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Drug Makers Find Hurdle In Minnesota Marketing

There are bagels and fruit in the morning, sandwiches at lunch, fresh cookies in the afternoon and an occasional restaurant dinner, but many of the doctors who routinely accept these goodies from pharmaceutical sales representatives say they meet with sales people for the educational messages they bring, not the food.

Maybe doctors in Minnesota are different.

Two years after Minnesota officials forbade drug makers to give doctors more than $50 worth of food or other gifts per year, drug company sales representatives there are having a far harder time marketing to doctors. The rule change was small and almost accidental — a state official decided to interpret a 1993 law differently from his predecessor. But the effect on drug makers has been profound.

The year after the change, the number of visits that Minnesota primary care doctors accepted from drug sales representatives decreased at about twice the rate of the decline reported by primary care doctors nationwide, according to a survey by ImpactRx, a New Jersey firm that tracks pharmaceutical marketing. A growing number of Minnesota hospitals and clinics have banned routine visits from them.

Gaza Banks Out of Cash as Israeli Banks Halt Business

Gaza’s banks have run out of cash, an economic adviser to Ismail Haniya, the Hamas leader in Gaza, said Thursday.

The cash shortage followed a decision by Israeli commercial banks to halt all business transactions with Palestinian bank branches in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

“People responded by withdrawing their deposits,” said Ala al-Araj, the adviser to Haniya. The spate of withdrawals brought about the cash shortage.

Later on Thursday, Israel allowed some cash into the strip to alleviate the crisis, according to a Gaza bank manager who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Israel has declared Gaza under Hamas “hostile territory,” and the legal risks of doing business with banks in an area controlled by a group listed as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union have prompted Israeli banks to cut their ties. Hamas seized Gaza in June, routing the forces of the rival Fatah faction there. Since the takeover, Israel has closed the main crossings in and out of Gaza to ordinary traffic.

The decision of the Israeli banks has added to the pressure exerted on Hamas by both Israel and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, led by President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah.

In a statement late Wednesday, Israel’s Discount Bank said it had “decided to end all activities with banks associated with Gaza and with all branches of other banks located there.” It said its decision was made in light of the Israeli government decision last month to declare Gaza “hostile territory.”

Marines to Conduct Inquiry Into Killings of Afghan Civilians

The Marine Corps announced Thursday that it would convene a court of inquiry to examine the circumstances surrounding the killings of several Afghan civilians by members of a Special Operations platoon in a remote area of Afghanistan near the Pakistan border in March.

The killings occurred March 4, when several members of the platoon responded to a suicide bomb attack on their convoy with gunfire, killing about a dozen apparently unarmed civilians along a six-mile stretch of road near Jalalabad, according to a preliminary military investigation and a separate inquiry by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.

Neither investigation found evidence that the convoy had taken any incoming gunfire after the initial bomb attack, which struck the second vehicle in the convoy, slightly wounding one Marine. The Marines involved are part of the 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, an elite group of combat-tested troops conducting special missions in the volatile region of eastern Afghanistan.

A lawyer for one of the Marines has said his client fired only at enemy fighters and only after being fired upon.

No Marines have been charged in the episode. A spokesman for Marine Corps Forces Central Command said it had not been determined how many Marines, if any, would be called as formal parties to the investigation. Marines called as parties have the right to be represented by counsel in the hearings.

Guantanamo Detainee Charged in ’02 Attack

Military prosecutors filed charges of attempted murder against a Guantanamo detainee this week, saying he threw a hand grenade at a jeep carrying two U.S. servicemen and an Afghan translator, documents released Thursday show.

All three men were seriously injured in an attack in Kabul on Dec. 17, 2002.

The case was the fourth filed under the military commissions law Congress enacted last year for trials of war-crimes cases at the naval station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The detainee, Mohammed Jawad, has told Guantanamo hearing panels that he had been caught with another grenade, but he denied that he was responsible for the Kabul attack, undated transcripts show. At the hearings, to determine if he was properly held as an enemy combatant, Jawad said he had falsely confessed to the attack after being tortured by Afghan police.