent studies.

The findings cast doubt on how effective some of the thinning done under President Bush’s Healthy Forests Initiative will be at preventing fires if the forests are not also burned.

The studies show that in forests that have been thinned but not treated with prescribed burning, tree mortality is much greater than in forests that have had thinning and burning and those that have been left alone. Another study, on Blacks Mountain Experimental Forest in Northern California, had similar findings.

The studies, combined with other recent research showing that climate change is reducing snowpack and making the fire season longer and more intense, have prompted researchers to urge the Forest Service to use prescribed fire more.