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August 10, 2010
By: Ethan A. Huff
A recent report issued by the European Union has revealed that biofuels, or fuel made from living, renewable sources, is not really all that beneficial to the environment. Rather than reduce the net carbon footprint as intended, biofuels can produce four times more carbon dioxide pollution than conventional fossil fuels do.
Common biofuels like corn ethanol, which has become a popular additive in gasoline, and soy biodiesel, which is being used in commercial trucks and other diesel-fueled vehicles, are often considered to be environmentally-friendly because they are renewable. But in order to grow enough of these crops to use for both food and fuel, large swaths of land around the world are being converted into crop fields for growing biofuels.
In other words, millions of acres of lush rainforests are becoming corn and soy fields in order to provide enough of these resources for their new uses. The net carbon footprint of growing crops for fuel is far higher than what is emitted from simple fossil fuel usage.
According to the report, American soybeans have an indirect carbon footprint of 340kg of CO2 per gigajoule (GJ), while conventional diesel and gasoline create only 85kg/GJ. Similarly, the European rapeseed, a plant similar to the North American canola, indirectly produces 150kg/GJ because additional land in other nations has been converted to grow rapeseed for food in order to replace the native crops that are now being grown for fuel.
Ironically, the amount of direct and indirect resources used to grow food for fuel is quite high compared to that of conventional fossil fuels. Biofuels also do not burn as efficiently and can be rough on the engines they fuel. Ethanol-enriched gasoline can also reduce gas mileage efficiency by upwards of 25 percent, depending on the vehicle.
Growing food for fuel ends up increasing the price of food for consumers. It also puts additional strain on families, many of whom are already having difficulties making ends meet in current economic conditions.
When all is said and done, biofuels seem to be a whole lot of hype with not a lot of benefit. Environmentally, fiscally and practically, biofuels are a disaster. Fossil fuels may not be an ideal form of clean energy, but at this point in time, they make a lot more sense than biofuels.
August 10, 2010
By: David Gutierrez
In 2009 alone, more than four million prescriptions were written for nitroglycerin tablets that had not been approved by the FDA, the agency has said, representing 80 percent of all prescriptions written.
Nitroglycerin tablets are commonly prescribed to patients at high risk of heart attacks. When a patient feels chest pain or another early sign of a heart attack, the tablets are dissolved under the tongue. They cause blood vessels to dilate, and can prevent or stop a heart attack in up to 4 percent of cases.
Because the tablets were in use before the passage of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act in 1938, manufacturers have always claimed they can continue selling them without FDA approval. Yet in recent years the FDA has begun cracking down on unapproved medications, disputing this interpretation of federal drug law.
“If it’s not approved and no one has tested it, we can’t be sure that it’s safe and effective,” said cardiologist Harry M. Lever of the Cleveland Clinic.
The FDA recently sent letters to two manufacturers of unapproved nitroglycerin tablets, Konec Inc. of Tucson, Ariz., and Glenmark Generics Inc. of Mahwah, N.J., giving them 90 days to stop manufacturing the pills and 180 days to stop distributing them. Drug stores have stated that they will continue to sell the products until they are no longer available.
“We still have the [Glenmark] product available,” said Walgreens spokesperson Robert Elfinger. “This is not a recall.”
The FDA said it had not received any reports of problems with Glenmark or Konec’s products, but that it had been notified of problems with other unapproved nitroglycerin tablets.
Upon hearing of the FDA action, however, Lever recalled an incident in which a heart surgery patient had brought back a bottle of Glenmark pills he had prescribed to her. The pills did not relieve her chest pain, she told him, or cause any of the side effects that her prior batch of pills had.
“Every day, when I’m writing a prescription,” Lever said, “I’m thinking, ‘Is the patient going to get the right stuff?’”
August 10, 2010
By: Ethan A. Huff
A recent study out of the University of Tampere in Finland has found that vitamin D helps to prevent respiratory infections. In the study, supplementing with vitamin D resulted in more than half the participants who took it staying healthy throughout the trial, compared to just over 30 percent in the control group.
Dr. Ilkka Laaksi and her team evaluated a group of 164 males going into the military to see if vitamin D supplementation affected their overall health. They gave part of the group 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day for six months, and the other part of the group a placebo pill for the same period of time. Those who took vitamin D experienced greater overall health and less respiratory infections than those who did not.
Laaksi was quick to say that the study reveals “some evidence” that vitamin D helps prevent respiratory infections, but that such a benefit is not entirely clear.
