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April 28, 2012 - These Stocks Paved the Dow's Way Higher

It wasn't the strongest of days for the stock market, but the major market indexes all finished in the green to close out the week. As the busiest week of earnings season came to a close, stock-specific news helped boost overall confidence in the U.S. economy even in the face of economic data to the contrary. When the dust cleared, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI) finished up about 0.2%.

But especially during earnings season, you'll always find winners and losers within the market. Today, let's look at three stocks that helped pull the Dow up to a fourth straight day of gains.

Cisco Systems (NAS: CSCO) , up 1.9%
Cisco didn't release any earth-shattering news today, but it was nevertheless up on a reasonably good day for tech stocks. Increasingly, investors are seeing technology as the key driver of any U.S. economic expansion, and whenever optimism about the nation's prospects rises, you can expect to see Cisco and its peers on the rise with them.

One area where Cisco needs to focus is on the rise of cloud computing. As more data resides beyond personal devices, it will become increasingly critical for networks to handle the increased capacity. Cisco has had trouble warding off its competitors lately, but its scale could be a valuable weapon if Cisco can wield it successfully.

McDonald's (NYS: MCD) , up 1.7%
McDonald's has had an undeniably strong past. The big question it faces is how it will address the future.

With incoming CEO Don Thompson replacing the retiring Jim Skinner in July, McDonald's could be positioning itself for a new path forward. International expansion and brand-building will always be a big part of McDonald's overall strategic plan, but the fast-food giant will also have to respond to renewed attacks from rival Burger King and other competitors in the space. For those who fear a sluggish economy might slip back into recession, McDonald's seems like a smart defen

 

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April 4, 2012 - Romney accuses Obama of 'hide-and-seek' campaign

Mitt Romney unleashed a strong attack on President Barack Obama's truthfulness Wednesday, accusing him of running a "hide-and-seek" re-election campaign designed to distract voters from his first-term record while denying them information about his plans for a second.

Addressing an audience of newspaper editors and publishers, Romney said Obama's recent remarks to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on a second-term arms reduction treaty had called "his candor into question." Romney, the likely GOP opponent for Obama in November, also accused the president of undergoing "a series of election-year conversions" on taxes, government regulation and energy production.

"He does not want to share his real plans before the election, either with the public or with the press," Romney said. "By flexibility, he means that what the American public doesn't know won't hurt him. He is intent on hiding. You and I will have to do the seeking."

Romney himself has been sharply criticized by Rick Santorum and other Republican rivals for changing his own positions on issues ranging from abortion to climate control as part of an attempt to win the backing of conservative primary voters. Earlier this year, he reversed course on the minimum wage to bring his stance in line with party orthodoxy, saying he no longer believes it should rise along with inflation.

Romney spoke to the Newspaper Association of America and the American Society of Newspaper Editors as the Republican nominee-in-waiting, his standing confirmed by three primary victories Tuesday night in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

He campaigned Wednesday in Pennsylvania, where there's a GOP primary March 24 — though Romney treated it more like the general election battleground it will be in the fall. "Please help me defeat Barack Obama in November!" Romney told a cheering crowd in Broomall, a Philadelphia suburb. Romney will also campaign in Pennsylvania on Thursday.

The former Massachusetts governor holds a commanding lead in delegates to the Republican National Convention and is on a pace to clinch the party's top prize by the end of the primary season in June.

Responding to a question, he declined to say if he would support proposed legislation to protect confidential sources that journalists often rely on.
 

 

 

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March 25, 2012 - Obama Gets ¡®Mad Men¡¯ Parody

Even Chris Matthews is getting in on the Mad Men action. Over the weekend, his show featured a parody of the drama’s famous opening, designed to highlight the 2012 election. President Obama replaces Don Draper as the falling silhouette plummeting past pictures of Romney, Gingrich, and Santorum. One of Matthews's producers explained, "The silhouette was recreated to match President Obama's profile (emphasis on his ears, and the fact that Obama is seemingly slimmer than the Draper outline we're used to) and then, to boot, Obama was animated to make him look more lifelike as he descends."
 

