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.
The 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.
The 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.
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.
The 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."
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.
A new coalition called Citizens Against Net Taxes (CANT) aims to bring consumers, industry leaders and nonprofit organizations together to protest against new taxes on digital goods and services downloaded to PCs or mobile devices.
CANT launched its campaign on Monday and has an online petition which can be signed on its website.
"States are facing a real budget crisis, but legislatures must carefully evaluate the consequences of any legislation that will raise tax rates on consumers," says Larry Darby of the American Consumer Institute.
"While taxes on digital goods may appear to be an easy way to generate revenue, in reality they will work at cross purposes with efforts to stimulate the economy and protect jobs," he adds.
In urging taxpayers to sign the petition, CANT says states that impose taxes on digital goods can expect online retailers move to states with lower or no taxes.
The taxes are also likely to raise online-theft rates as consumers turn to tax-free and illegally downloadable materials, it states.
Finally, it believes the added taxes threaten to limit the use of high-speed broadband and wireless services that could help lower energy costs and further stimulate the economy.
At the Summit of the Americas, representatives of Caribbean countries have called on America and Britain not to threaten their financial services industry during difficult economic times.
The prime minister of Belize, and chairman of the Caribbean Community and Common Market, Dean Barrow stressed the importance of financial services to the well-being of Caribbean nations, many of which can rely on few other sources of economic growth.
Pointing out that the global financial crisis should not be blamed on Caribbean jurisdictions, the prime minister suggested it would be a mistake to destroy "a critical component of the very service area into which we were encouraged to diversify."
During last month’s G-20 meeting in London, the U.S president was joined by many Western leaders in calling for a crackdown on what they see as tax havens where wealthy citizens can hide their assets.
In a sign that the clampdown may be imminent, the Justice Department asked a federal court earlier this week to allow the IRS to obtain information about taxpayers who use offshore accounts, while Swiss banks have announced they will be scaling down their discreet banking services.
According to Forbes, Obama has said he supports the proposed Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act which would make it harder to hide assets in more than 30 countries including Belize, the Bahamas and Panama.
According to a University of Pittsburgh researcher, the typical Western diet – rich in meat and fats and low in complex carbohydrates -increases the risk of colon cancer.
Professor Stephen O’Keefe from the University of Pittsburgh presented his conclusions to the Society for General Microbiology meeting in Harrogate, UK, on March 31.
They are based on growing evidence that the composition of the diet influences the diversity of intestinal microbes, supporting the link between diet, colonic disease and colon cancer, the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in adults in the West.
In particular, those whose diet is rich in complex carbohydrates have significant populations of bacteria in their gut called Firmicutes which use undigested residues to synthesize short-chain fatty acids and vitamins such as folate and biotin that maintain colonic health.
By contrast, meat digestion produces sulphur, which decreases the activity of ‘good’ bacteria and increases the production of hydrogen sulphide and other possible carcinogens.
"Our investigations to date have focused on a small number of bacterial species and have therefore revealed but the tip of the iceberg," says Professor O’Keefe, adding that the colon harbors more than 800 bacterial species and 7,000 different strains.
"The characterization of their properties and metabolism can be expected to provide the key to colonic health and disease," he adds.
The study also demonstrates how simple dietary changes may prevent a serious illness that requires medical intervention.
On the heels of devastating floods which hit North Dakota last month, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) has issued safety recommendations to residents who live in areas prone to flash flooding.
The agency’s website offers downloadable materials, including home and car emergency kit checklists and emergency plan templates.
Stressing the importance of preparing in advance, PEMA Director Robert P. French says, "[Residents should check their] insurance policies to ensure appropriate coverage including content and flood insurance, since it normally takes 30 days for new policies to become effective."
According to French, basic survival tips include memorizing more than one evacuation route, regularly reviewing a family’s emergency plan so that everyone knows where to go when flash flooding occurs and where to reunite afterwards.
Each household should also have an emergency preparedness kit and keep it within easy reach in case of an evacuation.
It is also important to understand the difference between a flash flood warning and a flash flood watch.
The latter means flooding may occur, so residents should stay alert and watch rivers and streams.
By contrast, flood warning is issued when flooding is under way, and residents should move immediately to high ground.