Bush Aide Talks to U.S. Muslims

Karen Hughes, one of President Bush's closest advisers, told a gathering of American Muslims that part of her State Department job is to help amplify the voices of groups such as theirs that are condemning terrorism and religious extremism.

The Islamic Society of North America had invited Bush to attend its annual convention in Rosemont, Ill. He sent Hughes, who was recently confirmed as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. Her tasks include improving the U.S. image in Muslim countries.

"We need to foster a sense of common interest and common values among Americans and people of different faiths and different cultures," Hughes said at a news conference opening the three-day event.

"Frankly, who better to do that than many of our American Muslims themselves, who have friends and families and roots in countries across our world," she said.

The Indiana-based ISNA serves as an umbrella association for Muslim groups and mosques in the United States and Canada. Its convention comes about a month after U.S. Muslim scholars issued a fatwa, or religious edict, condemning terrorism following deadly terrorist attacks this summer in London and Egypt.

"The fatwa says that there is no justification in Islam for terrorism. Those are words the entire world needs to hear," Hughes said. "And in delivering that message, I know that the most credible voices are of Muslims themselves. My job is to help amplify and magnify these voices."

Plan B Probe's Release Is Sought

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and 12 colleagues asked the investigative arm of Congress to release results of a year-old investigation into regulatory delays on over-the-counter sales of the "morning-after" emergency contraceptive.

The lawmakers also demanded a Senate hearing on why the Food and Drug Administration has not made a decision on Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s request to sell its Plan B drug without a prescription, according to an e-mailed statement. The 12 Democrats and one independent had asked June 15, 2004, for the Government Accountability Office to investigate the matter.

Barr has been trying for two years to win FDA approval for over-the-counter sales of Plan B, which the FDA says is intended to prevent pregnancies and will not end them. Supporters of Barr's applications, including the American Medical Association, say over-the-counter sales of the product will prevent pregnancies. Opponents say the pill causes abortions.

The GAO could not say when it will issue a report, said Marjorie Kanof, who directs health-care issues.

The FDA rejected Barr's original application last year, citing concerns about sales to children. The company then proposed to limit over-the-counter availability to women 16 and older. The agency said Aug. 26 it would need more time to seek public comment on the revised plan because regulators were concerned that retaining a prescription requirement for younger women would not be enforceable.

-- From News Services