 

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March 25, 2012 - Pregnancy ups risk of heart attack, study says

Pregnancy and hormonal changes that continue 12 weeks after giving birth increase a woman's risk of heart attack, researchers said.

Although the likelihood of having a heart attack during pregnancy is very low -- just 1 in every 16,000 de11liveries -- it is still 3 to 4 times higher than non-pregnant women of the same age.

Moreover, heart attacks during pregnancy tend to be more severe and lead to more complications, according to a study presented at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology meeting in Chicago this week.

Hormonal changes, increased blood volume and other physiological changes that happen during pregnancy increase the risk, researchers said, adding that heart attacks happen for different reasons in pregnant women than those commonly seen in the general population.

Atherosclerosis, a narrowing of the arteries, is the most common cause of heart attack in the general population, but this was the cause in only a third of pregnant women who had a heart attack, they said.

The more common reason pregnant women had a heart attack was a condition called coronary dissection, a separation of the layers of the artery wall that blocks blood flow. They said this condition is very rare among non-pregnant patients.

This suggests that in at least some cases, the traditional approach to treating the condition during pregnancy and post partum may not always be best, researchers said.

"We have very clear guidelines for (heart attack) in the general population. These guidelines, however, may not always apply to women with pregnancy-associated heart attacks and may actually cause more harm than good," said Dr. Uri Elkayam of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and the study's lead researcher.

An analysis of 150 cases taken since 2005 were added to the 228 cases taken prior to 2005 for the study.

Researchers found that most pregnant women did not have traditional cardiovascular risk factors, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Yet their heart attacks were more severe and the death rate was 2 to 3 times higher than what is expected of non-pregnant women the same age.

 

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March 25, 2012 - Pregnancy ups risk of heart attack, study says

Pregnancy and hormonal changes that continue 12 weeks after giving birth increase a woman's risk of heart attack, researchers said.

Although the likelihood of having a heart attack during pregnancy is very low -- just 1 in every 16,000 de11liveries -- it is still 3 to 4 times higher than non-pregnant women of the same age.

Moreover, heart attacks during pregnancy tend to be more severe and lead to more complications, according to a study presented at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology meeting in Chicago this week.

Hormonal changes, increased blood volume and other physiological changes that happen during pregnancy increase the risk, researchers said, adding that heart attacks happen for different reasons in pregnant women than those commonly seen in the general population.

Atherosclerosis, a narrowing of the arteries, is the most common cause of heart attack in the general population, but this was the cause in only a third of pregnant women who had a heart attack, they said.

The more common reason pregnant women had a heart attack was a condition called coronary dissection, a separation of the layers of the artery wall that blocks blood flow. They said this condition is very rare among non-pregnant patients.

This suggests that in at least some cases, the traditional approach to treating the condition during pregnancy and post partum may not always be best, researchers said.

"We have very clear guidelines for (heart attack) in the general population. These guidelines, however, may not always apply to women with pregnancy-associated heart attacks and may actually cause more harm than good," said Dr. Uri Elkayam of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and the study's lead researcher.

An analysis of 150 cases taken since 2005 were added to the 228 cases taken prior to 2005 for the study.

Researchers found that most pregnant women did not have traditional cardiovascular risk factors, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Yet their heart attacks were more severe and the death rate was 2 to 3 times higher than what is expected of non-pregnant women the same age.

 

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March 19, 2012 - Taking a pill to fight cancer? Avoid these dangerous drug interactions

Common cancer treatments nowadays include not just radiation, surgery, and infusion chemotherapy treatments, but also pills that patients take every day for weeks, months, or even years. Many of these pills, however, interact with common medications such as acid blockers and antihistamines, rendering the cancer drugs less effective or dangerously potent.

The majority of cancer patients prescribed a particular kind of oral cancer drug, known as kinase inhibitors, were taking other medications that interacted negatively with these drugs, according to a new survey released Friday by the nonprofit Medco Research Institute.

Reviewing pharmacy claims of about 11,600 patients on kinase inhibitors -- including imatinib (Gleevec) and erlotinib (Tarceva) -- the study researchers found that many patients were also taking proton pump inhibitors, steroids, calcium channel blockers, and certain antibiotics and antifungal agents that either made their cancer-fighting drugs more potent or lessened their effectiveness. Most of the time, patients were using these drugs over-the-counter or having them prescribed by their primary care physician without the knowledge of their oncologist.

