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Briefs (right)

Leaders Trade Barbs Over Fight
Against Taliban

By Carlotta Gall

President Pervez Musharraf lashed out Monday at President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan for “bad-mouthing” Pakistan in recent weeks and casting doubt on its commitment to fight terrorism.

In a speech to Pakistani journalists in Rawalpindi that was broadcast on state television, Musharraf accused India of feeding false information to Afghan officials suggesting that the Pakistani intelligence agency was training terrorists.

He dismissed the allegation, and he described as “nonsense” a list of Taliban members, including the leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, who Karzai said were operating in Pakistan.

The comments, echoing a message Musharraf has delivered in recent interviews, point not just to a new low in relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also to difficulties with the United States.

President Bush visited both Afghanistan and Pakistan last week, and Musharraf said he had sought to discredit the Afghan allegations in his meeting with Bush.

“The bad-mouthing against Pakistan is a deliberate, articulated conspiracy,” Musharraf said. The Karzai administration, after several years of careful diplomacy with Pakistan, has become increasingly outspoken as violence has increased, including suicide bombings, beheadings and roadside bombs. Karzai came to Islamabad two weeks ago, and handed over what he said were intelligence files on Taliban and others who, he said, were operating in Pakistan.

Genetic Tie-In Seen in Binge Eating

By Carey Goldberg

Binge eating disorder, a frequent compulsion for out-of-control eating that goes far beyond the point of feeling satiated, now appears to run in families — and that genetic heritage may help explain a piece of the current obesity epidemic, researchers reported Monday.

A new study has found that a person is twice as likely to binge eat if he or she has a relative who also has the disorder. The study of 300 overweight people and nearly 900 of their family members also found that having a binge-eating relative more than doubles a person’s chances of becoming severely obese.

Binge-eating disorder is a psychiatric diagnosis that includes major eating jags - the whole plate of brownies, the whole gallon of ice cream — at least twice a week for months, and causes terrible distress for the eater. The study’s powerful new evidence suggests that “some forms of obesity may be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain — which is likely hereditary — rather than just a disorder of metabolism in the body,” said Dr. James I. Hudson of Harvard’s McLean Hospital, lead author of the new paper.

It is not clear what that brain abnormality is, Hudson said. It could have to do with a built-in tendency to act impulsively, or a hard-wired propensity to overeat, or even mood disorders such as depression, which often accompany binge-eating. But it does seem clear that in the current American environment of over-plentiful food and sedentary living, people with such a flaw would be especially likely to grow and stay fat, he said.

Delay Opponents Use a Movie

By David M. Halbfinger

A documentary about the Texas criminal investigation that led to the indictment of Republican Rep. Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, on campaign fundraising charges is being put to use by DeLay’s political opponents in an attempt to unseat him.

The film, “The Big Buy: How Tom DeLay Stole Congress,” will be distributed this spring by the Hollywood producer and liberal provocateur Robert Greenwald, whose last release was a scathing attack on Wal-Mart sponsored by a variety of labor unions and other groups critical of the retailing giant.

A host of liberal organizations in Texas and nationwide, including People for the American Way, Democracy for America and the Pacifica radio station in Houston, are expected to sponsor the film’s release. It will not follow a traditional theatrical rollout but will instead open in a few cities before being made widely available on DVD, as was the Wal-Mart movie, Greenwald said in an interview.

An important aspect of the release plan is to organize hundreds, if not thousands, of house parties in May and June at which the movie will be shown, Greenwald said. The distribution strategy is to be detailed on Tuesday — primary day in Texas — as a “welcoming gift” to DeLay, he said.

DeLay’s lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, called the movie, an early version of which he had seen, a “hatchet job,” and said he had refused to sit down with the filmmakers for an interview.

Long Before Burying Pompeii,
Vesuvius Blew Its Top

By John Noble Wilford

Pompeii spreads out as a set for the grand finale staged by Mount Vesuvius, but it appears to have been more of an encore.

Geologists and archaeologists are reporting new research on Tuesday showing, they said, that the volcano erupted with even greater power and range nearly 4,000 years ago, in the Bronze Age. The findings, they add, are not reassuring to Naples and its metropolitan population of 3 million.

Digging into sediments west, north and east of Vesuvius, Italian and American scientists uncovered beds of volcanic ash and pumice that buried land and villages around 1780 B.C. The devastation extended 15 miles from the volcano, the first evidence that a Vesuvius eruption ever spread so far and into the Neopolitan region and beyond.

Pompeii, the luxurious resort of wealthy Romans and now the most famous still-life of volcanic doom, is just five miles southwest of Vesuvius. It was buried almost instantly in the eruption of A.D. 79.

Although the loss of life and property was less in the Bronze Age event, owing to the sparse settlement, archaeologists investigating the sediments, more than three feet deep, found poignant evidence of panic — tracks of thousands of footprints made in the ash, all leading away from the volcano.