Bob Barr criticizes McCain, Obama over liberties

Obama has not protected liberties, Barr saysNeither of the two major candidates for U.S. president – Republican John McCain nor Democrat Barack Obama – has successfully protected citizens’ personal liberties, Libertarian candidate Bob Barr has claimed.

Barr told an audience in Durham, South Carolina that placing support behind either man on November 4th is the equivalent of "a wasted vote," the Duke Chronicle reports.

The former Republican congressman from Georgia criticized McCain and Obama for supporting amendments to the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

These amendments have been the subject of much controversy among civil liberties groups, who claim that they violate Americans’ rights by allowing warrantless domestic wiretapping.

"It is the job of the president to protect our liberty," Barr said, according to the news provider.

He then suggested that the two candidates have allowed the government to overextend its reach, saying that "both of the two major parties have an institutional interest in not diminishing the power of the president."

Throughout his political career, Barr has supported shrinking government, combating government violations of personal privacy and reducing – or eliminating – taxes on U.S. citizens.
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Survey: Patients think hospitals can do better

Survey reveals room for improvement at hospitalsPatients asked to rate hospitals across the country believe that the healthcare facilities had room for improvement, a new survey reveals.

As part of the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey, people filled out customer satisfaction surveys on 2,400 hospitals across the U.S.

The findings indicate that although many people are happy with the general level of care they received, areas such as pain management and hospital discharge instructions were found lacking.

Nearly one out of three respondents said that pain management was not handled well at their hospital, while around 20 percent gave communication about discharge instructions low marks.

Dr. Ashish Jha of Harvard explained that collecting the opinions of patients at healthcare facilities is not a common practice.

"It’s shocking that given the $2.1 trillion spent on health care that we have not had this kind of information before," he commented, according to Reuters.

The questionnaire covered six areas, including communication with doctors, communication with nurses, quality of nursing services, pain management, communication about medications and discharge information.

The study appears in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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Fed slashes interest rates due to recession fears

The Fed slashed in the interest rate to 1%The slowing economy and concerns about the availability of credit were at the heart of the Federal Open Market Committee’s unanimous decision to cut the federal funds rate by half of a percentage point on Wednesday.

Following the action, the key lending interest rate has been set at 1 percent. It is the second reduction seen this month, after a similar half-point cut was made on October 8th.

"The intensification of financial market turmoil is likely to exert additional restraint on spending, partly by further reducing the ability of households and businesses to obtain credit," the Fed wrote in a statement.

The committee also promised to "monitor economic and financial developments carefully" with regard to future decisions.

Analysts are divided on whether the Fed is likely to reduce rates even further.

California State University economist Sung Won Sohn told the Associated Press that he thinks the committee will make the "momentous decision" to slash the funds rate to zero if such an action is warranted by global events.

The federal funds rate reflects the interest rate at which banks lend immediately available funds to other banks overnight.
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Panel: FDA failed in BPA assessment

BPA is found in a range of plastic packagingThe Food and Drug Administration did not adequately address the potential risks of bisphenol A when assessing its safety, an independent panel of scientific experts has said.

Earlier this year, the FDA released a statement assuring Americans that the controversial chemical – used in plastic packaging and bottles – was safe at low levels, even for babies and children.

However, the panel of scientific experts has determined that the group’s judgment was flawed and did not take into account a number of studies that found evidence suggesting BPA was harmful.

For example, research conducted by the National Toxicology Program – part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – suggested that BPA could pose a risk to children.

"The margins of safety defined by FDA as ‘adequate’ are, in fact, inadequate," the report stated, according to the Association Press.

In a statement, the FDA said it was "moving forward" with a plan to conduct additional research into BPA, adding that it would "carefully evaluate the findings of these studies."

Earlier this month, Canada became the first country to ban BPA from baby bottles. Commenting on the decision, the FDA said it was made due to an "abundance of caution."
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The safety of I Bonds

I Bonds are linked to inflationInvestors who are looking for a low-risk and high-yield place to store their wealth may be interested in exploring opportunities offered by inflation-linked savings bonds (I Bonds).

An article in the Wall Street Journal describes how yields for these bonds are expected to increase from 4.84 percent to 4.92 percent beginning in November, due to the increase in inflation seen over the past six months.

I Bond yields are based on both a fixed rate – currently set at 0 percent by the Treasury – and an adjustment based on inflation.

The fixed rate is maintained over the life of the bond, which is 30 years. Meanwhile, the inflation adjustment is adjusted every six months.

According to the Wall Street Journal, investors who buy I Bonds before November 1st will be able to guarantee the 4.84 percent rate for the October-March period, followed by a 4.92 percent rate for the following six months.

Although savers will be penalized if they cash in their bonds before the first five-year period is up, investors who maintain their money for one year could still enjoy a yield of 3.86 percent once the penalty has been taken into account, the publication explains.