“Since these are drugs launched in the past decade for fairly small patient populations, we are learning more about how they are used in real-world settings as compared to traditional clinical trials that test safety and efficacy in a tightly-controlled environment,” study co-author Dr. Steve Bowlin said in a statement. “Oncologists are not always aware of other medications prescribed by other doctors and vice-versa, which can pose a real hazard for their patients on oral cancer therapies.”

The study found that 43 percent of the 4,617 patients receiving imatinib, often used to treat leukemia and other blood cancers, were prescribed a drug that may diminish the cancer drug’s efficacy and 68 percent of patients received a drug that may raise the level of toxicity of the treatment.

While the study looked only at kinase inhibitors, those taking other oral cancer drugs also have to be careful about drug-drug interactions. Breast cancer patients taking tamoxifen, for example, should not take the arthritis medication Celebrex (celecoxib) since it can reduce tamoxifen’s effectiveness. They also shouldn’t take the antidepressants Cymbalta (duloxetine) and Zoloft (sertraline) for the same reason.

Bottom line: Patients taking oral drugs for cancer treatment should make sure to check with their oncologist about any prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs, as well as foods, they should avoid.  

 

 

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March 14, 2012 - Young Women Should Be Tested For Chlamydia

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made a presentation today at the National STD Prevention Conference in Minneapolis, stating that according to their estimates, only 38% of sexually active women were tested for Chlamydia. They recommend that all women under the age of 25 seek regular screening for Chlamydia.

Chlamydia is one of the most commonly reported infectious disease in the United States, with young people being most affected. The problem is compounded by a general lack of symptoms, and thus the disease many go undetected and untreated. Chlamydia infection in the long term can have serious ramifications, particularly for young women. Problems include chronic pelvic pain, potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy and infertility.

The test for Chlamydia is an easy over the counter test available at most Pharmacies and is self administered. The bacterial infection is relatively easily warded off with antibiotics once detected. The CDC researchers looked at data from the 2006-2008 cycle of the National Survey of Family Growth, to assess self testing for Chlamydia amongst women aged 15 to 25.

Overall testing rates seemed low, although encouragingly testing was most common among African-American women, those who had multiple sex partners, and those who received public insurance or were uninsured. These are some of highest risk for Chlamydia, and researchers take note of the willingness of these groups to take care of their sexual health.

 

 

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March 13, 2012 - Maryland governor signs bill legalizing gay marriage

"Religious freedom was the very reason for our state's founding and at the heart of religious freedom is the freedom of individual conscience," O'Malley said just before adding his signature to the legislation, referring to the state's origins as a British colony that was a haven for Catholics.

Referendum organizers need to collect almost 56,000 signatures to put the measure before voters and are expected to rely heavily on churchgoers who oppose same-sex marriage as a matter of faith, to reach that goal. Even gay marriage advocates expect the referendum to end up on the ballot.

Six states and the Washington capital district already recognize gay marriages. The state of Washington has also legalized gay marriage, and its law takes effect in June. Voters there are expected to petition the measure to referendum this November.

Maine legalized the unions for same-sex couples in 2009, but later that year became the only state overturn a such a law passed by a legislature.

Meanwhile, about 30 states have constitutional amendments that seek to prohibit gay marriage, most by defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

In Maryland, many African American church leaders oppose gay marriage in the liberal-leaning state that's nearly one-third black, and President Barack Obama's re-election campaign is expected to drive many of their congregants to the polls.

Donald Norris, chairman of the department of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said black churches could heavily influence the referendum, but liberal voters who come out to support Obama's re-election could offset the votes against same-sex marriage.

A number of factors could tip the vote on a referendum, Norris said. For example, a weak Republican presidential candidate could mean conservative voters stay home and don't cast ballots against the law.

Gay marriage advocates are hoping that young voters — whom they expect to support their cause — will turn out for Obama as they did in 2008.
 

 

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March 4, 2012 - Obama: There's still time for diplomacy on Iran

Republican nomination will be addressing the AIPAC Policy Conference on Tuesday, which is the largest annual American pro-Israel gathering.

