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News Briefs, part 1

Scientists Study Long-term Risk of Radium Treatments

The Baltimore Sun

A radium treatment given to thousands of people from the 1940s to the 1960s and presumed harmless is being restudied to determine the cancer risk that might be associated with it.

Pioneered at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health 70 years ago, nasopharyngeal irradiation was prescribed to correct hearing, sinus and adenoid problems in children. The treatment involved inserting radium-tipped rods into the nose to shrink excess adenoid tissue that had caused the ailments.

The treatment also was given to about 5,000 submariners and more than twice as many airmen who suffered from ear conditions caused by water or air pressure.

But today former patients are questioning the possible long-term effects of the radium. Several brought their concerns to a federal panel reviewing human radiation testing during the Cold War. A former submariner who says he has nasopharyngeal cancer wants Congress to order a study of affected veterans.

Clinton Promises to Ban Using Replacement Workers in Strikes

The Washington Post

Vice President Al Gore told leaders of the AFL-CIO Monday that the president would sign an executive order banning the use of replacement workers by federal contractors in labor strikes.

Gore announced the action at a closed-door meeting here with members of the federation's executive council. Both AFL-CIO and administration officials said after the meeting that details of the order were still being worked out by the administration.

If issued, the executive order would apply to all Fortune 500 companies as well as many other corporations, administration officials said Monday.

Organized labor has failed to win passage of legislation banning the use of permanent replacement workers during strikes, and victory in a Republican Congress seems unlikely.

Gore also told the labor leaders Monday that President Clinton would veto any Republican-passed legislation to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act and the Service Contract Act, which set prevailing wages for federal contracts in the construction and service industries, respectively.

He also said the president would veto pending legislation to repeal the current labor law ban on shop-floor committees unilaterally set up by employers. Labor law bans such cooperative groups unless employees are allowed to pick their own members.

Denver's Automated Baggage System Will Be Divided

The Washington Post

The airport feature that has been responsible for repeated delays in Denver International Airport's opening is the automated baggage system that winds underneath the airport like a 20-mile roller coaster.

Planned originally for United and then expanded for the entire airport, the automated baggage system crash-landed a year ago. Its 4,000 computer-guided carts, each carrying one piece of luggage, didn't have the capacity to keep up with the peak requirements of loading and unloading 94 jets.

Even today, the system is so massive and complex that visitors can feel it shaking the buildings as they head for their planes.

Faced with a baggage mess, United took the offensive last fall and spent $55 million of its own money to correct its section of the baggage system. The city allowed United to take over parts of the automated track designated for other airlines.

As a result, DIA will have two systems: United will have a nifty automated one; the other airlines will sort bags in a parking garage next to the terminal and tow them on carts through a mile-long maintenance tunnel.

United also has an edge in the all-important ski department at DIA, because it contr