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August 31, 2010
by David Gutierrez
Popular anti-seizure drugs may seriously increase a patient’s risk of suicide and violent death, according to a study conducted by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The drugs, known as anticonvulsants, were initially designed for the treatment of epilepsy but are now widely prescribed “off-label” for conditions such as bipolar disorder, migraine headaches and pain.
“We all know the range of uses of these medications is very, very wide,” researcher Elisabetta Patorno said.
The researchers examined the prescription and medical records of more than 300,000 people above the age of 14 who had been prescribed an anticonvulsant for the first time between July 2001 and December 2006.
All of the drugs, they found, significantly increased a patient’s risk of attempted or successful suicide, as well as violent death by other causes. During the course of the study, there were 801 attempted suicides, 26 successful suicides and 41 violent deaths.
“We found increased risk for suicidal acts beginning within the first 14 days after treatment initiation, opening the possibility that anticonvulsant medications could induce behavioral effects prior to the achievement of their full therapeutic effectiveness,” the researchers wrote.
Based on prior studies, the FDA ruled in 2008 that all anticonvulsants must carry labels warning that they double the risk of suicidal thoughts and actions. These older studies had not been able to determine if any drugs posed higher risks than others, however.
In the current study, researchers compared the rates of suicides and violent deaths among users of topiramate (sold generically and also marketed as Topamax), gabapentin (marketed as Neurontin), lamotrigine (marketed as Lamictal), oxcarbazepine (marketed as Trileptal), tiagabine (marketed as Gabitril) and valproate (marketed as Depakine and Epilim). They found that the risk was lowest in topiramate, and roughly equal in the five other drugs.
August 31, 2010
by Jonathan Benson
It is hardly breaking news that eating cruciferous vegetables like broccoli helps to improve health. But researchers from the University of Liverpool have discovered new benefits to eating both broccoli and plantains — two high-fiber foods — that may help people with Chron’s disease and other digestive disorders. According to the recent study, broccoli and plantains contain compounds that help protect the gut from infection and improve overall stomach health.
Broccoli and plantains are not the only foods that provide this benefit, but they are two in particular that scientists found to have exceptional benefit. The compounds in these two foods actually boost the ability of the stomach lining to ward off bad bacteria, passing it through the tract and out of the body before it can cause harm.
“We have known for some time the general health benefits of eating plantain and broccoli, which are both high in vitamins and minerals, but until now we have not understood how they can boost the body’s natural defenses against infection common in Chron’s patients,” explained Dr. Barry Campbell, who worked on the study.
The intestinal lining in the gut is coated in M-cells, which are designed to maintain intestinal health. But these cells are often disrupted by processed foods, artificial chemicals and other additives. Long-term ingestion of these substances can severely damage a person’s bacterial balance, leading eventually to disease.
“Knowledge of the M-cell role offers a more detailed explanation as to why a healthy diet can improve the health and well being for people with Chron’s disease and healthy individuals alike,” emphasized a spokeswoman from the Chron’s and Colitis Foundation, in response to the study.
“Simple, nonprocessed foods…are associated with positive ecology of friendly bacteria in our intestines,” explains Greg Hicks, M.D., in a book by Dan Buettner called The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.
“These friendly bacteria include immunomodulating and fiber-fermenting lactic acid bacteria. Stressors of this healthy ecological system, such as surgery, certain medications, and consumption of meats and processed foods disrupt a natural balance and shift from friendly to unfriendly bacteria.”
August 31, 2010
by Jonathan Benson
A recent study published online in the journal Biology of Reproduction further reveals the disruptive nature of bisphenol A (BPA) in gene expression. According to the data, pregnant mice exposed to BPA experience significant genetic changes in their fetal ovaries, indicating that the next generation of their offspring will likely be born with serious genetic defects.
Dr. Patricia A. Hunt and her colleagues at Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman, Wash., exposed female mice to levels of BPA roughly equivalent to the levels humans are exposed to on a regular basis. The team discovered that in as little as 12 hours after exposure, egg production in exposed mice suffered reproductive damage. They believe exposure even altered the reproductive capacity of the mice’s grandchildren.
