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News briefs, part 1

`Secondhand' Smoke Causes Cancer, EPA to Announce

The Washington Post


In a long-delayed decision that could eventually have a major impact on the American workplace, the Environmental Protection Agency Thursday will conclude officially that exposure to "secondhand" cigarette smoke causes lung cancer in adults and greatly increases the risk of respiratory illnesses in children.

EPA administrator William K. Reilly's endorsement of a report by a panel of scientific advisors to the agency will end a contentious two-year review of the issue during which the panel's evidence and conclusions have has been denounced repeatedly by the tobacco industry.

The EPA's endorsement of the scientific panel's findings will have no immediate practical impact, because the agency has no authority to regulate indoor air pollution. But the move could have a significant influence on how local governments and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) adopt and enforce workplace anti-smoking rules.

OSHA is in the beginning stages of soliciting information on indoor air quality, a process that could lead to new federal rules on air pollution in the workplace. An OSHA spokesman said Tuesday that "it's too early to tell" what the impact will be of the EPA's designation of passive tobacco smoke as a human carcinogen.

U.S. Considering Options in Wake Of Iraqi Deployment of Missiles

The Washington Post


White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said Tuesday the administration is considering "options" in the wake of an Iraqi deployment of surface-to-air missiles in the southern part of the country patrolled by U.S. and allied warplanes.

"We're monitoring the missiles," Fitzwater told reporters traveling with President Bush to West Point Tuesday morning. Other officials said the anti-aircraft weapons were Russian-made SA-2s recently deployed in three major groupings along the 32nd parallel, which is the northern border of a zone where the United Nations Security Council has barred Iraqi military flights.

"We're very concerned" about the deployments, Fitzwater said. He did not specify the U.S. options under consideration, but another senior official said one is to seek a U.N. statement ordering Iraq to remove the missiles.

Iraq's action follows the downing of an Iraqi Mig-25 by an American F-16 on Dec. 27 and is assumed by some officials to be in response to that event. It may also be timed to signal defiance to the incoming Clinton administration.

While Fitzwater's remarks raised the possibility the United States would do something to respond to the Iraqi deployment, Defense Department spokesman Bob Hall appeared to play down the development in a midday briefing for reporters.

"In and of itself, it's not that big a deal," Hall said, adding that Iraq's action was "an item of particular interest" only when taken together with other recent Iraqi moves he said were aimed at undermining U.N. authority in the area.


Back to Normal?

By Marek Zebrowski
Staff Meteorologist

Following a heady high of 62F (17C) yesterday (a new record for the day), our temperatures will gradually subside to more seasonable levels; yet, no bitter (or even normal) January cold is expected for the rest of the week. Weak high pressure will briefly crest over our area, moving offshore by late Wednesday night, and the skies shall be fair for the most part with some cloudiness confined to the southwestern sections of our region.

The weekend may bring some unsettled weather for Saturday (light rain or mixed precipitation associated with a cold front passage); Sunday will feature a return to seasonal highs of 35-40F (2-4C) and lows in the 20s (-6 to -1C).

Today: Partly sunny, high of 43F (6C), winds northwest 5-10 mph (8-16 kmh).

Tonight: Partly cloudy and frosty with a low of 34F (1C) in the city, 20s (-6 to -1C) in the suburbs.

Thursday: Increasing cloudiness, high around 41F (5C), light to moderate winds from west and southwest 8-15 mph (12-25 kmh).

Friday: Fair skies, highs in the 30s (2-4C).

Weekend Ski Report

By Marek Zebrowski
Staff Meteorologist

With the unseasonably warm weather so far this January, all New England ski areas (except Blue Hills locally) report a base of at least 6 inches; in most areas it ranges from 1 to 3 feet. The only areas with new wet snow are Sugarbush in Maine; Bretton Woods, Lookout and Wildcat mountains in New Hampshire; and Killington, Okemo, and Stowe in Vermont. (All others report wet granular and loose granular conditions).

With falling temperatures for the rest of the week, some flurries are expected in the next two days; additionally, there is a chance of some more snow associated with a cold front passage on Saturday. It seems then that the best bet for skiing this weekend would be to head up to Maine, northernmost areas of New Hampshire and Vermont and the highest elevations, where a decent coating of new snow will improve the condition of trails.