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Politics shelved cellphone safety study

WASHINGTON, July 21 (UPI) -- Politics caused the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to withhold the alarming results of an early distracted driving study, critics say.

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With concerns rising in 2002 that drivers "multitasking" by talking on cellphones while driving was causing fatal accidents, the highway board conducted research that estimated cellphone use by drivers had caused around 955 fatalities and 240,000 accidents that year. But the head of the agency now says the results were never published for fear of angering Congress, The New York Times reported.

Then-NHTSA chief Jeffrey Runge told the newspaper he grudgingly decided not to publish a recommendation against using cellphones while driving because of warnings by members of Congress not to lobby states and stick to a research mission.

Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety, said that explanation raised concerns because the distracted driving research did not constitute lobbying of states and was consistent with the NHTSA's efforts in other areas, such as seat belts.

"No public health and safety agency should allow its research to be suppressed for political reasons," Ditlow told the Times, adding that doing so "will cause deaths and injuries on the highways."

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Gitmo reports to be delayed

WASHINGTON, July 21 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama's administration won't make its Tuesday deadline to submit a report on policy about what to do with terror suspects, aides say.

The report is a crucial component in outlining White House plans for closing the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Four senior administration officials during a briefing said the task force considering the detention policy was granted six months more to develop its plan, CNN reported. Another task force dealing with interrogation policies received an additional two months.

The reports were mandated to be finished this week in executive orders Obama signed shortly after taking office.

The task force issued a preliminary report Monday on the process of determining whether suspected terrorists will be prosecuted in federal courts or military commissions, but provided few details.

The officials said the administration was making good progress resolving legal issues involving the roughly 230 suspected terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, and is on track to close the prison in January 2010, per the executive order. Major issues are what to do with prisoners deemed too dangerous to release and finding countries willing to accept prisoners.

The officials said it remained unclear how many Guantanamo Bay prisoners could be placed in a system of prolonged detention, and how the system may be structured, The Washington Post said. All aides, however, said Obama would seek congressional approval for any system.

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"There is no intent in the administration to rely on anything other than congressional authority," a senior administration official said.

Concerning efforts to resettle detainees, one official said the U.S. government was making "good progress with a number of European countries and countries outside of Europe."


Berlusconi's pillow talk posted on Web

ROME, July 21 (UPI) -- Audio tapes and transcripts of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's alleged tryst with a female escort have found their way to the Internet.

Italian newspapers La Repubblica and L'Espresso published portions of alleged pillow talk between Berlusconi and Patrizia D'Addario, described by the prime minister's aides as a prostitute, The Times of London reported Tuesday.

D'Addario claims to have made the recordings during two visits that she made to Palazzo Grazioli, Berlusconi's residence in Rome. D'Addario turned the tapes over to authorities investigating Giampaolo Tarantini on suspicion of corruption and abetting prostitution.

In one recording, Berlusconi apparently told D'Addario to wait for him on the four-poster "Putin bed" -- reportedly a gift from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin -- while they each took a shower.

Berlusconi has been under pressure to explain his actions after it was revealed he entertained about 20 women until dawn during a private party at his residence.

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Berlusconi, who has rejected the sex scandal allegations, did not comment on tapes and transcripts.

Allies rallied to Berlusconi's defense Tuesday, the Times reported.

Daniele Capezzone, spokesman for Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, called the posts "pathetic," while Maurizio Gasparri, the party's Senate leader, said the revelations were a "failed campaign" by the newspapers to discredit Berlusconi.


Sadr City blasts kill five, wound dozens

BAGHDAD, July 21 (UPI) -- Separate bombings in Baghdad's Sadr City Tuesday killed five people and wounded dozens of others, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said.

A ministry spokesman said in one bombing, separate explosive devices detonated in rapid succession at a area where construction workers gathered, killing two people and wounding at least 24 others, CNN reported.

One bomb was hidden in a food stall while the second was concealed in a trash pile, the Kuwaiti news agency KUNA reported.

The second bombing killed three civilians and injured 15 other people, CNN said.

At least 13 Iraqis were injured in two explosions in the Karada area of Baghdad, police told KUNA. The first blast targeted the convoy of Deputy Minister of Water Resources Bakhtyar Abdulrahman, who was unharmed, and injured two bodyguards. The second bomb went off in the same general area, injuring 11 civilians.

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About 70 miles west of Baghdad, a bomb hidden in a parked car detonated in Ramadi, wounding 19 people, CNN said. Officials said the bomb was targeted at a police patrol.


Settlers protest illegal outpost removal

JERUSALEM, July 21 (UPI) -- West Bank settlers uprooted olive trees and stoned Palestinian vehicles and military jeeps to protest the removal of illegal outposts, army officials said.

Approximately 30 masked settlers from the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar wreaked havoc in an ancient olive grove in a nearby Palestinian village, uprooting some of the trees and damaging others, Maariv reported Tuesday.

The settlers' actions were in response to the dismantling of three illegal outposts the previous day by Israeli security officials, the paper said.

Israeli army and defense officials said a number of disturbances involving settlers occurred Tuesday. In one incident, a group of settlers stoned passing Palestinian vehicles, and in another attempted to set fire to Palestinian fields, the paper said. Another group of settlers threw stones at an army patrol, wounding one soldier, the report said.

In another incident, a Palestinian youth was injured by stones and taken to a local hospital. Five settlers were arrested by Israeli security forces and handed over to police for questioning, the report said

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