HAVANA

Americans’ rights limited in Cuba

Cuba rounded up several dozen dissidents and confirmed new restrictions on U.S. diplomats, the government said late yesterday amid worsening relations between the two countries.

An official statement on state television accused the chief of Washington’s diplomatic mission in Havana, James Cason, of trying “to foment the internal counterrevolution.”

The statement continued: “No nation, no matter how powerful, has the right to organize, finance and serve as a center for subverting the constitutional order.”

Offices at the U.S. Interests Section were closed late yesterday and attempts to reach American diplomats were unsuccessful. The U.S. State Department last week had reported the travel restrictions on its diplomats in Havana, but the Cuban government did not confirm the new measures until yesterday.

In Washington, a State Department official said they had not seen the announced measures but would look into them.

Havana’s actions are just the latest in an increasingly ugly exchange of words between the two governments, which have had no regular diplomatic relations for more than four decades. The announcement said several dozen government opponents had been detained but did not elaborate or say if any charges pending.

NEW YORK

Oil prices fall to lowest level since January

The price of oil plunged 9 percent yesterday, falling to its lowest level in more than two months as traders bet that the impending United States invasion of Iraq will go smoothly and that global stockpiles of crude are sufficient to offset any supply disruptions. The April futures contract fell $3.26 to $31.67 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest close since Jan. 8.

However, with U.S. supplies low and uncertainty in the Middle East high, traders said petroleum prices likely will remain volatile in the short term.

“This thing could go right back up,” said Tom Bentz, an analyst at BNP Paribas in New York. “We’re still vulnerable because inventories are tight.” The most recent Energy Department data showed commercial stockpiles of crude at 269.8 million barrels, 18 percent below year ago levels. Supplies have dwindled as a result of high demand for heating oil in the Northeast and fewer imports from Venezuela, whose oil industry was crippled for months by a nationwide strike. Yet Bentz and other traders mostly expressed confidence yesterday that the loss of Iraqi crude could be made up elsewhere and that the U.S. government will tap its own 600 million barrel stockpile, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, in the event of a supply emergency.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas

Jury clears Bayer of $560 million lawsuit

A jury yesterday cleared Bayer Corp. of liability in a $560 million lawsuit that accused the pharmaceutical giant of ignoring research linking the cholesterol-lowering drug Baycol to dozens of deaths.

The jury deliberated for 2 1/2 days before returning the verdict. It was the first of about 8,000 cases against Bayer to go to trial.

“The verdict validates Bayer’s assertion that the company acted responsibly in the development, marketing and voluntary withdrawal of Baycol,” Bayer said in a statement.

The lawsuit was brought by Hollis Haltom, an 82-year-old engineer who said a muscle-wasting disease caused by Baycol severely weakened his legs. His lawyers had produced e-mails and internal documents to argue that Bayer didn’t adequately warn doctors about the possible side effects of the drug before it was pulled off the market.

WASHINGTON

Formula calculates the risk of smoking

How long and how much you smoked, and how long it’s been since the last puff, make a difference in the risk of getting lung cancer.

Scientists have come up with a formula that certain smokers and ex-smokers can use to calculate that risk – one that could help people decide if they really want a controversial test for lung cancer.

The formula, published in this week’s Journal of the National Cancer Institute, shows a wide variation in risk.

Consider a 51-year-old woman who smoked a pack a day since she was 14 until stopping nine years ago. The formula puts her chances of getting lung cancer in the next 10 years at less than 1 in 100.

Compare a 68-year-old man who smoked two packs a day since he was 18 and hasn’t yet quit. He has a 1 in 7 chance of lung cancer by his 78th birthday if he keeps puffing. If he quit smoking today, the risk drops slightly.

LONDON

Blair seeks domestic war support in Iraq

Britain’s House of Commons backed Prime Minister Tony Blair’s policy on Iraq yesterday, voting in favor of using “all means necessary” in order to disarm Saddam Hussein.

In an earlier vote, lawmakers also supported Blair, rejecting a motion to oppose a U.S.-led war with Iraq. Yet many rebel legislators in Blair’s Labor Party voted against his hard-line stance on Baghdad – which prompted three ministers to resign this week – showing that opposition to his pro-war position remains strong.

With a U.S.-led war appearing inevitable, British legislators voted 396 to 217 to defeat a parliamentary amendment by Labor Party rebels that declared the case for war “has not yet been established.” The 217 votes included about 138 Labor Party backbenchers, TV reports said.

Compiled from Daily wire reports.

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