Friday, May 28, 2010

Comment language

Someone left a comment for the post "Big corporations work to kill unemployment benefit."

I appreciate the sentiment, but I'm hoping you will re-post your comment with language that is more appropriate to the tone I try to have for this blog, and less offensive to some people. I don't care if some people are offended by your sentiment, I'm talking about a word that many would be offended by.

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Video discussion of NOAA hurricane predictions for 2010

Multisource political news, world news, and entertainment news analysis by

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Ocean Stored Significant Warming Over Last 16 Years

This will probably mean stronger hurricanes.

ScienceDaily (May 22, 2010) — The upper layer of the world's ocean has warmed since 1993, indicating a strong climate change signal, according to a new study. The energy stored is enough to power nearly 500 100-watt light bulbs per each of the roughly 6.7 billion people on the planet.

"We are seeing the global ocean store more heat than it gives off," said John Lyman, an oceanographer at NOAA's Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, who led an international team of scientists that analyzed nine different estimates of heat content in the upper ocean from 1993 to 2008.

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"The ocean is the biggest reservoir for heat in the climate system," said Josh Willis, an oceanographer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and one of the scientists who contributed to the study. "So as the planet warms, we're finding that 80 to 90 percent of the increased heat ends up in the ocean."

A warming ocean is a direct cause of global sea level rise, since seawater expands and takes up more space as it heats up. The scientists say that this expansion accounts for about one-third to one-half of global sea level rise.

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Dangerous Lung Worms Found in People Who Eat Raw Crayfish

ScienceDaily (May 26, 2010) — If you're headed to a freshwater stream this summer and a friend dares you to eat a raw crayfish -- don't do it. You could end up in the hospital with a severe parasitic infection.

Physicians at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have diagnosed a rare parasitic infection in six people who had consumed raw crayfish from streams and rivers in Missouri. The cases occurred over the past three years, but three have been diagnosed since last September; the latest in April. Before these six, only seven such cases had ever been reported in North America, where the parasite, Paragonimus kellicotti, is common in crayfish.

"The infection, called paragonimiasis, is very rare, so it's extremely unusual to see this many cases in one medical center in a relatively short period of time," says Washington University infectious diseases specialist Gary Weil, MD, professor of medicine and of molecular microbiology, who treated some of the patients. "We are almost certain there are other people out there with the infection who haven't been diagnosed. That's why we want to get the word out."

Paragonimiasis causes fever, cough, chest pain, shortness of breath and extreme fatigue. The infection is generally not fatal, and it is easily treated if properly diagnosed. But the illness is so unusual that most doctors are not aware of it. Most of the patients had received multiple treatments for pneumonia and undergone invasive procedures before they were referred to Barnes-Jewish Hospital or St. Louis Children's Hospital at Washington University Medical Center.

FDA: Some heartburn meds pose long-term fracture risk

(CNN) -- Some heartburn medications could increase the risk of hip, wrist and spine fractures in high doses or with long-term use, the Food and Drug Administration warned.

Such so-called proton pump inhibitors are used for the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease, stomach and small intestine ulcers and inflammation of the esophagus, along with frequent heartburn.

They include esomeprazole, sold under the brand name Nexium, dexlansoprazole (Dexilant). lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec, Zegerid), pantoprazole (Protonix) and rabeprazole (Aciphex). Over-the-counter versions include omeprazole (Prilosec OTC, Zegerid OTC) and lansoprazole (Prevacid 24HR).

The product labeling will be changed to describe the possible increased risk, the FDA said in a statement Tuesday.

"Epidemiology studies suggest a possible increased risk of bone fractures with the use of proton pump inhibitors for one year or longer, or at high doses," said Dr. Joyce Korvick, deputy director for safety in FDA's Division of Gastroenterology Products.

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Anorexia brain shrinkage reversible

updated 11:05 a.m. ET, Thurs., May 27, 2010

Anorexics who lose excessive weight can also see a shrinking in the brain's gray matter. But new research suggests when they reach a healthy body size they also pack on the gray matter volume.

The eating disorder officially known as anorexia nervosa, in which an individual starves him or herself or binges and purges, can lead to all sorts of problems as the person becomes malnourished.

"Anorexia nervosa wreaks havoc on many different parts of the body, including the brain," said study team leader Christina Roberto of Yale University.

Past research has shown that anorexics who had maintained a healthy body weight for at least a year didn't show significant differences in brain volume compared with their counterparts without an eating disorder, suggesting any neural deficits had been rectified. But how fast the matter returns and how this happens over time were not known.

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"Within a few weeks a little over a month we started to see that reversal. Their gray matter didn't fully normalize, but another study suggests if a patient maintains that weight over time it probably will fully normalize."

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In terms of full recovery from the disorder, Roberto said overall about one-third of sufferers get better fully, one-third struggle over time, and one-third remain chronically ill.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

2010 Atlantic hurricane season forecast

I noticed that the media account did not mention the factor of the record level sea surface temperatures.

Posted by: JeffMasters, 3:29 PM GMT on May 27, 2010

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued its 2010 Atlantic hurricane season forecast today. NOAA forecasts a very active and possibly hyperactive season. They give an 85% chance of an above-normal season, a 10% chance of a near-normal season, and just a 5% chance of a below-normal season. NOAA predicts a 70% chance that there will be 14 - 23 named storms, 8 - 14 hurricanes, and 3 - 7 major hurricanes, with an Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) in the 155% - 270% of normal range. If we take the midpoint of these numbers, NOAA is calling for 18.5 named storms, 11 hurricanes, 5 major hurricanes, and an ACE index 210% of normal. A season with an ACE index over 175% is considered "hyperactive." An average season has 10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes. The forecasters note that in regards to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico,

"Historically, all above normal seasons have produced at least one named storm in the Gulf of Mexico, and 95% of those seasons have at least two named storms in the Gulf. Most of this activity (80%) occurs during August-October. However, 50% of above normal seasons have had at least one named storm in the region during June-July."

The forecasters cited the following main factors that will influence the coming season:

1) Expected above-average SSTs [SST = Sea Surface Temperatures] in the hurricane Main Development Region (MDR), from the Caribbean to the coast of Africa. SSTs in the MDR are currently at record levels, and the forecasters note that several climate models are predicting record or near-record SSTs during the peak portion of hurricane season (August - October.) "Two other instances of very warm SSTs have been observed in the MDR during February-April (1958 and 1969). In both years, the SST anomaly subsequently decreased by roughly 50% during the summer months. For 2010, although the record SST departures may well decrease somewhat, we still expect a continuation of above average SSTs throughout the Atlantic hurricane season. "

2) We are in an active period of hurricane activity that began in 1995, thanks to a natural decades-long cycle in hurricane activity called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). "During 1995-2009, some key aspects of the tropical multi-decadal signal within the MDR have included warmer than average SSTs, reduced vertical wind shear and weaker easterly trade winds, below-average sea-level pressure, and a configuration of the African easterly jet that is more conducive to hurricane development from tropical waves moving off the African coast. Many of these atmospheric features typically become evident during late April and May, as the atmosphere across the tropical Atlantic and Africa begins to transition into its summertime monsoon state."

3) There will either be La Niña or neutral conditions in the Equatorial Eastern Pacific. El Niño is gone, and it's demise will likely act to decrease wind shear over the tropical Atlantic, allowing more hurricanes to form. "La Niña contributes to reduced vertical wind shear over the western tropical Atlantic which, when combined with conditions associated with the ongoing high activity era and warm Atlantic SSTs, increases the probability of an exceptionally active Atlantic hurricane season (Bell and Chelliah 2006). NOAA's high-resolution CFS model indicates the development of La Niña-like circulation and precipitation anomalies during July."

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Government warns of worst hurricane season since 2005

According to the "reasoning" of global warming deniers, the government and individuals should not prepare ahead of time for a heavy hurricane season because scientists cannot give exact forecasts.;_ylt=AvkR8eM201sKr5c4q71iKeas0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFpc29ubnZkBHBvcwM0MARzZWMDYWNjb3JkaW9uX21vc3RfcG9wdWxhcgRzbGsDZ292ZXJubWVudHdh

By Christopher Doering Christopher Doering – Thu May 27, 1:12 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Atlantic storm season may be the most intense since 2005, when Hurricane Katrina killed over a thousand people after crashing through Gulf of Mexico energy facilities, the U.S. government's top climate agency predicted on Thursday.

