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Caribbean Islands Check For Stolen Passports

All travelers to the Caribbean for the Cricket World Cup in March and April will have their passports checked against an international database of lost or stolen travel documents, making the islands the first region in the world to put such a system in operation.

Before the nine countries involved in the World Cup along with the Bahamas jointly began operating the screening system, only Switzerland was checking all incoming passports against Interpol's database of 13.4 million lost or stolen travel documents.

"The Caribbean is living proof that it can be done," Ronald K. Noble, the secretary-general of Interpol, said in a telephone interview Thursday from New York. "It's not a question of money. It's not a question of population size. It's not a question of the size of the police force."

For years, Noble has been leading an effort to link Interpol's 186 member countries to the database.

It has been a slow process. Just 120 of the 186 member countries supply information to Interpol on stolen or lost passports in their jurisdictions. The United States, for example, runs fewer than 100 checks per month against the database, although it also uses some of the Interpol data for investigations.

Google Finding It Easier To Court Small Media Companies

Google has been frustrated in its efforts to reach comprehensive deals with major studios and networks to put their video on YouTube. Meanwhile, it is forming partnerships with hundreds of smaller media companies that see value — or at least a valuable experiment — in contributing to the site.

Some of the partnerships have been announced publicly. On Monday, for instance, YouTube said that it had teamed up with the National Basketball Association to create a channel where the league would show authorized clips and where fans could upload short videos showcasing their best moves.

A day later, YouTube said it had reached a deal with an independent label, Wind-up Records, to stream music videos and allow YouTube users to incorporate music tracks in their own videos.

But YouTube says most of its licensing deals have been done quietly. It says it has firmed up more than 1,000 partnerships with content owners ranging from the Sundance Channel to small independent video producers.

Without specifying how many of those deals have been signed since their site was acquired by Google last fall, YouTube officials say they are adding more than 200 media partners a quarter.

McCain and Obama Strike Deal on Public Financing

Sen. John McCain joined Sen. Barack Obama on Thursday in promising to accept a novel fundraising truce if each man wins his party's presidential nomination.

The promises by McCain, R-Ariz., and Obama, D-Ill., are an effort to resuscitate part of the ailing public-financing system for presidential campaigns.

In every election since Watergate, candidates have received limited sums of taxpayer money on the condition that they abstain from raising or spending any more. But this year, the leading candidates are all sidestepping the system in a competition to raise far more in private donations: more than $500 million each, according to most projections, compared with $150 million in potential public financing.

But there is a chance that the obituaries for the public system may be premature. On Thursday, a spokesman for McCain said that he would take up Obama on a proposal for an accord between the two major party nominees to rely just on public financing for the general election.

Such a pact would eliminate any financial edge one candidate might have and limit each campaign to $85 million. The two candidates would have to return the private donations that they had collected.

Poll Finds Strong Support For Universal Health Insurance

A majority of Americans say the federal government should guarantee health insurance to every American, especially children, and are willing to pay higher taxes to do it, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.

While the war in Iraq remains the overarching issue in the early stages of the 2008 campaign, access to affordable health care is at the top of the public's domestic agenda, ranked as far more important than immigration, cutting taxes or promoting traditional values. Only 24 percent said they were satisfied with President Bush's handling of the health insurance issue, despite his recent initiatives, and 62 percent said the Democrats — not the Republicans — were more likely to improve the health care system.

Americans showed a striking willingness in the poll to make tradeoffs to guarantee health insurance for all, including paying as much as $500 more in taxes a year and forgoing future tax cuts.

But the same divisions that doomed the last attempt at creating universal health insurance, during President Bill Clinton's administration, are still apparent. Americans remain divided, largely along party lines, over whether the government should require everyone to participate in a national health care plan, and over whether the government would do a better job than the private insurance industry in providing coverage.