Today, Kevin explains the importance of voting for a third party candidate and why the media is suddenly reporting on the dangers of vitamin D! Plus, Glenn Walp, Ph.D, author of Implosion At Los Alamos, blows the whistle on the government’s failure to keep America’s nuclear weapons secrets safe.
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November 2nd, 2010
By: Stephen Adams
They discovered that people who exercised for at least five days a week and felt fit cut the chances of having a cold by almost half (43 to 46 per cent).
Taking regular exercise also cut the severity of symptoms, according to the study, published today (Tues) in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
American researchers at Appalachian State University in North Carolina based their findings on 1,000 adults aged up to 85, whose respiratory health was tracked for 12 weeks during the autumn and winter of 2008.
According to the authors, bouts of exercise spark a temporary rise in immune system cells circulating around the body.
While these levels fall back within a few hours, each exercise session “may improve immunosurveillance against pathogens that reduce overall upper respiratory tract infection incidence and symptomatology”, they concluded.
The study also backed up previous findings that eating a lot of fruit and not being stressed reduced the frequency of colds.
November 2nd, 2010
By: Catherine Mayer
How often does life really imitate art? Let’s imagine that a writer has been commissioned to develop a comedic screenplay about the deeply serious business of how to classify and control drugs. The plot is likely to feature that staple slapstick character “the mad scientist,” and since Hollywood tends to choose Britons to portray its eccentrics and villains, the writer makes the scientist a British professor. What’s a good name for a nutty professor? Why not Professor Nutt? The problem with this scenario, as the writer discovers, is that there’s a real Professor Nutt, a campaigning British scientist who avers in a new study, Drug Harms in the U.K., that if you’re looking for the most dangerous drug of all, you have to start with alcohol, which is more harmful even than heroin and crack cocaine.
Nutt—his first name is David, and he holds the chair in neuropsychopharmacology at London’s Imperial College, a university globally renowned as a seat of scientific excellence—is not mad, though conservative columnists regularly question his sanity. He was sacked as an adviser to Britain’s last Labour government for challenging official policy to reclassify cannabis from a class C to a class B drug — boosting its threat level — and for suggesting that ecstasy, by contrast, should be downgraded from class A.
Nutt also outraged the establishment by comparing one of its favorite pursuits, horse-riding, to ecstasy use, in order to illustrate the way in which the risks of certain drugs were routinely and reflexively overstated. “Equasy” — equine addiction syndrome, in other words, riding — caused 10 deaths and more than 100 road accidents a year, he wrote in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2009. “Making riding illegal would completely prevent all these harms and would be, in practice, very easy to do…This attitude raises the critical question of why society tolerates — indeed encourages — certain forms of potentially harmful behavior but not others, such as drug use.”
Generating splenetic headlines isn’t Nutt’s aim. Generating debate is. His research into the damage caused by drugs, and the legislative framework designed to minimize these harms, has instilled in him a passionate belief that drug policy needs to be more firmly based on scientific evidence.
“By legislating on a substance without reliable scientifically based evidence, we run the risk of causing more harm through criminalizing users than might be caused by the drug itself,” he writes in the latest post on his personal blog, Evidence not Exaggeration. “The evidence on drug harms should not be sacrificed for political and media pressure.”
That’s the spirit behind his new study, authored with Leslie King and Lawrence Phillips and newly published in the medical journal, The Lancet. By analyzing the impact of 20 drugs in terms of 16 criteria highlighting their effect on users (health issues, dependency, mental impairment, loss of tangibles such as job, loss of relationships, injury) and on the people and society they interact with (crime, degradation of local environment, family strains, and wider issues such as economic cost), Nutt produced a ranking. He found that alcohol was the most harmful drug overall — and anyone who has seen the Saturday night transformation of British city centers into battlegrounds of blood and vomit will understand this point — followed by heroin and crack cocaine. Heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine proved the most injurious to the individuals using the drugs. Cannabis ranked 8th most harmful, after two legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
Booze and cigarettes do “have commercial benefits to society in terms of providing work and tax, which to some extent offset the harms,” notes the report, while concluding that “aggressively targeting alcohol harms is a valid and necessary public health strategy.” The report also admits that “many of the harms of drugs are affected by their availability and legal status.”
That’s a key point likely to be picked up by critics of any moves to decriminalize marijuana, who say the social harms of the drug would increase in proportion to its availability. The voters of California will put that view to the test if they decide to support Proposition 19 in tomorrow’s ballot.
November 2nd, 2010
By: Gergana Koleva
For the third time in as many months, Pfizer has issued a recall of its blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor in response to consumer complaints of unusual moldy odor.
