• Torrential rains, floods kill 20 in Central America

    SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - Emergency officials across Central America worked to clean up towns inundated by recent deadly floods and landslides, and braced for more bad weather on Sunday.

    At least 20 people were killed and thousands evacuated across Central America after days of torrential rain sparked landslides and flooding.

    The same weather system that killed 23 people in a Haitian village on Friday triggered a landslide that buried 14 people under mud and debris in Costa Rica.

    Red Cross workers had been digging through the debris since Thursday, when about 2.5 acres (1 hectare) of land on a steep slope gave way and fell on the small town of Atenas, about 20 miles west of the Costa Rican capital.

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  • Smoking Turns On Cancer Genes, Permanently: Study

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Smoking may turn on some genes in the body in a permanent and harmful way, scientists said on Thursday in a study that may help explain why the risk of cancer remains high even after smokers quit.

    They found many genetic changes that stop when a smoker quits, but found several genes that stay turned on for years, including several not previously linked with tobacco use.

    "These irreversible changes may account for the persistent lung cancer risk despite smoking cessation," the researchers wrote in their report, published in BioMed Central journal BMC Genomics.

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  • Genes found that slow both aging and cancer

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Researchers have identified a batch of genes that not only prevent cancer but slow the aging process in worms, and say they are now looking to see if the genes have the same properties in humans.

    Many of the genes in the worms are already known to have counterparts in humans, and the team at the University of California, San Francisco, say they hope to better understand some of the processes that cause both aging and cancer.

    Drugs that mimic the effects of these genes might help people both avoid cancer and also live longer, they wrote in Sunday's issue of the journal Nature Genetics.

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  • Tea struggles for place in 21st century Asia

    TAIPEI (Reuters) - From Beijing to Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong and Taipei, faced-paced modern life means that tea has little appeal for Asian youth who don't have the patience to wait the 10 minutes it takes to brew tea in the traditional way.

    "I don't have any time or relevant tea culture," said Becca Liu, a 25-year-old college graduate in Taipei.

    "I'm more curious to know how to make coffee," she added. Determined to restore tea to its exalted status in Asia, tea lovers are trying to repackage tea as a funky new-age brew to a young generation more inclined to slurp down a can of artificially-flavored tea than to sip the real thing.

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  • Schwarzenegger signs handgun "microstamp" bill

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill whose backers say will better help police use shells from hand guns as evidence in criminal investigations, a spokeswoman said on Sunday.

    The legislation marks a victory for gun-control activists and the second time Schwarzenegger signed one of their priority bills. In 2004 he approved a ban on private citizens owning .50 caliber rifles.

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  • Fearful looks get brain's attention fast: study

    CHICAGO (Reuters) - Smiles may take a while, but a horrified expression is a sure-fire attention getter, U.S. researchers said on Sunday, based on a study of how fast people process facial expressions.

    They believe fearful facial expressions make a beeline to the alarm center of the brain known as the amygdala, cuing humans to potential threats.

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  • Afghanistan struggles with heroin addiction scourge

    KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan, the world's biggest heroin producer, is struggling to cope with a drug problem as thousands of Afghans -- trying to cope with the traumas of war, displacement and poverty -- are becoming addicted to narcotics.

    On the outskirts of Kabul, a sprawling bombed-out building that was once a centre for culture and science is home to over 100 squatters whose main concern is feeding their heroin habit.

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  • Illinois firm recalls beef patties on E.coli scare

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - J&B Meats Corp. is recalling 173,554 pounds (78.7 tonnes) of frozen ground beef products sold under "Topps" and "Sam's Choice" labels due to possible E. coli contamination, the U.S. government said this weekend.

    The Coal Valley, Illinois-based company produced the patties in June and distributed them to retail stores nationwide, the U.S. Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service, or FSIS, said in a statement.

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  • U.S. maternal death rate higher than Europe's: report

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has a sharply higher rate of women dying during or just after pregnancy than European countries, even some relatively poor countries such as Macedonia and Bosnia, according to the first estimates in five years on maternal deaths worldwide.

    The report released by various United Nations agencies and the World Bank on Friday shows that Ireland has the lowest rate of deaths, while several African countries have the worst.

    The United States has a far higher death rate than the European average, the report shows, with one in 4,800 U.S. women dying from complications of pregnancy or childbirth, the same as Belarus and just slightly better than Serbia's rate of one in 4,500.

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  • Indonesian boy dies of bird flu: health ministry

    A 12-year-old Indonesian boy has died of bird flu, taking the total death toll from the disease in the country to 88, a health ministry official said on Saturday.

    Another official at the ministry's bird flu centre had earlier said was not clear how the boy, from Tanggerang city in West Java, contracted the virus, but that some chickens had died in his neighborhood.

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