Spain works to clean up oil off its coast

Winds reaching 60 mph and high waves hindered shoreline cleanup and seafood farmers scrambled to salvage the cockle, mussel and clam harvest yesterday, a day after the tanker Prestige and its cargo of fuel oil sank off Spain.

Yet the high winds, which pushed waves to 26 feet, helped break up a large oil slick off Portugal as Spanish authorities worried the storm was shoving a second fuel oil slick closer to the coast.

Seeking to ease fears of an Exxon Valdez-style catastrophe, Spain’s Interior Ministry said no fuel had spilled since the single-hulled vessel broke apart and sank about 150 miles off the Spanish coast Tuesday, six days after it ruptured in a storm. Officials said they hoped the oil would solidify two miles down in frigid water, limiting damage in the short-term.

The Prestige has spilled about 1.6 million of its 20-million gallon load of heavy fuel oil, a total twice the size of the Exxon Valdez crude-oil spill off Alaska in 1989.

Spain said yesterday it had spotted four oil slicks, including one 10 miles long and 3 miles wide, near the wreckage about 150 miles off the Galician coast.

Two smaller slicks are about 40 miles west of Cape Finisterre, and a third is just off the coast at the Muros inlet, Spanish officials said. Portugal said a large slick it was monitoring Tuesday apparently dispersed in rough seas.

Plans for 7 World Trade Center unveiled

A 750-foot glass-and-steel office tower – with better fireproofing and wider stairs for quick evacuation – will be built on the site of one of the smaller buildings to collapse at the World Trade Center complex. The plans, unveiled yesterday, represent the first major rebuilding project at the World Trade Center to be announced.

The 52-story building at 7 World Trade Center – across the street from the main trade center site – will be sleeker and five stories taller than its predecessor, which collapsed in a raging fire several hours after the twin 110-story towers were destroyed in the Sept. 11 attack.

“The fact that this building is going up now and going up here, right on the site of the old No. 7, says that we will not be intimidated by the terrorists,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Architects are still laboring to create designs for the larger trade center site. Although those plans will not be made final until next year, developer Larry Silverstein and his architect, David Childs of Skidmore Owings & Merrill, said their design for 7 World Trade would serve as a model.

White House to celebrate past pets

At the White House, Christmas this year will go to the dogs. And cats. Even an alligator.

First lady Laura Bush announced yesterday that holiday decorations at the White House will celebrate the pets who have lived in the executive mansion over the years.

Workers in the White House residence have toiled since July on 25 replicas of various first family pets that will adorn the State Floor during the upcoming holidays.

“Our pets have been such a source of comfort and entertainment to us,” Mrs. Bush said in a written statement released while she was in Europe with the president. “This holiday season I thought it would be fun and interesting to learn about the animals that belonged to other presidents over the years, and there are some very interesting ones.”

Trials determine new cancer drug effective

A new drug designed to stop cancer by cutting off its blood supply has surprised experts by showing a tumor shrinkage rate unprecedented for a drug so early in its development.

In the first human trials, involving 23 people with terminal cancer, the tumors of one-quarter of the patients shrank by half or more.

Similar drugs have proved disappointing – prompting no dramatic tumor shrinkage in early tests. Scientists say the latest results, presented yesterday at a meeting in Frankfurt, will likely revive flagging enthusiasm for the approach.

“Any activity in this situation is very promising since everything else has failed. But we did not expect to see such a high number of responses in a range of cancers,” said the study’s leader, Eric Raymond, head of the early drug testing unit at the Gustave-Roussy Institute in Villejuif, France.

Wheelchair that can climb stairs endorsed

Stairs soon may no longer be insurmountable obstacles for some of the nation’s 2 million wheelchair users.

The first wheelchair that can climb stairs – plus shift into four-wheel drive to scoot up a grassy hill and even elevate its occupant for eye-level conversation – took a major step toward the market yesterday, as advisers to the Food and Drug Administration unanimously recommended it be allowed to sell.

But the panel backed a few limitations on the Independence iBOT 3000 Mobility System – which uses sensors and gyroscopes to balance on two wheels and navigate stairs – including that it sell only with a doctor’s prescription.

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