According to the study report, BPA exposure negatively affects mitosis, the process by which cells divide their nuclei chromosomes in order to reproduce into new cells. BPA also disrupts other normal cell cycle functions and DNA replication, which researchers say can potentially shorten the “reproductive lifespan” of females.
What makes BPA particularly dangerous is the fact that very low levels of exposure to it can cause significant harm. According to reports, there have already been more than 200 studies conducted about BPA’s dangers, many of which implicate the chemical as being highly dangerous even at extremely low levels.
One such study that appeared in the journal Reproductive Toxicology found that newborn animals exposed to BPA experience uterine damage.
“The researchers indicated that such damage is a possible predictor of reproductive diseases in women, including fibroids, endometriosis, cystic ovaries and cancers,” explains Andreas Moritz in his book Timeless Secrets of Health & Rejuvenation: Unleash The Natural Healing Power That Lies Dormant Within You.
Editor’s Note: NaturalNews is strongly against the use of all forms of animal testing. We fully support the implementation of humane medical experimentation that promotes the health and well-being of all living creatures.
August 31, 2010
by Donna Bowater
A high-level inquiry into the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found there was “little evidence” for its claims about global warming.
It also said the panel had emphasised the negative impacts of climate change and made “substantive findings” based on little proof.
The review by the InterAcademy Council (IAC) was launched after the IPCC’s hugely embarrassing 2007 benchmark climate change report, which contained exaggerated and false claims that Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035.
August 31, 2010
by Kevin Bogardus & Barbra Kim
The wealthiest members of Congress grew richer in 2009 even as the economy struggled to recover from a deep recession.
The 50 wealthiest lawmakers were worth almost $1.4 billion in 2009, about $85.1 million more than 12 months earlier, according to The Hill’s annual review of lawmakers’ financial disclosure forms.
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) tops the list for the second year in a row. His minimum net worth was $188.6 million at the end of 2009, up by more than $20 million from 2008, according to his financial disclosure form.
While the economy struggled through a recession during much of 2009 and the nation’s unemployment rate soared to 10 percent, the stock market rebounded, helping lawmakers with large investments. The S&P 500 rose by about 28 percent in 2009.
Total assets for the 50 wealthiest lawmakers in 2009 was $1.5 billion — that’s actually a nearly $36 million drop from a year ago. But lawmakers reduced their liabilities by even more, cutting debts by $120 million last year.
There are various reasons why asset values dropped. Some lawmakers saw their real estate holdings fall as the housing crisis intensified. A handful of lawmakers also had other investments or businesses that turned sour.
The only newcomer to the Top 10 list is Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who came straight in at No. 5. He replaced Rep. Harry Teague (D-N.M.), the 10th wealthiest member in 2008. Teague fell off the top 50 list after the value of a company he has a stake in — Teaco Energy Services Inc. — fell in value from $39.6 million in 2008 to at the least $1 million in 2009.
There were a few other new faces in the Top 50, including Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), who received an inheritance after his late father, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), died in 2009.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.) also made the list.
Twenty-seven Democrats along with 23 Republicans make up the 50 richest in Congress; 30 House members and 20 senators are on the list.
The bulk of Kerry’s wealth is credited to his spouse, Teresa Heinz Kerry, who inherited hundreds of millions of dollars after her late husband, the ketchup heir Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa.), died in a plane crash in 1991.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), with a net worth of $160.1 million, is the second-richest member of Congress under The Hill’s formula, even though his wealth declined by more than $4 million in 2009.
He is followed by Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), who saw her net wealth leap to $152.3 million, a jump of more than $40 million from a year ago.
The rest of the top 10 are Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), McCaul, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
To calculate its rankings, The Hill used only the lawmakers’ financial disclosure forms that cover the 2009 calendar year.
Lawmakers are only required to report their finances in broad ranges. For example, a $2.5 million vacation home in Aspen, Colo., would be reported as being valued at between $1 and $5 million on a congressional financial disclosure form.
