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Archive for the 'Health' Category

China Closes Companies for Unsafe Exports

Posted by Delbert on 21st July 2007

China Closes Companies for Unsafe Exports

20 July 2007

Schearf report – Download (MP3) 597K audio clip
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China has shut down two companies for exporting tainted pet food ingredients believed responsible for poisoning hundreds of dogs and cats in North America. China has been defending itself against accusations of poor quality controls after a series of revelations that some exports were unsafe. As Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing, Chinese officials say lax U.S. customs inspections are also to blame.

A senior quality inspection official Friday said two Chinese companies had their business licenses revoked after an investigation revealed they added the toxic chemical melamine to wheat and rice protein used to make pet food in North America.

Melamine is high in nitrogen and can make products it is added to appear higher in protein than they actually are. But it is also poisonous and was likely the cause of hundreds of pet deaths earlier this year in the United States and Canada.

Li Changjiang
Li Changjiang

Li Changjiang, the director of China’s General Administration of Quality, Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine says the companies were able to evade quality controls by mislabeling the products.

“According to our laws, chemical ingredients are not subject to inspection,” Li explained. “So, they were not inspected. These companies were responsible because they were not supposed to pass off a chemical ingredient as a product for export. Therefore, we severely punished these enterprises.”

The quality inspection agency said the powerful Public Security Bureau has started an investigation and arrested “major personnel” in charge.

The pet deaths were followed by discoveries in several countries of tainted Chinese toothpaste, fish, and children’s toys, sparking international concern about Chinese exports.

The U.S. has refused farmed fish and seafood imports from China after shipments were found to be contaminated with drugs banned in the U.S.

Li said those tainted shipments came from illegal fish farms. He said U.S. customs were also at fault because, unlike the European Union and Japan, the U.S. does not require exporters to provide official certificates of health.

“They allow all products to be exported and then conduct random tests in ports,” Li said. “This makes it easy for some illegal enterprises’ food products that do not meet U.S. standards to enter the U.S. market.”

Li defended Chinese food products. He said large and medium sized food manufacturers with high standards made up 90 percent of the market. He vowed to crack down on China’s numerous small food manufacturers scattered around the country, which he blamed for most food safety problems.

Chinese officials have chastised foreign media for giving Chinese products a bad name. Li said U.S. media reports “untruthfully” linked poor quality Chinese-made tires to a fatal car accident, leading to a recall of nearly half a million tires. Chinese officials have concluded misuse of the tires was the real cause of the accident.

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The Dangers of Loneliness

Posted by Delbert on 20th July 2007

Friendship is a lot like food. We need it to survive. Psychologists find that human beings have a fundamental need for inclusion in group life and for close relationships.

By:Hara Estroff Marano

Friendship is a lot like food. We need it to survive. What is more, we seem to have a basic drive for it. Psychologists find that human beings have fundamental need for inclusion in group life and for close relationships. We are truly social animals.

The upshot is, we function best when this social need is met. It is easier to stay motivated, to meet the varied challenges of life.

In fact, evidence has been growing that when our need for social relationships is not met, we fall apart mentally and even physically. There are effects on the brain and on the body. Some effects work subtly, through the exposure of multiple body systems to excess amounts of stress hormones. Yet the effects are distinct enough to be measured over time, so that unmet social needs take a serious toll on health, eroding our arteries, creating high blood pressure, and even undermining learning and memory.

A lack of close friends and a dearth of broader social contact generally bring the emotional discomfort or distress known as loneliness. It begins with an awareness of a deficiency of relationships. This cognitive awareness plays through our brain with an emotional soundtrack. It makes us sad. We might feel an emptiness. We may be filled with a longing for contact. We feel isolated, distanced from others, deprived. These feelings tear away at our emotional well-being.

Despite the negative effects of loneliness, it can hardly be considered abnormal. It is a most normal feeling. Everyone feels lonely sometimes—after a break-up with a friend or lover, when we move to a new place, when we are excluded from some social gathering.

