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November 2005

DATECURRENT EVENTS TOPIC OF THE DAY
11/01/05    "Dogs may be more than man's best friend; they may also be a tool for losing weight, according to a new study that shows making a commitment to walk a dog -- your own or someone else's -- leads to increased exercise and weight loss. The goal of the study, according to Rebecca Johnson, was to encourage sedentary overweight people to exercise and specifically to walk. 'We know that walking is good for people but we don't know how to get people to continue to do it. We wanted to see whether bonding with a dog might be a motivator to continue walking,' said Johnson, who is an associate professor of nursing and director of the College of Veterinary Medicine's Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri-Columbia." - Source
11/02/05      "The poorer mental function seen among alcoholics, many of whom also regularly smoke cigarettes, may be partially due to the long-term effects of nicotine, new research suggests. 'People who are also smokers are at a much higher risk,' Dr. Jennifer M. Glass, of the University of Michigan's Addiction Research Center, told Reuters Health. In her study, 'cigarette smoking was negatively related to IQ and thinking,' she said. This finding may seem counterintuitive, since many smokers attest to feeling more alert and focused after smoking. Indeed, research shows that improved mental functioning is one of the immediate effects of nicotine exposure. Chronic smoking, however, is known to have the opposite effect." - Source
11/03/05       "Consumers, their employers and health plans in the commercial market could have saved more than $20 billion last year through increased use of generic drugs, according to a new report by Express Scripts Inc., a pharmacy benefit manager. The study examined six major classes of drugs including antidepressants and cholesterol-lowering medications and was based on a sample of roughly 3 million Express Scripts commercial members. Government programs such as Medicaid, the health plan for the poor, were not included in the study. Express Scripts estimates that if more actions aren't taken to increase generic use, $24 billion in saving will be lost this year and $25 billion will be left on the table in 2006. It said that on average a generic drug costs about $60 less per monthly prescription than a brand name medicine. Consumers also pay lower copayments for generics, saving $10 or more per prescription by forgoing a brand name medicine." - Source
11/04/05      "Thousands of people have money sitting at the Internal Revenue Service that could be claimed if they would just tell the tax collectors where they live. The IRS said October 25, 2005 that $73 million in tax refunds that were sent to taxpayers this year did not reach the destination. In most cases, the post office returned the checks as undeliverable because the taxpayers had moved. The money belongs to more than 84,000 taxpayers, some of whom have more than one check waiting to be claimed. Checking on the status of a refund - by calling 1-800-829-4477 or visiting IRS Web site at http://www.irs.gov - could be worth $871 to the average taxpayer due an unclaimed refund. 'Our goal is to get this money back in the hands of the people it belongs to,' IRS Commissioner Mark Everson said." - Source
11/05/05      "Seventy-three percent of Americans lack confidence in their leaders and a majority believe the country would be better off with more women in power, a survey showed on October 25, 2005. The survey by Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and the U.S. News & World Report also showed that 66 percent of Americans believe the United States faces a leadership crisis. The release of the poll comes as President George W. Bush is struggling to stem a slide in popularity caused by the slow federal response to Hurricane Katrina, the Iraq war and soaring gasoline prices. The nationwide telephone survey of 1,374 adults, taken from September 13 to September 23, covered all levels of U.S. leaders -- from the White House to Congress and state and local governments." - Source
11/06/05      "Benjamin Franklin wrote in his 1750 Poor Richard's Almanac that 'There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one's self.' The problem of achieving accurate self-knowledge hasn't gotten any easier in 250 years; and, as shown in a new research report, there are major real-world consequences to this very human attribute. In 'Flawed Self-Evaluation: Implications for Health, Education, and the Workplace,' investigators David Dunning (Cornell), Chip Heath (Stanford), and Jerry M. Suls (University of Iowa) summarized current psychological research on the accuracy (or rather inaccuracy) of self-knowledge, across a wide range of studies in a range of spheres. Their report is published in the December 2004 issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the American Psychological Society." - Source
11/07/05      "Computer and Internet use is up, but so are concerns about identity theft and other online dangers. Fifty-five percent of American households had access to the Internet at home in 2003, more than triple the percentage in 1997, according to a report released October 27, 2005 by the Census Bureau. Internet usage increased with education, income and the presence of school-age children at home, the report found. It was lowest among adults who have not graduated from high school. School-age children are most likely to use home computers to play games or do school work. Adults are most likely to use home computers for e-mail, to search for information about products and services, and to read news, weather and sports information. The report is based on data from the bureau's October 2003 Current Population Survey, the country's primary source of labor statistics. It is the bureau's latest information on computer and Internet use, though it is two years old and experts say Americans' computer habits are quickly evolving." - Source