In its first forecast for the storm season that begins next Tuesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast 14 to 23 named storms, with 8 to 14 developing into hurricanes, nearly matching 2005's record of 15.

Three to seven of those could be major Category 3 or above hurricanes, with winds of more than 110 miles per hour (177 km per hour), the agency said, echoing earlier predictions from meteorologists for a particularly severe season that could disrupt U.S. oil, gas and refinery operations.

"If this outlook holds true, this season could be one of the more active on record," said Jane Lubchenco, NOAA's administrator. "The greater likelihood of storms brings an increased risk of a landfall."

In addition to the risk that major hurricanes can pose to about one-quarter of U.S. oil production and more than a 10th of natural gas output offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, this year's storms could threaten to complicate efforts to combat the environmental disaster of BP's gushing oil well.

The hurricane season officially starts on June 1 and typically peaks between late August and mid-October. An average Atlantic hurricane season brings 11 tropical storms with six hurricanes, including two major hurricanes, NOAA said.

The 2009 season, which had only three hurricanes and was the quietest year since 1997 due in part to the weather anomaly El Nino, followed several years of unusually intense activity that was particularly disruptive for U.S. energy supplies.

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BP Reportedly Preventing Fishermen from Wearing Respirators

At least seven fishermen involved in the cleanup of the BP oil spill were hospitalized on Wednesday after reporting nausea, dizziness, headaches and chest pains. The fishermen were likely exposed to both the leaked oil and chemical dispersants. As a precautionary measure, the Coast Guard has ordered all 125 commercial ships helping with the cleanup to return to land. For weeks, cleanup crews hired by BP have been reporting health issues, but their complaints have largely been ignored. We speak to Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, and Albert Huang, an environmental justice attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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For weeks, cleanup crews hired by BP have been reporting health issues, but their complaints have largely been ignored. As recently as Tuesday, BP spokesperson Graham MacEwen told the Los Angeles Times he was unaware of any health complaints among cleanup workers. BP has refused to provide respirators to many hired fishermen, and the company has reportedly threatened to fire workers who use their own respirators on the job.

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AMY GOODMAN: What about respirators? Are people wearing respirators?

CLINT GUIDRY: No, ma’am. Having had prior experience, I know these people. They’re friends. They’re family. I bought respirators, and I brought them down to these people. And when they tried to wear them, the BP representatives on site told them that it wasn’t a dangerous situation, and they didn’t need to wear them, and if they did, they would be taken off the job.

AMY GOODMAN: If they wore respirators, they’d be taken off the job?



CLINT GUIDRY: Because BP lies, and BP protects BP. And that is the biggest problem we have in the south of Louisiana right now, is BP, with its big oil big money, is buying up all the cover—and when I say "cover" I mean camouflage—that they can to try to make a little of the situation, not only environmentally, but health-wise. This is ridiculous.

AMY GOODMAN: But how does wearing respirators threaten BP? How do the workers, the cleanup crews, wearing respirators, how does that threaten BP?

CLINT GUIDRY: If you would do your research, the same situation occurred with Exxon Valdez over twenty years ago. It is a question of liability. The minute BP declares that there is a respiratory danger on the situation is the day that they let the door open for liability suits down the line. If they could have gotten away with covering this up, like they did in Alaska Valdez situation, like Exxon, they would not have to pay a penny for any kind of health-related claims.

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Oil recovery workers remain hospitalized

May 27, 2010 2:30 p.m. EDT

Venice, Louisiana (CNN) -- Seven oil spill recovery workers who complained of feeling ill remained hospitalized in a New Orleans suburb Thursday, a hospital spokeswoman said.

All seven were at West Jefferson Medical Center, said spokeswoman Taslin Alfonzo. The symptoms they had complained of -- dizziness, nausea and headaches -- have somewhat subsided, and they are in good spirits and under observation, she said.

About 10 workers complained of feeling ill Wednesday, prompting officials to recall more than 100 boats from an area adjacent to the Mississippi River delta. Lisa Faust with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals said she believes as many as five were treated at the scene.

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The Unified Command -- a coalition of agencies including the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of the Interior and the National Parks Service -- said Wednesday it recalled 125 vessels from Breton Sound, which lies about 50 miles southeast of New Orleans.

"No other personnel are reporting symptoms, but we are taking this action as an extreme safeguard," said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Robinson Cox.

The vessels were involved in cleaning up oil that has been gushing into the Gulf of Mexico since April, when an oil rig sank about 40 miles south of Louisiana, opening up a leak that has been gushing crude oil into the water.

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Companies, hospitals move away from toxic material

By David S. Martin, CNN Senior Medical Producer
May 26, 2010 8:04 a.m. EDT

(CNN) -- Worried about toxic waste and chemical exposure, more and more companies and hospitals are moving away from polyvinyl chloride.

PVC is used in everything from home siding, pipes and flooring to school supplies, car interiors and packaging, electrical cords and medical tubing. But making or burning PVC waste produces dioxins, cancer-causing chemicals that are among the most toxic substances known.

"Our concerns about the ways in which PVC can be disposed of, burned for example ... caused us to begin eliminating PVC from our products," Hewlett-Packard's Tony Prophet said. The computer giant launched its first PVC-free notebook computer last year.

Microsoft, Honda, Wal-Mart, Target and Nike are among other large corporations moving away from polyvinyl chloride, said Mike Schade, the PVC campaign coordinator for the Center for Health, Environment and Justice.

"There's been a major market shift away from PVC in just about every major sector of the economy," Schade said.

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Man infects himself with computer virus

By Adam Hadhazy
updated 2:34 p.m. ET, Wed., May 26, 2010

University of Reading researcher Mark Gasson has become the first human known to be infected by a computer virus.

The virus, infecting a chip implanted in Gasson's hand, passed into a laboratory computer. From there, the infection could have spread into other computer chips found in building access cards.

All this was intentional, in an experiment to see how simple radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips like those used for tracking animals can host and spread technological diseases.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Martin Gardner, the Mathematical Gamester (1914-2010)

I well remember the article on flexagons he wrote for Scientific American. I enjoyed making some and decorating them to see how they would change when flexed.

For 25 years, he wrote Scientific American's Mathematical Games column, educating and entertaining minds and launching the careers of generations of mathematicians

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TV host Art Linkletter dies at 97

By Lynn Elber
updated 5/26/2010 3:58:00 PM

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LOS ANGELES — Art Linkletter, who as the gently mischievous host of TV's "People Are Funny" and "House Party" in the 1950s and '60s delighted viewers with his ability to get kids — and grownups — to say the darndest things on national television, died Wednesday. He was 97.

Linkletter died at his home in the Bel-Air section of Los Angeles, said his son-in-law, Art Hershey, the husband of Sharon Linkletter.

"He lived a long, full, pure life, and the Lord had need for him," Hershey said.

Linkletter had been ill "in the last few weeks time, but bear in mind he was 97 years old. He wasn't eating well, and the aging process took him," Hershey said.

Linkletter hadn't been diagnosed with any life-threatening disease, he said.

Linkletter was known on TV for his funny interviews with children and ordinary folks. He also collected their comments in a number of best-selling books.

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Caffeine May Slow Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias, Restore Cognitive Function

ScienceDaily (May 18, 2010) — Although caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive drug worldwide, its potential beneficial effect for maintenance of proper brain functioning has only recently begun to be adequately appreciated. Substantial evidence from epidemiological studies and fundamental research in animal models suggests that caffeine may be protective against the cognitive decline seen in dementia and Alzheimer's disease (AD).

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"Epidemiological studies first revealed an inverse association between the chronic consumption of caffeine and the incidence of Parkinson's disease," according to Mendonça and Cunha. "This was paralleled by animal studies of Parkinson's disease showing that caffeine prevented motor deficits as well as neurodegeneration "Later a few epidemiological studies showed that the consumption of moderate amounts of caffeine was inversely associated with the cognitive decline associated with aging as well as the incidence of Alzheimer's disease. Again, this was paralleled by animal studies showing that chronic caffeine administration prevented memory deterioration and neurodegeneration in animal models of aging and of Alzheimer's disease."

