Scientists have announced they will unveil a more accurate set of standards for measuring vitamin D levels in blood later this year.
This comes on the heels of recent studies that have found many Americans are not getting enough vitamin D and are thus exposed to a range of debilitating conditions.
In addition to maintaining bone strength by facilitating calcium absorption, vitamin D promotes overall health, and its deficiency has been linked to a higher risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
However, despite concerns about adequate vitamin D intake, there is neither a standard laboratory test for measuring vitamin D levels in humans nor universal agreement on what the optimal vitamin D level should be.
Dr Mary Bedner, an analytical chemist with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) points out that "[r]ight now, you can send a blood sample to two different labs and get completely different results for vitamin D."
That is why NIST has been leading efforts to develop a standard for measuring vitamin D in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements.
The result of their work that will be unveiled to the public later this year could lead to better prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, rickets and other bone diseases.
By the admission of White House staffers, the administration’s climate proposal could cost industry up to $2 trillion, and the Senate has just blocked the efforts to put climate-change legislation on a fast track.
President Obama’s proposal calls for a carbon cap-and-trade system that would set limits on greenhouse gas emissions and force industry to buy permits to pollute. However, it has been blasted by critics as a tax on carbon-emitting companies.
"The last thing we need is a massive tax increase in a recession, but reportedly that’s what the White House is offering," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John A. Boehner.
"And since this energy tax won’t affect manufacturers in Mexico, India and China, it will do nothing but drive American jobs overseas," he added.
Given its potential consequences, the Senate has rejected the administration’s efforts to fast-track the legislation through Congress.
Republican Senator Mike Johanns of Nebraska hailed the move by stressing that the climate legislation can have a deep impact on American families and the economy, and as such it should be subject to appropriate scrutiny and open debate.
Reuters has reported Democrats could still try to attach the bill to the federal budget allowing it to be passed by a simple majority, but it says the chances are slim because they do not have enough support.
Today, people lead stressful lives, and it is easy to simply reach for pills when symptoms become difficult to control. However, there many natural and efficient techniques that can make a big difference.
Firstly, it is important to know what triggers stress or anxiety and avoid such situations.
However, as this is not always possible and thankfully there are many natural products that have calming effects. These include chamomile, valerian and passionflower extract that can be found in many herbal stores.
Before using them one should always read the attached leaflet to determine if the product is right for them.
Besides herbal supplements, stressed individuals may choose from a range of mind/body techniques such as breathing exercises, physical exercise, yoga, tai chi, hypnosis, massages or meditation.
Popular among some people are alternative therapies such as Ayurveda, massage, Chinese medicines or Thai massage that sooth and help get rid of stress and anxiety. Specialized treatment called Ayurvedic Panchakarma is also said to have beneficial effects on the nervous system.
Interested individuals should inquire about alternative medical centers near them. For example, the American Botanical Council has announced it will open an Ayurvedic Herbal Garden at its Case Mill Homestead location in Texas.
Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest systems of traditional healing. Commonly used Ayurvedic herbs include ginger, turmeric, neem and ashwagandha.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced it will offer leniency to Americans who come forward with assets invested in offshore accounts.
The agency unveiled a plan last month to lower the 50 percent penalty levied on offshore account holders. It also said volunteers will avoid prosecution provided their money has not come from criminal activities, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In addition to that, "the IRS is clearly interested in information about bankers, financial advisers, lawyers and intermediaries," says Scott D. Michel, a lawyer at Caplin & Drysdale, quoted by WSJ.
"Lawyers who go in for voluntary disclosures are being asked to identify any such people with whom their clients interacted," he adds.
However, Bob Bauman, in his blog written for Sovereign Society, warns the government’s move may be "a trap."
He points out the requirement that the government present hard evidence of tax avoidance when asking banks for disclosure of offshore activities, and stresses the "illogical" approach that assumes everyone with an offshore account is a tax evader.
