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Archive for Friday, January 16, 2004

Briefly

January 16, 2004

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China

WHO uncovers evidence suggesting animal-SARS link

World Health Organization investigators have found "very good evidence" to suggest that animals play a role in SARS, uncovering traces of the virus in the restaurant where a suspected patient worked and civet cats were served, the team's leader said today.

But Dr. Robert Breiman also said SARS should not be considered an immediate public health threat in China -- a reassurance pivotal in its timing, days before millions of people begin traveling throughout the country for the Chinese New Year.

In samples from the Guangzhou restaurant that employed a 20-year-old waitress suspected to have SARS, "tests revealed on each cage the SARS coronavirus," Breiman said.

Saudi Arabia

Al-Qaida training sites found

Authorities have discovered al-Qaida-run camps in the Saudi desert that trained militants to carry out terror attacks, an Interior Ministry official said Thursday.

The statement was the first confirmation the al-Qaida terror network had infiltrated Saudi Arabia. The government previously acknowledged there could be al-Qaida training facilities in the kingdom but gave no details.

The camps were set up to train militants to use weapons and prepare for terror operations, the official said. He did not specify the number of camps or say when they were found.

Brazil

U.S. airline pilot pays fine for security check dispute

An American Airlines pilot paid a fine of nearly $13,000 Thursday after being accused of making an obscene gesture during new customs procedures for U.S. citizens.

Brazil authorities charged that Dale Robin Hersh, 53, lifted his middle finger Wednesday while undergoing the new security process, imposed in response to similar rules in the United States for citizens of Brazil and many other countries.

Hersh was accused of showing contempt for authorities -- a crime in Brazil punishable by up to two years in jail.

But officials said the offense was minor, fining him $12,750 instead of pressing charges.

Federal police spokesman Wagner Castilho said the pilot was returning home Thursday night.

Washington, D.C.

First quarter federal deficit climbs to $128.7 billion

The government produced a deficit of $128.7 billion for the first three months of the 2004 budget year, which was $20 billion more than for the same period a year earlier, the Treasury Department reported Thursday.

For the budget year that began Oct. 1, spending totaled $569.4 billion, compared with $535.6 billion for the same period last year. Revenues came to almost $440.8 billion, compared with $427.3 billion.

The biggest spending categories were Medicare and Medicaid, $135.4 billion; Social Security, $131.1 billion; interest on the public debt, $115 billion; and military, $107.7 billion.

On the revenue side, individual income tax payments came to $198.7 billion.

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