Dispatches > In Brief

In Brief

"In Brief" Continued...

Issue: "When liberals seize a state," Aug. 31, 2002

Reports of RU-486 dangers have trickled in this year. In April, Danco Laboratories, the drug's American manufacturers, issued an alert that two women had died, one from an ectopic pregnancy and one from a fatal bacterial infection. Canadian drug trials were halted when a participating woman died.

The FDA's own "adverse events" reporting system has received some reports, including life-threatening events suffered by two 15-year-old girls. But the FDA has no enforcement mechanism that requires Danco to share all the reports it receives on negative effects.

"How many have there really been? We just don't have any idea," complained Dr. David Hager of the Christian Medical Association.

What happens now? The petition should trigger the FDA to conduct an internal investigation of its approval procedures. In the meantime, pro-lifers insist that all these scientific shortcuts put a big dent in the argument of abortion advocates that their greatest concern is the life and health of the mother. | Tim Graham

The shoes still fit

Out with the new, in with the old. Growing numbers of teenagers today reject hip, hyper-expensive sports shoes for designs from a generation ago. Happily for parents, these classic models are less expensive than the latest styles.

What some call "old-school" sneakers have retro looks like those of the 1970s and '80s. Dozens of old designs have returned to meet the demand, like the Nike Cortez, the Converse Weapon, and the Adidas Copenhagen. Such shoes now make up about one-quarter of the $5 billion global sports shoe market. At Footlocker stores, the classic shoe rack exploded in size last May; it now takes up half of the chain's displays of men's athletic shoes.

Price may be driving this boom. Most of the retro shoes sell for under $100 a pair, even when bearing major logos, while the newest lines cost around $160. Still, the rise of old-school sneakers may be a sign of a trend away from the ultramodern toward the tried and true.

Old designs are also attractive for shoe companies. They paid for the designs years ago and the shoes don't require costly marketing campaigns. Teenagers are snapping them up, and older customers like rediscovering shoes they wore years ago.

The king of all old-school shoes may be the Converse canvas Chuck Taylor All Stars. The model has scarcely changed since its 1917 debut, and Converse reportedly has sold over 500 million pairs of the classic basketball shoe.

Leopard changes spots

Raymond Leopard feels guilty-and he wants tobacco companies to pay $65 million as his penance.

Mr. Leopard modeled for R.J. Reynolds cigarette ads between 1978 and 1980, but he claims that he didn't understand at the time the dangers of smoking. So now he's suing R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and one-time parent company R.J.R. Nabisco for $65 million in "damages." But lawyers for the companies last week tried to have the suit dismissed.

The former model, now 52, posed as the "Winston Man" in magazine ads. He said they featured a made-up testimonial that he smoked Winstons because of the taste. But the model claims he never smoked the brand-and even had to leave the photo studio to smoke because he used a competing brand.

Saying that millions died because of his work, Mr. Leopard wants to use the $65 million to promote an anti-tobacco message. "Back when I did the ads ... I was a health nut," Mr. Leopard said. "I was a vegetarian; I did smoke, I smoked a different brand," he said. "I thought basically it makes you winded."

The companies call Mr. Leopard's lawsuit frivolous, and they filed a motion to have the case dismissed. He "seeks to recover $40 million in compensatory damages, in addition to punitive damages for alleged health effects of smoking even though [his] complaint never alleges the plaintiff ever smoked a single Winston cigarette," the motion said. "That is untenable."

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