That is because under the U.S. law opening an offshore bank account is completely legal so long as it is reported, he adds.
In conclusion, Bauman, citing opinions of tax experts, cautions that volunteers can still be prosecuted under the proposed "amnesty" and that those who want to come forward should consult a lawyer before contacting the IRS.
Scientists believe that people suffering from celiac disease stand to benefit from boosting their dietary intake of vitamins B.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine resulting from intolerance to gluten and manifesting itself through chronic diarrhea and fatigue.
It also leads to vitamin deficiency, which in turn may cause higher levels of homocysteine (hyperhomocysteinemia), an amino acid linked to cardiovascular disease.
Recently, a Dutch research team led by Dr Muhammed Hadithi analyzed the effect of vitamin B6, folate and vitamin B12 daily supplements on homocysteine levels in 51 adults with coeliac disease and compared them with 50 healthy individuals.
Their investigation found that vitamin B6 and folate were significantly and independently associated with homocysteine levels in the celiac patients taking such supplements.
Based on this study, patients with celiac disease may consider enriching their diet with nutritional supplements that may prevent hyperhomocysteinemia.
Previous studies on vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid linked them to a lower risk of age-related macular degeneration in women, a disease tied to high levels of homocysteine on account of its impact on blood vessel lining.
Rather than unfreezing the credit markets, regulations that come with the deals will stifle business and perpetuate the crisis, according to some industry insiders.
Foreclosure Warehouse, an online inventory of foreclosed homes for sale, has said the government funds include too many restrictions and controls on how banks should conduct their business.
"Every time the U.S. government gets involved with something, whatever it is becomes slower, costs more, and satisfies less," the company has said in a statement.
It also added that keeping insolvent banks in business further weakens the financial system.
The company has added its voice to the ongoing debate about the merits of the bank rescue plan and the scope as well as extent of banking sector reforms.
The administration’s actions, including the economic stimulus bill that will cost over $1 trillion and several rounds of financial institutions bailouts, have attracted much criticism.
Recently, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich called on the government to return to capitalism’s basics by allowing failed companies to go into bankruptcy instead of pumping taxpayers’ money in to keep them afloat.
Politicians gathered at the G20 summit in London have vowed to crack down on tax havens by introducing cross-border regulation.
Blaming offshore tax havens for the current financial crisis, G20 leaders, with the exception of China, pushed for more regulation and compliance on the part of countries with favorable tax laws.
Media sources have reported that President Obama was instrumental in bridging disagreements between the Chinese and the French, in particular.
"There will be no guarantee about the safety of funds there," commented British prime minister Gordon Brown.
"If tax information is exchanged on request, as these countries have agreed to, then the benefits from being in these countries will diminish every day," he added.
According to a commentary on the Radio Free Europe website, governments have a variety of options to enforce such rules, including the freezing of assets of independents states if they refuse to comply.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has estimated that $1.7 trillion to $11.5 trillion dollars are being held in tax havens around the world.
American Issues Project (AIP) has added its voice to the growing chorus of criticism against President Obama’s proposed new budget.
The organization, which represents a coalition of conservative activists, is launching a telephone campaign against the proposal and the wasteful spending trend it claims characterizes the new Congress.
"Just when you think they’ve done their worst, Congress and [the] administration continue to amass debt beyond our control," says Ed Martin, president of AIP.
"President Obama has already spent more than [any] other president before him, [and his] is budget is just the latest move to weaken the American economy and the American entrepreneurial drive," he adds.
The phone calls will be made in many states including Colorado, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and urge people to oppose the proposal. The program will also give citizens the option to transfer directly to their senators and congressmen to voice their concern.
In recent weeks, many organizations spoke against Obama’s spending plans. For example, the Republican National Committee blasted the administration’s $3.6 trillion budget proposal as too lavish and based on unrealistic economic expectations.