11/08/05      "Nearly 1.5 million babies, a record, were born to unmarried women in the United States last year, the government reported October 28, 2005. And it isn't just teenagers any more. 'People have the impression that teens and unmarried mothers are synonymous,' said Stephanie Ventura of the National Center for Health Statistics. But last year teens accounted for just 24 percent of unwed births, down from 50 percent in 1970, she commented. The increases in unmarried births have been among women in their 20s, she said, particularly those 25 to 29. Many of the women in that age group are living with partners but still count as unmarried mothers if they haven't formally married, Ventura noted." - Source
11/09/05      "If you do banking over the Internet, generally the drill is pretty simple: You enter your user name and password, and away you go. But behind the scenes, the bank can do a lot to check you out: Are you at your home computer, or at one with an Internet address that, strangely, is registered overseas? Are you logging on at an unusual time of day, or from a super-fast connection when normally you have dial-up? This kind of analysis is one example of the layers that bank Web sites will be adding by the end of 2006 to meet new demands from federal regulators for "two-factor" authentication. That essentially means checking something more than just user name and password to verify a customer's identity. 'Phishers' and other Internet fraud artists have become adept at stealing passwords, mainly through 'social engineering.' Preying on people's propensity to believe something seemingly authoritative, criminals send authentic-looking e-mails that send unsuspecting people to an authentic-looking Web site where they give away their data." - Source
11/10/05      "People who suffer from restless leg syndrome (RLS) often have debilitating psychiatric disorders, including depression and anxiety, investigators reported today at big medical convention in Montreal. At a news conference during the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians, Dr. Barbara Phillips of the University of Kentucky at Lexington presented results of the annual sleep poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation. Phillips is president of the Foundation. Researchers conducted a telephone survey of some 1,500 randomly selected adults aged 18 and older. Their average age was 49. Symptoms of RLS were reported by 9.7 percent of the participants - 8 percent of all men and 11 percent of all women." - Source
11/11/05      "Pluto has three moons, not one, new images from the Hubble Space Telescope suggest. Pluto, discovered as the ninth planet in 1930, was thought to be alone until its moon Charon was spotted in 1978. The new moons, more than twice as far away as Charon and many times fainter, were spotted by Hubble in May. While the observations have to be confirmed, members of the team that discovered the satellites said Monday they felt confident about their data. 'Pluto and Charon are not alone, they have two neighbors,' said Hal Weaver of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory." - Source
11/12/05      "Many smokers think that nicotine causes cancer, and they are therefore very reluctant to use nicotine replacement in the form of patches or gum to help them quit smoking, according to surprise findings of a survey reported here at the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians. The survey consisted of 1,139 people -- 482 men and 657 women -- enrolled in a smoking cessation program at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in Great Neck, New York. The participants were questioned about the their beliefs regarding smoking and the risk of developing cancer, and nicotine's part in that cancer risk." - Source
11/13/05      "A simple, at-home treatment -- a single light box and the over-the-counter drug melatonin -- allows travelers to avoid jet lag by resetting their circadian body clock before crossing several time zones, according to new research being published in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. This treatment can also help those with delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS), a persistent condition that results from a misalignment between a person's internal biological clock and the external social environment. Both bright light and melatonin have successfully been used in laboratory and field settings to 'phase advance' (resetting the circadian clock earlier in time so that all the circadian rhythms of the body occur earlier) thereby helping people adapt to night shift work or to a new time zone following rapid transmeridian jet travel. Melatonin alone has been shown to synchronize the circadian clock of the blind to the 24-hour day." - Source
