Salaries of federal workers trailing private-sector pay

Official numbers released by the government last week show salaries of federal workers falling slightly further behind their private-sector counterparts in the past year, by an average of 2.1 percent across the country.

The Washington-Baltimore area showed one of the largest gaps, with federal workers’ pay 38 percent behind the private sector.

The new numbers were in Friday’s annual report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to the Federal Salary Council, a presidentially appointed panel tasked with recommending pay for federal workers. The gap cited Friday will help the council recommend government raises for 2012. Congress has not approved a raise for 2011.

The government’s numbers also show that higher-paid, more senior employees tend to fall behind their counterparts at private companies, whereas lower-paid employees in government come out ahead.


FDA challenging court on e-cigarette ruling

Electronic cigarettes are pitting regulators against some anti-smoking forces over whether to suspend sales until their true safety and effectiveness can be proven.

Proponents of the battery-powered devices urge the Food and Drug Administration to consider them a tool for smokers seeking a tobacco-free alternative. The American Lung Association wants them banned unless proven in clinical drug trials.

“The tobacco-control community is kind of split” on e-cigarettes, Kenneth Warner, dean of the University of Michigan School of Public Health, said in an interview. “Some people are convinced that anything that has any kind of nicotine or tobacco in it must be subject to the FDA’s review and approval.”

The FDA is appealing a U.S. District Court ruling that the agency lacks authority to regulate the devices as drugs because they are recreational, not therapeutic. The FDA said e-cigarettes may work with smokers the way methadone clinics wean heroin addicts by giving them a less harmful form of an addictive substance.


Berlusconi causes new stir trying to defend himself

Premier Silvio Berlusconi dismissed calls Tuesday to resign over his involvement with an underage Moroccan runaway – and even created a new uproar by claiming it was better to love beautiful girls than gays.

His comments sparked outrage from gay rights groups and fueled new calls for him to step down.

Opposition politicians have charged that Berlusconi abused his office by calling Milan police in May when the then-17-year-old runaway nicknamed Ruby was detained for alleged theft.

HARARE, Zimbabwe

Man taking a shower latest victim of lions

A Zimbabwean man was devoured by a pride of lions while taking a shower in a camp in the north of the country, a conservation body said Tuesday.

The man was attacked by the lions while using an outside shower at a fishing camp near Mana Pools National Park in the north of the country, Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the Zimbabwean Conservation Task Force told the German news agency dpa.

Mana Pools is on the Zambezi River. The area is popular with hunting and fishing enthusiasts, most of whom stay in basic camps, with little protection against attack by wild animals.

The attack is the latest in a string of lion attacks in the area, according to Rodrigues.

Conservationists say the high level of wildlife poaching in Zimbabwe is robbing predators, like lions, of food and making animals more aggressive towards humans.

Antelope, which lions feed on, are regularly poached by local communities for bushmeat.