The drug giant said the smell poses minimal health risk to patients, but it is recalling two lots — approximately 38,000 bottles of Lipitor 40mg tablets — out of caution. An internal company investigation, triggered by two customer complaints, found the odor was related to Tribromoanisole, a chemical used as a wood preservative. Pfizer suggested a third-party bottle manufacturer had applied it to packaging for the shipment of its medicines.
Earlier this month, the world’s top drug maker recalled 191,000 bottles of the cholesterol-lowering drug over the same issue. And in August, it withdrew 140,000 bottles from the market.
In a statement, the company said the recall is a result of increased surveillance of odor-related issues after other reports in the industry. Johnson & Johnson’s multiple recalls since last year of over-the-counter medicines included the withdrawal of malodorous Tylenol that had sickened consumers.
Tribromoanisole is often applied to pallets used to transport and store products. Pfizer says as a result of stepped-up monitoring, it now prohibits its use in the shipment of its drugs. The recalled Lipitor lots were packaged and shipped before these changes went into effect, the company said.
Lipitor is the best-selling drug in the world, with nearly $6 billion in sales in the first half of 2010.
November 2nd, 2010
By: Jon Swaine
The party looked all but certain to lose control of the House of Representatives and to have their majority in the Senate severely cut.
A nationwide poll by Gallup found 55 per cent of likely voters planned to vote for a Republican, compared to 40 per cent Democrat and 5 per cent undecided.
Gallup said the size of the lead suggested that “regardless of turnout, the Republicans will win more than the 40 seats needed to give them the majority in the House.” Historically, leads as small as just two percentage points have been enough to deliver parties a majority of the 435 House seats, the pollster said.
FiveThirtyEight, a polling website that predicted the outcome of the 2008 election almost precisely, forecast the House would end up split 232-Republican and 203-Democrat.
This would mean a net loss of 52 for the Democrats, close to the 54 lost by the party in 1994, two years into Bill Clinton’s presidency.
But Nate Silver, the site’s founder, said that with momentum still gathering behind Republican candidates in some races, Democrat losses could be even worse.
The party could even face a “doomsday” scenario of losses approaching the record Republican loss of 75 in the 1948 midterms, he suggested.
Other polls were almost as grim for Mr Obama’s party, which took control of both houses of Congress in 2006.
The final NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found 49 per cent of likely voters wanted the return of Republican control, while 43 per cent wanted the Democrats to endure.
The latest CBS/New York Times poll also gave the Republicans a lead of six points, while CNN forecast a national lead of 10 points and Fox News 13 points.
FiveThirtyEight’s forecasts suggested the Democrats would hold on to the Senate, but with their majority cut from 59-41 to 52-48.
Such a decline in influence in the upper chamber would sharply decrease Mr Obama’s hand in Congress and reduce his ability to push through his agenda.
Polls in Nevada indicated that Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, trailed by Sharron Angle, the Republican Tea Party favourite, by 2.7 per percentage points on average.
November 2nd, 2010
By: Richard C. Paddock
Drive a car into this affluent town on San Francisco Bay and you will be noticed. At least your license plate will.
The small community of Tiburon has begun photographing and recording the license plate of every vehicle that enters or leaves town. The goal is to catch criminals in an area that already has among the lowest crime rates in the state.
“We think it provides a great post-event tool for criminal investigation,” Tiburon Police Chief Michael Cronin told AOL News. “Our geography limits access to the community to only two roads, giving us the opportunity to easily identify vehicles associated with crimes.”
Tiburon is one of many communities around the country that increasingly are turning to technology to tackle crime, adopting such devices as police officer headcams, robots and laser scanners.
In Tiburon’s case, recording the license plate of every vehicle is made relatively easy by its isolated location. Tiburon sits on a peninsula that juts into San Francisco Bay, and only two roads lead in and out of town. About 12,000 people live on the peninsula, which also includes the town of Belvedere.
Six cameras have been installed at key points along the two highways, one for each lane of traffic. The cameras photograph each license plate, and the photos are stored in a database that can be easily searched. The system also will be programmed to check whether any of the plates are linked to an Amber alert or a stolen car.
The system began photographing and recording license plates last week. Other features of the system should be operating by the end of this week, Cronin said.
But here in Marin County, a bastion of liberalism, dealing with civil liberties issues was tougher than installing the technology. Initially, the idea of bringing Big Brother to Tiburon did not sit well with some members of the community.
“It’s beyond creepy,” Tiburon resident James Bramlette, 34, told the Marin Independent Journal. “It’s totally unnecessary, and it raises questions about what kind of community we live in. It’s embarrassing.”
Others, however, liked the safety aspect the technology provides.
