American completes record coaster ride

An American roller-coaster devotee climbed off a ride at a German amusement park Thursday after spending 192 hours — or eight days — in the cars, smashing his own previous record.

Richard Rodriguez, 43, began his latest record attempt Aug. 20 at the Holiday Park in the southwestern German town of Hassloch. Rodriguez first set a record of 147 hours on July 16, but his efforts to extend it were thwarted by a thunderstorm.

Rodriguez, who teaches English at Loyola University in Chicago, followed rules prescribed for an entry in the Guinness Book of Records, which requires eight-hour periods of riding with no more than 15-minute breaks.

He used two rides for the record attempt — one by day and a gentler one at night. One car on each of the two rides was equipped with a small toilet and with seat padding so he could sleep while riding.


WTO council OKs cheap drugs for countries

A World Trade Organization panel agreed Thursday to allow poor nations access to inexpensive copies of drugs to fight such diseases as AIDS and malaria, after the United States dropped its objections.

Approval by the WTO’s council on intellectual property set the stage for the entire 146-member organization to make a final decision on the plan.

But weary diplomats adjourned for the night after a marathon session that extended into early today, and WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said that final decision wasn’t likely until trade ministers meet Sept. 10 in Cancun, Mexico.

Thursday’s agreement resolved a dispute among panel nations whether poorer countries should be allowed to ignore some patent rules in importing drugs from cheaper generic manufacturers.

U.S. representatives endorsed the plan after it was amended to include safeguards against drug smuggling, a key concern of the United States and its pharmaceutical research industry.


Power outage snarls English trains, subway

Power went out Thursday in parts of the capital and southeast England, bringing much of the London Underground and many regional trains to a halt and stranding thousands of rush hour commuters.

Electricity was cut for about 40 minutes before it came back on about 7 p.m., said EDF Energy, which handles power transmission for the affected areas of London. The outages appeared to be confined to south London and Kent, a county southeast of the city.

Overland train service was temporarily halted in those areas and trains were canceled and delayed throughout the evening. Problems on London’s aging subway system were also widespread and long-lasting.

A spokesman said 60 percent of the subway system was halted at the height of the evening rush hour, including the majority of services in central London. Workers evacuated trains and stations but it would take “some time” to return service to normal, London Underground said. Some subways began running later in the evening.


Iran to begin talks about U.N. inspections

Iran’s foreign minister said Thursday his country would begin talks with the United Nations about improving access to its nuclear activities.

Kamal Kharrazi, who is in Tokyo for a two-day visit, said he told Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi about his plans to negotiate with the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, about inspections.

Until this week, Iran had been resisting months of international pressure to sign the protocol, which would allow IAEA inspectors unfettered access to its nuclear program.

The United States alleges Iran has been secretly developing nuclear weapons and has demanded the country allow more intrusive inspections of its facilities. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Concerns about the Iranian nuclear program increased after an IAEA report this week said U.N. inspectors found traces of highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility. Iran insisted the traces came with equipment purchased abroad decades ago.