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Briefs (left)

DaimlerChrysler Suspends
Employees in Bribery Inquiry

By Mark Landler

DaimlerChrysler has dismissed or suspended several employees after an internal investigation uncovered evidence that its executives paid bribes in Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe.

In a report filed on Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said it had “determined that improper payments were made in a number of jurisdictions.” The payments, it said, could violate both German law and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the United States.

The Justice Department and the SEC have been investigating accusations of bribery at DaimlerChrysler since last year. The company has cooperated with the investigations, and these latest disclosures shed more light on the far-flung corruption inquiry.

The filing, however, does not answer a crucial question: Whether senior Mercedes managers knew about the payments. It does not identify the countries where bribes were paid, or say how many people were involved.

Flu Fears Spur Research
Into Virus Killers

By Stephen Smith

Top scientists at federal health institutes, universities, and drug companies report that they are witnessing a surge of interest in finding treatments for viral infections — fueled in part by fears of a global flu epidemic.

Once, viral disease researchers rarely heard from drug development companies. Now, scientists say, they regularly get calls from companies hoping to forge partnerships in the quest to discover antiviral medicines.

Scientists say they could be at the dawn of an unprecedented period of discovery in the hunt for drugs against viruses that cause hepatitis, respiratory ailments, and more exotic diseases.

The federal government’s top disease specialist, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, said the threat of a bird flu virus that could kill millions of people has compelled scientists to reconsider their research priorities.

“This kind of attention is causing us to shake the cages,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview at a flu preparedness summit in Boston last month. “We’ve accepted less-than-optimal viral treatments. We’ve got to do better than that.”

Russian Panel Backs Pipeline
Near Baikal

By C.j. Chivers

A Russian regulatory panel reviewing plans to build an oil pipeline that would pass along the shoreline of Lake Baikal, the world’s most voluminous fresh-water lake, announced on Monday that it had approved the proposal over objections from scientists and environmental groups.

The announcement, by the Federal Environmental, Technological and Nuclear Oversight Service, will allow Transneft, the state-owned pipeline monopoly, to proceed with plans to build a pipeline to ship Siberian oil eastward to Asian markets.

The project, roughly 2,500 miles long and known as the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline, would pass within 900 yards of Lake Baikal’s northern shore.

Lake Baikal is a chasm more than a mile deep formed tens of millions of years ago by a crack in the Earth’s crust.

Nearly 400 miles long and 30 miles wide, it holds more than 20 percent of the world’s unfrozen fresh water, and is widely regarded as one of Russia’s unique natural gems.