Though 400 IU of vitamin D a day meets recommended government intake recommendations, many in the medical profession are now realizing that this level is far too low to offer much therapeutic effect. Some suspect that if a higher dose had been used in the study, the effects would have been even more significant.
This hypothesis was illustrated in a recent Japanese study that administered 1,200 IU doses of vitamin D to schoolchildren. Those who took this dose every day had a much lower chance of developing influenza than others.
It is, however, unclear which form of vitamin D the team used in the Finland study. Vitamin D2 is not as effective as vitamin D3, but researchers often use D2 in study trials, which can make vitamin D appear less effective.
August 10, 2010
By: S.L. Baker
Scientists have long known that certain types of mushrooms have anti-tumor activity. But what about widely available, common white button mushrooms (WBMs)? Known by the botanical name Agaricus bisporus, they are a tasty addition to everything from salads to pizzas — and, it turns out, they do have powerful health building properties. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) funded studies have shown white button mushrooms enhance the activity of critical cells in the body’s immune system.
Although WBMs make up about 90 percent of the total mushrooms consumed in the United States, little research has been conducted into their nutritional value until the last few years. In groundbreaking animal and lab research conducted at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University, scientists have now documented how WBMs boost the immune system by increasing the production of proteins that fight disease-causing pathogens. The research team, which included HNRCA director Simin Meydani and his colleague, Dayong Wu, from the HNRCA Nutritional Immunology Laboratory, discovered the mushrooms have a positive impact on immune system cells classified as dendritic cells.
This is important because dendritic cells (DCs) can make white blood cells known as T cells that are crucial to a strong and healthy immune system. Dendritic cells recognize and then deactivate or destroy invading microbes such as bacteria and viruses or antigens (any substances that cause the immune system to respond). What’s more, they may play a role in fighting cancer.
The HNRCA researchers found that the immune system boosting effect of white button mushrooms was related to dosage — the more mushrooms, the more pronounced the immune response. “WBM promote DC maturation and enhance their antigen-presenting function,” the scientists wrote in their research paper, which was published in The Journal of Nutrition. “This effect may have potential in enhancing both innate and T cell-mediated immunity leading to a more efficient surveillance and defense mechanism against microbial invasion and tumor development.”
Another group of scientists at the City of Hope’s Beckman Research Institute in Duarte, California, published a study in Cancer Research that suggests consuming 100 grams of WBMs per day could suppress breast tumor growth in women. The research team concluded: “White button mushrooms may be an important dietary constituent for reducing the incidence of hormone-dependent breast cancer in women. Prevention strategies involving mushrooms are readily available, affordable, and acceptable to the general public…The information gained from our study can aid in the design of more highly developed and effective breast cancer prevention strategies involving dietary constituents such as mushrooms.”
August 10 ,2010
By: Mike Adams
Do you ever wonder things like “Who is actually gullible enough to think that Vitaminwater is healthy?” Although that question may seem demeaning or even arrogant, it turns out that the Coca-Cola company (which owns the Vitaminwater brand) is essentially asking that exact question.
How so? In response to a recent lawsuit against Coca-Cola filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Coke’s attorneys replied in court briefings that, “…no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitaminwater was a healthy beverage.”
Except, of course, millions of consumers were misled into believing precisely that. This illusion was helped in no small part by Coca-Cola’s advertising of Vitaminwater, which blatantly positions it as a health-enhancing beverage. Even the name itself implies that the product is made solely out of vitamins and water.
But of course it isn’t.
“Sugarwater” might be a better name
If Vitaminwater were accurately named, it would actually be called Sugarwater. Its first two ingredients are, not surprisingly, sugar and water (the sugar coming in the form of crystalline fructose, a processed sweetener that has been linked to health problems) (http://www.naturalnews.com/029371_f…).
In addition to the sugar and water, Vitaminwater contains a smattering of synthetic vitamin chemicals that any informed health consumer probably wouldn’t want to ingest. So in reality, Vitaminwater is really sugar water with the addition of synthetic chemicals that happen to be called “vitamins” (but which are not the natural, plant-based nutrients your body would greatly prefer).
So what we have now with Vitaminwater is a beverage that’s positioned and marketed as a health-enhancing beverage, yet its own corporate lawyers dismiss any notion that the beverage is “healthy.” How, then, can Coca-Cola get away with advertising Vitaminwater as a healthy beverage?