As Illinois congressman Luis Gutierrez tours the country to promote illegal alien amnesty, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has issued a new statement reminding Americans of possible consequences of such a bill.
The congressman will be in Philadelphia on Saturday, the latest stop on his a five week Family Unity Immigration Outreach Tour visiting 16 American cities.
He has described the journey as "an effort to document the harm caused to citizens across our nation in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform."
FAIR has been following his moves and stressing the economic harm mass amnesty would cause to American workers.
"While Pennsylvanians are looking for work and facing increased competition for jobs and mounting economic burdens from illegal immigration, [Gutierrez} is in Philadelphia peddling his special interest-driven amnesty agenda and calling for the abandonment of immigration enforcement," says Dan Stein, president of FAIR.
He adds that Pennsylvania’s illegal alien population has increased to 140,000, costing state taxpayers $285 million every year, at a time when the state is facing a $2.3 billion deficit.
FAIR was founded in 1979 and is the country’s largest immigration reform group. Its goal is to promote the idea that immigration reform must enhance national security, improve the economy, protect jobs, preserve our environment, and establish a rule of law that is enforced.
New research from UCLA scientists linking stress during teenage years to heart disease in adult life provides yet another lesson in the importance of stress control and management.
Based on a study of otherwise healthy adolescents who reported negative interpersonal interactions, such as conflicts with family and friends or peer harassment, the researchers found greater frequency of stress was associated with higher levels of an inflammatory marker called C-reactive protein.
"[This is] consistent with the emerging body of evidence that points to the link between stress and increased inflammation, which places individuals at risk for the later development of cardiovascular disease," says Dr. Andrew J. Fuligni, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA.
The study also found that the association of stress with inflammation existed regardless of individual teens’ subjective evaluation of stressful experiences, he added.
The study appeared in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.
Alternative medicine therapies such as meditation, massage or acupuncture have been known to relieve symptoms – including headaches, muscle aches and fatigue – in those suffering from high levels of stress and anxiety.
The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) has vowed to sue the mayor of Seattle if he goes ahead with his plan to ban legally-carried firearms from city property.
Seattle Weekly, a local newspaper, revealed the plan sponsored by Mayor Greg Nickels on March 24. The mayor’s office told SW the ban may be enacted as soon as May.
"Mayor Nickels thinks he can enact this ban merely by executive order," says SAF founder Alan Gottlieb. "He’s not even thinking of putting this before the city council as a proposed ordinance, because he knows it would never pass."
He adds that that Nickels’ office has been warned by the state’s attorney general that neither he nor the city have the authority to enact such a ban under state preemption.
Gottlieb also revealed that at a public hearing late last year there was much interest in pursuing a lawsuit if the ban is enacted, and SAF expects to be joined in a legal action by other gun rights organizations.
Founded in 1974, SAF is the nation’s oldest and largest education, research, publishing and legal action group focusing on the constitutional right to privately own and possess firearms. It has more than 600,000 members and conducts programs designed to better inform the public about the consequences of gun control.
Despite falling profits and stronger competition in some green energy sectors, this year may provide good opportunities for investors to buy the industry’s stocks.
Among the favorable factors that are likely to spur new growth for the renewable energy industry are lower raw materials and equipment prices, according to Frost & Sullivan, a market research firm.
The researchers also stress that it is unlikely we will experience a repeat of the situation in the 1970s and 1980s when investments in renewable energy ceased after oil prices fell.
That is because oil prices might still go up due to increasing production costs fuelled by high demand from developing nations, says Alina Bakhareva, green energy research manager at Frost & Sullivan.
In addition to that, "[R]enewable energy is much more mature than it was thirty years ago and is able to deliver power at nearly the same cost as conventional power sources," she says.
The research also highlights the commitment of governments around the world to curbing carbon dioxide emissions and suggests renewable energy is a major tool that will help achieve this goal.
Additional stimulus for the industry may come from the recently passed economic stimulus package which provides funds for some 90 renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives contained in legislation passed by Congress in 2005 and 2007.