This year over 13,000 people are participating in the three-day conference. On the campaign trail, GOP contenders have already attacked Obama for not being forceful enough on Iran.

“I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he declared to a standing ovation.

“I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.”

And he emphasized Israel’s right to defend itself as well.

“Iran’s leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States, just as they should not doubt Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs,” Obama said, which also earned him a standing ovation.

But as the US looks to begin another round of negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program, he also underscored that “I firmly believe that an opportunity still remains for diplomacy, backed by pressure, to succeed.” That sentence received silence from the audience.

Divergences on how much time to give diplomacy and what conditions must be imposed on Iran in any talks are among the main points Obama will address with Netanyahu at their meeting on Monday. The prime minister will address AIPAC on Monday evening.

Obama also issued a warning against speaking too loudly about the possibility of conflict with Iran, cautioning that heightened rhetoric could play into its hands.

“There is too much loose talk of war,” he said. “Over the last few weeks, such talk has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil, which they depend upon to fund their nuclear program.”

He continued, “For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster. Now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in, and to sustain the broad international coalition that we have built.”

For the time being, Obama said that Iran would face even more “crippling sanctions” over the course of the year as world powers worked together to put an end to Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

“A nuclear-armed Iran is completely counter to Israel’s security interests. But it is also counter to the national security interests of the United States,” he said in one of the lines that received the most applause during his 34-minute speech. He was warmly received entering and leaving the hall, receiving extended standing ovations.

Obama nodded to the political context for his remarks as well, offering a string of actions he has taken in support of Israel to bolster his contention that questions about his record of support for Israel is misplaced.

He pointed to defense assistance to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge, support for Israel at the UN and opposition to boycotts of the Jewish state.

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February 29, 2012 - Some September 11 dead's remains ended in landfill

The unidentified remains came from two of the three sites of the September 11 attacks: the Pentagon and the Shanksville, Pennsylvania crash site of one of the hijacked airliners. The World Trade Center in New York City, which was leveled in the attacks, was not cited.

Retired General John Abizaid, briefing Pentagon reporters on the findings of the independent review of practices at the mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, said it was unclear how many people's partial remains were disposed of in this manner.

"I don't know that there's a way to find out," Abizaid said.

The remains were classified in the report as ones which "could not be tested or identified," leaving open the possibility that they could have come from victims and even hijackers.

The incident is certain to further undermine the reputation of the Dover mortuary after last year's revelations that it mishandled the remains of war dead. This included losing body parts twice and allowing the partial remains of at least 274 troops to be dumped in a Virginia landfill. That policy was abandoned in 2008 and all partial remains are now buried at sea.

Dover, which is under the control of the Air Force, is the main entry port for returning war dead from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The White House said it was deeply concerned about the "unacceptable handling of remains at Dover" and that it supported the Pentagon's efforts to "make needed structural changes so that these types of incidents never happen again."

"The United States has a solemn obligation to compassionately and professionally care for fallen service members and their families, and those we tragically lost on 9/11," the White House statement said.

The report suggested that the human remains from the September 11 attacks were essentially treated like medical waste. The remains were cremated, placed in sealed containers and then given to a biomedical waste firm, which incinerated them.

Although the report said the assumption among top brass at the time was that "nothing remained" after the cremation and incineration, officials later learned some residual material was left behind, the report said. That material was being dumped in a landfill.

 

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February 29, 2012 - Cheat, lie, break the law? Chances are, you're rich

The wealthy really are different from everyone else: They’re more likely to cheat, lie, and break the law.

At least that’s the unflattering conclusion of a team of professors from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and the University of California, Berkeley, who ran a battery of tests involving more than 1,000 people, seeking to answer the question of whether being rich or poor influenced ethical behaviour.

In results from seven separate studies, they found a consistent tendency among those they termed “upper-class” to be more likely to break the law while driving, take valued goods from others, lie in negotiations, cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize and endorse unethical behaviour at work.

The reason for the ethical difference was simple, according to the paper being published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a leading U.S. science journal. Wealthier people are more likely to have an attitude that greed is good.