Chronic loneliness is something else entirely. It is one of the surest markers in existence for maladjustment.

In children, it leads to all kinds of problems. Failure to be socially connected to peers is the real reason behind most school dropouts. It sets in motion a course on which children spin their way to outcast status and develop delinquency and other forms of antisocial behavior.

In adults, loneliness is a major precipitant of depression and alcoholism. And it increasingly appears to be the cause of a range of medical problems, some of which take decades to show up.

Psychologist John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago has been tracking the effects of loneliness. He performed a series of novel studies and reported that loneliness works in some surprising ways to compromise health.

  • Perhaps most astonishing, in a survey he conducted, doctors themselves confided that they provide better or more complete medical care to patients who have supportive families and are not socially isolated.
  • Living alone increases the risk of suicide for young and old alike.
  • Lonely individuals report higher levels of perceived stress even when exposed to the same stressors as non-lonely people, and even when they are relaxing.
  • The social interaction lonely people do have are not as positive as those of other people, hence the relationships they have do not buffer them from stress as relationships normally do.
  • Loneliness raises levels of circulating stress hormones and levels of blood pressure. It undermines regulation of the circulatory system so that the heart muscle works harder and the blood vessels are subject to damage by blood flow turbulence.
  • Loneliness destroys the quality and efficiency of sleep, so that it is less restorative, both physically and psychologically. They wake up more at night and spend less time in bed actually sleeping than do the nonlonely.

Loneliness, Cacioppo concludes, sets in motion a variety of “slowly unfolding pathophysiological processes.” The net result is that the lonely experience higher levels of cumulative wear and tear.

In other words, we are built for social contact. There are serious—life-threatening—consequences when we don’t get enough. We can’t stay on track mentally. And we are compromised physically. Social skills are crucial for your health.


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Study Shows People Can Suppress Bad Thoughts

Posted by Editor on 16th July 2007

Research by neuroscientists shows that, with practice, people can suppress emotionally disturbing memories. Investigators say the finding could lead to therapies for individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.


Suppressed memory deals with a deliberate attempt to scrub a recurring, emotional memory from the mind. It is a controversial area. Investigators are routinely baffled when a person who witnessed a horrific crime cannot remember obvious details.

Now, researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder have identified a brain mechanism that is activated when an individual attempts to suppress an unpleasant thought.

Researchers conducted a study of 16 participants in which they were asked to memorize 40 different pairs of pictures consisting of a neutral human face and a disturbing image, including a car crash, an electric chair or a wounded soldier.

The subjects were then placed in high-tech MRI brain scanner, and asked to think about, or not think about, the disturbing images. The MRI detected two brain regions that work together to suppress specific unpleasant memories. The regions are involved in visual recall, memory encoding and retrieval, and emotional response.

Researcher Brendan Depue is the study’s lead author. Depue says the more the participants repeated the experiment, the more they suppressed memories of the unpleasant pictures. He and his colleagues have pinpointed the area of the brain where the suppression occurs.

“It looks like the prefrontal cortex, in which cognitive neuroscientists and psychologists basically consider the seat of effort to control of our behavior, basically is tuning-down or lessening the activity in brain areas that support memory representation,” said Brendan Depue.

Depue says the findings may lead to treatments for those with post-traumatic stress disorder, in which people are haunted by memories of horrible events.

“Basically what we are trying to do is highlight the mechanisms or neural mechanisms in normal individuals that will actually lead to some insight possibly in that facet of the particular memory or thought disorder, in this case post-traumatic stress disorder,” he said.

The results of the study on memory suppression are published in the current issue of the journal Science.


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Researchers Pinpoint New Diabetes Gene

Posted by Editor on 16th July 2007

16 July 2007

Scientists say they have discovered a gene responsible for increasing a person’s likelihood of contracting type 1 diabetes.