Late winter is the season when people tend to get depressed most, and one expert has discussed some of the possible origins of depressive episodes.
According to Shamir Benji, writing for empowher.com, an online women’s health resource, physicians have long known that vitamin B12 and folate are essential for maintaining the proper balance of neurochemicals in the brain.
A deficit of these elements is believed to be one of the causes of depression. However, inadequate levels of many other minerals have also been linked to the condition, including copper, zinc, selenium and iron.
Most importantly, Benji’s insight into some of the causes of such deficiencies may reduce the need to reach for expensive medical treatments in favor of a more natural approach.
Poor diet is one of the most common causes of low levels of vitamin B12, he says, and so rebalancing the diet should be the first approach before medical treatment is considered.
Studies have also shown that vitamin B12, in combination with other nutrients, appears to decrease the risk of age-related macular degeneration in women and may be helpful in reducing the risk of atherosclerosis.
Rich sources of vitamin B12 include breakfast cereals, meat, poultry, milk and seafood.
Vitamin supplements may be an option for older people or those who are concerned that their diet does not provide the necessary intake.
Although the water levels of North Dakota’s Red River are subsiding, the danger has not passed yet with new storms in the forecast. Meanwhile, a health organization has offered tips on flood survival.
The American Lung Association (ALA) of the Upper Midwest points to risks from contact with floodwaters, including water-born microorganisms and toxins which persist even after water has receded.
Health risks may also come from damp buildings and furnishings, physical stress and time spent in large group emergency housing.
That is why after the flood water is gone, the process of cleaning up should begin as soon as possible. Mold can begin growing within 48 hours, so it is important to start by removing any wet materials such as sheetrock, carpeting and plywood from home.
While removing such items, it is important to bag them to avoid spreading contaminants throughout the home. One should also avoid using air cleaning devices that emit ozone as it has not been proven to clean indoor air, but can be harmful to lungs.
Regarding emergency power risks, ALA warns to be on guard against carbon monoxide, a deadly gas produced by portable gasoline- or diesel-powered generators and cooking devices that people often use when electric power is lost during floods.
To avoid risks associated with carbon monoxide inhalation, one should never operate such devices indoors.
President Obama’s nominations for the commissioner and deputy chief of the Food and Drug Administration are pitting different groups against one another.
A barrage of criticism for Obama’s nomination of Margaret Hamburg as head of the FDA came from many conservative quarters, including the Catholic League whose president Bill Donohue has denounced Hamburg’s opposition to sex education that stresses abstinence over safe sex.
Meanwhile, while Hamburg’s nomination was warmly received by the pharmaceutical industry, the nomination of Joshua Sharfstein as deputy chief of the FDA has invoked bad memories among food, pharmaceutical and medical device groups.
Sharfstein worked under Representative Henry Waxman (California) who has been known to be tough on drug companies, including cracking down on medication use for illnesses not approved by the FDA and criticizing pharmaceutical companies for gifts handed out to physicians.
"[In announcing this nomination] the president decided that absolute drug safety should come first, even at the cost of the drugs’ availability to sick patients," according to Jeff Stier, an associate director of the American Council on Science and Health, writing for Forbes.com.
"That doesn’t bode well for our chances of getting the new medications needed to keep pace with our enviable improvements in quality of life and life expectancy," he added.
Both nominations are still pending Congressional approval.
A new article has reviewed the benefits of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and their role in the prevention and treatment of the coronary artery disease (CAD).
In an article for the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, Mark Tabaka, from Bristol Hospital in Connecticut, analyzed multiple observational studies on CAD patterns.
He found that populations whose diets are rich in fish oils, such as the Inuit people inhabiting the Arctic regions from Alaska to Greenaland, have far lower rates of heart disease and related morbidity than the general population.
Fatty fish such as mackerel and salmon and fish oil are among the best natural sources of these essential acids.