Media Ignore The Fact That Man Who Alerted Police To Failed Times Square Bombing Is A Muslim Immigrant

The chief suspect in the case of the failed Times Square car bombing is Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, who has confessed to the plot. Much of the media has latched onto Shahzad’s Muslim faith and his Pakistani identity, making inflammatory remarks and suggestions about Muslims and Pakistanis:

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Yet one fact being ignored in the American media’s sensationalist narrative about the failed bombing is that the man who was responsible for police finding the bomb was Muslim. The UK’s Times Online reports that Aliou Niasse, a Senagalese Muslim immigrant who works as a photograph vendor on Times Square, was the first to bring the smoking car to the police’s attention:


Copycat Behavior in Children Is Universal and May Help Promote Human Culture

ScienceDaily (May 26, 2010) — Children learn a great deal by imitating adults. A new study of Australian preschoolers and Kalahari Bushman children finds that a particular kind of imitation -- overimitation, in which a child copies everything an adult shows them, not just the steps that lead to some outcome -- appears to be a universal human activity, rather than something the children of middle-class parents pick up. The work helps shed light on how humans develop and transmit culture.

Scientists "have been finding this odd effect where children will copy everything that they see an adult demonstrate to them, even if there are clear or obvious reasons why those actions would be irrelevant," says psychologist Mark Nielsen, of the University of Queensland in Australia. "It's something that we know that other primates don't do." If a chimpanzee is shown an irrelevant action, they won't copy it -- they'll skip right to the action that makes something happen.

Pesticide Exposure May Contribute to ADHD

ScienceDaily (May 17, 2010) — A team of scientists from the University of Montreal and Harvard University has discovered that exposure to organophosphate pesticides may be associated with increased risk of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children.

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The authors conclude that exposure to organophosphate pesticides, at levels common among U.S. children, may contribute to a diagnosis of ADHD.

"Previous studies have shown that exposure to some organophosphate compounds cause hyperactivity and cognitive deficits in animals," says lead author Maryse F. Bouchard of the University of Montreal Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and the Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Center. "Our study found that exposure to organophosphates in developing children might have effects on neural systems and could contribute to ADHD behaviors, such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity."


Kissing kid's owies may benefit health

updated 2:16 p.m. ET, Tues., May 18, 2010

A loving mother who kisses her child's boo-boos may be providing more health benefits than she knows.

New research indicates that early childhood experiences can have a lasting effect on health by influencing a person's risk for chronic inflammation, the immune reaction that is the body's first line of defense against disease. Moms who soothe a child can help reduce stress, calming the hormones that can contribute to inflammation, the study suggests.

Many jobless can not collect unemployment benefits

May 20, 2010

By Andrea Orr

(Updated to reflect most recent data)
Millions of the nation’s unemployed are not collecting unemployment benefits and are not eligible to do so under the laws in their state. Despite historically high unemployment, and record levels of long-term unemployment, only 67% of the unemployed workers in the U.S. were collecting unemployment insurance in the fourth quarter of 2009, the most recent quarter for which data are available from the Department of Labor. That “recipiency rate” includes workers receiving benefits under all of the extensions of emergency unemployment insurance that have been passed during the recession. When the recipiency rate is calculated based solely on the standard 26 weeks of unemployment, it drops to 35%: In other words, without the emergency extensions that have been passed, fewer than half of the country’s unemployed would be collecting unemployment. This unemployment insurance “recipiency rate" varies significantly by state. The Map shows the portion of unemployed workers in each state who were receiving benefits in the most recent quarter.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fox News Video Omits Applause During Obama's West Point Speech

First Posted: 05-25-10 09:03 AM | Updated: 05-25-10 09:03 AM

Fox News video of President Obama's speech this weekend at West Point omits cadets' applause after the President discussed ending the Iraq War.

"WestPt cadets applaud Obama, FoxNews alters tape 2 remove applause," Michael Moore tweeted.

In the official video, seen at bottom, cadets applaud after Obama says, "through their competence and creativity and courage, we are poised to end our combat mission in Iraq this summer."

In the Fox News version of the video, seen below, there is no applause but rather an awkward pause.

Media Matters' Jamison Foser acknowledges that Fox News' microphone may not have picked up the audience applause, but suggests that the network still promoted that section of the clip to make it seem as though Obama's comments were not well received by the cadets:

Now, maybe Fox didn't intentionally remove the audience applause. Maybe Fox's video used a direct feed from Obama's microphone, and it simply didn't pick up audience noise. But if Fox didn't intentionally try to make Obama look silly, why did it choose a 2-minute clip -- out of a 32-minute speech -- that portrayed Obama looking silently around the room, seemingly for no reason?


Big corporations work to kill unemployment benefits extension because it closes their tax loopholes

This week, the House of Representatives is working on a package extending several popular tax breaks as well as important social safety net provisions like unemployment benefits and health insurance subsidies for laid-off workers. The bill costs about $200 billion, but is partially offset by a few tax changes, including the closing of a loophole that allow corporations to claim U.S. tax credits on profits earned overseas. These unjustified tax breaks have been on the radar of Congress’ tax writers for the last few years, but so far they’ve remained in the tax code due to pressure from big corporations. This time, even though the bill also extends some of their favored provisions, like the Research and Development tax credit, the Big Business lobby is fighting to preserve its ability to exploit tax loopholes, at the expense of the benefits extension:

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Braise away the E. coli lettuce-recall blues

This reminds me of a few years ago when there was a recall of fresh spinach. Of course, the news media did not make it clear that the danger would come from eating it raw. I bought a frozen dinner containing spinach, and one of my co-workers expressed concern. I explained that cooking kills e coli, but she obviously was not convinced. My dinner did not make me sick.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 13:12 ET

Hey, romaine lettuce fans! It's been a tough week for you, I know. First there was a little recall of the stuff for that irritating kidney-hating bug E. coli 0145, then there was a different, precautionary recall, and now, as of yesterday, tainted lettuce was making people feel a way they don't ever want to feel again in 23 states. It's like Caesar's revenge. "How dare you keep throwing your stupid grilled chicken breast on my salad!" the ghost of the great emperor (OK, of the Mexican restaurateur) thunders.

The good news for you, though, is that none of the recalled lettuce was sold to retail grocery stores, so you probably don't have any at home. (Instead, it's poor kids eating in school cafeterias waking up in the middle of the night wondering what fresh hell is this.)

And the better news is that it's time to get you acquainted with cooking lettuce. Thorough cooking (not washing) can destroy E. coli, which tends to affect foods superficially, unless they're ground up like burgers ... wait, what's that? Stop your eeewing! Cooked lettuce is good stuff, a new way to think about vegetables we confine to salad.

[See article for recipes]

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Obama expands support to vets' caregivers

updated 3:37 p.m. ET, Wed., May 5, 2010

WASHINGTON - Extra help is on the way for family members who give up their jobs to become caregivers for severely wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, courtesy of a bill signed Wednesday by President Barack Obama.

The bill, estimated to cost $3.7 billion over five years, also expands veterans care for women, the homeless, and those who live in rural areas.

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Quality of Child Care Linked to Academic Achievement: Behaviors Persist Into Adolescence

ScienceDaily (May 17, 2010) — Teens who were in high-quality child care settings as young children scored slightly higher on measures of academic and cognitive achievement and were slightly less likely to report acting-out behaviors than peers who were in lower-quality child care arrangements during their early years, according to the latest analysis of a long-running study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

And teens who had spent the most hours in child care in their first 4½ years reported a slightly greater tendency toward impulsiveness and risk-taking at 15 than did peers who spent less time in child care.

Most Americans still live in unclean air

updated 12:43 p.m. ET, Wed., April 28, 2010

LOS ANGELES - A new report says more than half of Americans still live in areas with unhealthy air, despite progress in reducing smog.

The report released Wednesday by the American Lung Association is based on 2006-2008 figures. It says progress has been made in reducing particle pollution such as soot and dust, thanks to cleaner diesel engines and controls on coal-fired power plants.

The Los Angeles area continued to have the nation's worst ozone pollution while Bakersfield had the worst short-term particle pollution.

The Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area of Arizona had the worst year-round particle pollution.

The cleanest cities in the nation were Fargo, N.D.; Wahpeton, Minn., and Lincoln, Neb.

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Regular Use of Aspirin Increases Risk of Crohn's Disease by 5 Times, Study Finds

ScienceDaily (May 19, 2010) — People who take aspirin regularly for a year or more may be at an increased risk of developing Crohn's disease, according to a new study by the University of East Anglia (UEA).

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The study also showed that aspirin use had no effect on the risk of developing ulcerative colitis -- a condition similar to Crohn's disease.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Books in Home as Important as Parents' Education in Determining Children's Education Level

ScienceDaily (May 21, 2010) — Whether rich or poor, residents of the United States or China, illiterate or college graduates, parents who have books in the home increase the level of education their children will attain, according to a 20-year study led by Mariah Evans, University of Nevada, Reno associate professor of sociology and resource economics.

