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Pentagon clears commander over emails with socialite

WASHINGTON — A Defense Department inquiry into potentially inappropriate emails between the U.S. commander in Afghanistan and a socialite in Tampa, Fla., has cleared the officer, Gen. John R. Allen, of wrongdoing, senior officials disclosed Tuesday.

The Pentagon inspector general wrote to Allen that the investigation had found no improprieties in the email communications with the socialite, Jill Kelley, officials said.

Allen maintained all along that he had done nothing wrong, and his supporters said the emails had neither violated security nor represented an improper relationship with Kelley, who frequently hosted social events for senior officers assigned to the military’s Central Command headquarters in Tampa.

Pentagon officials were no doubt cognizant of the context in which the emails had been uncovered — as part of the discovery of an extramarital affair that ended the public career of David H. Petraeus, who was then in charge of the CIA.

George Little, the Pentagon press secretary, released a statement confirming that Panetta had been officially informed that the inspector general closed the investigation into Allen.

—Thom Shanker, The New York Times

Foul-smelling cloud drifts over France, alarming residents

PARIS — It wafted over northern France late in the night and reached southern England by morning on Tuesday, a noisome cloud that roused inhabitants from their sleep with its nauseating stench. There were thousands of frantic calls to emergency services, from Normandy to Paris, with residents describing the smell of household gas or rotten eggs, but the authorities moved quickly to calm fears.

The cloud, officials said, was one of a group of substances called mercaptans, foul-smelling but largely harmless chemicals — at low doses, at any rate. It had escaped from a chemical plant near the northern city of Rouen.

The ministers of the interior and ecology noted that the chemical is dangerous only at concentrations 20,000 times that at which the nose detects it.

Lubrizol, the additives company that operates the plant, offered little explanation for the problems, which began when the production of another chemical went awry, said Nathalie Bakaev, a company spokeswoman.

—Scott Sayare, The New York Times

Health agency moves to retire most chimps used for research

The majority of the more than 360 chimpanzees owned or supported by the National Institutes of Health that are now at research facilities should be permanently retired from research and moved to sanctuaries, and planning for the move should start immediately, a report from an NIH council recommended Tuesday.

In late March, Dr. Francis S. Collins, the NIH director, will decide whether to put the recommendations into effect. He has already accepted early guidelines that propose significant reductions in the use of chimpanzees in behavioral and biomedical research.

The report does not urge a ban on research, but says that in the future, only a small colony of about 50 chimps should be kept for the possibility of research, which would have to be approved by an independent committee that would include representation from the public.

The report also proposes standards for the social and physical welfare of the animals, including requirements that they live in groups of at least seven, have a minimum of 1,000 square feet per chimp, room to climb and opportunities to forage for food.

—James Gorman, The New York Times