The question of social class and ethics has long intrigued researchers and has created a lively, if obscure, field of academic research.

At first glance, it might seem more likely that poorer people would be more tempted to cheat or break the law, in order to improve their lot in life. But a growing body of research is coming to the opposite conclusion – that it’s people at the top of the income scale for whom honesty, integrity, and generosity seem to be a challenge.

In the United States, for instance, despite the perception that the rich are great philanthropists, data show that upper-class households donate a smaller proportion of their incomes to charity than do lower-class families. Other research has found that those who are well off have a reduced concern for others.

But one of the paper’s authors, Stéphane C?té, professor of organizational behaviour and psychology at the Rotman School, cautioned against making blanket assumptions about people based on class alone.

“We’re definitely not suggesting that any upper-class person … is going to be less ethical than every lower-class person. You need to be cautious in terms of applying these findings to predict the behaviour of a single individual,” he said.

Testing people for ethics based on class might seem like a challenge, but the researchers for the science journal paper devised a series of ingenious tests to investigate behaviours.

 

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February 22, 2012 - Women less likely to get immediate heart attack treatment

Women are less likely to get immediate treatment to stop the heart attack in its tracks: clot-busting drugs, balloon procedures to open the arteries or bypass surgery, the study says. Partly because of such delays, 15% of female heart attack patients die in the hospital, compared with 10% of men. Delaying care can be fatal. "Time is muscle," says study author John Canto of the Watson Clinic and Lakeland Regional Medical Center in Florida. "And muscle is life."

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The study actually may underestimate the gender gap, because many female heart attacks never make it to the hospital, says Cam Patterson, chief of cardiology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, who was not involved in the study.

Women are less likely to be properly treated, even when they have similar symptoms to men, according to the analysis in today's Journal of the American Medical Association, which included patients from 1994 to 2006.

In many cases, however, both doctors and patients may fail to realize the seriousness of the situation.

Forty-two percent of women never experience the classic heart attack symptom of chest pain or pressure, compared with 31% of men, the study says. That's especially true for women younger than 55, Canto says. In the short-term, heart attack patients without chest pain or discomfort are almost twice as likely to die as those who have that classic symptom, the study says.
Women without chest pain may develop shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, light-headedness and pain in the back or jaw, according to the American Heart Association. Women who develop sudden, crippling fatigue — such as the feeling that they can't tidy the kitchen without a rest — may face imminent danger of a heart attack, says cardiologist Nieca Goldberg, medical director of NYU Langone Medical Center's Tisch Center for Women's Health.

Groups such as the American Heart Association have tried for years to educate women about these symptoms. The study suggests that, in spite of such campaigns, many women and their doctors fail to recognize these symptoms — or the need for immediate treatment, Goldberg says.

It's possible, Canto says, that there are genetic or biological reasons that make heart attacks in young women more lethal than attacks in older men. "If a young woman is premenopausal and she is experiencing a heart attack, something is seriously wrong," he says.

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February 19, 2012 - All missing in Wash. avalanche accounted for

John Gifford, general manager at the Stevens Pass ski area, says he's unsure how many people were caught up in the slide, or whether there were additional injuries. But he said the death toll remains at three.

The King County Sheriff's Office earlier said as many as eight people were missing after the avalanche.

Sgt. Cindi West said her office began receiving word about the slide just after noon. Stevens Pass is in the Cascade Mountains, about 80 miles northeast of Seattle.

The avalanche occurred in an out-of-bounds area on the back side of the resort.

The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center on Sunday issued a warning for high avalanche danger for areas above 5,000 feet, saying warmer weather could loosen surface snow and trigger a slide on steeper slopes. The elevation of the avalanche wasn't immediately clear.

At mid-afternoon, the temperate at the base of the ski resort was 24 degrees, with light winds and good visibility. The temperature at the top of the mountain was 22 degrees, according to the resort's website.

John Gifford, the ski area's general manager, said the resort has received 19 inches of snow in the past 24 hours. However, he said it wasn't snowing there Sunday afternoon, and he had no details about the slide.

Stevens Pass is one of the most popular outdoor recreation areas in the state, with visitors flocking there to go cross-country, back-country and downhill skiing, as well as snowshoeing and backpacking.

