- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 12, 2009

SUPREME COURT

Retired justice’s husband dies

John J. O’Connor III, the husband of retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, has died.

The court said that Mr. O’Connor, 79, died Wednesday in Phoenix of complications arising from Alzheimer’s disease.

Mr. O’Connor, himself a lawyer, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s nearly two decades ago. His condition deteriorated markedly in mid-decade and when she announced her retirement in 2005, the justice cited the need to care her husband.

The O’Connors were married in 1952 and became a leading couple on Washington’s social scene when they moved from Arizona in 1981 following her confirmation as the first woman on the Supreme Court.

Following her retirement, Mrs. O’Connor made public her family’s battle with Alzheimer’s and became a vocal supporter of additional money for Alzheimer’s research.

PHARMACEUTICALS

FDA to mull Internet drug ads

As federal regulators take their first tentative steps toward policing the wild west of medical information online, pharmaceutical companies are pressing their case to market drugs via Google, Twitter and other Web sites.

The Food and Drug Administration will convene a two-day meeting beginning Thursday to hear the drug industry’s position on Internet marketing. The agency has agreed to consider developing rules for online advertising after companies complained that the current guidelines for traditional media - which require a detailed list of possible side effects - have left them hamstrung on the Web.

An estimated 83 percent of Internet users search for health information online, according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center.

A few drugmakers have begun trying to reach patients via social-networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube. But overall the industry’s online presence trails other sectors, including retail, financial services and computer makers.

TRANSPORTATION

U.S. to hold forum on airline troubles

The Obama administration is taking its first step toward trying to fix the ailing airline industry, mired in a severe economic slump and facing safety worries.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will hold a forum Thursday to discuss the state of the industry and ways government can help provide economic stability for air carriers. The industry has been rocked by repeated crises in recent years, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the SARS virus and the current economic downturn.

“U.S. aviation is facing severe economic uncertainty and an open and frank conversation will help begin a continuing dialogue about the industry’s future,” said Sasha Johnson, spokeswoman for the Transportation Department.

The Air Transport Association, which represents major carriers, says airlines are offering the fewest seats to passengers as measured by available seats and distance traveled in more than a decade. Airlines have shed more than 130,000 full-time jobs since 2000 and lost an estimated $33 billion over the same period. Thirteen airlines have filed for bankruptcy in the past two years.

Mr. LaHood’s invitation to aviation stakeholders says that the forum, which is closed to the public and the media, was organized at the request of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department.

LEGISLATION

Senate OKs leave for flight crews

Flight attendants are a step closer to qualifying for benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The Senate late Tuesday approved a measure to clarify the intent of the landmark law so that airline flight crews are covered.

The 1993 law grants eligible workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family emergencies or after the birth of children. It generally covers employers with 50 or more workers.

Flight crews were considered excluded under the original law because they don’t work traditional 40-hour weeks.

The House has already passed virtually identical legislation. House members are expected to pass the Senate’s version of the bill before the end of the year.

Union officials hope it will be ready for President Obama’s signature by year’s end.

INTERIOR DEPARTMENT

Brown pelican off endangered list

After nearly 40 years of struggling for survival, the brown pelican is coming off the endangered-species list.

The bird - now prevalent across Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, Pacific coasts and the Caribbean - was declared an endangered species in 1970 after its population was devastated by the use of the pesticide DDT. The pelican’s recovery is largely a result of a 1972 ban on the chemical, coupled with efforts by states and conservation groups to protect its nesting sites and monitor its population.

“After being hunted for its feathers, facing devastating effects from the pesticide DDT and suffering from widespread habitat loss, the pelican has made a remarkable recovery,” Tom Strickland, assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks for the Interior Department, said in a statement obtained by the Associated Press. “We once again see healthy flocks of pelicans in the air over our shores.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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