Nation & World briefly
Smoking legislation passed by Congress
WASHINGTON (AP) –
Historic anti-smoking legislation sped to final congressional passage on Friday – after a bitter fight lasting nearly a half-century – and lawmakers and the White House quickly declared it would save the lives of thousands of smokers of all ages. Even more important, they said, the measure could keep countless young people from starting in the first place.
President Barack Obama, admittedly still struggling with his own nicotine habit, saluted passage of the bill, which he will soon sign.
Specifically, the measure for the first time will give the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate what goes into tobacco products, demand changes or elimination of toxic substances and block the introduction of new products.
Senators working to health care overhaul have industry ties
WASHINGTON (AP) – Influential senators working to overhaul the nation’s health care system have investments and family ties with some of the biggest names in the industry. The wife of Sen. Chris Dodd, the lawmaker in charge of writing the Senate’s bill, sits on the boards of four health care companies.
Members of both parties have industry connections, including Democrats Jay Rockefeller and Tom Harkin, in addition to Dodd, and Republicans Tom Coburn, Judd Gregg, John Kyl and Orrin Hatch, financial reports showed Friday.
Jackie Clegg Dodd, wife of the Connecticut Democrat, is on the boards of Javelin Pharmaceuticals Inc., Cardiome Pharma Corp., Brookdale Senior Living and Pear Tree Pharmaceuticals.
Dodd is filling in for ailing Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which will soon start work on a health care bill.
Gorilla escapes, injures worker
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – A gorilla is back in its enclosure after briefly escaping at a South Carolina zoo and injuring a worker.
Multiple media outlets reported Friday that the gorilla named Mike escaped his exhibit for about five minutes and injured a food service employee.
The animal returned to his enclosure on his own.
Gas drilling brought prosperity, possibly earthquakes, to Texas town
CLEBURNE, Texas (AP) – The earth moved here on June 2. It was the first recorded earthquake in this Texas town’s 140-year history – but not the last.
There have been four small earthquakes since, none with a magnitude greater than 2.8. The most recent ones came Tuesday night, just as the City Council was meeting in an emergency session to discuss what to do about the ground moving.
The council’s solution was to hire a geology consultant to try to answer the question on everyone’s mind: Is natural gas drilling – which began in earnest here in 2001 and has brought great prosperity to Cleburne and other towns across North Texas – causing the quakes?
“I think John Q. Public thinks there is a correlation with drilling,” Mayor Ted Reynolds said. “We haven’t had a quake in recorded history, and all the sudden you drill and there are earthquakes.”
At issue is a drilling practice called “fracking,” in which water is injected into the ground at high pressure to fracture the layers of shale and release natural gas trapped in the rock.
There is no consensus among scientists about whether the practice is contributing to the quakes. But such seismic activity was once rare in Texas and seems to be increasing lately, lending support to the theory that drilling is having a destabilizing effect.