Archive for Wednesday, March 16, 2005

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March 16, 2005

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Washington, D.C.

Senators work to save Amtrak

In a bid to head off a White House plan to dismantle and privatize much of Amtrak, Senate Democrats Tuesday pushed for legislation to restore more than $1 billion President Bush has proposed cutting from its budget.

Supporters of the measure said the White House plan would strand both urban commuters and residents of far-flung rural regions.

President Bush proposed in February that Amtrak's federal funding be eliminated and the rail line be placed in bankruptcy as a prelude to restructuring. While the White House had proposed sharp funding cuts in the past, it had never before suggested bankruptcy.

That tactic appears to have galvanized Amtrak supporters.

Massachusetts

Faculty group rebukes Harvard president

The largest group of faculty members at Harvard University, in Cambridge, on Tuesday passed a vote expressing a lack of confidence in President Lawrence Summers, whose abrasive management style and controversial remarks about women in science have roiled the venerable institution.

The 218-185 vote by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences is nonbinding.

The measure passed by the arts and sciences faculty said: "The Faculty lacks confidence in the leadership of Lawrence H. Summers."

A second motion that passed 253-137 voiced regret for Summers' comments at a January economics conference suggesting that women were innately less capable than men in mathematics and science. This measure also faulted "aspects of the president's managerial approach."

Texas

45-day sentence given for drowning of Iraqi

An Army platoon leader was sentenced Tuesday to 45 days in a military prison for his role in forcing three Iraqi civilians into the Tigris River.

Army 1st Lt. Jack Saville also must forfeit $2,000 of his military salary each month for six months, military judge Col. Theodore Dixon ruled. He earns $2,970 a month.

Saville pleaded guilty Monday to assault and other crimes for forcing two curfew violators into the river at gunpoint in January 2004 near Samarra. One of the men allegedly drowned.

Saville was convicted Tuesday of a lesser assault charge for doing nothing to stop another Iraqi from being forced into the river near Balad in December 2003.

Michigan

Woman dies month before 120th birthday

Arbelia Wood, who may have been among the world's oldest living people, died in her sleep Friday in Clinton Township. Her family said she was 119 and had pneumonia.

Her family said she would have turned 120 next month.

Family lore maintains that a white Mississippi farmer gave an ultimatum to Wood's mother, sharecropper and ex-slave Muggie Greer, to sleep with him or flee the farm. Greer gave birth to Wood on April 6, 1885, in Caledonia, Miss., her family said. She was the eldest of 16 children.

Mississippi's birth records in Jackson, Miss., date only to 1912, meaning there is no documentation of her birth. The sole tangible evidence of her age is inscribed in a family Bible.

Chicago

Study: Vitamin E pills may pose heart risk

Large doses of vitamin E -- widely touted as an elixir of youth -- do not protect against heart attacks and cancer and might actually raise the risk of heart failure in people with diabetes or clogged arteries, a study found.

The study, published in today's Journal of the American Medical Assn., is just the latest to cast doubt on the safety and effectiveness of vitamin E supplements and other antioxidants.

The study was designed to examine whether vitamin E pills protect against heart attacks and cancer. Echoing other recent findings, it found no benefit against those conditions.

But the heart failure finding was unexpected and should prompt more research to confirm the results, said Dr. Eva Lonn, a McMaster University cardiology professor who led the study.

Lonn said it is unclear how vitamin E pills might be linked with heart failure, but she theorized that high doses might disturb the balance of beneficial, naturally occurring antioxidants.

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