It's been a deadly winter in Washington's mountains. Four people disappeared in vicious storms while camping and climbing on Mount Rainier last month. The four remain missing, and authorities have said they're hoping to find their bodies when the snow melts this summer.

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February 13, 2012 - Moderate drinking tied to lower diabetes risk

Middle aged women who eat a lot of refined carbs might offset their risk of type 2 diabetes by drinking a moderate amount of alcohol, a new study suggests.

Following more than 80,000 women over 26 years, researchers found that those who ate a diet high in refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, potatoes and sugary drinks, had a 30 percent lower risk of developing diabetes than women with similar eating habits who didn't drink alcohol.
Previous research has linked moderate drinking with lower diabetes risk, but the new study tried to get at why that might be by looking specifically at women with high-glycemic diets -- that is, diets high in the refined carbs that are prone to raise blood sugar.
"If you eat a high carb diet without drinking alcohol, your risk of developing diabetes is increased by 30 percent," said senior author Dr Frank Hu, who studies nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts.
"However, if you eat a high carb diet, but (drink) a moderate amount of alcohol, the increased risk is reduced," he told Reuters Health. Nearly half of the estimated 26 million American adults with diabetes are women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Diabetes can lead to additional serious health issues, such as heart disease and stroke, nerve damage and amputations.
The new study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, doesn't prove alcohol protects against diabetes. But Hu and his colleagues speculate that alcohol might affect the body's release of insulin and other substances after a meal, blunting the blood-sugar spikes that promote diabetes.
Hu's team analysed data on 82,000 women participating in the long-term Nurses' Health Study. After 26 years of follow-up, 6,950 women, or about nine percent, who were diabetes free at the outset had developed the condition.
The researchers also examined participants' diets, including alcohol, based on surveys taken every four years.
Overall, the women who ate the most refined carbs, such as breakfast cereals, breads, mashed potatoes, colas and orange juice, and whose diets included a lot of meat, were at highest risk of developing diabetes.
But within that group, moderate drinkers -- those whose average alcohol intake was more than 15 grams (about half an ounce) a day -- had a 30 percent lower risk than women who didn't drink at all.
Typically, the moderate drinkers imbibed 24 grams (0.8 ounce) of alcohol a day, which translates to about two drinks per week.
Only a small fraction of the subjects were heavy drinkers (about two ounces per day or more), but heavy drinking was not linked with lowered diabetes risk.
Jill Kanaley, who studies type 2 diabetes at the University of Missouri in Columbia and was not part of the study, was surprised by the findings.
"I've never really noticed in the literature that drinking a few glasses of alcohol could have an impact on the relationship between how much carbs you eat and diabetes risk," Kanaley said.
But she pointed out that "there are many factors the study didn't look at, such as when alcohol was consumed, if it was consumed with the meal, or the different types of alcohol used."
Though Hu isn't encouraging people to start drinking alcohol as a means of diabetes prevention, he does think the study reveals an interesting interaction between alcohol and carbs.
"We still advocate a diet with reduced refined carbs," he said. "And for people who drink, they should do so moderately."
 
 
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February 8, 2012 - Washington state legislature votes to approve same-sex marriage

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in Washington State voted Wednesday in favor of a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage, putting Washington on the path toward becoming the seventh state in the nation to legalize marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

"With today's vote, we tell the nation that Washington state will no longer deny our citizens the opportunity to marry the person they love," said Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Demorcrat who has vowed to sign it. "We tell every child of same-sex couples that their family is every bit as equal and important as all other families in our state. And we take a major step toward completing a long and important journey to end discrimination based on sexual orientation."
The law will go into effect in June, when the legislative session ends, unless opponents halt its implementation by putting it on the November 2012 ballot.
The 55-43 vote in the House included two Republicans in support of the bill. The Senate vote last week was 28-21 and included four Republicans.
 Legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington is awaiting Gov. Christine Gregoire's signature. "Like thousands of other same-sex couples, my partner Eric and I are very grateful for these protections that the law now provide," said state Rep. Jamie Pedersen, a Democrat, moments before the vote. "But domestic partnership is a pale and inadequate substitute for marriage."

