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Susan Smith-Harmon

Susan Smith-Harmon

UPDATE: Wind Advisory canceled, but not winter chill

Monday, 27 January 2014 00:52 Published in Local News
   Here we go again.  After a warm and spring like Sunday afternoon, winter is returning to the St. Louis area with a vengence.
 
   About 3:00 Monday morning, the National Weather Service in St. Louis canceled a wind advisory that had been set to expire at 6 a.m.  Winds had dropped to between 15 and 25 mph with gust up to 35 mph, below the threshold for an advisory. 
 
   Nevertheless, the strong northwest winds are pushing a powerful arctic cold front through the region.  Wind chills are still expected to dip below zero by morning.  Some schools have already cancelled classes for Monday.
 
   The wind is being blamed for causing spotty power outages across the St. Louis metro area.  As of 3 a.m., Ameren is reporting more than 3,300 St. Louis area customers without power -- about 1,000 in Missouri.  The rest are in the metro-east, most in St. Clair County.  That's down from nearly 9,000 around midnight. 
 
 

Bombings rock Egyptian capital, killing 5 people

Friday, 24 January 2014 04:26 Published in National News
   CAIRO (AP) — Three bombings hit high-profile areas around Cairo on Friday, including a suicide car bomber who struck the city's police headquarters, killing five people in the first major attack on the Egyptian capital as insurgents step up a campaign of violence following the ouster of the Islamist president.
   Nobody claimed responsibility for the attacks, but they bore the hallmarks of Islamic extremists who have increasingly targeted police and the military since the July 3 coup against Mohammed Morsi and a fierce crackdown on his supporters led by the Muslim Brotherhood.
   The explosions struck as the country was on high alert ahead of the third anniversary of the Jan. 25 start of the 2011 uprising that toppled autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak. Morsi's supporters had vowed to use the event to gain momentum in their efforts turn to a new momentum to "break the coup."
   Friday's violence began when a suicide bomber rammed a car into cement blocks surrounding the main Egyptian police headquarters in the heart of Cairo, killing at least four people and sending billows of black smoke into the sky. The blast also tore through nearby buildings, including the renowned Museum of Islamic Art.
   Egypt's antiquities minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, said the explosion badly damaged the facade of the 19th century museum and artifacts inside, including a rare collection of Islamic art objects dating back to 1881. He said the museum, which was recently renovated in a multimillion dollar project, will have to be "rebuilt."
   As a large number of ambulances rushed to the scene, an Associated Press photographer saw about six police officers weeping as they on the sidewalk outside the building. Small parts of a vehicle were scattered on the road and a blanket covered a corpse — which officers said was the suicide bomber.
   Several floors of the high-rise security building were wrecked, air conditioning units dangled from broken windows, and the pavement outside was covered with piles of shattered glass, pieces of bricks and rocks. The facade of the adjacent Islamic Art Museum and a court house were also damaged along with shops and cars in the area.
   Egypt's Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim described the attack "vile terrorist act" and vowed, "it will not discourage the police from continuing their fierce war against the black terrorism."
   The Interior Ministry cordoned off the building, which is located in a busy district, as rescue teams worked to extract victims trapped in the rubble. Security forces went on high alert, and closed the central Tahrir Square and main roads, including the one leading to the Interior Ministry.
   The Health Ministry said in a statement that four people were killed and nearly 50 wounded.
   About two hours later, another bomb struck a police car on patrol near a metro station near the Russian Culture Center elsewhere in Cairo, killing one person and wounding eight others, officials said.
   A third, smaller blast targeted the Talbiya police station about four kilometers (two miles) from the famous Giza Pyramids but caused no casualties, officials said.
   The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
   The attacks came a day after the country's military and security leaders marked Police Day depicting security forces as national heroes battling terrorism.
   The military-backed government has blamed the Brotherhood for past attacks and designated it as a terrorist organization. The group has denied the accusations as baseless.
   The most prominent attacks were a failed assassination attempt on the interior minister in Cairo in September and the December suicide car bombing that targeted a security headquarters in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, leaving nearly 16 dead, most of them policemen.
   An al-Qaida-inspired group called Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, or the Champions of Jerusalem, has claimed responsibility for most of the recent attacks, saying they aimed to avenge the killings of Morsi's supporters in the months-long heavy security crackdown on protesters demanding his reinstatement and denouncing the coup.
   A Brotherhood-led coalition had planned protests after Friday prayers across the country as part of their near-daily demonstrations against Morsi's overthrow and the recent vote on the country's rewritten constitution.