Scientists have put forward several theories to explain the exact mechanism by which PUFAs contribute to better cardiovascular health. They include antithrombosis, lower blood pressure and lower triglyceride levels.
However, the most likely mechanisms appear to be the antiarrhythmic and antiatherosclerotic properties of PUFAs, according to the author.
In conclusion, Tabaka points out that the American Heart Association’s guideline regarding appropriate daily PUFA intake for persons with CAD is approximately one gram per day.
"Because obtaining this high level from dietary sources alone might be difficult to achieve, fish oil supplements are an option," he writes.
According to the American Heart Association, approximately 480,000 people die from CAD each year, making it the leading cause of death in the country.
Attorney General Eric Holder’s suggestion that some Guantanamo Bay detainees may be released in the U.S. or tried in American courts has led one politician to call it "an outrage… confirming our worst fears."
Holder told reporters the administration would conduct a review of the dossiers of some 240 terrorism suspects still held at Guantanamo and make a case-by-case decision on whether they should be put on trial or released.
"For those who are in that second category, who can be released, there are a variety of options that we have," said Holder, quoted by Reuters, adding, "Among them is the possibility that we could release them into this country."
In response to that, president of American Values and former presidential candidate Gary L. Bauer expressed his dismay at the Obama administration’s proposed move and stressed that the primary obligation of the government is to keep the citizens safe.
"How can releasing enemy combatants, picked up on foreign battlefields, into American neighborhoods possibly safeguard our security?" he asked.
Shortly after taking office in January, President Obama signed an executive order to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison within a year and to ban harsh interrogation techniques.
The Libertarian Party of California has endorsed the proposed state measure that would replace the word "marriage" with "domestic partnership" throughout the California constitution and statutes.
The measure, known as the Domestic Partnership Initiative (DPI), proposes that legal rights for all domestic partners, in same or opposite sex partnerships, be identical and include the rights currently afforded to married persons.
Under its provisions, marriage would become a matter for religious and other civil institutions rather than a province of the state.
Stressing that there is no place for the state in a relationship between two people, who may or may not choose to have it blessed by a secular or religious authority, Kevin Takenaga, chairman of the Libertarian Party of California, said, "By introducing the government into the sacred institution of marriage … we have spawned an ongoing cultural war that pits American against American."
"The Libertarian Party of California is proud to support the Domestic Partnership Initiative so that all Californians can be treated equally before the law," he added.
DPI was approved on March 9 by the California secretary of state for petition signature gathering. Supporters need approximately 700,000 signatures by August 8 to have the proposed constitutional amendment placed on the 2010 ballot.
Hormone replacement therapy to relieve menopausal symptoms has been increasingly discredited, and a special report recounts the ups and downs of the therapy over the years.
According to the report published as a supplement to the March issue of Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource, there is much disagreement over the effectiveness of the therapy.
Until 1990s, doctors prescribed it to relieve menopause systems, prevent heart disease and osteoporosis. However, a large study from 2002 found that older women taking estrogen plus a synthetic form of progesterone had an elevated risk of heart disease, stroke, breast cancer and blood clots.
The review also cautions against the so-called safe substitutes in the form of bioidentical hormones made from plant sources and chemically processed to be identical to hormones made in the body.
There is no evidence for their improved safety, it says, therefore "it should be assumed that bioidentical hormones have the same risks as conventional therapy."
Meanwhile, health practitioners have suggested that factors such as diet, exercise and nutritional supplements as well as massages and reflexology treatments may minimize unpleasant symptoms including hot flashes, headaches, insomnia, weight gain or fatigue.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has endorsed a new plan to reduce violence along the U.S.-Mexico border but cautioned the policy should not come at the expense of interior surveillance and enforcement.
In recent days, the government announced it will send hundreds of agents and additional high-tech gear, including helicopters, to the border to intercept weapons and drugs fuelling violence on both sides of the border.
