Drug-resistant bacteria found to trick immune system
November 11, 2007 10:06 PM - Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Drug-resistant bacteria called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, may be able to first lure and then destroy immune system cells when they are the most vulnerable, researchers said on Sunday.

The study may help explain why MRSA spread outside of hospitals are harder to fight and seem to be spreading more easily.

But the findings may also lead to new and better antibiotics to fight the bacteria, the researchers reported in the journal Nature Medicine.

Scientists strive to pinpoint warming forecasts
November 11, 2007 09:50 PM - By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

OSLO (Reuters) - Moving on from the risk of global warming, scientists are now looking for ways to pinpoint the areas set to be affected by climate change, to help countries plan everything from new crops to hydropower dams.

Billion-dollar investments, ranging from irrigation and flood defenses to the site of wind farms or ski resorts, could hinge on assessments about how much drier, wetter, windier or warmer a particular area will become.

But scientists warn precision may never be possible. Climate is so chaotic and the variables so difficult to compute that even the best model will be far from perfect in estimating what the future holds.

Click a mouse, feed a mouth in U.N. campaign
November 10, 2007 06:14 PM - Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - A food-linked word game put on the Internet a month ago has proved a runaway success and has already generated enough rice to feed 50,000 people, the United Nations World Food Programme said on Friday.

FreeRice offers participants multiple choice definitions to the meaning of a word, with each correct click generating 10 grains of rice for the WFP.

The brainchild of American online fundraising pioneer John Breen, the Web site ( relies on advertising revenue to underwrite its rice campaign.

Toyota Eyes the Plug-in Prius
November 10, 2007 06:10 PM - By Bernie Woodall

TORRANCE, California (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp on Friday detailed plans to study U.S. consumer demand for a version of its hot-selling Prius hybrid that could be recharged at a standard outlet and run on electric power only.

A senior Toyota executive declined to say when a plug-in Prius would be launched or whether it could beat rival General Motors Corp to market with a technology seen as capable of slashing fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Bob Carter, who heads the Toyota brand in the United States, said it was more important for Toyota to understand consumer expectations and hone the battery-centered technology behind plug-in cars than to race to bring them to showrooms.

U.N.'s Ban says global warming is "an emergency"
November 10, 2007 06:00 PM - Juan Jose Lagorio, Reuters

EDUARDO FREI BASE, Antarctica (Reuters) - With prehistoric Antarctic ice sheets melting beneath his feet, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for urgent political action to tackle global warming.

The Antarctic Peninsula has warmed faster than anywhere else on Earth in the last 50 years, making the continent a fitting destination for Ban, who has made climate change a priority since he took office earlier this year.

"I need a political answer. This is an emergency and for emergency situations we need emergency action," he said during a visit to three scientific bases on the barren continent, where temperatures are their highest in about 1,800 years.

Merck agrees to pay $4.85 billion in Vioxx settlement
November 9, 2007 12:49 PM - Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Merck & Co has agreed to pay $4.85 billion to settle claims that its painkiller Vioxx caused heart attacks and strokes in thousands of users, the drugmaker said on Friday.

The agreement covers lawsuits filed against the company in U.S. courts, resolving a major legal battle that has dogged the drugmaker since it pulled Vioxx off the market three years ago.

Merck recalled the popular painkiller, which had $2.5 billion in annual sales, in September 2004 after a study showed it doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients taking it for more than 18 months.

Tobacco deaths to reach 10 mln a year by 2030: group
November 9, 2007 12:34 PM - Wendell Roelf, Reuters

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Tobacco-related deaths are expected to double to 10 million a year by 2030, with most fatalities in developing countries, a senior World Lung Foundation (WLF) official said on Friday.

Judith Longstaff Mackay, the organization's global tobacco control program coordinator, said while cigarette markets were getting smaller in advanced economies, the opposite was true for developing states, where the number of smokers and the volume each consumes is growing.

Climate change endangers Alaska's coastal villages
November 9, 2007 11:58 AM - Yereth Rosen, Reuters

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - At risk from surging storm waves and floods, Alaska's coastal villagers are dealing with the immediate consequences of climate change -- threats to their health, safety and even their ancestors' graves.

The rapid erosion of the state's coastline is blamed on the scarcity of sea ice and thawing of permafrost. Without solid ice to shield the land, and without hard-frozen conditions to keep it held fast, encroaching waves and floods easily carve large chunks from shorelines or riverbanks.

"People are dying and getting injured as a result of trying to engage in traditional activities in much-changing conditions," said Deborah Williams, a former Interior Department official who heads an Alaska organization focused on climate change.

U.S. smoking rate stalled at 21 percent, CDC says
November 9, 2007 08:49 AM - Maggie Fox -Reuters

Nearly 21 percent of Americans smoke, a number that has been stalled since 2004, federal researchers reported on Thursday in a study they said means governments must spend more to persuade people to kick the habit.

More than 45 million Americans smoked in 2006, or 20.8 percent of the population, 80 percent of them daily smokers, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

San Francisco oil spill larger than thought
November 8, 2007 04:14 PM - By Adam Tanner, Reuters

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Many beaches in the San Francisco area remained closed on Thursday as officials tried to clean up 58,000 gallons of fuel that spilled into the West Coast city's famous bay the day before.

"This is a major spill," said Wil Bruhns, a division chief at the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board. "It certainly has the potential to cause damage to birds, fish and other wildlife."

The Cosco Busan struck a tower of the Bay Bridge on Wednesday morning in dense fog, creating a long slash along the ship that allowed bunker fuel to spill into the water.

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