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News Briefs

Richard Hatch Defeats Alliance Members to Win “Survivor” Crown
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- Ending a saga that was as gripping as it was pointless, the CBS reality/game-show “Survivor” revealed that 39-year-old Richard Hatch was its first winner.

The broadcast Wednesday night, for which the network said it was commanding as much as $600,000 for a 30-second commercial, culminated 13 weeks of ratings success and left Hatch with $1 million and a Pontiac Aztec.

In the end, Hatch, a corporate trainer from Newport, R.I., beat out solo castaway Kelly Wiglesworth, 23, a river guide from Las Vegas, who was the first runner-up. Rudy Boesch, a 72-year-old retired Navy SEAL came in third, while truck driver Susan Hawk, 38, of Palmyra, Wis., finished fourth.

A “jury” of seven ousted castaways determined the winner between Hatch and Wiglesworth. For finishing second, Wiglesworth gets $100,000.

The identity of the winner of “Survivor,” which taped last spring, was kept under wraps until yesterday night. CBS managed to avert potential leaks by getting those associated with the program to sign confidentially agreements that carried the threat of stiff fines, among other safeguards.

Panel Recommends Strengthened U.N. Peacekeeping Force
THE WASHINGTON POST -- NEW YORK

An international panel called Wednesday for a thorough overhaul of United Nations peacekeeping, contending that U.N. “blue helmets” must be sufficiently armed and trained to defeat any renegades who challenge their authority or commit atrocities against civilians.

While stopping short of calling for a permanent U.N. army, the panel appealed to the United Nations’ members to prepare several brigades, each with about 5,000 troops, that could be sent to a trouble spot within 30 to 90 days. It also urged the world body to expand the peacekeeping department’s tiny headquarters staff.

Secretary General Kofi Annan set up the panel in March to review peacekeeping operations in light of the failure of U.N. troops to stop the massacres in Rwanda and Bosnia. The review gained urgency this summer with the near-collapse of a peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone, where about 500 U.N. personnel were taken hostage.

Study Suggests Link Between Germ Exposure, Resistance to Asthma
THE WASHINGTON POST -- Infants who go to day-care centers or who have older siblings are less likely than those who do not to develop asthma later in childhood, researchers reported Wednesday.

The new findings provide strong support for the provocative but increasingly accepted theory that exposure to microbes early in life may help the immune system mature properly, lowering the risk of asthma and allergies.

In the new study, babies who entered day care before the age of six months had only 40 percent the risk of asthma seen in those who weren’t exposed to day care or older siblings.

An estimated 17.3 million Americans suffer from asthma, a chronic and often progressive disorder in which small air passages in the lungs become temporarily blocked, causing difficulty breathing. The figure has more than doubled since 1980, when there were 6.7 million asthmatics. Asthma, which often develops during childhood, is one of the most common chronic illnesses in the United States, causing almost 500,000 hospitalizations and more than 5,000 deaths annually and costing an estimated $14.5 billion per year.