• Smoking, family alcohol history alter taste buds

    NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Cigarette smoking and a family history of alcoholism both alter how women perceive sweet foods and what foods they crave, according to studies conducted by two researchers from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.

    Marta Yanina Pepino and Julie A. Mennella found that women who smoked were less sensitive to sweet taste than women who never smoked. Women who smoked needed higher concentrations of sugar to detect a sweet taste, and the more years a woman smoked, the less she was able to perceive a sweet taste.

    "Smoking dulls sweet taste sensitivity," Pepino and Mennella noted in a joint email to Reuters Health. "Whether this reduced sensitivity for sweets helps smokers control their weight is an important question that is not addressed in the current study."

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  • GE hopes to cut mercury in "green" light bulbs

    NISKAYUNA, New York (Reuters) - General Electric Co is working to cut the amount of mercury in energy-saving fluorescent lightbulbs which have soared in popularity.

    Residents and businesses are buying up compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) because they reduce power bills as well as emissions of carbon dioxide, the main gas blamed for global warming. CFLs use only one-fourth to one-fifth the energy of incandescent bulbs producing the same light and can last 10 years.

    The corkscrew-shaped devices are made by many companies and on average contain about 5 milligrams of mercury, a toxic metallic element, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

    Five milligrams is tiny amount, about the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen, and much less than the amount that was held in old thermometers. But with sales of CFLs hitting 150 million units last year, and more expected this year, some scientists and environmentalists are worried that most of the bulbs are ending up in landfills instead of being recycled.

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  • Australian farmers face bankruptcy from drought

    WEST WYALONG, Australia (Reuters) - Farmer John Ridley won't be harvesting so much as a bag of wheat this season from fields that stretch to the horizon as Australia's worst drought in 100 years takes its toll on the country's grain belt.

    Beneath a cloudless sky, 60-year-old Ridley, a descendant of one of Australia's pioneering farming families, pulls a clump of brittle stubble from the dusty earth.

    "It should be this high, waving green in the breeze," he says. "Farmers are in a stunned state at the moment. In a state of disbelief, shock, helplessness."

    Ridley's farm is in the epicenter of devastation from the drought, about 500 kilometers (310 miles) west of Sydney. Prime wheat growing territory, the district normally grows much of the wheat that makes Australia the world's second-biggest exporter. Yet this year the district will produce almost nothing.

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  • White House Accused Of Watering Down Climate Testimony To Congress

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House watered down climate change testimony to Congress - testimony by the head of the CDC -- the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The changes were made before the testimony was delivered, according to a watchdog group Both the CD and White House deny it.

    The anti-nuclear group Physicians for Social Responsibility said White House officials had forced CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding to remove specific references about the effects of climate change from Tuesday's testimony to a Senate committee.

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  • Fires create electricity 'island' in San Diego

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California wildfires created an electricity "island" of San Diego County on Wednesday as one major power transmission link to the U.S. West grid was shut and the other flickering on and off, said San Diego Gas & Electric Co.

    This makes the San Diego area susceptible to major blackouts unless customers conserve power, said Michael Niggli, chief operating officer of SDG&E.

    San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders implored residents to cut power use.

    "You've got to conserve today. You have no choice," Sanders said.

    About 20,000 homes and businesses were without power late Wednesday morning, down from 33,000 on Tuesday, SDG&E spokeswoman Rachel Laing said.

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  • California evacuees unwind with yoga, Kosher food

    SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - As emergency shelters go, the Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego might get a five-star rating, with yoga and acupuncture for stressed-out adults, clowns and candy for bored kids and even Kosher meals.

    The stadium, best known as home to the National Football League's San Diego Chargers, was converted this week into an emergency evacuation center accommodating 10,000 people forced from their homes by wildfires scorching the county.

    City and state officials and legions of volunteers running the center did their best to provide not only for evacuees' basic needs but also lifestyle perks designed to make the Golden State's displaced denizens feel more at home.

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  • Global Water Initiative Created in Response to World Water Crisis

    A new partnership has been launched to address the declining state of the world’s fresh water supply and the lack of access to clean water services by the world’s poorest people. The Global Water Initiative (GWI) brings together a group of seven leading international NGOs, including Action Against Hunger (ACF) – USA, CARE, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), The World Conservation Union (IUCN), International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Oxfam America and SOS Sahel – UK. >> Read the Full Article
  • EU Allows Imports of Four GMO Crop Products

    BRUSSELS - The European Union has authorized imports of four genetically modified (GMO) crop products for sale across its 27 national markets for the next 10 years, the European Commission said on Wednesday.  Three of the GMO products are maize types, two of them hybrids, and the fourth is a sugar beet. None would be grown in Europe but would be imported for use in food and animal feed.

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  • Watching funny shows helps children tolerate pain longer, study finds

    Los Angeles - Watching comedy shows helps children tolerate pain for longer periods of time, according to a study by UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Centerand the nonprofit organization Rx Laughter.   The study findings, published in the October issue of the journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, suggest that humorous distraction could be used in clinical settings to help children and adolescents better handle painful procedures. >> Read the Full Article
  • Smoking linked to teen alcohol, drug use: U.S. study

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Teenagers who smoke are five times more likely to drink and 13 times more likely to use marijuana than those who are not smokers, according to a report issued on Tuesday.

    The report by Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse presented further evidence linking youth smoking to other substance abuse and spotlighted research on how nicotine affects the adolescent brain.

    "Teenage smoking can signal the fire of alcohol and drug abuse or mental illness like depression and anxiety," Joseph Califano, who heads the center and is a former U.S. health secretary, said in a telephone interview.

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