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Nation roundup for April 9

Trial begins over baby food lead

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A trial began on Monday in a lawsuit filed by an environmental group against the nation’s largest baby food makers aimed at forcing the companies to alert consumers that some products contain low amounts of lead.

The trial will help determine if the products must carry warning labels in California.

Gerber Products Co., Del Monte Foods, Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp. and many other makers of baby foods and juices are selling products containing lead at levels that require warning labels under California Proposition 65, the Environmental Law Foundation asserts in the suit filed in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland.

Lawyers for the food companies say the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tested products targeted in the lawsuit and decided levels were below the federal standards that require a warning.

FDA tests on products named in the lawsuit also found lead levels “below FDA’s current tolerable intake levels for lead.”

But both sides in the case agree on one fact: Baby foods containing carrots, peaches, pears and sweet potatoes have some lead. Also covered by the suit are grape juice and fruit cocktail.

Lead exposure can damage a child’s developing brain and lead to a lower IQ.

Poop overwhelms beach enclave

SAN DIEGO (AP) — La Jolla’s jagged coastline is strictly protected by environmental laws to ensure the San Diego community remains the kind of seaside jewel that has attracted swanky restaurants, top-flight hotels and some of the nation’s rich and famous.

Tourists flock to the place. So do birds. Lots of birds. And with those birds comes lots of poop.

So rather than gasping in amazement at the beautiful views, some are holding their noses from the stench coming from the droppings that cake coastal rocks and outcroppings near its business district.

“We’ve had to relocate tables inside because when people go out to the patio, some are like ‘Oh my God. I can’t handle the smell,’” said Christina Collignon, a hostess at Eddie V’s, a steak and seafood restaurant perched on a cliff straight up from the guano-coated rocks.

On a recent afternoon, tourists on spring break walked along the sea wall. Some scrunched up their faces in disgust.

“It smells like something dead,” said Meghan Brummett as she looked at the birds with her husband and children. The family was visiting from Brawley, a farming town two hours east of San Diego.

Biologists say the odor is the smell of success: Environmental protections put in place over the past few decades have brought back endangered species.

Cormorants and brown pelicans nearly became extinct in the 1970s because of the pesticide DDT. The brown pelican was taken off the federal endangered species list in 2010, and its population, including the Caribbean and Latin America, is estimated at more than 650,000. The total U.S. cormorant population is about 2 million.

George Hauer, who owns the gourmet restaurant George’s At The Cove, launched an online petition that has garnered more than 1500 signatures. It states: “The cormorant colony at the La Jolla cove has reached critical mass with their excrement. The smell is overtaking the entire village. The result is a loss of business and a potential public health disaster.”

Indecision reigns on Wall Street

NEW YORK (AP) — Investors are having a hard time making up their minds.

The stock market extended its longest period of indecision in nearly 15 years Monday. For nearly three weeks, the Dow Jones industrial average has alternated between gains and losses, the longest such streak since July 1998.

The flip-flopping follows a decisively strong start to the year that drove both the Dow and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index to record highs. Since mid-March, however, signs of a slowdown in the U.S. and another meltdown in a troubled fringe economy in Europe, this time Cyprus, made investors more cautious.

“It’s almost as if this market is frustrating both the bulls and the bears,” said Ryan Detrick, a senior technical analyst at Schaeffer’s Investment Research. “It’s tough to say buy the dips because then we go down, and we’re not going anywhere.”


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