Sharon: Iran, Palestinians planned terror


Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called Iran the “center of world terror” and said yesterday a recently captured arms shipment showed that Iran and the Palestinians were collaborating to strike at Israel.

Israel said it would soon release documents that show the Palestinian Authority was responsible for the 50 tons of weapons captured by Israeli commandos last Thursday on a cargo ship in the Red Sea. “We have all the evidence and it will unfold, and we will present it soon,” said Sharon adviser Daniel Ayalon.

The Palestinian Authority insists it had nothing to do with the arms shipment and said its senior security officials would question those accused by Israel of trying to smuggle the weapons.

Israel is sending intelligence officials to the United States and Europe to press its claim that the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat were behind the weapons smuggling, said Defense Ministry spokesman Yarden Vatikay.

While Mideast violence has dropped sharply since Arafat”s Dec. 16 speech calling for an end to attacks against Israel, the dispute over the weapons-laden ship has kept the two sides exchanging heated words.

The weapons included 62 Katyusha rockets that could reach Israeli cities from Palestinian areas in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Millions more treated for depression


The number of Americans treated for depression soared from 1.7 million to 6.3 million between 1987 and 1997, and the proportion of those receiving antidepressants doubled, researchers say.

The researchers attributed the sharp increases to the emergence of aggressively marketed new drugs like Prozac, the rise in managed care and an easing of the stigma attached to the disease.

The study found that the share of patients who used antidepressant medication climbed from 37 percent to nearly 75 percent. At the same time, the proportion who received psychotherapy declined from 71 percent to 60 percent.

While an increase in treatment for depression was not surprising, “the size of the increase was larger than I think most people in the field expected,” said Dr. Mark Olfson, a psychiatrist at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute who led the study. Studies since 1997 suggest the trend continues, he said.

The study was an analysis of two national surveys. The findings appear in today”s Journal of the American Medical Association.

Disability rights for workers narrowed


In a victory for employers, the Supreme Court made it more difficult for workers to demand special treatment when they suffer partial physical disabilities such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Yesterday”s unanimous decision in the case of a former assembly line worker narrows the scope of the landmark civil rights law that protects the disabled. It was the latest in a series of Supreme Court rulings that set boundaries on who is covered by the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act, and tell why.

Disability cannot be measured solely on the ability to do certain tasks at work, the court ruled yesterday. Whether someone is disabled also must depend on the ease with which they perform “activities that are of central importance to most people”s daily lives,” Justice Sandra Day O”Connor wrote for the court.

NASA may decrease space station funds


NASA”s new boss, Sean O”Keefe, said yesterday he supports an independent panel”s recommendations to scale back the budget-breaking space station program, at least for the time being.

On just his fifth day on the job at NASA, O”Keefe stressed that the agency needs to focus on the international space station.

O”Keefe, a former budget official, said the cost overruns facing the space station program are manageable.

“Let”s focus on those issues which are highly manageable,” O”Keefe said in his first meeting with reporters. “They”re thorny. They”re tough. They”re going to be a challenge. All that. But they”re highly manageable and not at the expense of so many other things that this organization is capable of.”

Theory explains formation of stars


A half billion years of utter blackness following the Big Bang, the theoretical start of the universe, was broken by an explosion of stars bursting into life like a fireworks finale across the heavens, a new theory suggests.

An analysis of very faint galaxies in the deepest view of the universe ever captured by a telescope suggests there was an eruption of stars bursting to life and piercing the blackness very early in the 15-billion year history of the universe.

The study, by Kenneth M. Lanzetta of the State University of New York at Stony Brook challenges the long held belief that star formation started slowly after the Big Bang and didn”t peak until some five billion years later.

“Star formation took place early and very rapidly,” Lanzetta said yesterday at a NASA news conference. “Star formation was 10 times higher in the distant early universe than it is today.”

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