Preliminary Test Results

'Inconclusive' for Mad Cow

A U.S. animal tested positive in a preliminary screening test for mad cow disease, Agriculture Department officials said late yesterday.

John Clifford, deputy administrator of USDA veterinary services, said officials learned of the "inconclusive" test result at 5:30 p.m. The carcass is being sent to the USDA National Veterinary Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for additional tests. Results are expected in four to seven days.

Clifford declined to identify the animal or its location until testing is complete, noting that it is "very likely" final testing could turn up negative.

"The animal in question didn't enter the food chain," he said. "If [additional tests are] positive, we'll provide additional information on the animal and origins."

It was the first "inconclusive" test result for the brain-wasting disease since the government began using rapid test kits in June as part of a program to test more cattle after a Holstein tested positive in Washington state in December. The faster test carries a greater risk of false positives. The USDA did not say whether the animal was a cow, steer or bull.

"This is not at all unexpected," Clifford said. "Screening tests are designed to be extremely sensitive."

CBO Expects Two Wars

To Cost $55 Billion Next Year

U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan probably will cost $55 billion to $60 billion next year if troop levels remain unchanged, congressional budget analysts estimated yesterday. The estimate does not include the cost of rebuilding the countries.

The projection by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is more than double the $25 billion President Bush has requested for the wars for 2005.

White House officials said early this year that they expected to spend as much as $50 billion for the conflicts next year. Administration officials have since said they expect to seek more than that, with the next request coming after the November elections. They have specified no numbers.

Members of Congress say they expect next year's war costs to be about $75 billion.

The congressional analysts estimated the price tag could reach $392 billion over the next decade, assuming a substantial U.S. force remains in Iraq through the period. All the figures include the Pentagon's costs of countering terrorists in other countries and tightening security at home.

Waxman Charges That HHS

Politicizes Health Experts

Government scientists must be cleared by a Bush political appointee before they can lend their expertise to the World Health Organization, a change that Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) said fits a pattern of politicizing science.

William R. Steiger, a special assistant to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, said in an April letter that WHO can no longer pick specific government experts to serve as consultants.

Instead, Steiger's Office of Global Health Affairs now will choose "an appropriate expert who can best serve both of our organizations," he said. HHS experts made available also must advocate U.S. government policies, Steiger said.

-- From News Services