Study questions valueof knee surgery
BOSTON -- In a surprising finding about a popular knee surgery performed on senior citizens, a study has determined that the procedure is potentially harmful and does nothing to improve patients' weak knees.
The results, published in today's New England Journal of Medicine, could lead to big changes in the way health care providers handle a surgery that is done on more than 300,000 Americans each year.
The arthroscopic surgery is performed to ease the pain of osteoarthritis, the steadily worsening, wear and tear on joints that affects 12 percent of senior citizens. The operation involves clearing out debris or repairing damaged cartilage after making tiny incisions that allows patients to heal quickly.
In a type of study only rarely conducted, some patients got a real knee operation, while others underwent sham surgery.
At every point over the next two years, those who had the fake surgery could climb stairs and walk slightly faster on average than those who had gotten real operations.
Dr. William W. Tipton Jr., executive vice president of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, said other researchers should duplicate the results before doctors, patients and insurance companies react. But he said the study confirms some doctors' growing suspicions.
Sizzling heat in Westincreases wildfire fears
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Withering heat sent temperatures soaring Wednesday across the West, raising wildfire fears and pushing California toward its first serious power shortage of the year.
Air conditioners humming across California drained electricity reserves and prompted the state's first Stage 2 power alert of 2002. Still, regulators said they didn't expect to order the rolling blackouts that left thousands without power last year.
Triple-digit temperatures stretched from Bakersfield to Boise, Idaho, and the sizzling heat was expected to last through the week. Sacramento hit 112 degrees Wednesday and Bakersfield tied its record of 108. Redding was expected to break its all-time record of 118 today.
It was 108 in Reno, Nev., breaking the mountain city's all-time high set in 1931. Four other Nevada cities also set all-time highs Wednesday, including 104 degrees at Carson City, which beat its 1950 record by one degree.
Swimming pools were jammed, residents gobbled up ice cream and fire officials said the heat set off a ceiling sprinkler in at least one Reno home.
Britain seeks to lowermarijuana penalties
LONDON -- The British government wants to downgrade marijuana's status as a drug, putting it on par with steroids rather than heroin or Ecstasy -- a move that would let most users off with a warning.
On Wednesday Prime Minister Tony Blair's government outlined a proposal to the House of Commons that would relax marijuana laws, stopping short of legalization. The goal is to let police focus their enforcement efforts on harder drugs.
Blair's Labor Party has a large majority in Parliament and the proposal is virtually certain to pass.
Under the plan, marijuana would be downgraded from a Class B to a Class C drug, making its use and possession less serious crimes, Home Secretary David Blunkett said in outlining the plan to the House of Commons. Police would retain the authority to arrest those caught with marijuana, but in most cases would simply confiscate the drug and issue a warning.
"The message to young people and families must be open, honest and believable," Blunkett said. "Cannabis is a potentially harmful drug and should remain illegal. However, it is not comparable with crack, heroin and Ecstasy."
Condit libel suit
FRESNO, Calif. -- The wife of Rep. Gary Condit can pursue her $10 million defamation suit against the National Enquirer over a headline that said she attacked Chandra Levy, a judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger rejected the tabloid's arguments to dismiss Carolyn Condit's lawsuit. The story was published last summer after the former Washington intern vanished.
The Enquirer published headlines on its Web site in July and on its Aug. 7 front page that said: "Cops: Condit's Wife Attacked Chandra."
The publication reported that Carolyn Condit called her husband's Washington condominium from her home and "flew into a rage" during a "heated phone screamfest" with Levy. The story, based on an unidentified source, said the confrontation occurred just before Levy vanished.
Carolyn Condit said she never met Levy or spoke with her. Washington police have said there was no truth to the report.