Padilla Asks High Court

For Detainee Time Limit

Jose Padilla, held for three years as an "enemy combatant" in the war on terrorism, asked the Supreme Court to limit the government's power to detain U.S. citizens as terrorism suspects without charges.

A federal appeals court last month ruled in Padilla's case that the government can indefinitely hold citizens it determines to be enemy fighters. The Bush administration says Padilla, arrested in Chicago in 2002, fought against U.S. forces in Afghanistan and was recruited by al Qaeda to carry out terrorist attacks in the U.S.

Padilla's appeal seeks to test the government's power to fight terrorism inside this country. Padilla asked the justices to decide under what circumstances and for how long the government can jail U.S. citizens in military prisons without charging them with a crime.

"All we ask and have been asking for close to three years is to charge Mr. Padilla with a crime," his attorney, Donna Newman, said in an interview. Bush "is acting unlawfully," she said, "and we need to know the limits of a president's authority -- otherwise it's simply another King George situation."

Padilla, a New York-born former gang member who converted to Islam, was initially accused of planning to explode a radioactive "dirty bomb." The Justice Department later released a report saying Padilla trained with an explosives expert in Afghanistan and was assigned to blow up U.S. apartment buildings.

Rules Tightened for

FDA Advisory Panels

The Food and Drug Administration will have to disclose potential conflicts of interest involving its expert advisory committees at least 15 days before the influential panels meet, a House-Senate conference committee decided Wednesday night.

The compromise agreement tightens conflict-of-interest procedures but rejects a tougher bill sponsored by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) that narrowly passed the House. That bill would have eliminated the FDA's authority to "waive" conflict-of-interest rules when it concludes a scientist's advice is needed and the conflict will not prejudice the outcome.

Pressure to tighten the rules grew after reports that an expert panel reviewing arthritis painkillers such as Vioxx -- which pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck pulled off the market a year ago -- included a number of members who had worked with companies that developed the drugs.

Industry groups and the FDA opposed tightening the conflict of interest rules, saying it would be too difficult to recruit experts for the 30 advisory panels.

The compromise, part of the Agriculture Department appropriations bill, is expected to be passed soon by both houses and signed by President Bush.

La. Hospital System

Almost Out of Funds

Louisiana's public hospital system is on the verge of financial collapse two months after Hurricane Katrina and needs federal aid quickly, the head of the system said. "We're out of money, roughly after Thanksgiving," said Donald Smithburg, chief executive of the Louisiana State University Health Care Services Division. "We are running out of time."

-- From News Services

and Staff Reports