The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 29.0°F | A Few Clouds

News Briefs

Supreme Court to Rule On FDA Tobacco Regulation

Washington Post -- washington

The Supreme Court stepped into a major dispute over smoking Monday, agreeing to decide whether the Food and Drug Administration can regulate tobacco and crack down on cigarette sales to minors.

The Clinton administration and the tobacco industry will square off in oral arguments this fall over the FDA’s 1996 decision to start regulating tobacco. The government says the policy switch was justified by new evidence that the tobacco industry intended its products to feed consumers’ nicotine habits.

A lower court threw out the rules, saying it is up to Congress -- not the FDA -- to make the “major policy decision” of how to regulate cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

President Clinton released a statement saying he was pleased the court would take up the case. “Every day, 3,000 young people become regular smokers and 1,000 will have their lives cut short as a result,” he said. “I remain firmly committed to the FDA rule, which will help stop young people from smoking before they start.”

The federal government plans to sue the industry to recover federal health-insurance costs, and the industry faces individual and class-action lawsuits by smokers and their families.

For decades, the FDA said it lacked authority to regulate tobacco so long as cigarette makers did not claim that smoking provided health benefits. But the government reversed itself in 1996 and said it would begin regulating tobacco products as “devices” that deliver addictive nicotine.

Silent Protest Draws Thousands To Beijing

Washington Post -- Beijing, China

More than 10,000 Chinese followers of a cult-like figure who lives in the United States massed on the streets outside the Communist Party headquarters Monday in the largest protest since the student-led demonstrations rocked Beijing in 1989.

Clutching the writings of Chinese martial arts master Li Hongzhi, the protesters entered Beijing in the pre-dawn hours in buses and flooded the streets around the Zhongnanhai compound. There they sat almost silently five or six deep on the sidewalk, many of them meditating throughout the day as their leaders negotiated with government officials. Scores of police looked on.

The protesters were demanding the government take action against a Chinese magazine that last week published an article critical of the cult called “Falun Gong.” Followers of Li, who lives in Houston, said they were concerned that the article, which argued that Falun should not be practiced by young people, was the government’s first step toward banning the cult which involves group meditation, exercise and spiritual training. They also said they wanted the government to recognize the sect, granting it legal status.

Monday’s protest underscored Chinese leaders’ fears of unrest in the weeks before the 10th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protest.