11/14/05      "One simple question - Do you have trouble breathing? - may reveal as much about someone's risk of dying as the most relied-upon sign, chest pain. Even people without any other cardiac symptoms were up to four times more likely to die of heart problems in the next few years if they had shortness of breath, a study of nearly 18,000 people suggests. 'Shortness of breath is not a sign to be ignored. It means make sure that your doctor knows about your symptoms,' said Dr. Daniel S. Berman, senior author of the study, done at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles." - Source
11/15/05      "Repairs to New Orleans' levees may not be enough to protect people moving back to the devastated city if another hurricane comes before the tropical storm season ends this month, engineers said November 2, 2005. Dozens of breaches continue to mar the city's levee system, including a large seep at the Industrial Canal last week, according to engineering experts who have examined the floodwalls. Repairs have gotten better in recent days, the experts told a Senate panel investigating floodwall failures after Hurricane Katrina. But the initial rebuilding process was done with little or no engineering guidance and perhaps substandard materials, they said." - Source
11/16/05      "Measuring the ratio between waist and hip sizes is the best way of checking for the risk of heart attack in the obese, a global study showed on November 3, 2005. After studying over 27,000 people in 52 countries, researchers said the waist-to-hip ratio was a far more effective way of measuring heart attack risk than the traditional body mass index method. 'Substantial reassessment is needed of the importance of obesity for cardiovascular disease in most regions of the world,' said Professor Salim Yusuf, from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. Obesity already affects more than 300 million people worldwide." - Source
11/17/05      "Hurricane victims in Florida and along the Gulf Coast have to be asking themselves something survivors of tornadoes, blizzards and earthquakes also wonder: Is there any place you can go that is safe from natural disasters? The West has earthquakes and wildfires. Move to the Midwest and you could find yourself in Tornado Alley. The Northeast? Blizzards, ice storms and heat waves. Experts say trying to escape catastrophic weather is a little like trying to escape from, well, the weather. Short of building a new Biosphere, it is nearly impossible to completely avoid quakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards or heat waves." - Source
11/18/05      "Nearly 40 percent of U.S. adolescents who give cigarette smoking a try do so because they saw it in movies, a study said on November 7, 2005. The study, described as the first national look at the influence of movie smoking on youths, urged Hollywood to cut back on depictions of smoking or shots of cigarette brands. The industry also should consider adding a mention of smoking to movie rating data that now mention explicit sex, violence and profanity, it said. Researchers at Dartmouth Medical School asked 6,522 children aged 10 to 14 to identify films they had seen from a list of 50 randomly selected box office hits released in the United States from 1998 to 2000." - Source
11/19/05      "The Army is offering a series of new incentives to young officers to stem a rising exodus in the past two years of West Point and ROTC scholarship grads. The number of lieutenants and captains leaving had dropped after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But it has increased almost to pre-9/11 levels because of mounting concerns about repeat tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to military analysts such as Bob Scales, a retired Army major general and former commandant of the Army War College. The percentage of young West Point graduates leaving the Army rose from 6.5% in 2003 to 10.7% in fiscal 2005, which ended Sept. 30. That compares with 11.6% who left in 2000. The number of scholarship ROTC graduates who left rose from 5.1% in 2003 to 9.3% in 2005. In 2000, 10.6% left." - Source
11/20/05      "Women do not develop high blood pressure from a coffee drinking habit but there is a link between hypertension and drinking colas that may have nothing to do with caffeine, a study said on November 8, 2005. 'We found strong evidence to refute speculation that coffee consumption is associated with an increased risk of hypertension in women,' wrote study author Wolfgang Winkelmayer of Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health. Previous studies have offered conflicting findings about the relationship between coffee consumption and hypertension, but many experts have concluded healthy peoples' bodies learn to tolerate a daily cup or two." - Source
11/21/05      "A Boeing Co. jet arrived in London from Hong Kong on November 10, 2005, breaking the record for the longest nonstop flight by a commercial jet. The 777-200LR Worldliner - one of Boeing's newest planes - touched down at London's Heathrow Airport after a journey of more than 13,422 miles. The previous record was set when a Boeing 747-400 flew 10,500 miles from London to Sydney in 1989. A representative of Guinness World Records, which monitored the flight, presented Boeing's Lars Andersen with a certificate confirming it was for the longest nonstop commercial flight. Captain Suzanna Darcy-Hennemann, was at the controls when the plane left Hong Kong, said the trip east across the Pacific had been bumpy. 'But we had a great ride across the United States ... and across the Atlantic we saw our second sunrise of the trip,' she said. The jet spent 22 hours and 43 minutes in the air." - Source