For years, educators have thought the strongest predictor of attaining high levels of education was having parents who were highly educated. But, strikingly, this massive study showed that the difference between being raised in a bookless home compared to being raised in a home with a 500-book library has as great an effect on the level of education a child will attain as having parents who are barely literate (3 years of education) compared to having parents who have a university education (15 or 16 years of education). Both factors, having a 500-book library or having university-educated parents, propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average.

Being a sociologist, Evans was particularly interested to find that children of lesser-educated parents benefit the most from having books in the home. She has been looking for ways to help Nevada's rural communities, in terms of economic development and education.

"What kinds of investments should we be making to help these kids get ahead?" she asked. "The results of this study indicate that getting some books into their homes is an inexpensive way that we can help these children succeed."

Evans said, "Even a little bit goes a long way," in terms of the number of books in a home. Having as few as 20 books in the home still has a significant impact on propelling a child to a higher level of education, and the more books you add, the greater the benefit.

"You get a lot of 'bang for your book'," she said. "It's quite a good return-on-investment in a time of scarce resources."

In some countries, such as China, having 500 or more books in the home propels children 6.6 years further in their education. In the United States, the effect is less, 2.4 years, than the 3.2-year average advantage experienced across all 27 countries in the study. But, Evans points out that 2.4 years is still a significant advantage in terms of educational attainment.

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The obvious question is whether having books in the home benefits the children even if the adults don't read them.

Daily Ginger Consumption Eases Muscle Pain by 25 Percent, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (May 20, 2010) — For centuries, ginger root has been used as a folk remedy for a variety of ailments such as colds and upset stomachs. But now, researchers at the University of Georgia have found that daily ginger consumption also reduces muscle pain caused by exercise.

While ginger had been shown to exert anti-inflammatory effects in rodents, its effect on experimentally-induced human muscle pain was largely unexplored, said Patrick O'Connor, a professor in the College of Education's department of kinesiology. It was also believed that heating ginger, as occurs with cooking, might increase its pain-relieving effects.

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The studies showed that daily ginger supplementation reduced the exercise-induced pain by 25 percent, and the effect was not enhanced by heat-treating the ginger.

[Also, the effect does not appear to have been diminished by heat.
A problem with suppressing muscle pain caused by overuse is that it could lead to not giving the muscles a break when they need it; but that would be true of any pain reliever.]


Why Libertarianism Doesn’t Work, Part N

May 14, 2010, 1:40 pm

Thinking about BP and the Gulf: in this old interview, Milton Friedman says that there’s no need for product safety regulation, because corporations know that if they do harm they’ll be sued.

Interviewer: So tort law takes care of a lot of this ..

Friedman: Absolutely, absolutely.

Meanwhile, in the real world:

In the wake of last month’s catastrophic Gulf Coast oil spill, Sen. Lisa Murkowski blocked a bill that would have raised the maximum liability for oil companies after a spill from a paltry $75 million to $10 billion. The Republican lawmaker said the bill, introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), would have unfairly hurt smaller oil companies by raising the costs of oil production. The legislation is “not where we need to be right now” she said.

And don’t say that we just need better politicians. If libertarianism requires incorruptible politicians to work, it’s not serious.

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More stuff Rand Paul thinks it should be legal to fire you over

by: Chris Bowers
Thu May 20, 2010 at 13:58

There has been a lot of talk about Rand Paul's view on the Civil Right's act today. But, in addition to race, as long as the company in question does not receive any public funds, here are some more reasons that Rand Paul--and his supporters--thinks it should be legal for the owner of a private company to fire you:

* Not being the same religion as the boss
* Not having sex with the boss
* Having children, or not having them
* Not liking the same sports teams as the boss
* Not voting for different political candidates than the boss
* Not eating the same food than the boss
* Not liking different colors than the boss.

Basically, any reason at all.

Furthermore, another key point is that Paul's supporters seem to think the problem is not that Paul holds these views, but that he expressed them in public.

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Rand Paul opposes government spending — except for when it benefits him

Tea party darling Dr. Rand Paul won an upset victory in Kentucky’s Republican Senate primary by running on a “resolute pledge to balance the federal budget and slash the size of government.” In an interview following his win, Paul explained that his campaign was “all about federal spending” and the “tea party message.” Republicans “need to regain our believability as fiscal conservatives,” he added. But as former Bush speech writer David Frum noted, “Paul’s libertarianism stops where his pocketbook starts.” Frum highlighted a Wall Street Journal story from last week in which Paul said he doesn’t want to cut Medicare payments to doctors like himself, because “[p]hysicians should be allowed to make a comfortable living“:

But on Thursday evening, the ophthalmologist from Bowling Green said there was one thing he would not cut: Medicare physician payments.

In fact, Paul — who says 50% of his patients are on Medicare — wants to end cuts to physician payments under a program now in place called the sustained growth rate, or SGR. “Physicians should be allowed to make a comfortable living.

In an interview on’s Freedom Watch, Paul vowed he would never give up his “tea party values,” which apparently include pushing for self-serving legislation. As the Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky noted, Paul likely already makes a “comfortable living,” as the average salary for an ophthalmologist is $256,320.

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Rand Paul draws fire for remarks on Civil Rights Act

Thu May 20, 9:22 pm ET

Tea party candidate Rand Paul won Kentucky's GOP Senate nomination in part by bucking the establishment, but could his unconventional beliefs hurt him in the general election?

Paul is under fire today for saying Wednesday, first in an interview with National Public Radio and then to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, that he opposes part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. "I'm not in favor of any discrimination of any form. I would never belong to any club that excluded anybody for race," Paul told Maddow, saying discrimination and segregation were a "stain on our history."

But he said he doesn't agree with a provision in the bill that makes it a crime for businesses to discriminate on the basis of race.

It's a philosophical difference, Paul told Maddow: He doesn't believe the federal government should be able to intrude on how a private business operates.

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Rand Paul calls Obama's criticism of BP 'un-American'

See the link for the videos.;_ylt=AriBiGdM0w_one8uI0deX7Os0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNmNWU5b2ttBGFzc2V0A3luZXdzLzIwMTAwNTIxL3luZXdzX3BsMjE4MgRjY29kZQNtb3N0cG9wdWxhcgRjcG9zAzIEcG9zAzcEcHQDaG9tZV9jb2tlBHNlYwN5bl90b3Bfc3RvcnkEc2xrA3JhbmRwYXVsY2FsbA--

Fri May 21, 1:34 pm ET

Say what you want about Rand Paul — and much is indeed said about Rand Paul these days — the GOP's Kentucky Senate nominee does not shy away from controversy.

After a heady tour through Thursday's news cycle — which had Paul first disowning, then hurriedly embracing, some key provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act — the tea party favorite and a "small-L" libertarian took to the airwaves Friday to defend the honor of BP, the oil giant involved in the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

On ABC's "Good Morning America" on Friday, Paul called out President Obama for criticizing BP too harshly in public.

[Watch Rand Paul's full "GMA" appearance]

"What I don't like from the president's administration is this sort of, 'I'll put my boot heel on the throat of BP,'" Paul said. "I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business. I've heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it's part of this sort of blame-game society in the sense that it's always got to be someone's fault instead of the fact that sometimes accidents happen."

You can watch the segment below (clip courtesy of ABC News):

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Chicken Suits Banned at Nevada Polls

May 23, 2010

Voters dressed in chicken costumes will not be allowed inside Nevada polling places this year, the AP reports.

State election officials added chicken suits to the list of banned items after weeks of ridicule directed at Sue Lowden (R).

"The millionaire casino executive and former beauty queen recently suggested that people barter with doctors for medical care, like when 'our grandparents would bring a chicken to the doctor.'"

Read more:

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Patients saved from huge ER bills by new law

By Maggie Mertens
updated 8:12 a.m. ET, Fri., May 21, 2010

When Kelly Arellanes fell off a horse and suffered a severe head injury in rural Arkansas, medics said she would need to be airlifted immediately to the nearest hospital — 50 miles away in Fort Smith. There, emergency surgery saved her life — but at a cost.

The hospital wasn't in her insurance network, so she and her husband ended up with $20,000 in out-of-pocket expenses that they wouldn't have incurred at their network hospitals 150 miles away in Little Rock.

