Federal Aviation Administration Loosens Rules for Passenger Use of Electronic Devices on Flights

Air travelers will be able to use tablets and other electronic gadgets during “all phases of flight.” The decision by the Federal Aviation Administration, likely to take effect before Jan. 1, requires airlines to first demonstrate that their aircraft can tolerate the interference. The FAA administrator, Michael P. Huerta, said he expected that, with rare exceptions, airlines would allow the use of tablets, MP3 players and smartphones in “airplane mode,” with their cell connections off. Cellphone conversations still will be banned during the entire flight and using the Internet will remain prohibited when the plane is less than 10,000 feet in the air. The decision changes a 50-year-old policy restricting the use of electronics on airliners. The New York Times, USA Today

New York City Council votes to bar smokers younger than 21 from buying cigarettes. The move, which awaits Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s signature, will make the city one of the few places in the nation, and by far the largest, to raise the legal tobacco-purchasing age that high. The bill will raise from 18 to 21 the purchasing age for cigarettes as well as other tobacco products and e-cigarettes. The City Council also approved a bill that sets minimum prices for tobacco cigarettes and steps up law enforcement on illegal tobacco sales. Bloomberg, a strong supporter of the tough smoking restrictions, has 30 days to sign the bills into law. The minimum age bill will take effect 180 days after enactment. Similar legislation is expected to come to a vote in Hawaii in December. The Associated Press

Analysis detects widespread contamination in imported spices. The Food and Drug Administration review found that 12 percent of spices brought to the U.S. are contaminated with insect parts, whole insects, rodent hairs and related material. The agency also said nearly 7 percent of spice imports are tainted with salmonella, toxic bacteria that can cause severe illness in humans. Contamination involving insect parts and salmonella, likely linked to poor storage and processing practices, showed up twice as often as it does in other types of imported food, U.S. officials said. Fewer than 2,000 people had their illnesses definitively tied to tainted spices from 1973 to 2010, but officials said the problems might be seriously underreported. The New York Times, The Associated Press

Administrative law judge calls for $6.75 million fine against utility for delayed disclosure of gas pipeline flaws. The judge faulted Pacific Gas and Electric Co. for problems with a San Carlos, Calif., pipeline that were “distressingly similar” to flaws that contributed to the deadly San Bruno, Calif., gas line explosion in 2010. In a recommendation to the California Public Utilities Commission, the judge said PG&E showed “a lack of candor and appreciation of the public interest” by waiting several months to notify the state of the San Carlos problems and, after that, by downplaying the issue. The utility discovered in October 2012 that the line had notoriously problematic seam welds dating back to the 1920s. San Francisco Chronicle

Suffocation death of an Arkansas truck maintenance worker leads to proposed fines of $113,400. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration accused Sherman Brothers Trucking, which does business as Team Transport, of 11 violations. That included a willful violation, OSHA’s most serious charge. OSHA began investigating after a temporary worker was found unconscious inside a tanker trailer in April at the company’s site in Crossett, Ark. The worker, who was cleaning inside the tanker, later died of asphyxiation. “Confined spaces can potentially contain hazardous atmospheres. In this case, the employer failed to implement all aspects of a confined space program, including training its workers,” an OSHA official said. OSHA, Arkansas Business

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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