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After Talk of War With Iran, Cooler Words From France

France’s foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, sought on Monday to tone down remarks he made in a radio and television interview the day before that the world had to prepare for possible war against Iran.

Attacked verbally by Iran, quietly criticized within his own government, Kouchner shifted the focus away from the threat of war and back to a call for hard negotiations as the way to force Iran to abandon key nuclear activities.

“The worst situation would be war,” Kouchner told journalists en route to Moscow. “And to avoid the worst, the French position is very clear: Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate, and work with our European friends on credible sanctions.”

On Sunday, Kouchner, a Socialist known for his blunt talk, said in an interview broadcast on RTL radio and LCI television: “We will negotiate until the end. And at the same time we must prepare ourselves.”

Asked what he meant in referring to preparation, he replied, “It is necessary to prepare for the worst,” adding, “The worst, it’s war, sir.”

Asked again to explain himself, Kouchner announced that France was doing military contingency planning for an eventual war, saying, “We are preparing by trying first of all to put together plans that are the unique prerogative of the chiefs of staff, but that — it’s not for tomorrow.”

Dunkin’ Aims to Get a Hole Lot Healthier

The project was so secret that only five people in the entire company knew its code name. For more than four years, a small team huddled in the Dunkin’ Donuts research lab trying to crack the code for a doughnut without trans fats that tasted just like those on which the chain had built its reputation over the last half century.

At times, the quest seemed impossible. Batches of doughnuts cooked with oils containing zero grams of trans fat turned into baking disasters: frosting slid off doughnuts, oils bled through the sugary treats, and the stench of palm oil replaced the sweet powdery scent that used to waft through the firm’s test kitchen.

In a few weeks at its 5,300 stores nationwide, the Canton-based company will become the first doughnut chain in the country to introduce doughnuts with zero grams of trans fats. McDonald’s and other chains have invested huge amounts of time and money trying to banish trans fats because of growing concerns that they increase the risk of coronary heart disease.

Trans fat can be found in vegetable shortening made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils.

Dunkin’s journey was particularly difficult because conventional shortening lends baked goods such as doughnuts their characteristic texture and a longer shelf life. And even with zero grams of trans fats, doughnuts - rings of dough fried in oil and then sprinkled with sugar or coated with frosting ­— can hardly be marketed as a health food.

Death in Gene Therapy Treatment As Yet Unexplained

A federal committee concluded Monday that it was too early to tell whether an experimental gene therapy treatment for rheumatoid arthritis contributed to the death of a 36-year-old woman in July.

But the committee, set up by the National Institutes of Health to help oversee gene therapy clinical trials, raised some questions about the process used to enroll the woman in the study. And the woman’s husband said he thought his wife should not have been recruited.

“The biggest question I have is, would my wife still be alive today if she hadn’t participated in this study?” Robb Mohr of Taylorville, Ill., said in brief, tearful remarks about his wife, Jolee. “I have it in my heart that she’d still be here.”

If Mohr’s death is eventually tied to the gene therapy, it could set back a field that has already had its share of failures and black eyes, including the death in 1999 of a teenager, Jesse Gelsinger, in a gene therapy test at the University of Pennsylvania.

Jolee Mohr, who had a 5-year-old daughter, died July 24 at the University of Chicago Medical Center, three weeks after trillions of genetically engineered viruses were injected into her right knee as a test of an experimental treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. The type of virus used as a gene carrier has widely been considered safe and is being used in 35 other trials.

Autopsy data presented at Monday’s committee meeting in Bethesda, Md., suggested the main cause of death was a fungal infection, histoplasmosis, that had gone out of control, destroying her organs.

States’ Health Spending Varies Widely, Study Says

A new federal study shows huge variations in personal health spending among states, ranging from an average of nearly $6,700 a person in Massachusetts to less than $4,000 in Utah.

The study, published Monday in the Web edition of the journal Health Affairs, said that Massachusetts, Maine, New York, Alaska and Connecticut had the highest per capita spending on health care in 2004.

The lowest-spending states were Utah, Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico and Nevada. Per capita spending in Utah was 59 percent of that in Massachusetts.

Anne B. Martin, an economist at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services who was the main author of the report, said the reasons for the differences included the age and incomes of the population, the concentration of doctors in a state, the generosity of public programs, the extent of private health insurance coverage and the mix of services used by state residents.