If the new health law had already been enacted, Arellanes wouldn’t have had such a big emergency bill. Under the law, insurance companies must extend several new protections to patients who receive emergency care. One of the biggest guarantees: insurance companies can no longer pay less for emergency care at “out of network” hospitals — the hospitals with which they don’t have prior financial arrangements.

The equal coverage guarantee “was a major victory for us,” said Angela Gardner, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "People often can't stop to check to see if a particular hospital or doctor is in- or out-of-network when they are having an emergency," she said.

The new law also bars health plans from requiring prior authorization for emergency services. And it mandates that plans follow the "prudent layperson" rule. For example, if a person goes to the ER with chest pain, but ends up being diagnosed with indigestion, the claim has to be covered because going to the hospital under those circumstances made sense.

The provisions go into effect for every health plan issued after Sept. 23 — six months after the law was enacted — that offers emergency coverage.

For years, insurance plans have been denying ER claims for a variety of reasons. Although there is little data on the overall scope of the problem, a 2004 RAND Corp. study found that at least one out of every six claims for emergency department care was denied by two large HMOs in California.

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Research suggests that concerns about costs can keep people from going to the emergency room. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that insured patients without financial concerns were more likely to seek emergency care within two hours of experiencing heart attack symptoms, but almost half of uninsured patients or patients with financial concerns waited six hours or more to seek care. And that can end up costing the system more if the condition becomes more serious while they wait.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Too Much of a Good Thing

Posted on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 2:16 PM PT

By JoNel Aleccia

Eating extra veggies is a good goal, but an 88-year-old Chinese woman took the quest too far, consuming enough raw bok choy to send herself into a life-threatening, thyroid-induced coma, doctors say.

The woman showed up at a New York emergency room last summer, complaining she couldn’t walk or swallow. But the real trouble, according to a report in Wednesday’s New England Journal of Medicine, was that she’d been chowing down on 2 to 3 pounds of bok choy every day for several months in hopes of controlling her diabetes.

For those unfamiliar with the vegetable also known as Chinese white cabbage, that’s the equivalent of eating two or three large heads a day of the stiff, leafy stalks. And the woman apparently munched them plain, without a dab of dressing or a sprinkle of salt, according to Dr. Michael Chu, a resident at the New York University School of Medicine who helped care for her.

“I am not sure if she had trouble consuming so much bok choy,” Chu said. “It never came up that it was difficult to do so.”

What was difficult was keeping the woman’s thyroid working after the bok choy spree basically shut it down. It turns out that raw vegetables in the Brassica rapa family, which includes bok choy, release an enzyme called myrosinase, which triggers a process that puts the brakes on thyroid function.

Cooking deactivates the enzyme, but by eating so much bok choy raw, the woman sent her system into a severe form of hypothyroidism. She went into respiratory failure and then into a myxedema coma, a rare and usually deadly complication of too little thyroid hormone.

It took massive intravenous doses of a synthetic thyroid hormone and a powerful anti-inflammatory medication to save her life, according to Chu’s report.

The case could serve as a warning to others, but Chu said he’s not sure how many people would consume enough raw bok choy to put themselves in that position.

As for the woman, she recovered and was sent to live in a skilled nursing home for further care. There’s no word on whether bok choy ever shows up on the menu.

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Calcium in Early Life May Prevent Obesity Later

ScienceDaily (May 13, 2010) — There's no denying that people need calcium for strong, healthy bones. But new research from North Carolina State University suggests that not getting enough calcium in the earliest days of life could have a more profound, lifelong impact on bone health and perhaps even obesity than previously thought.

During an 18-day trial involving 24 newborn pigs, the researchers documented markedly lower levels of bone density and strength in 12 piglets fed a calcium-deficient diet compared to 12 piglets that received more calcium. Not only that, but when researchers looked at certain stem cells in bone marrow, they found that many of these cells in the calcium-deficient piglets appeared to have already been programmed to become fat cells instead of bone-forming cells.

Poll: Men Lie More Than Women

Just where to begin with this? A new poll released in the U.K. by the Science Museum reveals that the average British male tells three lies a day (your British correspondant’s non-fibbing math works out that’s the equivalent of 1,092 a year) whereas the fairer sex only lies twice a day (728 a year).

Our long suffering mothers are the main target for porkies (25% of men, 20% of women) though only 10% of people said they’re likely to lie to their partner. As for feeling guilty about not telling the truth, 82% of women feel badly but just 70% of men admit to a sensation of guilt.

And how about the most popular lines? For the men, “I didn’t have that much to drink” comes out on top (bear in mind this is the U.K.), followed by “Nothing’s wrong, I’m fine” and “I had no signal.” But the likes of “I’m on my way” and “you’ve lost weight” also make the top 10. For women, they go with “Nothing’s wrong, I’m fine,” “I don’t know where it is, I haven’t touched it” and “It wasn’t that expensive.”

Naturally, readers of NewsFeed have never been anything but honest and anyone who tells you differently is clearly lying…

Read more:

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The Short List: 5 Advantages To Being Diminutive

by Linton Weeks
text size A A A
May 13, 2010

You’ve probably heard it all your life: Being short is a disadvantage. A cursory glance at the research underscores the point. Short people are less successful — earn less, garner fewer leadership roles, etc. — than tall people, according to Arianne Cohen, author of the The Tall Book: A Celebration of Life from on High.

Recent headlines mock the diminutive size of French President Nicolas Sarkozy (5 feet 5 inches). Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is so noticeably petite (5 feet 3 inches), the late Justice Thurgood Marshall called her "Shorty." Randy Newman famously sang that "short people got no reason to live."

But in his new book for young people, Short: Walking Tall When You Are Not Tall At All, reporter John Schwartz of The New York Times approaches the cultural view of height with a jaundiced eye. Many of the so-called disadvantages of being short, he writes, are predicated on selective use of sociological and psychological data by drug companies that market growth hormones. "In the end," Schwartz writes, "a lot of the 'problems' that people associate with being short are created by the same people who say they are trying to fix them."

Truth is, says Schwartz (5 feet 3 inches), being short can actually come in handy. "That sense of starting the race a step behind," he says in an interview, "can be a powerful force for good. I think it can make us short guys a little tougher, a little more eager to show the world what we've got. Maybe, in some of us, it helps us develop a sense of humor — being able to tell jokes probably got me out of being pounded more than once."

See the article for a list of advantages to being short, and a slide show of famous short people.

Eg., Buckminster Fuller was 5'2".

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Oil companies fought stricter regulations

Updated 5/10/2010 4:48 PM

By Alan Levin, USA TODAY
The company that owns the offshore well spewing crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico and other major oil companies spearheaded a campaign to thwart a government plan to impose tighter regulations aimed at preventing similar disasters, according to government records.

Tighter regulations would have required that drillers perform independent audits and hazard assessments designed to reduce accidents caused by human errors, but the federal Minerals Management Service (MMS) has so far not imposed the rules in the face of near unanimous opposition from oil companies.

Oil executives — including BP, which leased the rig that exploded April 20 — argued that the industry had a solid environmental record and most companies had voluntarily adopted similar safeguards to protect against a major spill. They also said the new rules would have been too costly.

Since the spill, BP has changed its position on the MMS proposal, BP spokesman Andrew Gowers said. The company expects tighter safety rules and will not oppose them, he said.

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U.S. agency let oil industry write offshore drilling rules

Posted on Monday, May 10, 2010

By Les Blumenthal and Erika Bolstad | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — The oil industry, not the federal agency that regulates it, plays a crucial role in writing the safety and environmental rules for offshore drilling, a role that critics say reflects cozy ties between an industry and its regulators that need to be snapped.

Nearly 100 industry standards set by the American Petroleum Industry are included in the nation's offshore operating regulations. The API asserts that its standards are better for the industry's bottom line and make it easier to operate offshore than if the Minerals Management Service set the rules.

Following the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the MMS is increasingly under a microscope. Congressional hearings beginning Tuesday will examine the cause of the April 20 drilling rig explosion and whether the MMS's regulatory framework ought to be changed.

The agency has a built-in conflict. It's responsible for regulating offshore drilling, but also for leasing tracts on the outer continental shelf and collecting royalties on the oil and gas they produce. The MMS generates more revenue for the federal Treasury than any other agency except the Internal Revenue Service.