Simple: Because corporations use advertisements to lie to consumers. And virtually no one in the history of corporate advertising has mastered the art of deception better than Coca-Cola — a company whose products have contributed to untold numbers of diabetes victims while being positioned as cool, hip drinks that make you feel energized or inspired.
Coca-Cola isn’t really in the business of selling beverages, you see. It’s in the business of selling the illusion of happiness in a bottle or a can. Buy their products, say the advertisements, and you too can feel happiness (or freedom, or sexiness or whatever). But what Coca-Cola delivers isn’t really happiness at all: Many of Coke’s products deliver the liquid sugars, artificial chemical sweeteners and bone-dissolving acids (like phosphoric acid) that promote disease and suffering. And no reasonable person would equate degenerative disease with happiness.
Misleading name, misleading labels
Speaking of disease, how much sugar is actually in Vitaminwater? A lot more than you might think: While the label claims only 13 grams of sugar per serving, one bottle of vitamin water is actually 2.5 servings, meaning that you’re chugging down 32 grams of liquid sugars with every bottle.
That’s just one of the many “deceptive and unsubstantiated claims” pointed out by CSPI in its lawsuit against Coca-Cola. It is this lawsuit that resulted in Coke’s lawyers making the incredible statement that no reasonable person could possibly conclude Vitaminwater was a healthy beverage.
Lawyers, by the way, can argue absolutely anything — even if it makes no sense. And they can do it with a straight face, too. If you’re looking for a professional liar, hire a lawyer. Coca-Cola seems to already have its share working at their headquarters in Atlanta.
Using its lawyers, Coca-Cola tried to argue its way out of this CSPI lawsuit, but that effort was rejected by the courts. “A federal judge has denied Coca-Cola’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit over what the CSPI says are deceptive and unsubstantiated claims on the company’s “vitaminwater” line of soft drinks,” touts an article on the CSPI website (http://www.cspinet.org/new/20100723…)
That same announcement goes on to quote Judge John Gleeson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, who says “The names of the drinks, along with other statements on the label have the potential to reinforce a consumer’s mistaken belief that the product is comprised of only vitamins and water.”
CSPI’s litigation director Steve Gardner adds, “For too long, Coca-Cola has been exploiting Americans’ desire to eat and drink more healthfully by deceiving them into thinking that vitaminwater can actually prevent disease. In fact, vitaminwater is no more than non-carbonated soda, providing unnecessary added sugar and contributing to weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and other diseases. We look forward to representing all Americans whom Coke has deceived.”
Who really drinks Vitaminwater?
Reading all this, you might wonder who drinks Vitaminwater in the first place. I’ve never even tried the beverage myself because I read ingredients labels and I don’t drink liquid sugars.
But most consumers don’t read labels. Even if they attempted to, most consumers are simply unable to decode what food labels really mean. People simply believe whatever is most prominently displayed on the front of the package, which in this case are the two words “vitamin” and “water.”
On top of that, mainstream consumers are disturbingly gullible. If a product is positioned as being healthy, that’s what people believe it’s for, even if it makes no sense whatsoever. After all, why do so many people believe Slim-Fast will make them lose weight even though it’s made mostly from processed refined sugar?
Slim-Fast, by the way, never technically claims it’s a weight loss product. It dances around that claim with all sorts of other gray-area language that implies it is a weight loss product without making any direct claims. If pushed in the courts, its manufacturer would no doubt pull the same thing Coca-Cola just did and proclaim that no reasonable person could conclude that Slim-Fast is a weight loss product.
You see, big food companies are masters at making implied claims about their products that, upon closer inspection, are blatantly false. There are all sorts of false claims found on the labels of popular food products: A chocolate milk product made with sugar claims it “builds strong bones!” A liquid meal substitute sold in cans and made mostly with sugars and milk proteins claims to provide “balanced nutrition!” A product for diabetics claims to be “sugar free” but neglects to mention it’s sweetened with a chemical that may actually promote diabetes.
August 10, 2010
BBC News Health
Professor Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, has condemned society’s attitudes to food, alcohol and cigarettes.
In a letter to the Observer newspaper, he said parents had to take more responsibility for their children’s health – and set a good example.
He said irresponsible behaviour led to high levels of disease and early death.
He called on parents, mothers-to-be, the obese, smokers and drinkers to turn into healthy role models for their children.
You need to face facts and take responsibility”
End Quote Professor Steve Field, Royal College of GPs
Professor Field, who represents 42,000 GPs across the UK, added: “I suppose the same people also smoke at home in front of their children.
