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Archive for Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Briefly

April 13, 2004

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New Jersey

Ephedra ban takes effect after judge rejects plea

A federal judge allowed a nationwide ban on dietary supplements containing ephedra to take effect Monday, turning aside a plea from two manufacturers.

Ephedra, once hugely popular for weight loss and bodybuilding, has been linked to 155 deaths, including that of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler a year ago.

U.S. District Judge Joel Pisano refused to grant a temporary restraining order that would have prevented the Food and Drug Administration from banning the products.

After years of fighting manufacturers over the risks, the FDA announced in December that it was banning the sale of the amphetamine-like herb -- the first such ban of a dietary supplement.

NVE Pharmaceuticals of Newton, manufacturer of the diet supplement Stacker 2, had hoped to head off the ban, arguing its product is safe if used as directed. It was joined by a second company, the National Institute for Clinical Weight Loss, manufacturer of a product called Thermalean.

West Bank

Sharon lists settlement blocs he wants in final peace deal

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Monday named five large West Bank settlement blocs he wants to keep as part of his final peace plan -- and then sought U.S. support for the "disengagement" effort.

Sharon appeared to confirm Palestinian fears that Israel plans to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and four smaller West Bank settlements in order to strengthen its hold over other parts of the West Bank.

Sharon spoke just hours before leaving for Washington, where he will ask President Bush to back the plan.

Bush said Monday that he would welcome a Gaza withdrawal as a "positive development," but it appears unlikely the U.S. president will meet Israel's request -- a U.S. declaration that Israel can keep part of the West Bank in a final peace deal with the Palestinians.

Such a declaration would undermine the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan, which envisions a Palestinian state by next year, with the borders to be negotiated by both sides.

Houston

Two plead guilty in deadly smuggling case

A man and woman pleaded guilty Monday to taking part in a smuggling scheme that resulted in the deaths last year of 19 illegal immigrants abandoned in a sweltering truck trailer.

Abelardo Flores, 34, and Fatima Holloway, 29, agreed to testify if needed at trials stemming from the nation's deadliest immigrant-smuggling attempt. They pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges.

They could get up to life in prison and a fine of $250,000 each, but prosecutors agreed to recommend lesser sentences. Sentencing was set for July 12.

The trailer was carrying some 70 illegal immigrants from Mexico, Central America and the Dominican Republic being smuggled from the Rio Grande Valley to Houston.

The immigrants began to succumb to the heat and the trailer was abandoned May 14 at a truck stop in Victoria, 100 miles southwest of Houston.

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