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News Briefs

Rollover Ratings Released


The government on Tuesday released rollover ratings for 33 new passenger vehicles, the result of a reinvigorated federal role in auto safety after the deadly series of Firestone tire failures on Ford Explorers.

The worst ratings -- one star -- went to General Motors’ Blazer and Jimmy sport utility vehicles, while the best -- five stars -- went to the Honda Accord. A pair of two-wheel drive, extended-cab pickup trucks -- the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado -- did better than average in their class, with four stars each.

Only three vans were included in the models rated Tuesday, but two did exceptionally well. The Honda Odyssey got four stars, as did Chrysler’s PT Cruiser, the hot seller that the government classifies as a van.

Opposed by the auto industry, the ratings had been blocked in Congress until last fall’s outcry over tire safety. Most of the 148 deaths reported in the Firestone case occurred in rollover crashes, after tires blew out and drivers lost control of their top-heavy SUVs.

The new ratings measure a vehicle’s basic resistance to rolling over if a driver runs off the highway into a curb or dirt, for example. They are based on a mathematical formula that takes into account vehicle height and width.

Hormone Therapy Decreases Mammogram Accuracy


Hormone replacement therapy increases the density of breast tissue, which can decrease the accuracy of mammography screening for cancer, researchers report in a study to be released Wednesday.

The effect is reversible, the analysis found, after therapy is stopped.

The dynamic changes in breast tissue are important public health concerns, says a team of medical investigators reporting in the Journal of the American Medical Association, because breast density can make it more difficult to detect tumors and other irregularities on a mammographic X-ray. Despite the findings, the Washington State team that led the study says the results are not a call to go off HRT to achieve better mammographic results.

Dense, opaque tissue shows up white on mammograms compared with the grayish color of fat. Thus, the denser a woman’s tissue, the more likely it is that a tumor can be obscured.

Viewers, Protesters Will Find Police Checkpoints on Inauguration Day


Everyone who wants to cheer, protest or simply see the new president on the inaugural parade route Jan. 20 will have to pass through police checkpoints to get to Pennsylvania Avenue, an unprecedented security measure being taken because so many “disgruntled” demonstrators are expected, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.

All bags will be subject to search by District of Columbia police officers or Secret Service agents, but metal detectors will not be used, and inaugural planners hope crowds that could number in the hundreds of thousands will move through without backups. Six of 16 checkpoints will be only for those holding tickets to the White House reviewing area.

Officers will not allow signs supported by large poles that could be used as weapons. And the stilt-walkers promised by one group of protest organizers will be banned, because stilts could be used as clubs. The giant puppets used in demonstrations across the country may also be turned away, though police said they were still negotiating that point.