“Evidence from the US indicates that more young children are killed by parental smoking than by all other unintentional injuries combined.”
Other health experts have previously called for smoking to be banned in cars when children are present, but the government’s recent decision not to review existing smoking legislation means that move is unlikely.
In his letter, Professor Field says adults need to take responsibility for their own health too.
He added: “The truth, which may be unpalatable to some, is that too many of us, too often, neglect too many aspects of our own personal health behaviour, and this is leading to increasing levels of ill-health and early death.
“Public health is a sensitive subject.
“It’s not easy to strike the right balance between protecting people’s sensibilities and delivering the hard facts about their personal behaviours that are ultimately shortening their lives.
“Too many people do not face up to the hard facts, as they perceive them to be an attack aimed, in particular, at the poorer members of our society, when it is impossible to argue on medical or ethical grounds, that such behaviour is acceptable.”
‘Tsunami of obesity’
He said GPs based the advice they gave on hard evidence.
“We genuinely want people to be able to live healthy, fulfilling and productive lives for as long as possible.
“But every day we are confronted with the sharp end of harm caused by smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and the tsunami of obesity.”
He added: “Please don’t take offence if we tell you to lose weight or stop smoking or drinking. You need to face facts and take responsibility but support is out there and together, we can help people live long, happy, fulfilling and healthy lives.”
Experts are debating how best to help people live more healthily, given the government’s desire to move away from state “nannying”.
Writing in the BBC News Scrubbing Up column this week, Professor Richard Ashcroft of Queen Mary’s University London said: “Usually what drives me is circumstance, habit and short-term reward.
“So the trick is to find ways to re-wire my habits, change my circumstances, and make the rewards pull me in ways I want to go, and not in ways that are harmful to me. And that’s hard.”
Professor Field said long-term support worked.
“Sensible, timely and appropriate interventions can help make people aware of the potential risks they are taking or the harm they may be doing and can change their behaviour or prevent extensive damage.
“Short-term interventions seem to be just that and we find that the best and longest-lasting effects are achieved through longer-term actions and support.”
The government is due to set out its view of how to tackle public health in a white paper this autumn.
August 10, 2010
The Wall Street Journal
By: John Fund
As President Obama sinks in the polls, Democrats and liberal pundits inevitably are searching for a scapegoat. The most likely victim appears to be gaffe-prone Vice President Joe Biden, who has become the focus of speculation that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just might replace him on the 2012 Democratic ticket.
Former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder, his state’s first African-American governor, touched off the controversy. Writing at Politico.com last week, Mr. Wilder argued that Mr. Biden’s tenure has been undistinguished and chock full of “too many YouTube moments.” He charged that Mr. Biden “has continued to undermine what little confidence the public may have had in him.”
By way of contrast, Mr. Wilder says that Hillary Clinton has excelled in her role. “Clinton has been nothing but a team player who has earned good marks since being asked to serve as secretary of state.” Having Mrs. Clinton join the 2012 ticket, he said, would revive the Democratic Party and reestablish the party’s working-class voters who found her appealing during the 2012 primaries against Mr. Obama.
Pundits jumped on Mr. Wilder’s comments and expressed near-universal approval. On his syndicated national show, Chris Matthews of MSNBC assembled a panel to discuss the Wilder intervention. Howard Fineman of Newsweek, a longtime Hillary watcher, said Mrs. Clinton would accept a place on the 2012 ticket “in a second.” John Heilemann, a reporter New York magazine, said the major obstacle would be to “figure out a way for Biden to slide aside happily” and suggested that Mr. Biden replace Mrs. Clinton as Secretary of State.
Along the way, Mr. Heilemann outlined why President Obama just might want to have a steadier hand at his side for his re-election campaign: “The Republican attack on Obama is going to revolve around ‘too liberal,’ but also ‘too incompetent.’ . . . They’re going to say, ‘Look, you hired this guy. He was too young for this job. He didn’t know what he was doing. He didn’t have the experience, and look what’s happened.’”
Hmmm. Sounds a lot like the campaign Mrs. Clinton ran against Barack Obama in 2008, complete with that infamous commercial asking voters who they wanted in the White House when a 3 a.m. crisis call came in.
August 10, 2010
Los Angeles Times
By: Janet Hook
Reporting from Washington — As Democrats fan out across the country to campaign for reelection this month, many are surprisingly quiet about their hard-won accomplishments — the major bills they have passed under President Obama.
