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Published Oct. 23, 2008

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that adult smokers under 65 get a pneumococcal vaccine to protect against bacteria that cause pneumonia, meningitis and other illnesses.

Federal officials usually adopt recommendations made by the panel. The vote means more than 31-million adult smokers probably will soon be called on to get the shot.

Studies have shown that smokers are about four times more likely than nonsmokers to suffer pneumococcal disease. Also, the more someone smokes each day, the higher the odds they'll develop the illnesses.

Why smokers are more susceptible is not known for sure, but some scientists believe it has to do with smoking-caused damage that allows the bacteria to more easily attach to the lungs and windpipe.

The shot is less than perfect. It is designed to protect against 23 strains of pneumococcal bacteria. But it hasn't proved very effective against pneumonia, or in people with weakened immune systems and people age 80 or older.

Also, some members said it might be more cost effective to recommend the vaccine for smokers who were at least age 40, because the disease is uncommon in young smokers.

Scientists identify 26 lung cancer genes

In the largest effort of its kind, scientists have identified 26 genes that, when damaged, appear to promote lung cancer. It's a step toward developing new treatments that can be tailored to specific patients. The results suggest that some drugs already in use or being studied for other purposes may work in people whose tumors show certain mutations. More generally, by knowing what genes promote the development of lung cancer, scientists get targets for developing new therapies.

Publisher to release Pope's complete pontifications

The Vatican and a German publishing house say they will publish the complete works of Pope Benedict XVI - more than 50 years of his writings from university professor to pontiff. The first of the 16-volume collection titled Complete Works was presented at the Vatican on Wednesday. It deals with Benedict's thoughts on Catholic liturgy. The publisher plans to put out two volumes a year.

L.A. councilman: Elephants need more elbow room, too

Bob Barker, Alicia Silverstone and other celebrities are joining Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas' effort to move elephants from the Los Angeles Zoo to a sanctuary where they can roam free - or at least close to it. Cardenas filed two motions Tuesday at the City Council meeting to reallocate what's left of the $39-million approved for the elephant exhibit and open a 60-acre sanctuary in the northern San Fernando Valley. He said the 3-1/2-acre "Pachyderm Forest" at the zoo will be too small to keep elephants happy and healthy.

Have ideas to spruce up an icon?

The National Park Service is considering a design competition to revitalize the grounds at St. Louis' famed Gateway Arch.

One goal expressed by many in the community is to better integrate the park with downtown and to attract people to both.

A potential design competition would hinge on funding. Designers would be given parameters of what the Park Service was seeking and requirements to preserve the site's landmark designation, but would also encourage creativity.