Each individual may purchase up to $5,000 in I Bonds.
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BPA ‘reduces effect of cancer drugs’

BPA interferes with chemotherapy, scientists sayAnother health risk connected to bisphenol A (BPA) has been uncovered and described in the most recent issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.

According to researchers from the University of Cincinnati, BPA can reduce the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments.

Dr. Nira Ben-Jonathan and colleagues exposed human breast cancer cells to BPA at levels that reflect those typically found in a person’s bloodstream.

They discovered that the chemical helped protect the cancer cells from dying when confronted by chemotherapy medications.

BPA has been in the spotlight in recent months due to a growing body of research that has linked it to health problems ranging from problems with sexual development in babies to heart problems in adults.

Canada recently became the first country to ban the chemical from being used in the manufacture of baby bottles.

According to the University of Cincinnati researchers, understanding BPA’s health risks helps increase their understanding of chemotherapy resistance.

"These data provide considerable support to the accumulating evidence that BPA is hazardous to human health," the authors wrote.

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Scientists modify tomato to fight cancer

Scientists have developed a purple cancer-fighting tomatoScience has taken its efforts at developing genetically modified foods one step further, creating a type of tomato that is hoped to help combat cancer.

The purple tomatoes were created by British researchers by incorporating genes from the snapdragon flower, a plant that contains an antioxidant called anthocyanin.

Anthocyanin is already naturally found in blackberries, cranberries and chokeberries, but scientists sought a way to make it easier to incorporate into the diet.

After developing the tomato, the team fed it to rats that had been engineered to develop cancer and compared the effects to mice that ate a normal diet.

The animals that ate purple tomatoes lived around 182 days on average, compared with the 142-day lifespan of the control group.

Although the health benefits of the new tomato may be welcomed by some, others have raised concerns about the safety of eating so-called Frankenfoods created in a laboratory rather than those which grow naturally without the intervention of science.

Last month, the FDA released guidelines on how it plans to regulate genetically modified meats. Some experts were surprised that these foods would not necessarily have to be labeled as such.

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Arizona to vote on freedom of choice in healthcare

Healthcare choice is on Arizona's ballotThe freedom of Arizonans to make decisions about their own healthcare without consulting with the state is at stake on the November ballot.

In an editorial written for the Washington Post, George Will describes the situation as a decision that would either "arrest or accelerate the nation’s slide into statism."

Proposition 101 is a measure that aims to add language to Arizona’s constitution that prohibits any law from being passed that would interfere with residents’ right to choose, pay for or opt out of any healthcare system or plan.

According to Will, this measure would guarantee more flexibility for Arizonans and protect their civil liberties from third-party infringement.

"Proposition 101 would protect Arizonans not only against abridgements of their liberties by their state government, but also perhaps against comparable actions by the federal government," Will writes.

He explains that the proposition recognizes the valuable role of the market in being able to allocate resources better than the state and federal government.

Writing in favor of Proposition 101, Phoenix doctor Anthony K. Hedley raises concerns that state-controlled healthcare could mean that Americans have to wait longer to receive important life-saving procedures.
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Did the bailout increase market volatility?

The stock market was unsettled after the bailoutPresident Bush and Congress may have attempted to quell the volatility of the stock market by approving the $700 billion bank bailout, but some experts are suggesting the move has had the opposite effect.

A report on Newsmax raises concerns about how the rescue package and related measures have affected issues of value and risk.

"Now that deposits are guaranteed, basically I as an investor have no incentive to hold equities, so I sell them and put my money in bank deposits," financial author Marc Faber explained to CNBC, according to the news provider.

He claimed that government interventions have made it "impossible to forecast market movements."

And Chris Whalen of Institutional Risk Analytics suggested in a recent newsletter that the bailout has led to a situation in which price and value are no longer linked and investors have lost confidence.

"No wonder the entire stock market is having an extended nervous breakdown," he added.

Meanwhile, ABC News reports that despite the current financial uncertainty on Wall Street and the bailout, many CEOs and senior-level executives will still receive higher-than-expected bonuses this year.
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Is gold still a safe investment?

Should you still invest in gold?Gold is traditionally viewed as a safe investment in troubled economic times. However, the price has been falling lately – a trend which has left many experts confused.

This behavior suggests that the credit crunch may be forcing investors’ hands. Mark Hansen of commodities research firm CPM Group told Fox News that people have been making a "mad dash for cash," which has included selling their more valuable assets such as gold.

In a research report released Thursday, the World Gold Council agreed with this sentiment, explaining that funds have been forced to sell precious metals to meet margin calls.

"The fact that gold did not head higher during the current leg of the crisis seems to reflect a combination of the rise in the dollar, deleveraging of commodity positions, sales to meet margin calls and the unwinding of the long gold, short dollar trade," the report states.

Meanwhile, some experts have argued that it is actually a good time to buy gold, because it is a good investment during times of inflation.

Gold Stock Analyst newsletter’s John Doody told the news provider that the recent bank bailout will help prevent deflation and create a good environment for gold investment.

The commodity recently fell to below $700 for the first time in more than a year.
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