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News Briefs, part 1

Magnitude 7.2 Quake at Sea Causes No Major Damage

Los Angeles Times

A magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck Thursday off the Northwest California coast in a seismicallyactive area where three tectonic plates converge, but the quake was far enough out to sea that no major damage and no injuries resulted.

The 8:15 a.m. temblor was placed by the U.S. Geological Survey on the Mendocino fault about 90 miles west-southwest of Eureka. It was felt as a long, gentle rolling motion through much of Northern California and southwestern Oregon.

Despite the quake's epicenter under the Pacific, no tsunami or seismic sea wave formed since the movement of the quake was horizontal rather than vertical.

In this colorful town of Victorian-style homes and businesses, the quake shook just a few books from the library shelves but it did remind uneasy residents of their recent earthquake history, which included a magnitude 7.1 temblor two years ago.

That large quake in 1992 and its aftershocks damaged 300 homes, injured 356 people and caused $50 million damage. Thursday's quake was located farther offshore and, aside from one house falling off its foundations in the town of Fortuna, barely disturbed people's lives.

The quake Thursday was the second strongest to hit in or close to California in the 1990s, eclipsed only by the June 28, 1992, quake centered in the Mojave Desert near Landers, which is now evaluated as a 7.3 magnitude quake. The latest quake was the fourth of 7 magnitude in the last five years.

FDA Panel Withholds Nod On Breast Sensor Pad

Los Angeles Times

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel Thursday recommended that the agency not approve the Sensor Pad, an experimental device designed to help women better detect breast lumps during self-examination, until its manufacturer submits scientific studies in women that show the product works.

In doing so, the panel of outside experts sided with the agency in its nine-year dispute with the company, a controversy that has involved FDA seizures of the product for illegal marketing to hospitals, and court battles.

The pad is composed of two latex-like sheets with a liquid silicone lubricant in-between. When placed over the breast, it enhances its tactile surface, much like using soap or body lotion, presumably making lumps easier to feel. It is expected to cost about $15 and, once approved, likely would be available without a prescription.

It is available in Europe and Asia but not in the United States, and has been touted by the device industry as a case study of the agency's sluggishness in approving potentially life-saving medical devices.

But the FDA, which in recent years has sought to achieve a balance between speeding promising products to the market and protecting the public from injury, has refused to approve the product until the manufacturer submits evidence that it is effective.

The pad's manufacturer, Inventive Products Inc. of Decatur, Ill., has argued that the pad is intended as an adjunct to - and not a substitute for - traditional breast cancer detection methods, and is safe.

Drug Czars Admit Policy Oversights But Claim Success

Los Angeles Times

A panel of former White House "drug czars" admitted Thursday to a series of oversights in forging national drug policy but said that overall they believe each made a difference in the war against drugs.

Among the trends the former high-level advisers said were missed were the cocaine epidemic of the 1980s, the dangers posed by marijuana and other so-called soft drugs, and the importance of 12-step recovery programs in treatment.

The comments came during a day-long discussion of White House drug abuse policy sponsored by the University of Caifornia, San Diego and Scripps Memorial Hospitals. The panel discussion for the first time brought together six drug chiefs who served under Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush.