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NEW YORK (AP) — The government's latest report card on food poisoning shows a dip in salmonella cases but an increase in illnesses from bacteria in raw shellfish. The report counts cases in only 10 states for some of the most common causes of foodborne illness, but is believed to be a good indicator of national food poisoning trends. Highlights from Thursday's report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Eight million people have signed up for health care through new insurance exchanges and the proportion of younger applicants has increased, President Barack Obama said Thursday. The enrollments exceeded expectations and offered new hope to Democrats who are defending the law ahead of the midterm elections.
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The mix of 38 million gallons of treated water and one teen's urine has proven unacceptable to Portland officials who plan to flush away the whole lot — the second time in less than three years the city has gone to such lengths to keep its water pure.
Four years after the Deepwater Horizon spill, oil is still washing up on the long sandy beaches of Grand Isle, Louisiana, and some islanders are fed up with hearing from BP that the crisis is over. Jules Melancon, the last remaining oyster fisherman on an island dotted with colorful houses on stilts, says he has not found a single oyster alive in his leases in the area since the leak and relies on an onshore oyster nursery to make a living. The British oil major has paid out billions of dollars in compensation under a settlement experts say is unprecedented in its breadth. Some claimants are satisfied, but others are irate that BP is now challenging aspects of the settlement.
By Chen Aizhu BEIJING (Reuters) - China has launched an intense media campaign to defend the safety of producing a chemical used to make polyester fiber, as public opposition to new petrochemical plants threatens to disrupt expansion plans by state energy giants such as Sinopec Corp. Choking smog and environmental degradation in many parts of China is angering an increasingly educated and affluent urban class and after a series of health scares and accidents there is deepening public skepticism of the safety of industries ranging from food to energy. Illustrating this distrust, hundreds of residents in the southern Chinese city of Maoming demonstrated this month against plans to build a petrochemical plant to produce paraxylene, known as PX, a chemical used in making polyester fiber and plastics. The plant is backed by the local government and China's biggest refiner, state-controlled Sinopec Corp. China is the world's largest producer and consumer of PX and polyester, vital for the country's textile industry, which generated $290 billion of overseas sales, or 13 percent of China's total exports last year, according to customs data.
By Cameron French TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto Mayor Rob Ford launched his re-election campaign on Friday, acknowledging the crack-cocaine scandal that has made him a topic of water cooler talk across North America, but also happy to trade on his notoriety. Ford, whose authority was reduced last year by a city council fed up with his antics, took over a massive convention center in Toronto's west end for the event, hawking bobble-head dolls to raise funds ahead of the election on October 27. First elected mayor in 2010 on a cost-cutting platform, Ford has become indisputably the most famous leader in the city's history, and continues to poll relatively strongly in spite of a scandal that prompted staffers to desert him and has cost him nearly all of his allies on city council.
By David Stanway BEIJING (Reuters) - China's capital has ordered more than 50 companies to shut down this year in an effort to cut pollution but pushing factories out could raise objections in surrounding areas reluctant to host Beijing's polluters. Smog-shrouded Beijing and the surrounding province of Hebei have become a front in a "war against pollution" declared by Premier Li Keqiang last month. But experts say efforts to cut coal consumption and industrial output in big cities like Beijing is likely to put pressure on other regions to endure more pollution to keep the economy growing, with overall coal consumption expected to rise by a quarter from 2011 to 2015. "Moving Beijing's plants to Hebei isn't the best way," said Yang Fuqiang, a former government researcher and senior energy and environment adviser with the Natural Resources Defense Council, a U.S.-based think-tank.
Couple Applauds FDA Warning Against Hysterectomy Procedure
The FDA warns common surgical technique could lead to dangerous spread of cancer cells.
By Dana Feldman and Eric Kelsey LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A man who has sued filmmaker Bryan Singer, the director of the upcoming blockbuster action film "X-Men: Days of Future Past," for allegedly raping him as a teenager said on Thursday that his claims of sexual abuse went unheeded by authorities. Michael Egan, 31, who was an aspiring teen actor, said he and his mother told the Los Angeles Police Department and the FBI in late 1999 and 2000 that Egan was being abused by an underage sex ring. "What happened was basically it fell on deaf ears," Egan said a news conference seated next to his attorney, Jeff Herman. "We didn't get anywhere and then I basically buried it in me as deep as I possibly could." Herman filed a civil lawsuit on Wednesday in federal court in Hawaii, alleging that Singer, 48, used his influence as a Hollywood insider as well as a range of drugs and alcohol to force anal and oral sex on Egan while promising him film roles.
By Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama mounted a vigorous effort on Thursday to show his signature healthcare law is working and dismissed Republican critics who are using flaws in Obamacare to campaign for ousting Democrats from the U.S. Congress in November. Appearing in the White House briefing room days before leaving the national stage for a week-long trip to Asia, Obama used a news conference to make the case that the Affordable Care Act had mended nicely from its disastrous October rollout. For the healthcare law to succeed, young, healthy people must sign up and pay premiums to offset the healthcare costs for older Americans. Obama's remarks reflected deep concerns at the White House that Republicans may be able to topple Democrats from control of the U.S. Senate in November elections and build on their majority in the House of Representatives.
By Chuck Mikolajczak NEW YORK (Reuters) - Earnings season shifts into high gear next week, and with nearly one-third of S&P 500 names set to post results, investors hope the news provides a catalyst to buy stocks and leave the market's recent weakness in the dust. Several behemoths, including Apple, the largest U.S. company by market value, as well as Microsoft, McDonald's and AT&T , are due to report earnings. They'll be accompanied by highfliers like Netflix and Facebook, giving the first real cross-section of the state of corporate America as temperatures rise across the country and investors hope to put the cold weather behind them. Strategists will also be looking for clues on how badly China's slowdown hits U.S. corporate results.
By David Lawder WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's fiscal 2015 budget request would boost U.S. tax revenue by nearly $1.4 trillion over 10 years if fully enacted, cutting deficits by $1.05 trillion while funding new spending, the Congressional Budget Office said on Thursday. But the non-partisan agency's analysis was less optimistic than the White House's own projections - showing that cumulative deficits would total $6.6 trillion over 10 years, compared to $4.9 trillion under the Obama plan when it was released in March. A key difference between the two deficit pictures is CBO's projection of slower economic growth, partly resulting in lower revenue collections. The likelihood that Congress will advance Obama's plan in its entirety is virtually nil, but the CBO's latest analysis will feed campaign messaging by Democrats and Republicans ahead of congressional elections in November.
The negative social, physical and mental health effects of childhood bullying are still evident nearly 40 years later, according to research by British psychiatrists. In the first study of its kind to look at the effects of childhood bullying beyond early adulthood, the researchers said its impact is "persistent and pervasive", with people who were bullied when young more likely to have poorer physical and psychological health and poorer cognitive functioning at age 50. "The effects of bullying are still visible nearly four decades later ... with health, social and economic consequences lasting well into adulthood," said Ryu Takizawa, who led the study at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London. The findings, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry on Friday, come from the British National Child Development Study which includes data on all children born in England, Scotland and Wales during one week in 1958.
By Sharon Begley NEW YORK (Reuters) - Scientists have moved a step closer to the goal of creating stem cells perfectly matched to a patient's DNA in order to treat diseases, they announced on Thursday, creating patient-specific cell lines out of the skin cells of two adult men. The advance, described online in the journal Cell Stem Cell, is the first time researchers have achieved "therapeutic cloning" of adults. Technically called somatic-cell nuclear transfer, therapeutic cloning means producing embryonic cells genetically identical to a donor, usually for the purpose of using those cells to treat disease. But nuclear transfer is also the first step in reproductive cloning, or producing a genetic duplicate of someone - a technique that has sparked controversy since the 1997 announcement that it was used to create Dolly, the clone of a ewe.
Mediterranean diet may slow diabetes progression
By Kathryn Doyle NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - For people recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, eating lots of olive oil, fish and whole grains slows progression of the disease more than restricting fat, according to a new analysis. In a trial that followed participants for more than eight years, those following a so-called Mediterranean diet went significantly longer before needing diabetes medication and more of them had their diabetes go into remission, compared to those on a low-fat diet. "There's been lots of epidemiology suggesting that a Mediterranean diet was beneficial with metabolic syndrome and diabetes," Dr. Leanne Olansky told Reuters Health. "But this was a randomized controlled trial, so we know it really was the diet causing the results," she said.
By Eric Kelsey LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Director Bryan Singer, weeks before the release of his blockbuster "X-Men" action film, "X-Men: Days of Future Past," has been accused of drugging and raping a teenage boy in California and Hawaii in the late 1990s. The lawsuit filed on Wednesday in U.S. Court in Hawaii alleges that Singer, 48, used his influence as a Hollywood insider as well as a range of drugs and alcohol to force anal and oral sex on the boy while promising him roles in his films. Michael Egan seeks unspecified damages and a jury trial after wide-ranging abuses at California and Hawaii house parties beginning in the late 1990s, according to the civil action.
FDA Warns Against Hysterectomy Procedure Technique
The FDA warns common surgical technique could lead to dangerous spread of cancer cells.
More Weak Claims on Cotton’s Insurance Ties
Another liberal group is attacking Republican Rep. Tom Cotton in Arkansas by saying Cotton has experience in the insurance industry and is attempting to undermine Medicare. Cotton's insurance experience is limited to consulting work for a federal agency.
Manager at Japan's Fukushima plant admits radioactive water 'embarrassing'
By Yuka Obayashi OKUMA, Japan (Reuters) - The manager of the Fukushima nuclear power plant admits to embarrassment that repeated efforts have failed to bring under control the problem of radioactive water, eight months after Japan's prime minister told the world the matter was resolved. Tokyo Electric Power Co, the plant's operator, has been fighting a daily battle against contaminated water since Fukushima was wrecked by a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government pledged half a billion dollars last year to tackle the issue, but progress has been limited. "It's embarrassing to admit, but there are certain parts of the site where we don't have full control," Akira Ono told reporters touring the plant this week.
By Ryan Vlastelica NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks ended a holiday-shortened week with mostly modest gains on Thursday, though the S&P 500 notched its biggest weekly advance since July as Morgan Stanley and General Electric rallied after strong results. The two were the latest to post earnings that topped expectations, helping to lift the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq to their fourth straight daily advance. Tech bellwethers Google and IBM fell on disappointing figures and limited the broader market's gain. IBM's slide pushed the Dow into slightly negative territory at the close.
Free dermatology drug samples come at a cost
By Andrew M. Seaman NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Dermatologists tend to prescribe more expensive medications when they also give their patients drug samples, according to a new U.S. study. "If you're a patient who receives a sample, you may perceive that doctor is giving you better care because they gave you a gift," Dr. Alfred Lane told Reuters Health. "But that doctor may have increased your medical costs by giving you that sample." Lane is the study's senior author, from the Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, California. Addressing fellow dermatologists, he added, "You have to realize that these samples are making you write more expensive prescriptions." In an editorial accompanying the new study in JAMA Dermatology, Dr. Kenneth Katz and colleagues from Kaiser Permanente Northern California note that the drug industry in 2011 distributed $6.3 billion of samples.
(Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned that a common surgical procedure used to remove uterine fibroids could spread undetected uterine cancer. Data showed that the procedure, laparoscopic power morcellation, could significantly worsen a patient's chance of long-term survival, the regulator said. Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that usually pose no risk. However, certain women suffer from symptoms that include heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding, pelvic pressure and frequent urination, which could warrant medical or surgical intervention.
By Svea Herbst-Bayliss BOSTON (Reuters) - Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office said on Thursday it is investigating Herbalife Ltd, joining other state and federal probes of allegations that the weight loss and nutrition company is running a pyramid scheme. Madigan's office was urged to look into the company months ago by civil rights groups, which claimed it was a pyramid scheme targeting minorities. Hedge fund manager William Ackman was the first to call Herbalife a fraud and placed a $1 billion bet against the company in 2012. The company denies the allegations, and high-profile investors such as Carl Icahn, George Soros and Daniel Loeb have supported the company in the past by taking stakes.
(Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Merck & Co's pollen allergy drug Ragwitek. The tablet, which is administered by placing it under the tongue, is to treat the short ragweed pollen induced allergic rhinitis. Merck's Grastek will compete with Stallergenes SA's immunotherapy treatment for five types of grass pollen, which was approved by the FDA earlier this month.
By Julia Edwards WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lowe's Home Centers, the No. 2 U.S. home improvement retail chain, has agreed to pay a $500,000 penalty for violating federal rules governing lead paint exposure, U.S. authorities said on Thursday. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice said Lowe's had also agreed to implement a new compliance program at more than 1,700 stores nationwide. Lead exposure can cause a range of health problems, from behavioral disorders and learning disabilities to seizures and death. Lead-based paint was banned in the United States in 1978 but remains in many older homes and apartments.
Info may prompt seniors to taper off sleeping pills
By Anne Harding NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Older people are willing and able to get themselves off medications like sleeping pills once they're informed of the potential harms, according to a new Canadian study. "Even among patients who have been taking sleeping pills for 30 years, many of them in their 80s and 90s were able to get off the sleeping pills once they realized that these pills could cause falls, memory problems and car accidents," lead author Dr. Cara Tannenbaum of the University of Montreal told Reuters Health. While Valium, Xanax and similar medications, known as benzodiazepines, are not recommended for older adults given such risks, up to one-third of older adults still take them, usually to treat insomnia or anxiety, according to Tannenbaum and her colleagues. Doctors know about the dangers these drugs pose to their patients, the investigators write in JAMA Internal Medicine, but nearly half say they renew benzodiazepine prescriptions for their older patients anyhow, "citing patient dependence and benefit as justifications." Tannenbaum's team wanted to see whether educating older patients taking benzodiazepines about the risks would be an effective way to encourage some to stop using the drugs.
Roughly 12 million adults who visit U.S. doctors' offices and other outpatient settings, or one in 20, are misdiagnosed every year, a new study has found, and half of those errors could lead to serious harm. The study by a team of Texas-based researchers attempted to estimate how often diagnostic errors occur in outpatient settings such as doctors' offices and clinics, as exact figures don't exist. Efforts to improve patient safety have largely focused on inpatient hospital care, including programs introduced by President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, even though most diagnoses are made in outpatient clinics, the study said. "It's important to outline the fact that this is a problem," said Dr. Hardeep Singh, the study's lead author and a patient safety researcher at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, also in Houston.
UnitedHealth Group Inc, the largest U.S. health insurer, said it spent more than $100 million to cover a pricey new hepatitis C drug from Gilead Sciences Inc in its first three months on the market, an amount that was "multiple" times what it had expected. UnitedHealth is the first insurer to quantify its costs to cover patients using Gilead's new Sovaldi treatment, whose $84,000 price tag has spurred a national outcry over the rising costs of specialty medicines. UnitedHealth shares fell nearly 4 percent on Thursday and shares of rivals WellPoint Inc and Aetna Inc fell 3.8 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively, as investors weighed what their potential costs could be as well. Sovaldi has been shown to cure most patients of the liver-wasting virus with few side effects, but health officials, insurers and Medicaid directors are balking at the cost.
Hundreds of Neanderthals' genes were turned off while the identical genes in today's humans are turned on, the international team announced in a paper published online in Science. They also found that hundreds of other genes were turned on in Neanderthals, but are off in people living today. Among the hundreds: genes that control the shape of limbs and the function of the brain, traits where modern humans and Neanderthals differ most. "People are fundamentally interested in what makes us human, in what makes us different from Neanderthals," said Sarah Tishkoff, an expert in human evolution at the University of Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the new study.
Thanks to a final April surge, California's Obamacare marketplace enrolled a total of 1.4 million people in private health insurance plans, state officials announced on Thursday, beating a federal forecast by just over 800,000 enrollees. California's Obamacare enrollments are among 7.5 million people nationally who have signed up, according to federal officials. Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California, the state's Obamacare health insurance marketplace, called that "a huge number" and said enrollees "are part of history." The country's first open enrollment period for coverage under President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law ended in most states on March 31. California and a handful of others kept their doors open longer, citing technical difficulties that kept some customers from accessing Obamacare websites.
By Philip Pullella VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis, starting four packed days culminating in Easter, said the Catholic Church must always be a refuge for the needy and later washed the feet of 12 disabled people at a traditional Holy Thursday ceremony. In the morning, Francis, who regularly urges priests to shun material comforts or the desire to climb clerical career ladders, led the first of two solemn services on the day that Christians commemorate the founding of the priesthood by Jesus. In the grandeur of St. Peter's Basilica, he celebrated a "Mass of the Chrism" during which he and priests renewed the vows they took on the day of their ordination and he blessed oils to be used in administering sacraments during the year.
General Electric Co posted a 12 percent rise in overall industrial profits on Thursday, as strength in its businesses selling gas turbines, jet engines and oil industry equipment offset weakness in healthcare and transportation. "The big story is the organic revenue growth," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Asset Management, which owns GE shares. "It really shows the return to an industrial emphasis is paying off, and where the company is focusing." The results underscored GE Chief Executive Officer Jeff Immelt's strategy to focus the company even more on manufacturing of large industrial products as he reduces the company's dependence on its GE Capital finance unit. Immelt is also seeking to improve profit margins and slash administrative costs at the 307,000-employee company.
West African Ebola outbreak caused by new strain of disease: study
By Saliou Samb CONAKRY (Reuters) - An Ebola outbreak blamed for 135 deaths in West Africa in the past month was not imported from Central Africa but caused by a new strain of the disease, a study in a U.S. medical journal said, raising the specter of further regional epidemics. The spread of Ebola from a remote corner of Guinea to the capital and into neighboring Liberia, the first deadly outbreak reported in West Africa, has caused panic across a region struggling with weak healthcare systems and porous borders. Ebola is endemic to Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, South Sudan and Gabon, and scientists initially believed that Central Africa's Zaire strain of the virus was responsible for the outbreak.
By Shereen Jegtvig NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Direct to consumer marketing of tobacco products is reaching significant numbers of teens, as well as young adults, according to a new study. Young people who have seen the promotions are also more likely to take up smoking, the researchers found. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates marketing of tobacco products, including mailings and Internet advertising. Consumers, for example, must be 18 years old to view tobacco company websites.