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News Briefs

Southern California Supermarket Chains Embrace Alternative Fuel


In a landmark agreement, Southern California’s three largest supermarket chains will purchase alternative fuel trucks and warn nearby communities of the cancer threat posed by diesel exhaust wafting from their big rigs.

Ralphs, Safeway/Vons and Albertsons/Lucky Stores on Thursday settled a controversial two-year-old civil lawsuit filed by environmental groups and the California Attorney General’s office. The companies were accused of exposing neighborhoods near distribution centers to cancer-causing exhaust in violation of Proposition 65, California’s anti-toxics law.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer on Thursday called it an “historic agreement” because “for the first time companies that generate large amounts of traffic are taking responsibility for the harmful emissions they cause in a particular community.”

The settlement has national importance because it will provide a high-profile boost to cleaner-fuel truck technologies that have struggled to find a market.

The case has been watched closely by the state trucking industry, which fears that diesel operators throughout California will be held responsible under state law for exposing neighborhoods to exhaust.

Russia Displays Hitler’s Skull Fragment, Other Relics


It’s only 5 inches across and looks like a tattered piece of leather from a grimy, oversize softball. In a cluttered back yard, it would be easily overlooked.

Which, in fact, it was, according to archival evidence that went on display this week in Moscow.

The object now ensconced on black velvet under glass at Russia’s State Archives is believed to be all that remains of the skull of the man many consider the 20th century’s most evil person: Adolf Hitler.

The leader of the Third Reich committed suicide April 30, 1945, as Soviet troops seized Berlin and closed in on his chancellery, where he was holed up in an underground bunker. Ever since, the fate of his corpse has been one of the war’s enduring mysteries.

Russia announced in 1993 that it had the skull fragment and said the rest of Hitler’s remains had been destroyed. But never before had Russian officials publicly collected and displayed what they know about the death of the Fuhrer and his regime.

“This exhibition at long last puts an end to all conjectures about Hitler’s death,” said Lev Bezymensky, a historian and expert on the Third Reich. “The facts which were in the past known only to a small circle of experts are now presented to the entire world.”

Decrease in Teen Gonorrhea Is Linked to Beer Price Hike


When the price of beer goes up, teen-age gonorrhea goes down, federal health officials say.

Data released Thursday by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that a 20-cent per six-pack tax increase in beer nationwide could reduce gonorrhea rates in young people by almost 9 percent nationwide.

Why? When teen-agers drink, “they are more likely to have sex and they are more likely to have sex without a condom, with multiple partners and with high-risk partners,” said Harrell Chesson, author of the study, which examined the impact of state beer taxes on rates of sexually transmitted diseases in several dozen states between 1981 and 1995.

“Drinking influences judgment,” he said.

CDC is also looking at the impact on syphilis. Agency officials said that a preliminary analysis shows similar declines.

Untreated cases of sexually transmitted diseases can lead to reproductive tract cancers and infertility. Unprotected sex can promote transmission of the virus that causes AIDS.

A 9 percent drop nationwide would translate into an annual reduction of an estimated 3,400 new cases of HIV infection, 8,900 cases of infertility and 700 cases of cervical cancer, predicted Dr. Kathleen Irwin, chief of CDC’s health services research into preventing sexually transmitted diseases.