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News Briefs, part 1

USAir Posts Loss of $180.1 Million

The Washington Post

USAir Group Inc. Monday reported a third-quarter loss of $180.1 million and predicted a continued drop in revenue for the remainder of the year as its airline struggles to cut $1 billion a year in costs.

Airline officials estimated that as much as $40 million of this year's third-quarter loss is a direct result of passengers turning to other airlines after last month's crash of a USAir 737 jetliner outside Pittsburgh that killed 131 people.

USAir Chairman Seth E. Schofield called the results "disappointing." He said revenue for the quarter was below company expectations and said USAir now expects that revenue for the rest of the year will be below earlier company projections. In a statement, Schofield said the losses "underscore the urgent need to reduce operating costs to a level competitive with the industry."

USAir has asked its unions for wage and work-rule concessions totaling $500 million a year to help the company achieve the $1 billion in savings. So far, however, negotiations have not gone well as the Air Line Pilots Association has refused to go along with any plan to reduce the size of the airline. ALPA, whose 5,200 USAir pilots have a no-layoff clause in their contracts, have offered wage and benefit concessions but have refused to agree to any action that would lead to a loss of jobs.

Studies Dispute Link Between Breast Implants, Diseases

The Baltimore Sun

Two new studies have found that women with silicone-gel breast implants are no more likely to develop connective tissue diseases than are women who do not have the implants.

Researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center found no link between the implants and one of the diseases, scleroderma. A larger study at the Harvard Medical School found no evidence that implants played a role in that illness or several others, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Scientists from the two institutions are scheduled to present their findings this week at a meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in Minneapolis. While Hochberg agreed to discuss his findings in advance, researchers from Harvard University refused to issue any statements prior to Tuesday's presentation.

In recent years, thousands of women have complained that leaking implants caused a range of health problems, including breast and joint pain, chronic fatigue and depression. Many have also blamed leakage for the connective tissue diseases scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus ; these destroy materials holding together many of the body's structures, including bone, muscle, the liver and heart.

Researchers Develop Super Rice'

The Washington Post

Researchers at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) have developed a prototype breed of "super rice" that yields 25 percent more food per acre than today's best varieties. If planted in all suitable parts of the world's rice-growing regions, agronomists estimate it could yield 100 million tons more grain than is now grown - enough to sustain an additional 450 million people a year.

Moreover, work is underway to modify the variety in a way that promises to achieve another 25 percent boost in yield.

Super rice lacks resistance to diseases and pests that current varieties possess. Lampe said plant researchers are cross-breeding the new rice with existing resistant varieties to produce new ones that combine the best traits of the parents. He said that in a year or two, the first of these crosses will be distributed to rice breeders in several parts of the world for further cross-breeding with varieties suited to local soils and climates.

Additional plant breeding is underway to produce subvarieties with the various cooking qualities and flavors preferred by different cultures. These are the kinds of adaptations that are routine with most new varieties of any crop.

Lampe said the new breed is needed because the world has little or no additional land on which to grow rice - the primary food of the part of the world where the population is growing in the largest numbers. In fact, some of the best rice land has been lost to urban sprawl. Overall, the area planted in rice worldwide has not increased since 1980.