Bay Area Briefs

Saturday December 15, 2001


New BART dog sniffs onboard for drugs




SAN FRANCISCO — Officer Millie, a black labrador retriever, is roaming the Bay Area Rapid Transit system sniffing for riders who might have thought the train was an easy way to transport narcotics. 

The drug sniffing dog started work Wednesday night as part of a new drug enforcement program by BART and U.S. Customs Service. The first day’s work resulted in four arrests. Three were minor citations, police said. 

BART Police Cmdr. Wade Gomes said the program is a way to stem the drug transportation flow, which might become even more important after BART completes its new station at San Francisco International Airport next year. 

BART is working together with customs agents, who are in charge of the dogs. The dog walks along and sniffs around the passengers. When the dog smells drugs, it simply sits next to the suspect and looks at him or her. 

Dale Gieringer, coordinator of the California chapter of NORML, the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, which supports legalizing marijuana, said people who use marijuana for medical purposes might also unfairly be caught and cited. 





School board bans  

sugary foods




OAKLAND — The school board has barred the sale of substances that are consumed in dangerous amounts on many of the city’s campuses: soft drinks and sweets. 

Students looking for their daily sugar fixes won’t be able to score on campus anymore, the Oakland Unified School District board decided Wednesday over objections from some board members who said the move would take money away from various school programs. 

Oakland may be the first district in the state to pass such a wide-reaching embargo against the sale of sweet drinks and foods, experts in the field of school nutrition said. 

Whether the ban can be enforced, however, is another matter. And students and teachers say they use money from candy sales to pay for everything from camping trips to sports equipment to ink ribbons for fax machines. 

Vending machines alone bring in an estimated $200,000 a year for schools. 


CASTRO VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — Within a 10-month period in 1999, three women who worked in the same office at Eden Medical Center were diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, a very rare and aggressive type of the disease that strikes just a few dozen women in the Bay Area every year. 

One of the women died last month. Now, the other two are trying to unravel a medical mystery, and they suspect toxic materials in the building where they had handled the hospital’s billing for more than 13 years. 

The suit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court this week, says the work environment led to various cancers and other illnesses. It also argues the hospital fired the employees for reporting the problems. The suit asks for unspecified monetary damages for lost wages and medical expenses. 

Eden spokeswoman Cassandra Phelps denied the allegations, saying hospital and state health officials studied the building but came up with no problems another than an inadequate ventilation system that was later fixed. 

The employees were not terminated, she said, but rather offered several options, including other positions, after billing services were contracted to an outside company. All of them declined the offers, she said,