11/22/05      "Scientists have discovered a biological brake for a hunger hormone: a competing hormone that seems to counter the urge to eat. The substance, named obestatin, has been tested just in laboratory rats so far. But if it pans out, the discovery of the dueling hormones could lead not only to a new appetite suppressant, but also help unravel the complex ways that the body regulates weight. It turns out that the same gene sparks production of the two opposing hormones, Stanford University researchers say in the journal Science." - Source
11/23/05      "If some of the numbers being cited about identity theft are to be believed, it's just a matter of time before some unseen cyberhustler steals your name, empties your bank account and wrecks your financial reputation. You can almost hear the maniacal laughter. By some measures, one in five Americans has been hit. Another common statistic is that 10 million people fall victim every year. Making matters even scarier, new laws in California and other states have forced companies to essentially tell all U.S. consumers when their personal data have been compromised - even if the files have not actually been maliciously used. In response, Congress is considering bills to restrict the flow of personal information. And identity theft monitoring services have sprung up that can cost consumers well over $100 a year." - Source
11/24/05      "The holidays are fast approaching. You're stressed, trying to diet and tempting foods abound. It's a recipe for overeating, according to researchers who found that when rats are stressed, deprived of food and then exposed to chocolate -- they overeat. 'Our findings contribute to the understanding of how feeding behavior is regulated,' Dr. M. Flavia Barbano from the Universite Victor Segalen, Bordeaux 2 in France told Reuters Health. 'Research in this field could help us to better establish the origins of the obesity epidemic that Western countries are facing today.' Working with laboratory rats, Barbano along with her colleague, Dr. Martine Cador tested three aspects of eating behavior: motivation (how bad did the animals want the food); anticipation (how excited were they to get it); and intake (how much did they eat), in relation to how hungry or satisfied the animals were and how palatable the food was." - Source
11/25/05      "As Americans tuck into their Thanksgiving meals, they can take heart that new research shows a generous helping of cranberry sauce may actually offer benefits for their teeth. Cranberries, which already are known to help thwart urinary tract infections, may also prevent tooth decay and cavities, dental researchers reported in the January issue of the journal Caries Research. The same sticky compounds in the small, hard red fruit -- which is boiled into a jelly that is a staple at American winter holiday meals -- that help keep bacteria at bay in the bladder also appear to help prevent bacteria from clinging to teeth, according to the researchers. They also found it seemed to help ward off plaque, a gooey substance formed from bits of food, saliva, and acid that can harbor bacteria and eventually irritate the gums." - Source
11/26/05      "Helped by a retreat in gasoline prices, consumer inflation slowed last month after racing ahead in September at the fastest clip in a quarter-century. But natural gas prices rose sharply, a troubling sign for the upcoming home heating season. The Labor Department reported that consumer prices increased by 0.2 percent in October, compared with 1.2 percent in September, when the Gulf Coast hurricanes caused gasoline prices to climb above $3 per gallon. The easing of overall inflation pressures reflected a 0.2 percent decline in energy costs after a record 12 percent jump in September. Most of that downward pressure came from a 4.5 percent drop in gasoline prices." - Source
11/27/05      "Children who don't get enough sleep may start to show it in their schoolwork, new research suggests. In a study of 74 six- to twelve-year-olds, researchers found that the children generally had more trouble with their schoolwork and more attention problems during the week when they stayed up late each night. Though that may not come as a surprise to some parents and teachers, the findings offer some of the first direct evidence that sleep loss can hurt school performance in healthy, well-functioning children. 'It's very much common sense,' said Dr. Gahan Fallone, an associate professor at the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri, and the lead author of the study." - Source
11/28/05      "Turns out, the kids rocked after all. Nearly half of all eligible young voters cast ballots in the November 2004 election, raising their turnout rate by more than twice any other age group. 'This is big,' said David King, associate director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University who highlighted the Census Bureau findings in an IOP report Wednesday. 'When you vote young, you're much more likely to vote the rest of your life, so the 2004 campaign turned a generation on to politics.' Exit polls from Election Day 2004 had shown that 9 percent of voters were 18 to 24, about the same proportion of the electorate as in 2000. Those figures were interpreted as a sign that young voters failed to increase their political impact in an election that focused on the Iraq war and included unsubstantiated rumors that the Bush administration might impose the draft." - Source
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