Swine flu cases continue to climb

Swine flu cases continue to climb As the number of confirmed cases of swine flu increases across North America, the first fatality has been reported in the U.S.

The number of cases in the U.S. has risen to 91 and is spread across 10 states, according to the CDC. A 22-month-old child from Mexico who came to Texas for treatment became the first fatality in the U.S.

"Although it is far too early to know the degree to which the current swine flu outbreak warrants alarm, the number of cases and the speed with which the virus has spread around the globe serves as an opportunity to [discuss] the critical nature of preparedness," says Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

Swine flu presents similar symptoms to other strains of flu virus, including coughing, sneezing, fever, chills and vomiting. Some people may also experience difficulty breathing, dizziness or a rash.

At this time, it may be wise to avoid crowded places and wear masks if it is necessary to ride a subway or go to a supermarket.

Washing hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitizers frequently during the day is also good practice. Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Experts have also stressed the importance of keeping the workspace clean by sanitizing desktops, phones and computer keyboards, especially if they are used by many people.

Talking to your employer about their contingency plan for a situation where many employees are unable to work may also be a good idea.

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New study uncovers deeper heart benefits of grapes

New study uncovers deeper heart benefits of grapesGrapes, like many other fruits and vegetables, have long been known to promote health heart, but a news study has shed light on a more profound and long-term heart benefit of grape consumption.

In fact, scientists from the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center found a grape-enriched diet may prevent heart damage after years of high blood pressure.

They arrived at the conclusion after comparing blood pressure in two groups of laboratory animals on a high-sodium diet. One group consumed a grape powder consisting of a blend of green, red and black grape extracts and one received a mild dose of a common blood pressure drug.

After 18 weeks, the rats that received the grape powder had lower blood pressure, better circulation and fewer signs of heart muscle damage than those that did not receive grapes.

"There are the small changes that diet can bring, but the effect of grape intake on genes can have a greater impact on disease down the road," says E. Mitchell Seymour, who led the research as part of his doctoral work in nutrition science at Michigan State University.

The researchers believe specific natural antioxidants called phytochemicals have the power to stimulate a protective process in the genes that reduces damage to the heart muscle.

The study was presented at the 2009 Experimental Biology convention in New Orleans.
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Legal ways to protect assets from creditors, Uncle Sam

Expert discusses legal ways to protect assets from creditors and Uncle Sam In turbulent economic times people scramble for ways to protect and preserve their hard-earned wealth, and some experts are offering advice on the best way to achieve that goal.

This is especially important given that moving assets into offshore accounts may have lost its appeal now that governments around the world have started to actively pursue those who would like to transfer funds abroad for tax benefits.

Still, there are a few options left.

According to Jay Adkisson, a California lawyer who specializes in asset protection, quoted by the Forbes magazine, putting money in trust for children – as long as the funds were obtained from a legitimate activity – can effectively shield the assets in case creditors come calling.

There are also legal ways to avoid taxes if you have enough money.

The Forbes expert suggests buying diamonds or gold bullion and placing them in a Swiss bank. The transaction does not have to be reported to the IRS because it does not pay any interest.

Similarly "raw" land, i.e. a type of property that does not generate income, does not require reporting, either.
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Cherries reduce inflammation, risk of heart disease

Cherries reduce inflammation and risk of heart diseaseConsuming just one and a half cups of tart cherries daily enhances the antioxidant activity in the body, according to new research.

The study, conducted by scientists from the University of Michigan and reported at the 2009 Experimental Biology meeting in New Orleans, included twelve healthy adults, aged 18 to 25 years, who were randomly assigned to eat either one and a half cups or three cups of frozen tart cherries.

The researchers found increased levels of five different anthocyanins, the natural antioxidants which give cherries their red color, for up to 12 hours after consumption.

"This study documents for the first time that the antioxidants in tart cherries do make it into the human bloodstream and is coupled with increased antioxidant activity that could have a positive impact," says Dr. Sara L. Warber, co-director of University of Michigan Integrative Medicine and principal investigator of the study.

"[What's] really great is that a reasonable amount of cherries could potentially deliver benefits, like reducing risk factors for heart disease and inflammation," she adds.

Previous studies have linked cherries and cherry compounds to lower blood cholesterol and triglycerides levels.

Other benefits of cherries include a 14 percent lower body weight and less belly fat, the type linked to increased heart disease risk and type 2 diabetes, according to the UM researchers.
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Swine flu outbreak raises survival issues

Swine flu outbreak raises survival issues As global health authorities are rushing to contain what looks like a growing swine flu epidemic, experts have offered protection and survival tips.

The current outbreak originated from Mexico, and by Monday 20 cases have been confirmed in the U.S., prompting the government to declare a public health emergency.

Although the authorities have sought to calm fears, it is wise to take basic precautions to avoid infection.

The surest ways to avoid contracting swine flu is frequent hand washing and wearing a mask in public.

In an outbreak, it is generally a good idea to stay indoors and avoid congregating in public or crowded spaces as well as kissing and hugging.

While these are the most immediate measures to be taken when an outbreak is already under way, individuals can also do much to increase their chances of survival in the longer term.

One survival website expert recommends having one to three months’ worth of supplies at home, including food, water, fuel, candles and first aid kits with anti-viral and other medications. This is especially important given that epidemics can come in waves of outbreaks.

