World and Nation

Shorts (left)

Thirteen Charged in 'Pervasive' Insider Trading Ring

Thirteen people were accused Thursday of participating in a major insider trading ring, including a Morgan Stanley compliance official, a UBS research executive and traders for hedge funds and brokerage firms.

Nine of the defendants have been arrested, and four have pleaded guilty to charges ranging from securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and bribery.

Linda C. Thomsen, chief of enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Commission, described the scheme as one of the most "pervasive Wall Street insider trading rings since the days of Ivan Boesky and Dennis Levine."

The investigation was conducted by the FBI, the SEC and the office of the U.S. attorney in Manhattan.

The SEC accused 14 people of making illicit profits totaling more than $15 million, while the federal criminal charges cite illicit profits of $8 million from 13 individuals.

Officials said the case involved two different schemes that were linked through one hedge fund trader.

House Passes Bill That Helps Unions Organize

Defying a veto threat from the White House, the House of Representatives on Thursday approved legislation that would make it far easier for unions to organize workers.

The bill, whose prospects for enactment are troubled at best, would enable employees at a given workplace to unionize as soon as a majority signed cards saying they favored a union. Under current law, companies have a right to insist on a secret-ballot election determining their workers' choice. Labor leaders and many Democrats say such elections are often poisoned by employer coercion and intimidation.

Thursday's vote, which followed a fierce debate, was 241-185, largely along party lines. Thirteen Republicans voted for the bill, and two Democrats against.

The measure is organized labor's No. 1 legislative priority, and Democrats call it vital to rebuilding unions and bolstering the nation's middle class.

Children's Cold Medicines Draw FDA Safety Review

Federal drug regulators have started a broad review of the safety of popular cough and cold remedies meant for children, a top official said Thursday.

The official, Dr. Charles J. Ganley, director of the office of nonprescription drug products at the Food and Drug Administration, said in an interview that the agency was "revisiting the risks and benefits of the use of these drugs in children" and that "we're particularly concerned about the use of these drugs in children less than 2 years of age."

In high doses, cold medicines can affect the heart's electrical system, leading to arrhythmias. Some medicines affect the blood vessels and in high doses have been associated with hypertension and stroke. In rare cases, children have been injured even when given recommended doses.

In a recent study of hospital emergency room records from 2004 and 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that at least 1,519 children who were 2 years old had suffered serious health problems after being treated with common cough and cold medicines.