“It’s just like locking your door,” Robin Pryor, 66, of Belvedere told the San Francisco Chronicle.” “If [visitors] have reason for it to bother them, they shouldn’t be coming in.”
Cronin said the police department overcame resistance by incorporating a number of civil liberties safeguards into the system. The cameras will not photograph the occupants of any vehicle, unlike red light cameras used in many cities. The license plates will be searched only in an effort to solve a reported crime. And the photos will be stored for only 30 days.
“We are not going to amass this huge pile of data on who went in and out of Tiburon every day,” Cronin said. “We are not even going to know that unless we think a particular vehicle had something to do with a crime.”
One of the main goals, he said, is to reduce the number of burglaries committed by outsiders who drive into Tiburon and Belvedere.
“It’s hard to get around in our society without owning a car, and most criminals do,” the chief observed.
The decision to install cameras was prompted by the case of a well-dressed woman who drove to Tiburon in a Mercedes several times and stole mail from homes in quiet residential neighborhoods as part of a sophisticated identity-theft ring.
Cronin realized that being able to know what cars entered the town around the time of the thefts would have made catching her far easier. She was eventually arrested and convicted, but Cronin said, “That was sort of a catalyst for me.”
Many communities have license-plate cameras, which can catch speeders and stolen vehicles. Such was the case last week in Washington, D.C., when police were investigating the apparent murder of an American University professor. They caught up with her stolen Jeep through a license-plate camera, according to The Washington Post.
“Shortly before midnight, the Cherokee passed one of the District’s license-plate recognition sensors, which are programmed to alert police to stolen vehicles,” the Post reported. “The sensor transmitted a message to police dispatchers that the Jeep was in the area, officials said.”
What makes Tiburon’s system unique is that it will record every car that comes into the community.
Tiburon’s main crime problem is burglaries of houses and vehicles, with losses of up to half a million dollars a year. Over a 10-year period, the system’s cost will be less than the cost of employing a police officer for two years, the chief said.
“This is a very safe community,” he said. “People feel very safe here, and they often leave their cars unlocked. And people have nice things, and they leave them in their car. Petty criminals looking for easy pickings are attracted to neighborhoods like ours.”
November 2nd, 2010
The dollar is in danger of losing 20 percent of its value over the next few years if the Federal Reserve continues unconventional monetary easing, Bill Gross, the manager of the world’s largest mutual fund, said on Monday.
“I think a 20 percent decline in the dollar is possible,” Gross said, adding the pace of the currency’s decline was also an important consideration for investors.
“When a central bank prints trillions of dollars of checks, which is not necessarily what (a second round of quantitative easing) will do in terms of the amount, but if it gets into that territory—that is a debasement of the dollar in terms of the supply of dollars on a global basis,” Gross told Reuters in an interview at his PIMCO headquarters.
The Fed will probably begin a new round of monetary easing this week by announcing a plan to buy at least $500 billion of long-term securities, what investors and traders refer to as QE II, according to a Reuters poll of primary dealers.
“QEII not only produces more dollars but it also lowers the yield that investors earn on them and makes foreigners, which is the key link to the currencies, it makes foreigners less willing to hold dollars in current form or at current prices,” Gross added.
To a certain extent, that is what the Treasury Department and Fed “in combination” want, said Gross, who runs the $252 billion Total Return Fund and oversees more than $1.1 trillion as co-chief investment officer.
“The fundamental problem here is that our labor and developed economy labor relative to developing economy labor is so mismatched—China can do it so much more cheaply,” he said.
Many Americans believe that the Chinese government is manipulating its currency and in effect stealing away American jobs and throwing the U.S. in an ever-deepening trade deficit.
But Gross said this is a byproduct of a globalized economy.
“It is a globalized economy of our own doing for the past 20-30 years. We encouraged all of this, but it is coming back to haunt us. To the extent that Chinese labor, Vietnamese labor, Brazilian labor, Mexican labor, wherever it is coming from that labor is outcompeting us and holding down our economy,” he said.
Gross added: “One of the ways to get even, so to speak, or to get the balance, is to debase your currency faster than anybody else can. It’s a shock because the dollar is the reserve currency. But to the extent that that is a necessary condition for rebalancing the global economy over time, then that is where we are headed.”
“Other countries and citizens are willing to work for less and willing to work harder—and we forgot the magic formula somewhere along the way,” Gross said.
In that regard, Americans should be investing a lot more overseas than they are to find growth as the U.S. remains in a slowish-growth environment, he said.
“Pension funds and Americans, in general, have a problem because their liabilities are dollar-denominated. It’s probably worth the risk of getting out of dollars and getting into emerging countries and going where the growth is. All of which entails risk relative to the home country. But there’s probably a bigger risk in simply staying comfortably within the confines of dollar-based investments.”
