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Susan Smith-Harmon

Susan Smith-Harmon

Cabin fever sets in amid relentless cold, snow

Tuesday, 04 February 2014 03:23 Published in National News
   ST. LOUIS (AP) — T.J. Rutherford loves to golf, even in the winter. Just not this winter.
   With single-digit temperatures and sub-zero wind chills becoming the norm from the Midwest to the East Coast, often combined with snow or ice, the 59-year-old and his Illinois golfing buddies are no longer just bundling up. They're staying inside.
   "I'm on my third 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle," said Rutherford, who lives in Carterville, about 100 miles southeast of St. Louis. "I haven't done that in a long time."
  Cabin fever is setting in for countless Americans as bitter cold, heavy snowfall and paralyzing ice storms keep pounding a large swath of the country. School districts across two-thirds of the U.S. are reporting higher than normal numbers of snow days, while social service agencies are trying to work around the forecasts to get to people in need.
   Heavy snow was falling — again — in New York on Monday, and up to 8 inches of snow was expected Tuesday in Kansas City, Mo. Later this week, snow was forecast from the Plains to the East Coast, with no break in the cold.
   Some records have been broken — Detroit, for example, recorded 39.1 inches of snow in January, a record for the month — but the weather isn't especially unusual, said Alex Sosnowski, senior meteorologist for AccuWeather. He said this winter seems worse because so many recent winters have been mild.
   "A lot of people probably are going a little stir crazy," he said. "But if you look at the broad picture, this is probably a once in 10- to 20-year winter. We were probably due for it a little bit."
   That isn't welcome news for those holed up at home, especially parents whose children keep racking up snow days.
   In Indiana, where some schools were closed for a full week in January because of the weather and road conditions, Joanne Kehoe has to entertain her four children, ages 2 through 8, when classes get cancelled in Indianapolis. She said it can be especially trying because her oldest is autistic and has a "tendency to bolt" if he is off his routine, so that limits where the family can go.
   It helps that her husband, an attorney, can often take time off work.
   "We usually divide and conquer," Kehoe said, acknowledging that shoveling snow while listening to e-books provides her "a little quiet time."
   Amy Murnan has been homebound with her four children — ages 8, 10, 12 and 13 — in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina on four snow days, an unusually large number for a region well-accustomed to tough winters. But she welcomes the break.
   "We're really busy and we spend most of the time running around to games and practices and lessons," Murnan said. "So it was actually kind of great for me to have nowhere to be and nothing to do. We don't get that very often."
   In suburban St. Louis, students in the Rockwood School District have already missed more than a week of school because of snow or ice. One snow day was called because it was too cold for the buses to start.
   "After the eighth snow day, even the kids were like, 'We're happy to be in school,'" district spokeswoman Cathy Orta said. "But safety is our first priority."
   The weather also has taxed communities' pocketbooks.
   St. Louis has already opened the city's main emergency homeless shelter more days than budgeted. In Kansas, county officials keep lists of people who live in areas that tend to become isolated in winter storms, and can enlist the National Guard to help if needed, said Sharon Watson, a spokeswoman for the state adjutant general.
   Programs that provide in-home services, such as Meals on Wheels, have had to plan around the forecasts. Sarah McKinney, who runs the program in Athens, Ga., said last week's ice storm forced the program to shut down for two days. Volunteers, aware of the forecast, provided boxed meals in advance, so the seniors had plenty to eat.
   The bigger concern, McKinney said, is that the volunteers weren't able to check on their clients.
   "We check on these people five to seven days a week and we're seeing them face-to-face," McKinney said. "We don't like to let two full business days pass."
   Snow plow crews in the City of St. Louis are changing their strategy for clearing the roads during this storm.
   One of the chief complaints with the last big winter storm was that plows clearing main thoroughfares had created snow mounds that blocked the streets leading into residential areas.  
   Not this time.  City Streets Director Todd Waelterman tells Fox 2 News that after the plows pass by, a second crew will hit the area.  "We'll go in with a two-man crew and we'll actually scoop those out and push that snow to the side to try to eliminate the extra snow we've created there," he said.
   As to whether the side streets themselves will be plowed, Waelterman says he's still reviewing his department's overall policies for handling residential streets.

FDA launching anti-smoking campaign aimed at youth

Tuesday, 04 February 2014 01:52 Published in Health & Fitness
   WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration is using ads that depict yellow teeth and wrinkled skin to show the nation's at-risk youth the costs associated with cigarette smoking.
   The federal agency said Tuesday it is launching a $115 million multimedia education campaign called "The Real Cost" that's aimed at stopping teenagers from smoking and encouraging them to quit.
   Advertisements will run in more than 200 markets throughout the U.S. for at least one year beginning Feb. 11. The campaign will include ads on TV stations such as MTV and print spots in magazines like Teen Vogue. It also will use social media.
   "Our kids are the replacement customers for the addicted adult smokers who die or quit each day," said Mitch Zeller, the director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products. "And that's why we think it's so important to reach out to them — not to lecture them, not to throw statistics at them — but to reach them in a way that will get them to rethink their relationship with tobacco use."
   Zeller, who oversaw the anti-tobacco "Truth" campaign while working at the nonprofit American Legacy Foundation time in the early 2000s, called the new campaign a "compelling, provocative and somewhat graphic way" of grabbing the attention of more than 10 million young people ages 12 to 17 that are open to, or are already experimenting with, cigarettes.
   According to the FDA, nearly 90 percent of adult smokers started using cigarettes by age 18 and more than 700 kids under 18 become daily smokers each day. The agency aims to reduce the number of youth cigarette smokers by at least 300,000 within three years.
   "While most teens understand the serious health risks associated with tobacco use, they often don't believe the long-term consequences will ever apply to them," said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. "We'll highlight some of the real costs and health consequences associated with tobacco use by focusing on some of the things that really matter to teens — their outward appearance and having control and independence over their lives."
   Two of the TV ads show teens walking into a corner store to buy cigarettes. When the cashier tells them it's going to cost them more than they have, the teens proceed to tear off a piece of their skin and use pliers to pull out a tooth in order to pay for their cigarettes. Other ads portray cigarettes as a man dressed in a dirty white shirt and khaki pants bullying teens and another shows teeth being destroyed by a ray gun shooting cigarettes.
   The FDA is evaluating the impact of the campaign by following 8,000 people between the ages of 11 and 16 for two years to assess changes in tobacco-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviors.
   The campaign announced Tuesday is the first in a series of campaigns to educate the public about the dangers of tobacco use.
   In 2011, the FDA said it planned to spend about $600 million over five years on the campaigns aimed at reducing death and disease caused by tobacco, which is responsible for about 480,000 deaths a year in the U.S.
   Tobacco companies are footing the bill for the campaigns through fees charged by the FDA under a 2009 law that gave the agency authority over the tobacco industry.
   Future campaigns will target young adults ages 18-24 and people who influence teens, including parents, family members and peers. Other audiences of special interest include minorities, gays, people with disabilities, the military, pregnant women, people living in rural areas, and low-income people.

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