To come up with the most conservative estimate for each lawmaker’s wealth, researchers took the bottom number of each range reported. Then, to calculate the minimum net worth for each senator and member, the sum of liabilities was subtracted from the sum of assets.
As a result, the methodology used to find the Top 50 wealthiest in Congress can miss some of the richest lawmakers.
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) is certainly one of the wealthiest lawmakers on Capitol Hill. As owner of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, Kohl has a $254 million asset on his hands, according to Forbes magazine.
But under The Hill’s methodology, his team ownership only counts for $50 million, the highest range reported on the congressional financial disclosure form. Because of high liabilities on his 2009 form, Kohl actually is listed as being more than $4.6 million in debt on the 2009 form.
August 31, 2010
by Nicholas Larkin
Investors are accumulating enough bullion to fill Switzerland’s vaults twice over as gold’s most- accurate forecasters say the longest rally in at least nine decades has further to go no matter what the economy holds.
Analysts raised their 2011 forecasts more than for any other precious metal the past two months, predicting a 10th annual advance, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The most widely held option on gold futures traded in New York is for $1,500 an ounce by December, or 18 percent more than the record $1,266.50 reached June 21. Holdings through bullion-backed exchange-traded products are already at more than 2,075 metric tons, within 0.1 percent of the all-time high.
“Either a swift economic recovery or further dismal economic performance should bring new buyers into the market,” said Eugen Weinberg, an analyst at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt who was the most accurate forecaster in the first quarter and expects the metal to rise as high as $1,400 next year. “A stronger economy would create more jewelry demand. If the economy stays weak or gets worse, then investors will be looking for a safe haven.”
Investors added to their gold holdings through ETPs for three consecutive weeks, reflecting demand for assets typically favored in times of financial stress. Two-year Treasury yields fell to a record low of 0.4542 percent on Aug. 24 and the yen reached a 15-year high against the dollar the same day. Pacific Investment Management Co., Deutsche Bank AG and Citigroup Inc. have announced or are offering funds or traded instruments designed to guard against sudden market declines.
Buyers accumulated almost 278 tons of gold in 2010 across 10 ETPs tracked by Bloomberg, worth $10.4 billion at this year’s average price. Total holdings are almost twice Switzerland’s official reserves of 1,040 tons, data compiled by the World Gold Council show. ETP holdings reached a record 2,078 tons July 19, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
One of the biggest buyers has been Soros Fund Management LLC, which oversees about $25 billion. George Soros, who made $1 billion breaking the Bank of England’s defense of the pound in 1992, described gold as “the ultimate asset bubble” at the World Economic Forum’s January meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Buying at the start of a bubble is “rational,” he said.
Soros Fund Management sold 341,250 shares of the SPDR Gold Trust, the largest ETP backed by bullion, in the second quarter, according to an Aug. 16 Securities and Exchange Commission filing. That still left a holding of 5.24 million shares, equal to almost 16 tons. Soros declined to comment on the change, through a spokesman.
Gold may rise as high as $1,500 next year, 21 percent more than the $1,240 traded at 1:45 p.m. in London, according to the median in a Bloomberg survey of 29 analysts, traders and investors. Dan Brebner, an analyst at Deutsche Bank in London who is the most accurate forecaster so far this year, says the metal may reach $1,550.
Bullion gained 13 percent since January, beating an 8.4 percent return on Treasuries, an 8 percent decline in the MSCI World Index of shares and the 10 percent slump in the S&P GSCI Total Return Index of 24 raw materials.
Investors are concerned the recovery is weakening. Sales of new U.S. homes fell to an all-time low in July, the Commerce Department said Aug. 25. The U.S. economy grew at a 1.6 percent annual rate in the second quarter, less than previously calculated, the department said Aug. 27. U.S. growth will slow to 2.8 percent next year, compared with 3 percent in 2010, according to the median of as many as 69 economists’ forecasts compiled by Bloomberg.
