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News briefs, part 1

Alzheimer's Drug Tacrine Brings Modest Benefit, Study Says


A large study suggests that treatment with a drug for Alzheimer's disease brings a modest benefit to some patients, but the findings published Thursday are unlikely to end the debate on the drug, tacrine.

While dozens of patients taking tacrine seemed to score better on memory tests, there were no observable changes in their other symptoms. The study is in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The drug's effect is small, said the study's lead investigator, Dr. Kenneth Davis of Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. But, "there can be a clinically meaningful effect in some people."

But in an accompanying editorial, Dr. John Growdon of Massachusetts General Hospital said: "It is now time .. to develop treatments that can affect the fundamental mechanisms (of the disease). ... Is tacrine the solution? Certainly not."

Warner-Lambert, maker of the drug, is conducting additional studies, and could have final information ready by early next year. If the drug is approved, it would be the first on the market to combat the illness that affects 4 million Americans. The illness causes severe memory loss, impaired judgment, mood swings and disorientation. Eventually, patients no longer remember names and faces of loved ones and lose their ability to speak.

Source of Wiretap in Wilder's Office Remains Undetermined

The Washington Post


Federal authorities said Thursday the FBI could not determine who purchased or installed an electronic listening device in the office of Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder's chief of staff.

U.S. Attorney Richard Cullen said there is "no basis for federal prosecution" and brought an end to the investigation of who was behind the "bug" that J.T. Shropshire, Wilder's top aide, reported finding on Aug. 20.

FBI agent Robert Satkowski, who joined Cullen at a news conference here, said an analysis of the small transmitter determined that although it was "fairly sophisticated," it was inoperable because it "had no battery, was turned off and the antenna was broken."

Shropshire called his own news conference two hours later to say he regretted that the investigation "concluded without identifying the perpetrator. ... No one in the world wants to know who did it more than me."

Cullen emphasized that the inquiry concluded Thursday is "a separate and distinct investigation" from the ongoing probe into the recording and distribution of a cellular phone conversation between Wilder and a political ally four years ago.

CDC Won't Answer to Its New Name

The Washington Post


The Centers for Disease Control has a new name, but it is not supposed to use it.

CDC Director William L. Roper said Thursday that, following congressional orders, the agency's name will be the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Prevention's time has come in America," Roper said in a news release. "Since we are the nation's prevention agency, we think it only appropriate that our formal title carry that message."

But because the Atlanta-based agency is so well-known to the public as CDC, Congress wants it to continue to use the three-letter acronym in verbal conversations.

"We're a little confused right now actually," said Anne Sims, an agency spokeswoman. "We're still trying to figure this out."

Sims said the "P" will be phased in on stationery and publications as old supplies are depleted and new publications printed. No additional cost to the taxpayers is expected because of the change, she said.

Telephone operators, she said, will continue to answer the phone "CDC."

CDC originated as a government program to protect World War II soldiers from malaria. Until 1980, it was called the Communicable Disease Center, when it was changed to Centers for Disease Control.


Cool Treats

By Marek Zebrowski
staff meteorologist

Clouds will be slow to break following the passage of a cold front early Friday, but eventually by midday Saturday a large and cold high pressure system will gradually come to influence the weather in our region. With the center of this anticyclone well to our north, expect the coldest air of the season to filter in on northerly winds. Nights will be cold and frosty, especially inland, whilst the eastern coast may get some of the daytime seabreezes. A layer of warmer clothing is definately recommended under your Halloween costume!

This afternoon: Mostly cloudy with a few breaks before sunset. High of 52F (11C) with light to moderate north-northwestrly winds.

Tonight: Partial clearing, quite cool with temperatures around 38F (4C) in the city, around freeezing inland.

Saturday: Some remaining cloudiness, especially to the south and on the Cape, with an outside chance of a light shower or sprinkle. Partly cloudy otherwise and chilly with a high of about 48F (9C) and countinuing light northerly winds.

Saturday night: Calm and cold with lows in mid 30s (2C).

Sunday: Fair and cool with highs in mid 40s (6-8C).