So while one arm of the agency is trying to make money, the other tries to regulate an industry where pumping oil sometimes trumps safety and environmental concerns.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Greenland Rapidly Rising as Ice Melt Continues

ScienceDaily (May 18, 2010) — Greenland is situated in the Atlantic Ocean to the northeast of Canada. It has stunning fjords on its rocky coast formed by moving glaciers, and a dense icecap up to 2 km thick that covers much of the island--pressing down the land beneath and lowering its elevation. Now, scientists at the University of Miami say Greenland's ice is melting so quickly that the land underneath is rising at an accelerated pace.

According to the study, some coastal areas are going up by nearly one inch per year and if current trends continue, that number could accelerate to as much as two inches per year by 2025, explains Tim Dixon, professor of geophysics at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) and principal investigator of the study.

"It's been known for several years that climate change is contributing to the melting of Greenland's ice sheet," Dixon says. "What's surprising, and a bit worrisome, is that the ice is melting so fast that we can actually see the land uplift in response," he says. "Even more surprising, the rise seems to be accelerating, implying that melting is accelerating."

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"During ice ages and in times of ice accumulation, the ice suppresses the land," Wdowinski says. "When the ice melts, the land rebounds upwards," he says. "Our study is consistent with a number of global warming indicators, confirming that ice melt and sea level rise are real and becoming significant."

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Dramatic surge seen in kids hospitalized with MRSA

Another example of ignoring the fluorescent orange elephant.
We have been warned for years that over-use of antibiotics is leading to increased drug resistance in bacteria. But it goes on. Eventually, we will run out of effective antibiotics before we find replacements.;_ylt=ApviFytvpYBquqf0FP0SNges0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFkYmFjamtlBHBvcwMxNDkEc2VjA2FjY29yZGlvbl9oZWFsdGgEc2xrA2RyYW1hdGljc3VyZw--

By LINDSEY TANNER, AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner, Ap Medical Writer – Mon May 17, 3:15 am ET

CHICAGO – The number of children hospitalized with dangerous drug-resistant staph infections surged 10-fold in recent years, a study found.

Disease incidence increased from 2 cases to 21 cases per 1,000 hospital admissions from 1999 to 2008. Most infections were caught in the community, not in the hospital.

The study involved methicillin-resistant staph infections, called MRSA. These used to occur mostly in hospitals and nursing homes but they are increasingly showing up in other settings in children and adults. Recent evidence suggests hospital-acquired MRSA cases may be declining while community-acquired cases are becoming more common.

The results are "a good example of how something that is not unexpected remains alarming," said Dr. Buddy Creech, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University. He was not involved in the study.

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The study also found a coinciding increase in use of clindamycin, an antibiotic that comes in easy-to-use pills and liquid, and smaller increases for two other antibiotics. Another drug effective against MRSA, vancomycin, is only available intravenously and its use decreased during the study.

Newland said the increasing use of clindamycin is concerning because in some regions MRSA is already becoming resistant to the drug. Doctors need to use the antibiotic judiciously, he said.

Dr. Kenneth Alexander, the University of Chicago's pediatric infectious disease chief, said he agrees.

"Staph are incredibly cagey, and will ultimately find their way around any antibiotic in use," he said.

Research is needed to find other drugs that will work against MRSA, he said.


Is ADHD An Advantage For Nomadic Tribesmen?

ScienceDaily (June 10, 2008) — A propensity for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) might be beneficial to a group of Kenyan nomads, according to new research. Scientists have shown that an ADHD-associated version of the gene DRD4 is associated with better health in nomadic tribesmen, and yet may cause malnourishment in their settled cousins.

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Eisenberg explains, "The DRD4/7R allele has been linked to greater food and drug cravings, novelty-seeking, and ADHD symptoms. It is possible that in the nomadic setting, a boy with this allele might be able to more effectively defend livestock against raiders or locate food and water sources, but that the same tendencies might not be as beneficial in settled pursuits such as focusing in school, farming or selling goods".


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Warmest April Global Temperature on Record, NOAA Says

So far this year, there have been numerous record snowfalls and rainfalls in various places around the world. This was predicted decades ago. Warm air holds more moisture. It will eventually encounter cooler air, so the result will be increased precipitation.

ScienceDaily (May 17, 2010) — The combined global land and ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for both April and for the period from January-April, according to NOAA. Additionally, last month's average ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for any April, and the global land surface temperature was the third warmest on record.

The monthly analysis from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, which is based on records going back to 1880

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"Murdered" Chinese man reappears after 10 years;_ylt=ApiQCGzDBdyFy0tBqzuqNRWs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFmM3YwNWk2BHBvcwMyMDUEc2VjA2FjY29yZGlvbl9vZGRfbmV3cwRzbGsDcXVvdG11cmRlcmVk

Tue May 11, 9:13 am ET

BEIJING (Reuters) – A Chinese man who was supposedly hacked to death in a fight has reappeared in his hometown after 10 years, state media said, raising questions about police torture to extract a confession from the alleged killer.

Zhao Zuohai, the supposed killer, was acquitted of the crime and released by a Henan court on Saturday, state news agency Xinhua said, citing a court press conference on Sunday.

He had served 10 years of a 29-year sentence after confessing to killing Zhao Zhenshang in a hatchet fight in central China's Henan province, the China Daily reported this weekend.

A headless body was found in a village well about a year after the fight, at which point Zhao was arrested and confessed to the killing.

The victim, Zhao Zhenshang, reappeared in the village on May 2 to seek welfare support. He had fled after the fight because he feared he had killed the now-imprisoned Zhao.

Convictions in the Chinese court system are strongly dependent on confessions, motivating police to use force to get a confession and close the case.

A series of deaths in police custody over the last year has emboldened reformers and aided a fight by the Ministry of Justice to wrest control of detention centres from the police.

The courts conducted an audit of all death penalty cases after a woman in Hubei province reappeared over a decade after her husband, She Xianglin, was jailed for her murder, in a case that also rested on his confession to police.

Relatives who maintained She's innocence were also jailed.

The imprisoned Zhao's brother told the local Dahe Newspaper that police had forced him to drink chili water and set off fireworks over his head to force the confession.

The imprisoned Zhao narrowly escaped being executed for the crime. His sentence was commuted from a death penalty with two years' reprieve.

While in prison, his wife left him for another man and three of his four children were given to other families for adoption, the China Daily said.


Did the end of smallpox vaccination cause the explosive spread of HIV?

Very plausible to me. After I had the swine flu shot when Carter was president, I didn't get sick for at least 3 years.

Public release date: 17-May-2010
Contact: Graeme Baldwin
BioMed Central
Did the end of smallpox vaccination cause the explosive spread of HIV?

Vaccinia immunization, as given to prevent the spread of smallpox, produces a five-fold reduction in HIV replication in the laboratory. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Immunology suggest that the end of smallpox vaccination in the mid-20th century may have caused a loss of protection that contributed to the rapid contemporary spread of HIV.

Raymond Weinstein, a family doctor turned laboratory scientist at George Mason University, Manassas, Virginia, USA, worked with a team of researchers from George Washington University and UCLA. The researchers looked at the ability of white blood cells taken from people recently immunised with vaccinia to support HIV replication compared to unvaccinated controls. They found significantly lower viral replication in blood cells from vaccinated individuals. Weinstein said, "There have been several proposed explanations for the rapid spread of HIV in Africa, including wars, the reuse of unsterilized needles and the contamination of early batches of polio vaccine. However, all of these have been either disproved or do not sufficiently explain the behavior of the HIV pandemic. Our finding that prior immunization with vaccinia virus may provide an individual with some degree of protection to subsequent HIV infection suggests that the withdrawal of such vaccination may be a partial explanation".

Smallpox immunization was gradually withdrawn from the 1950s to the 1970s following the worldwide eradication of the disease, and HIV has been spreading exponentially since approximately the same time period. Weinstein and his colleagues propose that vaccination may confer protection against HIV by producing long term alterations in the immune system, possibly including the expression of a certain receptor, CCR5, on the surface of a person's white blood cells which is exploited by both viruses. Speaking about the results, Weinstein said, "While these results are very interesting and hopefully may lead to a new weapon against the HIV pandemic, they are very preliminary and it is far too soon to recommend the general use of vaccinia immunization for fighting HIV".


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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lack of sleep linked to early death;_ylt=Av2GWZDu8Azas6Az3QBdouSs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTJzYTIyaXF1BGFzc2V0A2FmcC8yMDEwMDUwNS9oZWFsdGhzY2llbmNlc2xlZXBicml0YWluaXRhbHkEcG9zAzQEc2VjA3luX21vc3RfcG9wdWxhcgRzbGsDbGFja29mc2xlZXBs

Wed May 5, 9:44 am ET

LONDON (AFP) – People who get less than six hours sleep per night have an increased risk of dying prematurely, researchers said on Wednesday.

