Wednesday Briefing

Judge bars import of anesthesia drug used in executions. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon sided with lawyers for death row inmates in Tennessee, Arizona and California who challenged the use of unapproved, foreign-produced sodium thiopental. He found that the Food and Drug Administration ignored the law when it allowed the drug to be imported. Sodium thiopental is used to put inmates to sleep before other lethal drugs are administered. The drug’s U.S. manufacturer announced last year that it would no longer produce it, forcing corrections officials to delay executions. Many of the nation’s 34 death penalty states have switched to another drug, pentobarbital. The Associated Press, Reuters

Fears grow over possibility of a massive explosion at a leaking gas rig in the North Sea. The concern is over the potential for an environmental disaster involving the troubled Elgin platform, 140 miles east of Aberdeen, Scotland. Total, the French firm operating the platform, confirmed that a sheen of oil “condensates” now covers the water near the platform, and there also is a growing methane gas “cloud” at the site. But Total played down the risks, even while it acknowledged that stopping the leak could take six months. “The situation is currently stable. We continue to take all possible measures to try to identify the source and cause of the leak and to bring it under control,” the company said. The Guardian, Reuters

Regulators bar utility from restarting Southern California nuclear power plant. The action by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which cited serious concerns about equipment failures, prevents Southern California Edison from resuming operations at its San Onofre plant until the cause of the recent problems are determined. The plant has been shut for two months, ever since a tube leak in one of the plant’s steam generators released a small amount of radioactive steam. Unusual wear later was found on hundreds of tubes carrying radioactive water. Separately, an environmental group charged that the utility misled regulators about design changes possibly linked to the tube problems. Los Angeles Times, The Associated Press

Study blames 22 deaths on flawed wires connecting hearts to implanted defibrillators. An analysis published in the journal Heart Rhythm found that a short circuit in wires made by St. Jude Medical Inc. were responsible for the deaths over about a five-year period. “The deaths are rare, but more frequent than you would expect,” said the lead author of the study. The wires, called leads, still are implanted in about 79,000 patients in the U.S., and they are considered dangerous to remove. St. Jude pulled the products from the market in 2010, and federal officials issued an official recall in 2011. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg

Workplace safety regulators propose penalties of $187,100 against poultry processor in Georgia. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration accused the Gainesville, Ga., operation of KD Acquisition, which does business as Coleman Natural Foods, with 11 safety violations, including two repeat violations. One of those charges involved operating the conveyor belt system without machine guards to protect workers from rotating parts, flying chips and sparks. Two months ago OSHA cited the company’s Braselton, Ga., plant, for eight violations and proposed $142,150 in fines. OSHA, Gainesville Times

Cadillac offering safety seat that alerts drivers about hazards. The groundbreaking technology, which will debut on the 2013 XTS, ATS and SRX models, includes a driver’s seat that vibrates like a cellphone as a warning when the car’s sensors and cameras detect the risk of an accident. If an accident is imminent, warning lights on the dashboard also will be set off. In some cases, automatic controls will take over braking or accelerating if the driver fails to react. The first of the cars equipped with the safety seat, the XTS full-size sedan, comes out next month. Detroit Free Press

Recalls: Golden smell dried potatoes

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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