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February 2, 2012 - Too much alcohol linked to unsafe sex, study confirms

Unsafe sex is the most common cause of HIV infection and finding ways to prevent unsafe sex is a major goal of public health efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS.

Alcohol use has long been associated with HIV incidence. However, it hasn't been clear whether unsafe sex associated with alcohol use actually led to HIV infection, or whether certain personality traits, such as sensation-seeking or risky behavior, led to both alcohol use and unsafe sex.
In this study, researchers led by Jurgen Rehm, director of social and epidemiological research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Ontario, Canada, conducted 12 experiments that tested this cause-and-effect relationship. They concluded that alcohol affects decision-making and that this effect increases with the amount of alcohol consumed.
The more alcohol the participants drank, the more willing they were to engage in unsafe sex, the study authors said. For each 0.1 milligrams per milliliter increase in blood alcohol level, there was a 5 percent increase in a participant's likelihood of having unsafe sex.
The study is published in the January issue of the journal Addiction.
"Drinking has a causal effect on the likelihood to engage in unsafe sex, and thus should be included as a major factor in preventive efforts for HIV," Rehm commented in a journal news release. "This result also helps explain why people at risk often show this behavior despite better knowledge: Alcohol is influencing their decision processes."
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February 2, 2012 - "Soul Train" creator Don Cornelius commits suicide

Don Cornelius, creator of the iconic TV music and dance show "Soul Train" that helped introduce Americans to black pop culture, died on Wednesday after shooting himself in the head, Los Angeles officials said.

Police found the body of Cornelius, 75, at his house in the wealthy, hillside area of Los Angeles called Sherman Oaks at around 4 a.m on Wednesday. He was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
"The death was reported as a suicide, a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head," Los Angeles coroner's Assistant Chief Ed Winter said. Police said there was no evidence of foul play.
It was not immediately known why Cornelius would have taken his own life, although he was said to have been in failing health in recent years.
Cornelius, who launched "Soul Train" in Chicago in the early 1970s and hosted it for more than 20 years, told a judge in his 2009 divorce that he was suffering from significant health issues and wanted the case settled quickly.
"Soul Train", which ran until 2006, became part of U.S. pop culture history, boosting the careers of newcomers like the Jackson Five and older artists such as James Brown who were trying to tap into a younger audience.
Almost immediately following news that he died, tributes poured in from the music world.
Aretha Franklin, who appeared on the dance and TV show, called his death "sad, stunning and downright shocking and a huge and momentous loss to the African-American community and the world at large."
Composer and record producer Quincy Jones said he was "deeply saddened" at the sudden passing of his friend, colleague and business partner.
The Recording Academy, which gives out the Grammys, called Cornelius a "trailblazer" who "created a cultural phenomenon with 'Soul Train.'"
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January 15, 2012 - Gay marriage 'improves health'

Legalising same-sex marriage may create a healthier environment for gay men, say US researchers.

The number of visits by gay men to health clinics dropped significantly after same-sex unions were allowed in the state Massachusetts.
This was regardless of whether the men were in a stable relationship, reported the American Journal of Public Health.
A UK HIV charity said there was a clear link between happiness and health.
Research has already suggested that gay men are more likely to suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts than heterosexual men, and that social exclusion may be partly responsible.

 
Same-sex marriages are legal in six US states, with Massachusetts the first to allow them in 2003.
Researchers from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health surveyed the demand for medical and mental health care from 1,211 gay men registered with a particular health clinic in the 12 months prior to the change, and the 12 months afterwards.

There was a reduction in blood pressure problems, depression and "adjustment disorders", which the authors claimed could be the result of reduced stress.
Lesbian women were not included in the study as there were insufficient numbers to give a statistically meaningful result.
Dr Mark Hatzenbuehler, who led the study, said: "Our results suggest that removing these barriers improves the health of gay and bisexual men
"Marriage equality may produce broad public health benefits by reducing the occurrence of stress-related health conditions."
A spokesman for the Terrence Higgins Trust, a UK-based sexual health and HIV charity, said: "There is a known link between health and happiness.
"It's no surprise that people who are treated as second class citizens tend to have low self esteem, which in turn makes them more likely to take risks.
"Whether this is drugs, alcohol abuse, or unsafe sex, treating gay men unequally has lasting repercussions for their health."
 