In an effort coordinated with the White House, congressional leaders are urging Democrats to focus less on bragging about what they have done — a landmark healthcare law, a sweeping overhaul of Wall Street regulation and other far-reaching policy changes — and more on efforts to fix the economy and on the perils of Republican control of Congress.
One year after many town hall meetings were upended by raucous anti-government protesters, congressional Democrats are trying to ensure that this summer’s debate sheds a more flattering light on their party as they navigate a bruising midterm election campaign.
To bulk up their record on job creation, Democratic leaders have gone to great lengths — even calling House members back from recess for a special session Tuesday — to pass a $26-billion bill to avert public employee layoffs.
And in an effort to turn attention to their opponents, Democrats from Obama on down have taken to warning that giving Republicans control of Congress would be akin to reelecting George W. Bush.
“The question for 2010 is: Whose side are you on?” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said to reporters Thursday. He spoke after a closed meeting with Democratic senators, where palm cards itemizing contrasts between the parties were distributed for lawmakers to carry around during the recess.
“Democrats moving us forward, while Republicans take us back,” the card says.
Obama has been reading from the same playbook, comparing Republicans to bad drivers who want to retrieve keys to a car they had driven into a ditch.
“When you get in your car, when you go forward, what do you do? You put it in ‘D,’ ” Obama said last week at a Democratic National Committee event in Atlanta. “When you want to go back, what do you? You put it in ‘R.’ ”
Republicans see those attacks as an effort to divert attention from the weak economy.
“Democrats plan to spend the next month asking voters to overlook their job-killing policies by distracting them with dishonest attacks on Republican candidates,” the National Republican Congressional Committee wrote in a recent memo to House Republicans and GOP candidates.
Democratic strategists privately acknowledge that their party’s legislative record, while far-reaching and popular with party regulars, has limited political benefit in swing districts and in a stubbornly sluggish economy.
“Our candidates’ job is not to sell the accomplishments of the past but to send a message that strikes a chord,” said a senior Democratic advisor who did not want to be identified while discussing strategy. “I am not one who thinks our candidates should go out and sell healthcare reform. They have to stay focused on jobs, the economy and shaking up Washington.”
Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.), campaigning for an open Senate seat, holds most of his political events at work sites to emphasize his commitment to job creation. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), running for reelection in a GOP-dominated district, uses one of his first campaign ads to highlight his opposition to the healthcare bill and his effort to “protect coal jobs” in a controversial energy bill.
Rep. Kendrick B. Meek (D-Fla.), in a two-day campaign swing through Democratic strongholds in South Florida, barely mentioned the Democrats’ legislative record.
The focus on the economy is a nod to a political reality documented by polling in both parties. For most voters, persistent bad employment news trumps perceived or anticipated benefits of Obama’s healthcare bill and other initiatives.
With the House and Senate adjourned until after Labor Day, the White House and congressional Democratic leaders have coordinated their summertime message and strategy in part to avoid the imbroglio that marked last year’s August recess, which laid bare the political risks of the healthcare debate that was underway.
Many Democrats’ town hall meetings were disrupted by angry conservatives criticizing the legislation — a spectacle that riveted cable news television and amounted to the public relations debut of the “tea party” movement, which portrayed the healthcare bill as the epitome of big-government excess.
This year, town hall meetings are likely to be more low key, in part because many Democrats are seeking alternative venues such as teleconference town hall meetings that are easier to control.
But conservatives are also finding it harder to galvanize people around issues rather than candidates now that healthcare is receding in prominence.
“It’s just a little quieter because there isn’t an imminent bill to focus on,” said Adam Brandon, spokesman for FreedomWorks, a conservative group that has helped fund and organize tea party protests.
That’s fine with Menendez, who is doing all he can to make sure that voters view the election as a choice between political parties, not a referendum on “whether you like or don’t like what we did.”
“In everything we do, we have to drive that contrast,” he said as the Senate wrapped up its legislative business and disbanded Thursday for the August recess.
August 10, 2010
When it comes to pay, federal workers receive benefits that averaged about $41,791 in 2009. When you factor in salaries and those benefits, which include pensions, federal civil servants earned about $123,049 in 2009.
By comparison, private workers made $61,051 in total compensation, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, tells USA TODAY the data are not useful in a direct public to private pay comparison.
Public union employees say the gap reflects the growing skill and education levels needed for most federal jobs, while the government farms out lower paid jobs to the private sector.
A budget analyst at the Cato Institute believes federal workers are overpaid.