Stored food should be similar to what the family normally eats and as much of it as possible should be "ready to eat" in case one is sick and not able to prepare a meal.

Dried or canned food, which lasts longer, is the best option when preparing for survival during an epidemic.
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Philanthropic organization criticizes Obama’s tax plans

Philanthropic organization criticizes Obama's tax plansThe Association for Healthcare Philanthropy has criticized the limits on tax deductions for charitable donations in the Obama administration’s budget.

It says the budget puts forward a scheme that would devalue charitable gifts by reducing the federal tax deductions from 35 percent to 28 percent for those who earn more than $250,000.

"In these challenging economic times, charities and nonprofits already are finding it difficult to fulfill their altruistic missions because of reduced donations and resources," the organization said in a statement.

It also suggested the federal government should promote philanthropy not make it more difficult.

Meanwhile, Americans for Tax Reform has identified another obstacle to the charitable sector in the form of itemized deduction phase-out in 2011 for married couples making $250,000 and single people making $200,000.

In the organization’s view, this limitation will make wealthy people give less to charity.

It estimates that every 1 percent decline in household charitable giving means nearly $2 billion less.

"That’s $2 billion that’s not available for churches, shelters and other worthy causes," it says.

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Missouri law would restrict education for illegal immigrants

Missouri law would restrict education for illegal immigrantsThe Missouri House of Representatives has cleared a law that would bar illegal aliens from attending public colleges in the state.

The House voted 125-30 to approve the bill which has now been sent to the Senate, according to the Associated Press.

The vote is part of an ongoing debate across the country regarding immigration reform, and in particular the extent of publicly funded benefits that illegal immigrants should be entitled to.

Earlier this week, the College Board, an association of 5,000 schools, released a report that calls for federal legislation that would grant in-state college tuition, financial aid and legal status to many illegal immigrants in the U.S.

Called the Dream Act, the law would allow students who have lived in the U.S. since the age of 15 to apply for legal residence upon graduation from high school.

However, not everyone agrees with this approach.

"It’s a massive amnesty effort being laid for this fall," said Bob Dane, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which seeks to restrict immigration, quoted by KBTX.com.

"Since many of these illegal aliens and their families are overwhelmingly on the lower end of the economic scale, they’re going to take the lion’s share of need-based financial aid."

Currently, 10 states allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition for public colleges.
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Industry association applauds firearms bill proposal

Industry association applauds firearms bill proposal The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) has praised a legislative proposal that addresses the issue of the frequency with which firearms and ammunition manufacturers pay a federal excise tax on their sales.

The bill was introduced by Senator Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

The Firearms Fairness and Affordability Act will allow the firearms and ammunition industry to pay the firearms and ammunition excise tax (FAET) on a quarterly basis – instead of bi-weekly – the same payment schedule on which every other industry supporting conservation pays the federal excise tax.

FAET is a major source of wildlife conservation funding in the U.S.

"Singling out the firearms industry for tax payments every two weeks is bureaucratic and discriminatory," said Senator Mike Crapo, an Idaho Republican, who joined Senator Baucus in sponsoring the bill and is the current co-chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.

He added, "Changing to a quarterly excise tax payment system … will allow firearms manufacturers to reinvest funds into developing new products and marketing efforts."

NSSF is the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry.

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NIA offers tips on investing in gold

NIA offers tips on investing in goldThe National Inflation Association (NIA) has issued advice on how Americans can protect their assets in the face of inevitable inflation.

It said the actions of president Obama, Congress and the Federal Reserve are sowing the seeds for hyperinflation, and it is important to invest today because it will be too late when the calamity arrives.

According to the association, investment in gold is the surest way to protect one’s assets against depreciation.

"There is no such thing as having too much gold," it says, adding, "Although you should never put all your eggs in one basket, it is much better to have all of your money in gold than to have it all in U.S. dollars."

The organization says the present price volatility is a temporary phenomenon stemming from the fact that many short-term traders buy gold as a safe haven from stocks.

Regarding the ways to buy gold, NIA suggests physical ownership as one option that will preserve the buyer’s purchasing power.

However, given the inconvenience of storing gold bars, it says the best ways to invest in gold is through exchange traded funds and notes known as ETFs and ETNs.

The way to get rich during hyperinflation is to buy the right gold mining stocks, NIA concludes.

"Gold exploration companies have the greatest upside potential, but also the most risk," it suggests, adding, "What you need to look for are gold exploration companies that have joint ventures with top-tier miners."
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Non-drug depression therapies more effective after heart surgery

Non-drug depression therapies more effective after heart surgery New research has found that non-pharmacological interventions such as supportive stress management are more effective than medications for treating depression after coronary artery bypass graft (CABG).

Dr. Kenneth E. Freedland and colleagues from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis conducted the study which involved 123 patients who experienced depression within one year after CABG surgery.

The patients were randomly assigned to usual care as determined by primary care or other physicians, to cognitive behavior therapy and to supportive stress management group.

After three months, only 33 percent of those in the first group saw improvement, while 71 percent of patients in the cognitive behavior therapy and 57 percent in supportive stress management group experienced remission of their depression.

"Cognitive behavior therapy was also superior to usual care on most secondary psychological outcomes, including anxiety, hopelessness, perceived stress and the mental component of health-related quality of life," the authors wrote.

The study was published in the April issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

Among other effective stress and anxiety-combating techniques are exercise, proper diet and nutritional supplements.
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