- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2001

Davis endorses Hispanic for mayor

LOS ANGELES In an unusual move, Gov. Gray Davis has endorsed Antonio Villaraigosa for mayor, handing a coup to the former Assembly speaker and potentially boosting Mr. Davis' own political fortunes.

Mr. Villaraigosa, 48, who served as state Assembly speaker from 1998 to 2000, is campaigning to become the city's first Hispanic mayor in more than a century.

He will compete with five other leading candidates in a primary April 10.

GAO finds loopholes in gun-buyer checks

Undercover congressional investigators using fake IDs were able to skirt mandatory background checks and purchase guns in all of the five states they tried, according to a report issued yesterday.

The General Accounting Office study concluded that the national background check system for purchasing guns "cannot ensure that the prospective purchaser is not a felon."

The system checks only whether the gun buyer had a criminal history but does not require any check to see whether the name or identification used by the buyer is real.

Vaccinating children protects elderly

Vaccinating schoolchildren against the flu protects elderly people from the sometimes deadly virus, too, according to a huge study in Japan, the only country ever to focus flu-control efforts on youngsters.

From the mid-1970s through the 1980s, about two-thirds of Japanese schoolchildren were vaccinated under a government program. The number of flu deaths dropped about 43,000 each year, mostly among the elderly.

When the government phased out the program in the 1990s, death rates from the flu and its complications returned to their prior levels, according to researchers in Japan and at this country's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

NEH gives $2.5 million for heritage centers

The National Endowment for the Humanities will give $2.5 million to establish 10 centers around the United States for learning about and preserving the heritage of the country's regions.

Each center will focus on the particular region in which it is located to "highlight the special sense of place which connects us to where we grew up or to where we live now," NEH Chairman William R. Ferris said in a statement yesterday.

Caribbean isle may be alternative to Vieques

The Caribbean island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis is offering greater cooperation with the U.S. military and could provide an alternative to the disputed Vieques bombing range, a member of Congress has told the Pentagon.

Pennsylvania Rep. Curt Weldon wrote to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in a letter released yesterday to encourage him to consider a greater military presence in St. Kitts.

"This may prove to be a resolution to our impending training crisis due to the probable future loss of Vieques," wrote Mr. Weldon, Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee's military readiness panel, after he met with St. Kitts Prime Minister Danzel Douglas earlier this month.

Exposure to chemical higher than expected

ATLANTA Americans' bodies harbor surprisingly high amounts of a chemical used in soap and cosmetics, federal health officials reported yesterday in the first nationwide study to measure levels of 24 environmental toxins in people's blood and urine.

Animal studies suggest that large amounts of the chemical, diethyl phthalate, may disrupt normal hormone function and cause birth defects. The government is studying whether repeated exposure is harmful to humans.

Levels of diethyl phthalate were "considerably higher than one would have predicted," said Dr. Richard Jackson, director of the National Center for Environmental Health.

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