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Proportion of US adults who smoke falls to 18%

– Fewer U.S. adults are smoking, a new government report says: Last year, about 18 percent of adults participating in a national health survey described themselves as current smokers.

The nation’s smoking rate generally has been falling for decades but had seemed to stall at around 20 percent to 21 percent for about seven years.

Health officials have not yet concluded why the rate dropped, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The CDC is releasing its study today.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the United States.


Airplane passengers subdue ranting man

Passengers aboard a flight from Hong Kong jumped on a man who began ranting about national security and the CIA, then bound his hands and feet for the final six hours of the flight to Newark, N.J., on Monday.

The man, described by passengers as an American, asked that United Airlines Flight 116 be diverted to Canada as he screamed about being afraid of the FBI and of being poisoned, passengers said.

New dig underway for Hoffa’s remains

Federal agents revived the hunt for the remains of Jimmy Hoffa on Monday, digging around in a suburban Detroit field where a reputed Mafia captain says the Teamsters boss’s body was buried.

Authorities used excavation equipment to root around in the Oakland Township property, about 25 miles north of Detroit. The FBI halted the search for the day at about 7 p.m., and planned to resume their efforts Tuesday.

Komen for the Cure appoints new CEO

Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced Monday that Judith Salerno, a physician with a long career in health policy and research, will become the breast cancer charity’s new president and CEO.

Nancy Brinker, whose promise to her dying sister begat a fundraising powerhouse that has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in cancer research, announced last summer she would step down following an onslaught of criticism over Komen’s decision – quickly reversed – to stop giving grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings.

Shareholder: Split, sell food company

One of Smithfield Foods Inc.’s largest shareholders says a $4.72 billion takeover bid from China’s largest meat producer falls short of what the company would be worth if sold off piece by piece.

In a letter to the Smithfield, Va.-based pork producer’s board of directors Monday, the New York investment firm Starboard Value LP estimated the company’s value at $9 billion to $10.8 billion.

The deal, which remains subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals, would be the largest takeover of a U.S. company by a Chinese firm.

Bulger’s FBI deal stunned colleague

An ex-gangster who admitted killing 20 people was unemotional Monday when describing his line of work at the trial of his former partner, James “Whitey” Bulger, but called himself heartbroken when he learned that Bulger had become an FBI informant.

John Martorano said he was stunned to learn years later that Bulger and Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi had been providing information to the FBI at the same time they were committing crimes for the gang.

“After I heard that they were informants, it sort of broke my heart,” he said.

Martorano, 72, is one of three former Bulger cohorts who cooperated with the government and agreed to testify against Bulger and others in return for reduced sentences.

8 new astronauts hired, half women

NASA has eight new astronauts – its first new batch in four years. Four are women, the highest percentage of female astronaut candidates ever selected by NASA.

Monday’s announcement came on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the launch of the first American woman in space, Sally Ride. She died last summer.

All in their 30s, they were chosen from more than 6,000 applications received early last year, the second largest number ever received. They will join 49 astronauts currently at NASA.

The number has dwindled ever since the space shuttles stopped flying in 2011. Many astronauts quit rather than get in a lengthy line for relatively few slots for long-term missions aboard the International Space Station.


Thousands protest over Brazil services

More than 100,000 people took to the streets in overwhelmingly peaceful protests in at least eight cities Monday, demonstrations that voiced the deep frustrations Brazilians feel about carrying heavy tax burdens but receiving woeful returns in public education, health, security and transportation.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil’s economic hub, at least 65,000 protesters gathered at a small, treeless plaza, with drummers beating out samba rhythms as the crowds chanted anti-corruption jingles. They also focused on the cause that sparked the protests last week – a 10-cent hike in bus and subway fares.

Violence was seen in Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and the southern city of Porto Alegre. Police clashed with clusters of protesters in those cities, at times using tear gas to disperse them.

Ancient Cambodian city found by lasers

New airborne laser scanning data has uncovered a network of roadways and canals, illustrating an entire bustling ancient city linking Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat temples complex.

The discovery was announced late Monday in a peer-reviewed paper released early by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The laser scanning shows a previously undocumented formal urban planned landscape integrating the 1,200-year old temples. It’s all obscured by dense forest.