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White House issues new regulations for dangerous biological research

The Obama administration Wednesday issued new guidelines intended to strengthen the oversight of federally funded biology research that could inadvertently produce bioweapons.

The new policy shifts the burden of finding and disclosing the dangerous aspects of research from the funding agency — usually the National Institutes of Health — to the scientists who receive the grants and the universities or other institutions where they work.

The director of the NIH, Dr. Francis S. Collins, said the rules would “preserve the benefits of life-science research while minimizing the risk of misuse.”

Critics who oppose dangerous research dismissed the new rules as weak.

The policy, a codification of draft rules issued in early 2013, does not take effect for a year — an aspect that was also ridiculed by critics, who argue that dangerous work, such as making flu viruses more lethal, has been allowed to proceed while federal officials debate how to regulate it.

—Donald G. Mcneil Jr, The New York Times

Holder backing NY lawsuit over legal service for the poor

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who last year declared a crisis in America’s legal-defense system for the poor, is supporting a class-action lawsuit that accuses Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the state of New York of perpetuating a system that violates the rights of people who cannot afford to hire lawyers. The lawsuit claims that public defenders in New York are so overworked and overmatched that poor people essentially receive no legal defense at all. It describes a system in which indigent defendants navigate courts nearly alone, relying on spotty advice from lawyers who do not have the time or money to investigate their cases or advise them properly.

Because of substandard legal aid, children are taken from their parents, defendants in minor cases are jailed for long periods and people are imprisoned for crimes for which they might have been acquitted, the civil rights lawyers who filed the lawsuit said. If the New York lawsuit succeeds, the state could be forced to take over the public-defense system, which is run by county governments. Such an outcome would also quite likely encourage similar lawsuits and, in turn, additional intervention by the Justice Department. The lawsuit, which was filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union, has been winding through the courts for seven years and is set for trial on Oct. 7. It names four counties as defendants.

—By Matt Apuzzo, The New York Times

British police arrest 9 in anti-terror sweep

A day after Prime Minister David Cameron pledged British support for the U.S.-led air campaign in Iraq, the counterterrorism police in Britain rounded up nine men suspected of having links to a banned Islamist group and searched 18 buildings across the capital and in the English Midlands.

The men were not identified by name, but news reports citing unidentified sources said they included Anjem Choudhury, an Islamic preacher and organizer who has frequently voiced radical views and was associated with the Al Muhajiroun group before it was outlawed in 2010.

Scotland Yard said the men, age 22 to 51, were arrested on suspicion of being members of, or supporting, a banned organization, said in news reports to be Al Muhajiroun.

—Alan Cowell, The New York Times