‘Fear Another Crisis’
People “fear another crisis and so they will diversify into gold,” said Thorsten Proettel, an analyst at Landesbank Baden-Wurttemberg in Stuttgart, Germany, who was also the most- accurate forecaster in the first quarter. He expects gold to trade as high as $1,350 next year. Anne-Laure Tremblay, an analyst at BNP Paribas SA in London whose forecast was also the best in the period, is estimating a 2011 high of $1,370.
Bullion’s four-fold rally since the end of 2000 has attracted fund managers Eric Mindich and John Paulson. Mindich’s $13 billion Eton Park Capital Management LP bought almost 6.58 million shares of the SPDR Gold Trust in the second quarter, according to an Aug. 16 SEC filing. That’s equal to about 20 tons of gold. Paulson & Co., managing $31 billion, held 31.5 million shares in the SPDR Gold Trust, making it the largest investor, an Aug. 16 SEC filing shows.
Astor Asset Management LLC, with about $570 million of assets, once had as much as 10 percent of its holdings in the SPDR Gold Trust, according to Bryan Novak, managing director of the Chicago-based company. The firm sold the stake at the end of last year for a profit and now owns silver, copper and a multicommodity ETP.
“We don’t believe we’re heading into a double-dip recession,” Novak said. “Gold carries some risk because a lot of people are piling into the trade.”
A plunge in equities may spur investors to sell their gold holdings to raise cash, he said. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dropped 14 percent since this year’s peak on April 26.
Investment demand of 1,901 tons last year exceeded jewelry consumption of 1,759 tons for the first time in three decades, according to London-based researcher GFMS Ltd. That trend continued into the second quarter, with total demand advancing 36 percent to 1,050.3 tons, the WGC in London said Aug. 25.
Earnings at Newmont Mining Corp., the largest U.S. gold producer, may increase 47 percent to $1.93 billion in 2010, according to the mean estimate of seven analysts’ forecasts compiled by Bloomberg. The 16-member Philadelphia Stock Exchange Gold and Silver Index advanced 8.7 percent since January.
Bets on gold may pay off even if economic recoveries strengthen. World growth will be 4.6 percent this year, the most since 2007, the International Monetary Fund said July 7. China, the second-biggest bullion buyer after India, will expand 10 percent in 2010, compared with 9.1 percent last year, according to the median of 24 economists’ forecasts compiled by Bloomberg.
Gold imports by India this year may total 600 tons to 625 tons, compared with an estimated 480 tons to 485 tons last year, according to Anjani Sinha, chief executive officer of National Spot Exchange Ltd., the country’s biggest bourse for trading physical gold.
While growth may curb investors’ appetite for gold to protect their wealth, it may also bolster purchases of jewelry, reviving demand that fell to a 21-year low in 2009, according to Jochen Hitzfeld, an analyst at UniCredit SpA in Munich and the best forecaster in the last three quarters. He’s predicting a 2011 high of $1,350.
Analysts are getting more bullish. Their median estimate for next year’s average gold price climbed 6.2 percent since June 16 to $1,247.50, according to 17 forecasts compiled by Bloomberg. That compares with a 2.6 percent gain in silver forecasts, 0.6 percent advance in platinum predictions and a 0.5 percent jump in their palladium outlook.
Gold averaged $1,166.43 since January, heading for a ninth consecutive year of higher average prices. That’s the longest streak since at least 1920.
Options traders are also betting on prices rallying. The biggest position is in call options expiring in November 2010, giving traders the right to buy the metal at $1,500 by then. The next biggest position is the call option for $2,000 expiring in November 2011, data from the Comex exchange in New York show.
“Investors’ interest is still growing and still hasn’t reached a reasonable part of their portfolio,” UniCredit’s Hitzfeld said. “Gold is still an under-owned asset, that’s perfectly clear.”
August 31, 2010
by Andrew Walker
India’s economy grew at its fastest rate for more than two years in the last quarter, according to official data.
In the three months to June, GDP was up 8.8% compared with the same period last year.
Although only the 11th biggest economy in the world, India is the second fastest-growing, behind China.
Strong industrial and mining output helped boost the growth rate, India’s statistics agency said.
Industrial output rose more than 12%, while mining and quarrying jumped nearly 9%.
