World and Nation

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Autopsies Overwhelm Medical Examiner Staff

Massachusetts public safety officials said Wednesday they are looking into problems at the state medical examiner's office, which acknowledged that an increase in autopsies has recently led to a shortage of body bags, more autopsy-related injuries to staff, and on one occasion an overwhelmed plumbing system that resulted in blood and water pooling on the floor.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has also told public safety officials that a shortage of space in the morgue at the agency's Albany Street headquarters in Boston has forced pathologists to store some bodies in a refrigerated truck ordinarily used to hold victims of disasters, parked behind the building. Responding to press inquiries, the office also acknowledged that there have been extensive delays in picking up some bodies at scenes of crimes or unattended deaths.

"We certainly are reviewing the situation," said Charles McDonald, a spokesman for the Executive Office of Public Safety, which oversees the state medical examiner's office and appointed an undersecretary for forensic sciences two years ago to help manage the troubled agency. "We certainly are concerned with regard to these issues that have been raised."

He said public safety officials are examining how the chief medical examiner, Dr. Mark A. Flomenbaum, has spent his budget since he took charge of the office in April 2005. Partly in response to a series of earlier scandals, state lawmakers increased the office's operating budget by 38 percent from $5.7 million in fiscal 2006, when he arrived, to $7.9 million in the current fiscal year.

Corruption Charges Keep Opposition Figure Off Nigeria Ballot

A leading opposition candidate in Nigeria's presidential election has been omitted from the official list of candidates, which was released Thursday by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

The opposition candidate, Atiku Abubakar, the current vice president, was deemed unfit to run because he had been indicted on corruption charges.

Abubakar has dismissed the charges as politically motivated and says he is going to court to fight to get his name on the ballot.

"It is a great conspiracy, which has been going on for a couple of years now," he said by telephone from Nigeria's capital, Abuja. "There will definitely not be a free and fair election in Nigeria. The political space is constrained in favor of the PDP," the governing People's Democratic Party.

The decision to bar Abubakar, while not unexpected, throws into deeper tumult the already precarious election in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation. The election is just five weeks away, though court battles could force a postponement.

Democrats Clarify Beliefs About Gays

Under pressure from gay rights groups, two rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, issued statements Thursday saying they believed homosexuality was not immoral.

Clinton, who has particularly cultivated gay voters and donors, found herself under the harshest fire Thursday after she said on Wednesday that the morality of homosexuality was for "others to conclude." Later that day, after complaints from gay rights groups, Clinton put out a statement indicating she thought homosexuality was not immoral, though she did not use those words.

Her remarks left some gay donors and advocates angry; several said Thursday that they believed she was afraid to say the words "moral" or "immoral" because Republicans might use them against her.

The issue arose this week after Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in published remarks that he believed homosexuality was immoral.

Officials from the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization, said they had a conference call with Clinton campaign officials Thursday to argue for a clearer statement; they did not speak to Clinton directly. Other gay advocates, including the Empire State Pride Agenda, also lodged complaints.

Cadbury to Separate Drinks And Candy Businesses

Cadbury Schweppes, the British maker of Dr Pepper sodas and Dairy Milk chocolate, said Thursday that it planned to split off its American beverage unit from its candy businesses, following pressure from shareholders, including the billionaire Nelson Peltz.

Cadbury, which also makes 7Up, Snapple and Trident chewing gum, is currently the largest confectionary company in the world. A separation of the businesses would help the company focus on improving and expanding its confectionary unit, which analysts consider to be the center of the company.

In one episode last month, Cadbury had to pull thousands of chocolate Easter eggs, including Crunchie Easter Eggs and the Dairy Milk Easter Eggs, from shelves in Britain because they were not properly labeled as possibly containing nuts. Cadbury was forced to run an advertising campaign in national newspapers warning of the possible risk to people allergic to nuts.

"It makes strategic sense because it allows a sharper focus, which would result in better business performance," said David Lang, an analyst at Investec in London. "But whether more value will be extracted, I don't know."