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World Briefs II

Tank Explosion Test Shows Damage Unlike Flight 800's


A center fuel tank blown up by TWA Flight 800 investigators shows damage patterns unlike anything found on the fuel tank of the downed plane, according to early test results - a development that could finally rule out the possibility that any explosive charge destroyed the plane, sources said.

Since last spring, officials had said they were close to eliminating the bomb and missile theories that had long dominated speculation about the crash's cause. But FBI investigators have been reluctant to be definitive, saying they wanted to reanalyze the wreckage and await the results of more tests.

The test results, from several detonations of a Boeing 747 tank in Bruntingthorpe, England, last month, brought investigators one step closer to dropping the idea of a small, "shaped charge" placed on or near the Flight 800 tank - the only possibility left of a bomb because of the lack of other evidence.

Five other theories of ignition remain, including a dud missile or other object piercing the plane's skin and four mechanical scenarios: a static charge within the tank, a faulty scavenge pump, corroded fuel probes and damaged wiring in the right wing.

Investigators have determined that the blast originated in the nearly empty 12,890-gallon tank, igniting fuel air vapors in an explosion that tore the plane apart, killing all 230 people aboard. The actual ignition source remains a mystery.

Israel Lifts Siege of Bethlehem

The Washington Post

Israeli authorities lifted their 28-day siege of Bethlehem Wednesday in a significant easing of the harsh regime of economic sanctions and border closings imposed on Palestinians since two terrorists killed themselves and 14 other people in a bombing at a Jerusalem market on July 30.

About 4 p.m. Wednesday, Israeli soldiers shoved aside barricades blocking entrances to the fabled West Bank city, where Palestinian resentment of the blockade has erupted into serious rioting and has raised fears of renewed clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian security forces.

Israeli authorities continue to prevent tens of thousands of Palestinians from traveling to their jobs in Israel, however, and they have not retreated from demands that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat do more to rein in terrorists operating from areas under his control.

Still, Wednesday's move was important because Bethlehem was the last West Bank city subject to a full blockade by Israeli security forces. In the immediate aftermath of the Jerusalem bombing, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sharply restricted the movement of goods and people throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but most such blockades have since been lifted in the West Bank.

FDA May Require Juice Labeling

The Washington Post

The Food and Drug Administration announced plans Tuesday to require warning labels on unpasteurized fruit and vegetable juices and take other steps to reduce the risk of disease from microbes in the drinks.

The proposal comes in the wake of recent outbreaks, including one last fall that was linked to unpasteurized apple juice; one child died and 66 people became sick in three western states and Canada in that incident.

The new regulations are part of a general program within the Clinton administration to upgrade food safety following similar disease clusters in recent years linked to hamburger and imported fruit.

In Tuesday's announcement, the FDA said it would issue one proposal later this year requiring a thorough juice safety program similar to that implemented for other foods. That system, known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) safety programs, examines possible sources of contamination and tries to minimize risk at each point; it also requires inspection and thorough record-keeping to track outbreaks.

The agency said it also probably would issue a rule requiring warning labels on fresh apple juice products until the HACCP plan is in effect. The label requirement then could be rescinded by the agency.

Second Fish Kill Strikes Eastern Shore River

The Washington Post

The Pocomoke River on the Eastern Shore between Maryland and Virginia suffered a second fish kill Tuesday as an estimated 2,000 fish died near the spot where 10,000 or more fish died earlier this month, Virginia officials said.

Tuesday's fish deaths took place in Virginia waters across the river's mouth from Maryland waters where the toxic microbe Pfiesteria piscicida was active during a four-day fish kill less than three weeks ago, said Jack Travelstead, chief of fisheries management for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

Virginia state workers took water and fish samples that will be sent to laboratories and analyzed for the presence of Pfiesteria, Travelstead said. He said most of the fish dying Tuesday bore sores, a symptom seen in previous attacks by Pfiesteria.

The fish deaths in Maryland earlier this month marked the first time Pfiesteria was found active during a fish kill in the Chesapeake Bay or its tributaries. Maryland officials said the deaths Aug. 6-9 on the Pocomoke marked the first major fish kill in eight years in that state's portion of the bay and its tributaries.

Pfiesteria emits toxins that can inflict skin problems at low levels. At higher concentrations, the toxins overwhelm fish, paralyzing their nervous systems and suffocating them. The microbe swims toward the stricken fish and feeds upon them.

Travelstead said the fish dying Tuesday were mainly menhaden, an oily species known to incite attack by Pfiesteria.