Services including hotels and banking also did well, with output up nearly 10%.
Services account for 55% of India’s economy, while industry makes up around 25% of output.
In July, the Reserve Bank of India said it expected annual growth for the current financial year to come in at about 8.5%.
But the bank has also said bringing down inflation remains a priority.
The inflation rate topped 11% last month and the strong performance in the economy is expected to encourage policymakers to continue raising interest rates.
Growth to slow
So far this year, the central bank has raised interest rates four times in a bid to curb inflation.
Economists expect further rises and many expect them to slow India’s economic growth in the coming months.
“We don’t expect this growth rate to be as strong over the next two quarters,” admitted Deepak Gopinath, a director at Trusted Sources Research.
“Having said that, among the Bric economies [Brazil, Russia, India and China], India is well placed to sustain strong growth. It is less dependent on developed countries than the others.”
Chandrajit Banerjee, director general of the Confederation of Indian Industry, agreed that domestic demand was important for India’s economy.
“With renewed pessimism on the extent of the recovery of developed economies, the Indian economy needs to depend on domestic drivers for growth,” he said.
August 31, 2010
Russia’s economy grew 4.0 percent in the first half of the year, continuing its recovery from the global crisis, but this was slightly below official forecasts, data showed on Tuesday.
The figures from the state statistics office were below mid-July estimates for growth of 4.2 percent in the first half, according to the economic development ministry.
The data showed industrial output up 9.6 percent in the January-July period compared with a year earlier as the country recovered from a severe slowdown sparked by the global economic crisis.
This year, the economy has been hit by the worst drought in decades, with many industrial companies shutting shop or cutting shifts as wildfires raged in western Russia, engulfing Moscow in a hazardous smog.
Economic Development Deputy Minister Andrei Klepach said earlier this month that the drought would cut at least 0.7-0.8 percentage points from 2010 growth as Russian harvests were hurt by the extreme temperatures.
The drought has destroyed one quarter of Russia’s crops, leading the government to slap a blanket ban on grain exports.
Last year, Russia’s hydrocarbon-dependent economy was hard hit by the economic crisis, suffering a 7.9-percent economic contraction after growth of 5.6 percent in 2008.
But with the recovery of energy prices and a strong performance in the second quarter, the government forecast growth of 4.0 percent for all of 2010.
Earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund put this year’s growth at 4.25 percent and 2011 at 4.0 percent.
August 31, 2010
The German unemployment rate was stable in August at 7.6 percent of the workforce, official figures showed on Tuesday as the number of people seeking work edged slightly lower to 3.188 million people.
“The clear rebound of the German economy continues to translate positively onto the jobs market,” a labour agency statement said.
The fall from an unadjusted figure of 3.192 million, the figure used as a public reference, meant the jobless rate was unchanged from July as Europe’s biggest economy powers out of its worst post-war recession.
The adjusted rate used by economists was also 7.6 percent in August, but the corresponding number of unemployed declined by 17,000 people, the federal labour office said.
That was slightly below a forecast decline of 20,000 compiled by Dow Jones Newswires, but nonetheless showed continued improvement as firms rehire to meet stronger foreign and domestic demand.
It was the 14th monthly decline in a row and left the unemployment rate at close to a two-year low point, Capital Economics senior European economist Jennifer McKeown noted.
“While unemployment is still rising elsewhere in the euro-zone, the German labour market has been particularly resilient, thanks initially to the Government?s ‘Kurzarbeit’ subsidy scheme, but perhaps now reflecting the underlying economic recovery,” McKeown said.
The German government had subsidised shorter working hours to help companies make it though the global economic downturn, but most companies have now put staff back on full-time hours.
Germany posted record quarterly growth in the second quarter of 2010 thanks to strong exports and a pick-up in domestic consumption underpinned by improving job prospects.
German Economy Minister said in July that the number of unemployed could soon fall below three million.
“The impressive performance of the labour market can only become a real success story if it eventually leads to a pick-up in private consumption,” ING senior economist Carsten Brzeski said.
“All ingredients are in place for this to happen now.”