Racial blood pressure disparity kills 8,000

ATLANTA: The lives of nearly 8,000 black Americans could be saved each year if doctors could bring their average blood pressure down to the average level of whites, a new study indicates. The study, released yesterday in the Annals of Family Medicine, is being called the first to calculate the racial disparities in lives lost to blood pressure control. "We expected it to be big, but it was even larger than we anticipated," said lead author Dr. Kevin Fiscella of the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry. High blood pressure - which has no symptoms - increases one's chances for heart disease, stroke and other ills. For decades, doctors have noted that a higher percentages of black Americans have high blood pressure than whites. The reasons include poverty and cultural habits.


Bombed Syrian site yields uranium traces

VIENNA, Austria: Samples taken from a Syrian site bombed by Israel on suspicion that it was a covert nuclear reactor contained traces of uranium that merit further investigation, diplomats said yesterday. The diplomats - who spoke on condition of anonymity because their information was confidential - said the uranium was processed and not in raw form. Syria has a rudimentary declared nuclear program revolving around research and the production of isotopes for medical and agricultural uses, using a small, 27-kilowatt reactor. Taken together, the uranium and the other elements found on the environmental samples "tell a story" worth investigating, one diplomat said. A second diplomat said the findings would figure in a report on Syria that will be presented to the International Atomic Energy Agency's board next week.


Government provides AIG with improved aid

WASHINGTON: In a record bailout of a private company, the government provided a new $150 billion financial-rescue package yesterday to troubled insurance giant American International Group, including $40 billion for partial ownership. The action, announced by the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department, was taken as it became increasingly clear that an original financial lifeline thrown to AIG in September would be insufficient to stabilize the company. The $40 billion infusion comes from the recently enacted $700 billion financial bailout package. The government is buying preferred shares of AIG stock, giving taxpayers an ownership stake. In turn, restrictions will be placed on executive compensation at the firm. As part of the new arrangement, the Federal Reserve is reducing a $85 billion loan it had made available to AIG to $60 billion. The Fed also is replacing a separate $37.8 billion loan with a $52.5 billion aid package.

Bishop denounces U.S. abortion rights

BALTIMORE: The head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, opening a national church meeting yesterday, said that continued support for abortion rights will undermine any advances in social justice that come from a new president and Congress. Chicago Cardinal Francis George said that "we must all rejoice" that an African-American will be in the White House for the first time in a country that "once enshrined slavery" in law. But he said the nation still violates what he called universal human rights by keeping abortion legal. In a later news conference, George said bishops are preparing to lobby the next administration on any policies that diverge from Catholic teaching on marriage, abortion and other issues. President-elect Barack Obama, who supports abortion rights, received about 55 percent of the Catholic vote, according to exit polls.

African singer Miriam Makeba dies in Italy

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa: Miriam Makeba, the South African singer who wooed the world with her sultry voice but was banned from her own country for 30 years under apartheid, died yesterday of a heart attack. Makeba, 76, collapsed late Sunday at the end of a benefit concert in Italy against organized crime. Makeba had performed with musical legends from around the world and had sung for world leaders such as President John F. Kennedy and Nelson Mandela. She was the first African woman to win a Grammy award. The South African government banned her records after she appeared before the U.N. Special Committee on Apartheid in 1963 to call for an international boycott of South Africa. She married black power activist Stokely Carmichael and moved to Guinea in the late 1960s. After three decades abroad, Makeba was invited back to South Africa by Mandela, shortly after his release from prison in 1990.