November 2nd, 2010
By: Ethan A. Huff
Numerous studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to practically every known malady in the world today — heart disease, chronic inflammation, arthritis, psoriasis, depression, influenza, asthma, allergies, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, autism, and even cancer. And even though many doctors still do not test vitamin D levels or prescribe vitamin D supplements to their patients, sales of the vitamin continue to skyrocket.
According to data published in the Nutrition Business Journal, overall sales of vitamin D in 2009 totaled roughly $425 million, which is ten times the amount spent on it in 2001. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin D has not been revised to reflect the plethora of new research on vitamin D, but that has not stopped millions of informed individuals from taking daily dosages far higher than these levels right now — and improving their health in the process.
According to reports, around 90 percent of Americans are vitamin D-deficient. The vitamin, which is actually a hormone, is produced in the skin naturally when it is exposed to natural sunlight. But many Americans hardly get any natural sunlight exposure, and when they do, they typically lather up in sunscreens that block the ultraviolet (UV) rays responsible for vitamin D production.
“We have this vast experiment going on,” explained Carol L. Wagner, a neonatologist at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, in reference to widespread vitamin D deficiency. “We are looking at the rampant vitamin D deficiency throughout the country.”
Wagner disagrees with the false notion propagated by some scientists who insist that people avoid supplementing with vitamin D until a supposed safe dosage amount is determined. In reality, vitamin D is extremely difficult to “overdose” on, and the damage caused by not supplementing with it is far worse than any supposed damage from taking too much.
November 2nd, 2010
By: Jonathan Benson
A powerful compound in curry known as curcumin may play an important role in liver health, according to a new study out of Saint Louis University (SLU). Researchers observed that curcumin seems to help fight and prevent damage caused by liver fibrosis, a chronic liver disease that typically leads to cirrhosis, liver failure, and portal hypertension, as well as the eventual need for a liver transplant.
“My laboratory studies the molecular mechanism of liver fibrosis and is searching for natural ways to prevent and treat this liver damage,” explained Anping Chen, Ph.D., author of the study and director of research in the pathology department of SLU. “[O]ur study suggests that curcumin may be an effective therapy to treat and prevent liver fibrosis, which is associated with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).”
Curcumin plays many important roles in health. Besides recent research published in the journal Gut that found similar benefits for curcumin in liver health, studies have shown that curcumin prevents and fights cancer, prevents and treats Alzheimer’s disease and other mental conditions, and even reverses the aging process.
High levels of leptin, a key protein hormone that helps regulate energy intake and use, is linked to causing liver fibrosis. Leptin activates hepatic stellate cells which can cause the overproduction of collagen protein responsible for liver damage. But Chen and his team learned that curcumin helps to stop leptin from activating these cells, effectively halting the liver damage process.
Other key factors associated with liver disease include high glucose and insulin levels, both of which are common among obese and type-2 diabetic individuals. These conditions make people more prone to developing liver disease, but in the presence of curcumin, the likelihood of their onset is significantly reduced.
November 2nd, 2010
By: David Gutierrez
Regular consumption of artificial sweeteners by pregnant women may increase their risk of premature birth, according to a study funded by the European Union and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Researchers interviewed almost 60,000 pregnant Danish women about their soft-drink consumption, then compared these data with the results of the women’s births. They found that drinking one can of diet soda per day increased her risk of giving birth prematurely by 38 percent compared with women who never drank diet soda. Drinking four or more of the beverages per day increased the risk of preterm birth by 78 percent.
A preterm birth is defined as taking place before the 38th week of pregnancy.
No connection was found between sugared soda consumption and premature birth, suggesting that artificial sweeteners may be playing a role in the effect. The researchers suggested that premature births may be triggered in part by the neurotoxin methanol, which is generated by some artificial sweeteners. Sweeteners may also generate formaldehyde, another known toxin.
Prior studies have also shown that the artificial sweetener saccharin builds up in the placenta.
“I would think it is prudent for pregnant women to diminish consumption of these drinks and possibly those foods containing artificial sweeteners,” said Erik Millstone of the University of Sussex.
Mary Ellen Sherry of the University of Tennessee Medical Center was cautious about the results, noting, “There are a lot of risk factors for prematurity. Poor nutritional health is one. Underweight is one.”
She urged women to start taking care of their bodies and eating a balanced diet even before becoming pregnant, if possible, making sure to get plenty of protein, calcium and folic acid.
As for diet soft drinks, she pointed out that they provide no nutritional benefit to your diet, so you lose nothing by giving them up.
“If you are afraid of it, don’t do it,” she said. “That’s one thing that’s easy to give up, diet drinks.”