Those who slumbered for less than that amount of time were 12 percent more likely to die early, though researchers also found a link between sleeping more than nine hours and premature death.

"If you sleep little, you can develop diabetes, obesity, hypertension and high cholesterol," Francesco Cappuccio, who led research on the subject at Britain's University of Warwick, told AFP.

The study, conducted with the Federico II University in Naples, Italy, aggregated decade-long studies from around the world involving more than 1.3 million people and found "unequivocal evidence of the direct link" between lack of sleep and premature death.

"We think that the relation between little sleep and illness is due to a series of hormonal and metabolical mechanisms," Cappuccio said.

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Living in a High-Crime Neighborhood May Worsen Children's Asthma

ScienceDaily (May 2, 2010) — Exposure to violent crime may exacerbate asthma in children, according to a study presented May 1 at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Emerging research suggests that violence and stress may influence the severity of a child's asthma. To explore this association further, researchers conducted a study of 561 children ages 8-14 years in Chicago who had been diagnosed with asthma by a physician.

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Results showed that 41 percent of the children had moderate or severe asthma, and 59 percent had intermittent or mild asthma. After adjusting for the child's age, gender, family history of asthma and socioeconomic status, children were nearly twice as likely to have moderate/severe asthma if their caregivers reported high levels of stress or if the incidence of violent crime was high in their neighborhood. After adjusting for caregiver stress, a high incidence of violent crime still was associated with more severe asthma in children.


Shorter Work Shifts for Doctors Might Aid in Detection of Colon Polyps

ScienceDaily (May 3, 2010) — A shorter daily shift schedule for endoscopists, the physicians who perform colonoscopies, avoids a decrease in the polyp detection rate as the day progresses, research from Mayo Clinic indicates.

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"Some people develop colon cancer even after having colonoscopies," says Gregory Munson, M.D., M.P.H., a gastroenterology fellow at Mayo Clinic and study co-author. "Polyp miss rates are partially to blame, so we want to discover how to make the quality of the colonoscopy exam better.

"It's known already that longer colon exam times during endoscope withdrawal increase polyp detection rates. Our data show that each additional minute spent on withdrawal predicts a 4 percent increase in the polyp detection rate. This has led some health care facilities to require a minimum withdrawal time. We were curious whether shorter shifts positively influence polyp detection rates."

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According to Dawn Francis, M.D., M.H.S., a gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic and lead researcher, these findings differ from similar studies done at other health care facilities that employ traditional half-day shifts. The decrease in polyp detection rates later in the day in those studies is attributed to endoscopist fatigue.

"Our endoscopists usually work only one three-hour shift per day rather than a half or full day of endoscopy," Dr. Francis says. "With shorter shifts throughout the day, we don't see the drop in polyp detection rate later in the day that has previously been reported. Other health care facilities might also want to consider a model that breaks up the day into three-hour shifts."

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"It's hard to tell from the data," Dr. Munson says. "Despite our attempt to control for patient and endoscopist variables, it could be that patients who show up at midday have more polyps or that endoscopists are better at detecting polyps during midday. We need to do more analysis to pinpoint the factors that make a difference."


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tax bills in 2009 at lowest level since 1950

linked to

Updated 14m[in] ago

By Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY
Amid complaints about high taxes and calls for a smaller government, Americans paid their lowest level of taxes last year since Harry Truman's presidency, a USA TODAY analysis of federal data found.

Some conservative political movements such as the "Tea Party" have criticized federal spending as being out of control. While spending is up, taxes have fallen to exceptionally low levels.

Federal, state and local taxes — including income, property, sales and other taxes — consumed 9.2% of all personal income in 2009, the lowest rate since 1950, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. That rate is far below the historic average of 12% for the last half-century. The overall tax burden hit bottom in December at 8.8.% of income before rising slightly in the first three months of 2010.

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Individual tax rates vary widely based on how much a taxpayer earns, where the person lives and other factors. On average, though, the tax rate paid by all Americans — rich and poor, combined — has fallen 26% since the recession began in 2007. That means a $3,400 annual tax savings for a household paying the average national rate and earning the average national household income of $102,000.

This tax drop has boosted consumer spending and the economy, which grew at a 3.2% annual rate in the first quarter. It also has contributed to the federal debt growing to $8.4 trillion.

Taxes paid have fallen much faster than income in this recession. Personal income fell 2% last year. Taxes paid dropped 23%. The BEA classifies Social Security taxes as insurance payments and excludes them from the tax calculation.

Why the tax bite has eased:

• Stimulus law. One-third of last year's $862 billion economic stimulus went for tax cuts. Biggest reduction: The Making Work Pay tax credit reduced income taxes $800 for married couples earning up to $150,000.

• Progressive tax rates. Presidents Clinton and Bush pushed through a series of tax changes — credits, lower rates, higher exemptions — that slashed income taxes for poor and middle-class families. A drop in income now can trigger big tax breaks and sharply lower rates, sometimes falling to zero.

• Sales tax. Consumers cut spending sharply in this downturn, thereby paying less in sales taxes.


Critical Care Outcomes Tied to Insurance Status

ScienceDaily (Apr. 29, 2010) — Among the general U.S. population, people who are uninsured are about half as likely to receive critical care services as those with insurance, according to systematic review of the literature by the American Thoracic Society's Health Disparities Group. They also found that once admitted to the hospital intensive care unit, uninsured patients are less likely to have invasive procedures or pulmonary artery catheterizations and more likely to have life support withdrawn.

"Patients in the United States who do not have health insurance and become critically ill receive fewer critical care services and may experience worse clinical outcomes," said J. Randall Curtis, M.D., M.P.H., president of the ATS, and an investigator for the review. "Improving preexisting health care coverage may be one mechanism to reduce such disparities."

Tainted nuke plant water reaches major NJ aquifer

Associated Press Writer
updated 4:42 p.m. ET, Fri., May 7, 2010

LACEY TOWNSHIP, N.J. - Radioactive water that leaked from the nation's oldest nuclear power plant has now reached a major underground aquifer that supplies drinking water to much of southern New Jersey, the state's environmental chief said Friday.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has ordered the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station to halt the spread of contaminated water underground, even as it said there was no imminent threat to drinking water supplies.

The department launched a new investigation Friday into the April 2009 spill and said the actions of plant owner Exelon Corp. have not been sufficient to contain water contaminated with tritium.

Tritium is found naturally in tiny amounts and is a product of nuclear fission. It has been linked to cancer if ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin in large amounts.

"There is a problem here," said environmental Commissioner Bob Martin. "I am worried about the continuing spread of the tritium into the groundwater and its gradual moving toward wells in the area. This is not something that can wait. That would be unacceptable."

The tritium leaked from underground pipes at the plant on April 9, 2009, and has been slowly spreading underground at 1 to 3 feet a day. At the current rate, it would be 14 or 15 years before the tainted water reaches the nearest private or commercial drinking water wells about two miles away.

But the mere fact that the radioactive water — at concentrations 50 times higher than those allowed by law — has reached southern New Jersey's main source of drinking water calls for urgent action, Martin said.

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The radioactive water leaks were found just days after the plant got a new 20-year license in 2009 that environmentalists had bitterly fought for four years. Those problems followed corrosion that left the reactor's crucial safety liner rusted and thinned.


Canada's eager beavers build world's largest dam

Associated Press Writer
updated 7:23 p.m. ET, Fri., May 7, 2010

TORONTO - A Canadian-based ecologist said Friday that he has located the world's largest beaver dam in northwestern Canada using Google satellite technology.

Ecologist Jean Thie located the 2,788-foot (850-meter) dam using Google Earth and NASA technology while researching the rate of melting permafrost in the country's far north.

Situated in northern Alberta's Wood Buffalo National Park, which straddles the Alberta-Northwest Territories border, the dam stretches more than eight football fields long, said Thie.

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Using past images and park aerial photography, Thie concluded that the eager beavers began their work in the 1970s and that generations of the rodents have worked on it since.

"This was the work of extended families," said Thie, who is the president of EcoInformatics, a science research company.


DNA tests vindicate Ohio man convicted of '81 rape

I'm very sorry this innocent person was made to suffer, but I am glad to see an example of prosecutors and judges who were quick and happy to free him when it was shown he was innocent. Unhappily, there have actually been prosecutors and judges in similar cases who fought the freeing of prisoners shown to be innocent. Some actually said they opposed it because they thought it would cause the public to lose faith in the criminal justice system!