In an article published Sunday in the journal Nature, researchers said people with a variation of the gene are as much as 50 percent more likely to suffer from type 1 diabetes.

That sort of diabetes is also called juvenile diabetes because it is often diagnosed in childhood or early adulthood.

Researchers say the ability to forecast a vulnerability to diabetes would allow doctors to intervene in time to lessen its impact on patients.

Type 1 diabetes is an incurable disease in which the body destroys its cells which produce insulin, a hormone that regulates blood glucose.

Those with the disease have a higher risk of heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and other medical problems.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.


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US Lawyer Finds Medical Experts in India

Posted by Editor on 16th July 2007

12 July 2007

O’Sullivan report – Download (mp3) 3.2MB audio clip
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An American lawyer has tapped medical experts in India to help with legal cases in the United States. Mike O’Sullivan reports, it is part of a growing trend in the outsourcing of professional services.

Dorothy Clay Sims
Dorothy Clay Sims

Dorothy Clay Sims handles cases against medical insurers that refuse to pay for treatments that her clients say they deserve. She also represents plaintiffs who claim they are suffering from pain or a disability because of an accident.

Opposing lawyers often call on medical experts, and Sims, as a medical layperson, needs help from a doctor just to understand the testimony. The expert advice could cost her client one-thousand dollars an hour, or even more.

Sims has reduced that cost by hiring medical experts in India for a fraction of the price, and she makes the service available to other American lawyers through an Internet-based business called MD in a Box. The U.S. lawyers pay $90 an hour for the medical consulting.

The process works through a real-time link to an Indian doctor by computer. Sims describes a typical case in which a U.S. orthopedic surgeon disputes her client’s claims in an American courtroom.

“I have my computer with me, and my doctor in India is listening to the orthopedic surgeon the whole time, through a microphone plugged into my laptop,” said Dorothy Clay Sims. “He is then sending me instant messages saying, “that is not true. It is actually such and such or so and so.” And I look down at my screen and I will just say exactly what the doctor said from India.”

Sims got the idea for the business while visiting India, where she and her husband were doing volunteer work at a hospital.

“And then, my husband got ill and ended up needing a digital x-ray, and he met with a radiologist, got the digital x-ray, and then had a consultation with another doctor, and the whole bill was $35,” she said. “And that is when I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, they could help lawyers here in the U.S.’”

Sims assembled a group of doctors in India that has helped on more than 100 U.S. cases.

There are pitfalls in any business, especially one that operates on opposite sides of the globe. Sims has encountered problems ranging from cultural misunderstandings to money that disappeared while being processed by an Indian accountant. But she says her web-based consultancy is showing a profit and growing.

Outsourcing expert Kevin Desouza teaches in the Information School at the University of Washington. He says outsourcing to India began with manufacturing and telephone call centers, then moved to high-end services, like the one that Sims offers.

“In the late 1980s to early ’90s, companies realized that especially India had a large talent pool of skilled engineers. Almost all of them were computer engineers. They had training in electrical engineering and all of the computational sciences.”

As U.S. high-tech companies began to outsource software design, other companies drew on India’s educated, urban labor pool. Some outsourced administrative services, such as paralegal and medical research.

Desouza says many U.S. firms are doing payroll and tax preparation in India and China. He adds that India, with its many engineers and scientists fluent in English, is well positioned to move into technical fields such as biotechnology.

An Indian trade association for the outsourcing industry says revenue from exports of software, services and business outsourcing grew more than 30 percent last year, and should reach $40 billion in the current fiscal year.


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Gerber recalls organic baby cereals

Posted by Michille on 14th July 2007

WASHINGTON – Gerber Products Co. recalled all packages of its organic rice and organic oatmeal cereals Friday because of potential clumping of the baby food, which can pose a choking hazard.

Gerber said it has received complaints of choking but no reports of injury.

The company said a “limited quantity” of the cereals could contain lumps that do not dissolve in water or milk. The cereals were distributed nationwide and to Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.


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