1. Archive

Patients finally learn of researcher royalties

Government scientists have collected millions of dollars in royalties for experimental treatments without having to tell patients testing the treatments that the researchers had a financial connection, according to documents and interviews.

The royalties are legal, though the researchers developed the treatments at government expense. But the Health and Human Services Department promised in May 2000 that scientists' financial stakes would be disclosed to patients. That followed an uproar over conflicts of interest and mistakes in federal experiments.

The National Institutes of Health says it didn't implement a policy to order the disclosure until last week, shortly after the Associated Press filed a Freedom of Information Act request.

"Quite frankly, we should have done it more quickly. But as soon as director (Elias A.) Zerhouni found out about it, he ordered it done immediately," NIH spokesman John Burklow said.

The delay means perhaps thousands of patients made decisions to participate in experiments that often carry risks without full knowledge about the researchers' financial interests.

"It's hard for patients to make an informed decision when they don't have all the information," said Bill Allison of the Center for Public Integrity.

In all, 916 current and former NIH researchers are receiving royalty payments for drugs and other inventions they developed while working for the government, according to information obtained by AP. They can collect up to $150,000 each a year, but the average is about $9,700, officials said.

Ex-translator pleads guilty,

will be freed in 2 months

BOSTON _ A former Arabic translator who took classified documents from the prison camp at Guantanamo Naval Base pleaded guilty to federal charges Monday in a deal that will set him free within two months.

Ahmed Fathy Mehalba, 32, an Egyptian-born U.S. citizen, was arrested at Logan International Airport in September 2003 after returning from a trip to Egypt. He had 132 compact discs in his luggage, one that contained hundreds of documents labeled "SECRET" or "SECRET/NOFORN," meaning no foreign government was allowed to look at them.

He pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized possession of classified materials and two counts of lying to federal investigators.

Arson is blamed for fire

at women's clinic

OLYMPIA, Wash. _ Fire severely damaged a women's clinic where abortions are performed, and investigators said the blaze was intentionally set.

The fire early Sunday damaged the roof of the Eastside Women's Health Clinic and caused heat, water and smoke damage in offices, Olympia fire Capt. Kate McDonald said. The clinic was closed and no one was injured.

Federal and local investigators said Monday that the fire was started with incendiary materials on the roof. Agent Scott Thomasson of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives estimated the damage at $500,000. He said there were several leads but no suspects. The clinic has been picketed for 20 years without violence.

Bush names Hubbard his top economic adviser

WASHINGTON _ President Bush has named as his new top economic adviser a former Republican Party chairman in Indiana.

Al Hubbard will replace Stephen Friedman, who is returning to the private sector, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Monday.

In addition to becoming assistant to the president for economic policy, responsible for directing economic policymaking throughout the administration, Hubbard will take over Friedman's role as director of the National Economic Council. The NEC was created in the Clinton administration to coordinate economic policy for the White House in much the same way that the National Security Council coordinates foreign policy.

Some chlorine gas removed from railcar

GRANITEVILLE, S.C. _ Crews worked Monday to neutralize and remove chlorine gas still leaking from a railcar damaged in a train wreck that killed nine people last week and injured hundreds.

A day after patching a breach in the car, crews mixed the toxic gas with sodium hydroxide to turn it into liquid bleach, making it safer to pump it out of the railcar, said Thom Berry, state Department of Health and Environmental Control spokesman. About 30 tons of chlorine remain in the car; about 60 tons have leaked, he said.

Schwarzenegger budget has no new taxes

SACRAMENTO, Calif. _ Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled a $111.7-billion no-new-taxes budget Monday and proposed to close an $9-billion deficit by borrowing money and holding the line on spending growth throughout state government.

"If we don't get control of our autopilot spending, there will be deficits as far as the eye can see," Schwarzenegger said. "Cruise-control spending is out-of-control spending. We will never catch up."

The budget plan calls for borrowing nearly $4-billion and relies heavily on an expected improvement in California's economy.

The budget is $6.4-billion more than last year's plan, about 6 percent higher.