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January 10, 2012 - About Health Advice

Melodramatic Bollywood films have shown it for years. Now, there is scientific evidence to back it. Sudden grief - arising out of losing a loved one -- can have a serious effect on your heart. A study published in the journal 'Circulation' has found that a person's risk of suffering a heart attack increases by around 21 times in the first 24 hours after losing a loved one.

The study also found that the risk of heart attack remained eight times above normal during the first week after the death of a loved one, slowly declined, but remained elevated for at least a month.
Researchers interviewed around 2,000 patients who suffered myocardial infarctions or heart attacks, over a five-year period. Patients were asked a series of questions about potentially triggering events, including losing someone close to them in the past year.
Lead author Elizabeth Mostofsky from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre said, "Bereavement and grief are associated with increased feelings of depression, anxiety and anger. These have been shown to be associated with increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Changes in the blood that make it more likely to clot leads to a heart attack."
Dr Ashok Seth, chairman of Escorts Heart Research Centre, said, "Hormones like catecholamines are released at the time of grief. This increases heart rate and clotting. It also constricts the arteries, all of which cause a heart attack." According to Dr Seth, during grief, heart rate can go up from 80 beats per minute to almost 130 beats per minute. "Most heart attacks occur due to clotting of a pre-existing blockage," he added.
Catecholamines are hormones produced by the adrenal glands, which are found on top of the kidneys. They are released into the blood during times of physical or emotional stress. The major catecholamines are dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine (which used to be called adrenalin). While there is widespread anecdotal evidence that the death of a loved one can lead to declining health in survivors, few studies have looked at the acute effect of bereavement and grief on myocardial infarction.
Mostofsky thinks that being aware of the heightened risk can go a long way toward "breaking the link between the loss of someone close and the heart attack". She said, "Physicians, patients and families should be aware of this risk and make sure that someone experiencing grief is getting their physical and medical needs met."
She added, "And if an individual develops symptoms that we're concerned might reflect the beginnings of heart attack, we really need to take it very seriously and make sure that that patient gets appropriate evaluation and care."
 
 
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The study also found that the risk of heart attack remained eight times above normal during the first week after the death of a loved one, slowly declined, but remained elevated for at least a month.
Researchers interviewed around 2,000 patients who suffered myocardial infarctions
 
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January 3, 2012 - Swiss bankers charged in $1.2 billion tax fraud

Three Swiss bankers have been charged with helping American taxpayers hide more than $1.2 billion from the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan announced Tuesday.

Michael Berlinka, Urs Frei and Roger Keller face up to five years in prison for their roles in the scheme, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. They are accused of helping more than 100 clients hide assets between 2005 and 2010.
The indictment identifies the defendants' place of employment only as the Zurich branch of "Swiss Bank A," though accounts in the names of Berlinka and Keller appear on the professional networking site Xing.com with Wegelin & Co., a bank in Switzerland, listed as their employer.
Wegelin did not respond to a request for comment late Tuesday.
The three accused currently reside in Switzerland, according to the indictment, and it wasn't clear Tuesday if or when they might face extradition. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment on the matter, and the Swiss Embassy in Washington did not return a request for comment.
In 2009, the U.S. government settled a tax fraud case involving American customers with Swiss banking giant UBS that proved diplomatically challenging due to Switzerland's strict bank secrecy laws. UBS ultimately paid $780 million in fines and restitution and agreed to hand over the identities of a number of its U.S. customers.
Tuesday's indictment alleges that as UBS and another unidentified Swiss bank stopped handling undeclared U.S. accounts in 2008 and 2009 amid scrutiny from American authorities, the defendants' firm attempted to scoop up their business.
"As part of their sales pitch to U.S. taxpayer-clients who were fleeing UBS, [the defendants] told U.S. taxpayer-clients that their undeclared accounts at Swiss Bank A would not be disclosed to the United States authorities because Swiss Bank A had a long tradition of bank secrecy," the indictment states.
 
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