Detainees' Trials Are Unlawful,

Federal Judge Rules

The special trials established to determine the guilt or innocence of prisoners at the U.S. military prison in Cuba are unlawful and cannot continue in their current form, a federal judge has ruled.

In a setback for the Bush administration, U.S. District Judge James Robertson found that detainees at the Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, may be prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions and therefore entitled to the protections of international and military law -- which the government has declined to grant them.

The decision came in a lawsuit filed by the first alleged al Qaeda member facing trial before what the government calls "military commissions." The decision upends -- for now -- the administration's strategy for prosecuting hundreds of alleged al Qaeda and Taliban detainees accused of terrorist crimes.

Human rights advocates, foreign governments and the detainees' attorneys have contended that the rules governing military commissions are unfairly stacked against the defendants.

The Bush administration denounced the ruling as wrongly giving special rights to terrorists.

-- Carol D. Leonnig and John Mintz

High Doses of Vitamin E

Found to Increase Risk of Death

High doses of Vitamin E, which millions of people take to protect themselves against heart attacks, Alzheimer's disease and other ailments, appear to actually increase the overall risk of dying, researchers reported.

A new analysis of data from 19 studies involving nearly 136,000 people concluded that the risk of dying began to increase at the dose in a typical capsule of Vitamin E, and that the more Vitamin E people took, the more their risk of death rose. Someone taking 400 international units of Vitamin E a day for five years would face a 5 percent higher risk of dying, the researchers found.

The study found no increased risk from lower doses, particularly at doses of 200 international units or below, and perhaps even a benefit. A typical multivitamin contains 30 to 60 international units of Vitamin E.

Although the study did not examine how high-dose Vitamin E might increase the risk of death, other studies have suggested that the substance may boost the danger of heart attacks and strokes, perhaps by affecting blood clotting or blocking the beneficial effects of other nutrients, the researchers said.

The findings are the latest undermining the theory that "antioxidant" substances may provide powerful protection against a host of illnesses.

-- Rob Stein

Federal Reserve Raises

Short-Term Interest Rate

The Federal Reserve, noting recent signs of economic strengthening, raised a key short-term interest rate for the fourth time this year to prevent inflationary pressures from building.

Fed policymakers, in a statement issued after their rate-setting meeting, sounded slightly more upbeat about the economy's performance than after their previous meeting in September.

Economic output "appears to be growing at a moderate pace despite the rise in energy prices, and labor market conditions have improved," Fed officials said in their statement.

The policymakers decided unanimously to raise the federal funds rate -- the rate charged on overnight loans between banks -- to 2 percent from 1.75 percent. The rate influences many other business and consumer borrowing costs, which are determined by financial markets.

Banks responded by raising their prime lending rate for business loans to 5 percent from 4.75 percent. Consumer rates that are linked to the prime rate, such as those on many home equity loans and credit cards, may rise.

-- Nell Henderson

Sudan Agrees to End

Flights Over Darfur Region

With violence increasing and political pressure mounting to end conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, the government agreed to halt military flights over the region and signed a separate agreement to allow free access to aid for the nearly 2 million people displaced by the violence.

At peace talks in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, the Sudanese government agreed Tuesday to disarm allied militia fighters known as the Janjaweed. In security agreements signed by the government and rebel parties, both sides agreed to reveal the location of their forces to African Union cease-fire monitors.

Sudan's government had called the idea of a no-fly zone "unreasonable" and threatened to shut down the peace talks. But with violence still raging in Darfur's 20-month conflict between African rebels and pro-government forces, food aid had been blocked to 200,000 people and large swaths of Darfur were "no-go" areas for U.N. humanitarian workers.

Since a cease-fire agreement was signed in April, it has been violated 180 times, the African Union said. Nearly 2 million Africans live in squalid tent cities across Darfur after being driven from their farms by the fighting, which broke out in February 2003 when African tribes rebelled against the Arab-led government.

In retaliation, the United Nations says, the government has bombed villages and armed the Janjaweed militias. Tens of thousands of people have died.

-- Emily Wax

U.S. Genetically Altered Corn

May Be Threat to Mexico

A scientific panel of international experts has concluded that the unintended spread of U.S. genetically modified corn in Mexico -- where the species originated and modified plants are not allowed -- poses a potential threat that should be limited or stopped. But the United States attacked the report and its conclusions as unscientific, and made clear it did not intend to accept the recommendations.

The report, written by a group convened under the North American Free Trade Agreement, rejected the U.S. position that the modified corn is, in effect, no different than conventionally bred corn hybrids. It concluded that the modified corn does not pose a health risk, but it did say that the environmental consequences are less well understood.

The Mexican government embraced the report.

-- Marc Kaufman

Generic Drugs That Fight AIDS

Pulled Off WHO's Approved List

A major maker of generic AIDS medicines voluntarily removed all its antiretrovirals from the World Health Organization's list of approved drugs, a move that could potentially affect tens of thousands of AIDS patients in poor countries who have only recently entered treatment.

Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. removed seven drugs from the WHO list of "pre-qualified" medicines because it could not guarantee they were as potent as more expensive brand-name versions. WHO reached a similar conclusion about three other of the Indian company's drugs in August.

How much disruption the move will cause in clinics and hospitals in Africa, where a huge effort is underway to put people on life-sustaining "triple therapy" for AIDS, is uncertain.

A WHO official said there is no evidence the company's drugs are substandard, but that the tests used to show its generic AIDS drugs were as effective as the brand-name versions were unreliable or poorly documented.

-- David Brown