FDA to revise nutrition facts label

Friday, 24 January 2014 04:23 Published in Health & Fitness
WASHINGTON (AP) — Those nutrition labels on the back of food packages may soon become easier to read.
 
The Food and Drug Administration says knowledge about nutrition has evolved over the last 20 years, and the labels need to reflect that.
 
As the agency considers revisions, nutritionists and other health experts have their own wish list of desired changes.
 
The number of calories should be more prominent, they say, and the amount of added sugar and percentage of whole wheat in the food should be included. They also want more clarity on how serving sizes are defined.
 
"There's a feeling that nutrition labels haven't been as effective as they should be," says Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "When you look at the label, there are roughly two dozen numbers of substances that people aren't intuitively familiar with."
 
For example, he says, most of the nutrients are listed in grams, the metric system's basic unit of mass. Jacobson says people don't really understand what a gram is.
 
Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods, says 20 years ago "there was a big focus on fat, and fat undifferentiated." Since then, health providers have focused more on calories and warned people away from saturated and trans fats more than all fats. Trans fats were separated out on the label in 2006.
 
The nutrition facts label "is now 20 years old, the food environment has changed and our dietary guidance has changed," says Taylor, who was at the agency in the early 1990s when the FDA first introduced the label at the behest of Congress. "It's important to keep this updated so what is iconic doesn't become a relic."
 
The FDA has sent guidelines for the new labels to the White House, but Taylor would not estimate when they might be released. The FDA has been working on the issue for a decade, he said.
 
There's evidence that more people are reading the labels in recent years.
 
According to an Agriculture Department study released this month, a greater percentage of adults reported using the nutrition facts panel and other claims on food packages "always or most of the time" in 2009 and 2010 compared with two years earlier.
 
The USDA study said 42 percent of working adults used the panel always or most of the time in 2009 and 2010, up from 34 percent. Older adults used it 57 percent of the time during that period, up from 51 percent.
 
One expected change in the label is to make the calorie listing more prominent, and Regina Hildwine of the Grocery Manufacturers Association said that could be useful to consumers. Her group represents the nation's largest food companies.
 
Hildwine said FDA also has suggested that it may be appropriate to remove the "calories from fat" declaration on the label.
 
It's not yet clear what other changes the FDA could decide on. Nutrition advocates are hoping the agency adds a line for sugars and syrups that are not naturally occurring in foods and drinks and are added when they are processed or prepared. Right now, some sugars are listed separately among the ingredients and some are not.
 
It may be difficult for the FDA to figure out how to calculate added sugars, however. Food manufacturers are adding naturally occurring sugars to their products so they can label them as natural — but the nutrition content is no different.
 
Other suggestions from health advocates:
 
— Add the percentage of whole wheat to the label. Many manufacturers will label products "whole wheat" when there is really only a small percentage of it in the food.
 
— Clearer measurements. Jacobson of CSPI and others have suggested that the FDA use teaspoons, as well as grams, for added sugars, since consumers can envision a teaspoon.
 
— Serving sizes that make sense. There's no easy answer, but health experts say that single-size servings that are clearly meant to be eaten in one sitting will often list two or three servings on the label, making the calorie and other nutrient information deceptive. FDA said last year that it may add another column to the labels, listing nutrition information per serving and per container. The agency may also adjust recommended serving sizes for some foods.
 
— Package-front labeling. Beyond the panel on the back, nutrition experts have pushed for labels on the package front for certain nutrients so consumers can see them more easily. The FDA said several years ago it would issue guidelines for front of pack labeling, but later said it would hold off to see whether the industry could create its own labels.
 
Tracy Fox, a Washington-based nutrition consultant, says clearer information is needed to balance the billions of dollars a year that the food industry spends on food marketing.
 
"There's a lot of information there, it's messy," she says. "There may be a way to call out certain things and put them in context."

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