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Friday, December 17, 2004; Page A19

Pentagon Asks to Resume Anthrax Vaccinations

The Pentagon is seeking emergency authority to resume administering the anthrax vaccine, saying troops in South Korea and the Middle East are at risk.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz made the request in a Dec. 10 letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. Wolfowitz cited "a significant potential for a military emergency involving a heightened risk to United States military forces of attack with anthrax."

He did not describe any specific threat but pointed to a classified intelligence assessment from November 2004 regarding anthrax. He did not detail the assessment.

HHS is considering the request, a department spokesman said.

Anthrax vaccinations by the military have been suspended since late October, when a federal judge ordered the military to stop requiring personnel to take the vaccine. The judge found fault with the way the Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine.

Data Connecting Gun Control, Violence Called Inconclusive

A new analysis of efforts to control violence by restricting guns says there is not enough evidence to reach valid conclusions about their effectiveness.

The National Research Council said that a major research program on firearms is needed.

"Policy questions related to gun ownership and proposals for gun control touch on some of the most contentious issues in American politics," said Charles F. Wellford, chairman of the committee that wrote yesterday's report. "The available data are too weak to support strong conclusions."

Among the questions needing answers are whether there should be restrictions on who may possess a firearm or on the number or types of guns that can be purchased and whether safety locks should be required, said Wellford, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Maryland.

2004 Is Fourth-Warmest Year on Record Worldwide

This year has been the fourth warmest worldwide since records began, and 2005 is forecast to be hotter, the Met Office, the British weather forecasting and monitoring agency, said in a statement.

Global mean surface temperature over land and sea was 0.44 degrees Celsius higher than the average for 1961 to 1990 as of yesterday, and the year will probably end as the fourth warmest since 1861, the Met Office said.

Scientists have warned that global warming brought on by man-made activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, poses a risk to the environment and has caused a rise in extreme weather such as hurricanes. Such events caused more than $90 billion of losses in the first 10 months of the year, the United Nations said yesterday.

Weather events this year, including a record 10 typhoons in Japan and the first hurricane ever in South America, cost insurance companies $35 billion through October, the United Nations said, citing Munich Re, the world's largest reinsurer.

The Met Office forecasts that temperatures in 2005 will be about 0.51 degrees Celsius warmer than the 1961 to 1990 average, which would make it the second hottest on record.

-- From News Services

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