Something I learned recently is that when comparing DNA in such cases, only a small portion of the DNA is checked. So we can prove a person innocent, but cannot prove a person guilty beyond a doubt using DNA. You would never know that from most press accounts.;_ylt=Aimmt4en.5wp3BN.53TNAsSs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFlZXM3azFoBHBvcwM1NgRzZWMDYWNjb3JkaW9uX3Vfc19uZXdzBHNsawNkbmF0ZXN0c3ZpbmQ-

By THOMAS J. SHEERAN, Associated Press Writer Thomas J. Sheeran, Associated Press Writer – Wed May 5, 7:33 pm ET

CLEVELAND – An Ohio man tasted freedom for the first time in nearly 30 years on Wednesday after a judge vacated his conviction because DNA evidence showed he did not rape an 11-year-old girl.

"It finally happened, I've been waiting," Raymond Towler, 52, said as he hugged sobbing family members in the courtroom.

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Towler had been serving a life sentence for the rape of a girl in a Cleveland park in 1981. Prosecutors received the test results Monday and immediately asked the court to free him.

Towler deflected a question about demanding an apology and said he understood justice can take time.

"I think it was just a process, you know, the DNA," he said. "It just took a couple of years to get to it. We finally got to it and the job was done."

In a brief, emotionally charged session, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Eileen Gallagher recapped the case, discussed the recently processed DNA evidence and threw out his conviction. She also told him that he can sue over his ordeal.

Towler smiled lightly, nodded and kept his intertwined fingers on his lap.

"You're free," the judge said, leaving the bench to shake Towler's hand at the defense table. The judge choked back tears as she offered Towler a traditional Irish blessing.

The Ohio Innocence Project, an organization that uses DNA evidence to clear people wrongfully convicted of crimes, said Towler was among the longest incarcerated people to be exonerated by DNA in U.S. history. The longest was a man freed in Florida in December after serving 35 years, according to the project.

Towler was arrested three weeks after the crime when a park ranger who had stopped him on a traffic violation noticed a resemblance with a suspect sketch. The victim and witnesses identified him from a photo, police said.

Carrie Wood, a staff attorney with the project, said the identifications were questionable.

The latest technology allowed separate DNA testing of a semen sample and other genetic material, possibly skin cells, she said.

"That was the test result that we got this week and it excluded Mr. Towler," she said. "Because Mr. Towler's conviction was in '81, the technology did not exist to do the kind of DNA testing that we can do now."

Attorneys with the project at the University of Cincinnati have been working on the Towler case since 2004, and Towler said that and his faith had given him hope.

"That's how I've been living these last years, I've just been keeping hope," Towler said as relatives and friends crowded around him after the court session, some whooping, "Alleluia."

Clarence Elkins, who was freed in 2005 in Akron on the basis of DNA evidence after serving seven years in the rape and murder of his mother-in-law and the rape of a 6-year-old relative, watched from a rear courtroom seat.

"Today is a great day. Once again, justice is served a little late, but better late than never," he said. "Almost 30 years is a very long time. One day is too long."


Overtime Work Is Bad for the Heart

ScienceDaily (May 11, 2010) — Working overtime is bad for the heart according to results from a long-running study following more than 10,000 civil servants in London (UK): the Whitehall II study.

The research, which is published online in the European Heart Journal, found that, compared with people who did not work overtime, people who worked three or more hours longer than a normal, seven-hour day had a 60% higher risk of heart-related problems such as death due to heart disease, non-fatal heart attacks and angina.

[Ie., two or more hours longer than an 8-hour day.]

Dr Marianna Virtanen, an epidemiologist at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki (Finland) and University College London (UK), said: "The association between long hours and coronary heart disease was independent of a range of risk factors that we measured at the start of the study, such as smoking, being overweight, or having high cholesterol.

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Moderating comments

I have started moderating comments before they are posted.
This is due to the fact that someone has been posting comments in Chinese, and when I finally checked them out with Google's translator, some of them appear to contain pornographic references.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Toddlers and TV: Early Exposure Has Negative and Long-Term Impact

ScienceDaily (May 8, 2010) — Want kids who are smarter and thinner? Keep them away from the television set as toddlers. A shocking study from child experts at the Université de Montréal, the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center and the University of Michigan, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, has found that television exposure at age two forecasts negative consequences for kids, ranging from poor school adjustment to unhealthy habits.

"We found every additional hour of TV exposure among toddlers corresponded to a future decrease in classroom engagement and success at math, increased victimization by classmates, have a more sedentary lifestyle, higher consumption of junk food and, ultimately, higher body mass index," says lead author Dr. Linda S. Pagani, a psychosocial professor at the Université de Montréal and researcher at the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center.

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According to the investigation, watching too much TV as toddlers later forecasted:

* a seven percent decrease in classroom engagement;
* a six percent decrease in math achievement (with no harmful effects on later reading);
* a 10 percent increase in victimization by classmates (peer rejection, being teased, assaulted or insulted by other students);
* a 13 percent decrease in weekend physical activity;
* a nine percent decrease in general physical activity;
* a none percent higher consumption of soft drinks;
* a 10 percent peak in snacks intake;
* a five percent increase in BMI.

"Although we expected the impact of early TV viewing to disappear after seven and a half years of childhood, the fact that negative outcomes remained is quite daunting," says Dr. Pagani. "Our findings make a compelling public health argument against excessive TV viewing in early childhood and for parents to heed guidelines on TV exposure from the American Academy of Pediatrics."

Since TV exposure encourages a sedentary lifestyle, Dr. Pagani says, television viewing must be curbed for toddlers to avoid the maintenance of passive mental and physical habits in later childhood: "Common sense would have it that TV exposure replaces time that could be spent engaging in other developmentally enriching activities and tasks which foster cognitive, behavioral, and motor development."


Common Mosquito Repellent No Longer Repels Certain Mosquitoes

Disappointing, but predictable from the science of evolution.

ScienceDaily (May 6, 2010) — Mosquitoes can develop a resistance to substances used to repel them. This has been shown for the first time in laboratory tests at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and associates in the UK.

It is the yellow fever mosquito that has developed a resistance to the mosquito repellent DEET, a substance used in mosquito repellents all over the world. In Sweden it is found in the products MyggA and Djungelolja (Jungle Oil). The capacity of mosquitoes to develop resistance has been shown to be hereditary.

"Through testing, we have found that yellow fever mosquitoes no long sense the smell of DEET and are thereby not repelled by it. This is because a certain type of sensory cell on the mosquito's antenna is no longer active" says Rickard Ignell, a researcher at the Division for Chemical Ecology at SLU in Alnarp.

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Psychological Research Not Always Universal

ScienceDaily (May 10, 2010) — Previous studies have found that the vast majority of published psychological research in the United States is based on American samples and excludes 95 percent of the world's population. Yet, these results are often generalized and taken as universal. When University of Missouri doctoral student Reid Trotter examined perfectionism and coping methods in Taiwanese culture for his dissertation, he decided to collaborate with a graduate student in Taiwan. From their collaboration, they found that models of perfectionism and coping were not universal. Trotter hopes his experience will encourage more researchers to develop cross-cultural relationships.

"In general, there has been very little cross-cultural research in the United States," Trotter said. "This has resulted in an insufficient understanding of the psychological functioning of the human species. Cross-cultural research requires developing a relationship with a member of the culture in which you plan to study. This relationship will help researchers address possible cultural blind spots that may unintentionally weaken the study."

Previously, geographical barriers limited researchers' ability to develop these relationships. Now, technology, such as Skype, can help scholars facilitate communication and work through possible cultural misunderstandings.

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Higher Amounts of Added Sugars Increase Heart Disease Risk Factors

ScienceDaily (Apr. 22, 2010) — Consuming a higher amount of added sugars in processed or prepared foods is associated with lower levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C, the "good cholesterol") and higher levels of triglycerides, which are important risk factors for cardiovascular disease, according to a study in the April 21 issue of JAMA. [JAMA : Journal of the American Medical Association]

"In the United States, total consumption of sugar has increased substantially in recent decades, largely owing to an increased intake of 'added sugars,' defined as caloric sweeteners used by the food industry and consumers as ingredients in processed or prepared foods to increase the desirability of these foods," the authors write. No known studies have examined the association between the consumption of added sugars and lipid measures, such as HDL-C, triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C).

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