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News Briefs

Isabel Still Has More Than 700,000 Left in the Dark

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- ALEXANDRIA, VA.

Utility companies made major strides to restore power in parts of Maryland and northern Virginia on Monday, but severe damage sharply slowed work in southern Virginia and North Carolina, leaving more than 700,000 homes and businesses there dark for yet another day.

With frustration growing over the pace of repairs, utility officials could offer little good news for the storm-ravaged areas of Richmond and Tidewater in Virginia, and eastern North Carolina, saying most people there could not expect to have power until Thursday or later.

“In many cases, we’re not just making repairs, we’re having to rebuild the system from ground up,” said Neil Durbin, a spokesman for Dominion Virginia Power Co. “There are place where there are more poles and wires down on the ground than are standing.”

The number of deaths attributed to Hurricane Isabel also rose Monday to at least 34, confirming official predictions that the post-storm period might be nearly as dangerous as the storm itself. About half of those deaths have occurred since Friday, when Isabel had already passed over the region.

FDA to Push Firms to Make Ads Clearer About Drug Risks

THE BOSTON GLOBE -- WASHINGTON

In response to criticism from doctors and consumer groups, the Food and Drug Administration will ask drug companies to do a better job of explaining medical risks in their increasingly imaginative commercial spots, while allowing yellow toenail-fungus monsters and traffic cops who “gotta go” to continue appearing on American airwaves.

The FDA Monday opened two days of hearings on the subject of consumer advertising, for the first time publicly presenting survey data that shows prescription advertising is generating widespread skepticism among doctors.

Fully 70 percent of general practitioners said they believe the advertising “confuses relative risks and benefits,” while 75 percent said it causes patients “to think drugs work better than they really do,” the FDA’s survey said.

Despite those findings, there is little chance of a reversal in the way drugs are being marketed in the United States. American pharmaceutical companies, which got the green light for prescription ad campaigns in 1997, spend nearly $3 billion a year on consumer advertising, pushing greater limits of creativity with every season.

All 9 Members of a NASA Safety Panel Resign

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- WASHINGTON

All nine members of a panel of outside experts established by Congress to advise NASA on safety resigned on Monday, with several citing frustration over their lack of influence.

The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, established after NASA’s first major accident, the 1967 Apollo 1 fire that killed three astronauts, was criticized by the Senate Appropriations Committee for failing to have foreseen problems leading to the Columbia crash, and in a report on the crash released last month that called the panel “independent, but often not very influential.”

As an example, the Columbia investigators noted that the advisory panel, known as the ASAP, had complained in 1995 that NASA officials were treating the space shuttle as mature and that the situation “smacks of a complacency which may lead to serious mishaps.” The Columbia investigators found just such complacency leading up to the accident on Feb. 1 that destroyed the shuttle.