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News Briefs

Man with Knife Arrested Outside White House Gates

THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON

The U.S. Secret Service Thursday arrested a man outside the White House gates who authorities say was carrying a foot-long hunting knife and had an assault rifle, a rifle with a telescopic lens, gunpowder, a handgun and a bulletproof vest and helmet in his pickup truck parked nearby.

William Duncan, 26, who authorities said has a history of psychiatric problems and brushes with the law, was charged with three counts of possessing illegal weapons and ammunition. He has lived in Dickinson, N.D., and Boise, Idaho, but does not appear to have a permanent address, authorities said.

Duncan is scheduled to be arraigned Friday.

Secret Service officers said they found Duncan’s 1991 Dodge Power Ram pickup truck parked a block from the Ellipse, where President Bush, the first lady and thousands of people assembled hours later for the annual lighting of the national Christmas tree.

Jim Mackin, a Secret Service spokesman, said investigators found no evidence that Duncan’s visit had “anything at all to do with the tree-lighting ceremony or any other planned ceremonies.”

Still, Mackin said, even after investigators interviewed Duncan, “it was not completely clear why he was in the District. It’s being investigated.”

Commercial Jetliner Air Quality Potentially Hazardous

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

The air quality aboard jetliners can be hazardous to passengers’ health, the National Academy of Sciences said Thursday, as it called for an ambitious monitoring program that could lead to stricter federal requirements.

“Available exposure information suggests that environmental factors, including air contaminants, can be responsible for some of the numerous complaints of acute and chronic health effects in cabin crew and passengers,” a panel convened by the Academy’s National Research Council said in the report.

The panel said areas of concern for passengers and crew members include cabin pressure, ozone and carbon monoxide levels, and potential exposures to pesticides and to fumes from engine oil, hydraulic fluids and de-icing liquid. However, ventilation systems “do not appear” to facilitate the spread of viruses and infections, it said.

The report called for the federal government to launch a major research program into the quality of cabin air, to be overseen by an independent scientific advisory board.