In response, FAIR has pointed out that Mexican drug cartels operate in 230 cities across America and therefore without a strong interior enforcement of immigration policies the administration’s strategy is likely to fail.
"[The crisis] cannot be remedied by a strategy that abandons other immigration enforcement efforts, including worksite enforcement, cooperation with state and local police, and the elimination of non-essential benefits and services to people who are in the country illegally," says Dan Stein, president of FAIR.
FAIR was founded in 1979 and is the country’s largest immigration reform group. Its goal is to promote the idea that immigration reform must enhance national security, improve the economy, protect jobs, preserve our environment, and establish a rule of law that is recognized and enforced.
More than a third of 401(k) participants who are able to invest in target-date funds are doing so, according to a new EBRI report.
EBRI, a private nonprofit research institute, has found that 37 percent of 401(k) plan participants who were offered target-date funds had at least some fraction of their assets in those funds in 2007.
It also predicts that the popularity of this type of retirement investment will increase given the stress on better diversification of 401(k) assets by plan sponsors, policymakers and financial advisors.
Target-date funds are a type of mutual fund that automatically rebalances assets typically to a more conservative and income-producing mix as the participant’s date of retirement approaches.
The study, which appeared in the March 2009 EBRI Issue Brief has also found that younger workers were significantly more likely to invest in target-date funds than their older counterparts. Almost 44 percent of participants under the age of 30 had assets in a target-date fund, but only 27 percent of those over 60 did.
Participants in target-date funds were also less likely to have all-or-nothing equity allocations relative to those not in the funds.
The Pension Protection Act of 2006 made it easier for retirement plan sponsors to automatically enroll new workers in a 401(k) plan, and target-date funds were approved for a ‘default’ investment if the participant does not make a choice.
Vitamin D is known to promote bone health, especially in children and menopausal woman, but a new study has found it also boosts the immune system.
The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine has gathered evidence that people with the lowest levels of vitamin D in their blood are the most likely to catch colds, according to Ottawa Citizen.
A team of researchers from the University of Colorado at Denver and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston analyzed blood samples from 19,000 U.S. adults who also underwent physical exams.
They found that those with the lowest vitamin D blood levels – under 10 nanograms per milliliter of blood – were 40 percent more likely to report recent colds or flu than those with vitamin D levels above 30 nanograms.
The study comes on the heels of another report which has found that the average blood levels of vitamin D appear to have decreased in the U.S. between 1994 and 2004.
For that reason, the scientists who conducted the study recommend an intake of 1,000 IUD or more of vitamin D, particularly during the winter months and at higher latitudes, which may improve the overall health of the U.S. population.
The richest sources of vitamin D include milk, certain types of fish and exposure to sunshine. It can also be obtained from dietary supplements.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has called on the government to return to capitalism’s basics by allowing failed companies to go into bankruptcy instead of pumping taxpayers’ money in to keep them afloat.
Gingrich’s call to abandon the strategy includes AIG which has paid its executives $165 million in bonuses while teetering on the brink of collapse for months.
"Thanks to the Bush-Obama-Geithner policy of bailing out failing companies, we now have the worst of all possible scenarios – a taxpayer subsidized, government supervised private company," he wrote in his weekly The Newt Gingrich Letter.
"[It has created] an unsustainable public – private hybrid that is too public to make its own decisions and too private to be responsible to the taxpayers that are keeping it alive," he added.
Despite the call, Treasury Secretary Geithner returned before Congress today to ask for greater regulatory powers over financial markets, including big hedge funds and derivatives trading.
On Monday, the administration unveiled a plan to buy back toxic assets weighing down banks’ balance sheets that may cost more than $1 trillion in order to stave off their collapse and restart the flow of credit.
The move follows several earlier rounds of bailouts which, as of mid-March, have seen $152.6 billion invested in nearly 500 institutions, not including giants like AIG, Citigroup and Bank of America.