World and Nation

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U.S. Halted Some Afghan Raids Over Concern On Civilian Deaths

The commander of a secretive branch of America’s Special Operations forces in February ordered a halt to most commando missions in Afghanistan, reflecting a growing concern that civilian deaths caused by U.S. firepower are jeopardizing broader goals there.

The halt, which lasted about two weeks, came after a series of nighttime raids by Special Operations troops in recent months killed women and children, and after months of mounting outrage in Afghanistan about civilians killed in air and ground strikes. The order covered all commando missions except those against the highest-ranking leaders of the Taliban and al-Qaida, military officials said.

U.S. commanders in Afghanistan rely on the commando units to carry out some of the most delicate operations against militant leaders, and the missions of the Army’s Delta Force and classified Navy Seals units are never publicly acknowledged. But the units sometimes carry out dozens of operations each week, so any decision to halt their missions is a sign of just how worried military officials are that the fallout from civilian casualties is putting in peril the overall U.S. mission in Afghanistan, including an effort to drain the Taliban of popular support.

Swiss Romeo Admits Guilt in Beguiling BMW Heiress

They called him the “Swiss gigolo,” and he was indisputably a master of his craft, wooing Germany’s richest woman into an illicit affair, talking her out of nearly $10 million and then trying to blackmail her for hundreds of millions more.

It all came to an end on Monday in a Munich courtroom, where the man, Helg Sgarbi, 44, confessed to defrauding Susanne Klatten, a billionaire whose family controls BMW, and was given a six-year prison sentence.

The case has electrified this country, where old-money families tend to play down their wealth. But it was notable as well because Klatten, though acutely aware that no one of her status could go to the police about a blackmailing Romeo and expect it to remain a secret, did so anyway.

Genetic Tests May Reveal Source of Mystery Tumors

When Jo Symons was found to have cancer, there was an extra complication: doctors could not tell what type of cancer she had.

Tumors were found in her neck, chest and lymph nodes. But those tumors had spread there from someplace else, and her doctors could not determine whether the original site was the breast, the colon, the ovary or some other organ. Without that knowledge, they could not offer optimal treatment.

Such mystery tumors are estimated to account for 2 percent to 5 percent of all cancer, or at least 30,000 new cases a year in the United States, making them more common than brain, liver or stomach cancers. For patients, such a diagnosis can amount to a double agony — not only do they have cancer, but doctors cannot treat it properly.

“You don’t believe that in the 21st century it is possible for the medical profession not to know where the cancer is coming from,” said Symons’ husband, John.

But now 21st-century medicine may help. New genetic tests may pinpoint the origin of the mystery tumors. The tests, which cost more than $3,000 each, still need to prove their worth better, experts say, though some of them are hopeful.