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FRIDAY BRIEFING

More tots born tiny

July 14, 2006|Brian Hanrahan and James Bates | Times Staff Writers

One in eight American babies was born prematurely in 2004, and one in 12 had a low birth weight, researchers report in two studies. The rates are the highest ever recorded, and caring for the infants costs the nation $26 billion a year.

Science is helping many of the babies survive, as evidenced by a stabilizing mortality rate for infants. But the studies find sharply higher numbers of premature and low-birth-weight babies among African Americans than whites, as well as a higher infant mortality rate. Page A18

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Anger and fear in the Mideast

The escalating conflict between Israel and its neighbors carries a human toll, and as residents treat their wounded and bury their dead, their anger and fear are evident.

In the Lebanese village of Dweir, an Israeli airstrike kills a Muslim cleric, his wife and their 10 children. "Why this house? It's full of children," fumes a resident. "This is what hardens people's hearts against the Israelis." Page A11

Five miles south of the Lebanon border, a rocket slams into an apartment building, killing a woman, injuring at least 29 and terrifying thousands in the Israeli city of Nahariya. A defense commander warns his countrymen: "We must be capable of taking some [blows] in the short term in order to ensure the future." Page A11

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Pesticide safety will get a review

Californians might need to change how they fight house and garden pests. A state agency announces it will review the safety of one class of insecticides -- a process that probably will lead to new regulations and maybe even a ban on some items.

The chemicals are called pyrethroids; they're man-made versions of compounds found naturally in chrysanthemums. But a study has warned that pyrethroids in streams are killing tiny creatures vital to the aquatic food chain. Page B1

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Are PC prices about to fall?

A price war looms in the personal computer industry.

Analysts expect chip-maker Intel to engage its rival, Advanced Micro Devices, in a round of price-cutting. And they envision PC-maker Dell tussling with Hewlett-Packard; Dell is dumping many of its rebate offers in order to simplify its pricing.

What's good for PC buyers, though, isn't so great for Intel employees. The company says it will lay off 1,000 managers in the first round of what could become significant job cuts. Page C1

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Wake up and toe the party line

The Chinese Communist Party has just concluded 1 1/2 years of intense self-examination, and here's what it found:

There's never been a better time to be a member of the Chinese Communist Party!

Members nowadays are more idealistic, capable, creative and earnest than ever, the party discovers after a campaign of study sessions and group discussions. Overall, the Communists are "glorious, great and correct."

To some outsiders and party members, though, the campaign was a waste of time. One participant says the people in his class played video games, sent text messages or dozed off. Page A12

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Holding court

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., addressing a judicial conference in Huntington Beach, furnishes some insight on his debut with the court. He agrees that the legislative and judicial branches need to improve their relationship, but notes, "I bet we're not going to do it by promoting myself as the teacher and Congress as the students." Page A18

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THE CRITIC: "You, Me and Dupree" doesn't aspire to be much more than a serviceable summer comedy, and the script displays the engineered precision of a theme park ride,' Carina Chocano writes of the "house-guest" film. Calendar, E10

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CALENDAR

They still got the beat 25 years later

The Go-Go's unseal their lips to talk about juggling a million-dollar touring business with their lives as wives, mothers, reality TV stars and solo artists. Tonight, the "First Ladies of the '80s" play a hometown concert at the Greek Theater. Page E1

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For whom this Bell will toll

As an unabashed political conservative, TV producer Warren Bell is as common in Hollywood as executives who don't care about how good a parking spot they get.

Now, President Bush's nominee to chair the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is being greeted warily by public broadcasters and politicians who fear a revival of the sharp political debates that were supposed to end with Kenneth Y. Tomlinson's resignation in November.

Not to worry, the producer of ABC's "According to Jim" says. Even though he "is thoroughly conservative in ways that strike horror into the hearts of my Hollywood colleagues," Bell promises no partisanship.

"Anybody who spends 15 minutes talking to me will find that I am an eminently reasonable man," he says. Page E1

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Moving along at warped speed

Dodger Stadium's parking lot hadn't been this jammed since the 7th innings of the last homestand.

Some 14,000 punk kids sporting Mohawks and multicolored hairdos converged at Chavez Ravine on Wednesday for the final local date of the Warped Tour.

Now in its 12th year, the rock fest has become somewhat formulaic and a marketing event for such companies as Cingular and PlayStation.

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