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Monday, July 28, 2008

Surgical Errors Cost Almost $1.5B a Year - washingtonpost.com

MONDAY, July 28 (HealthDay News) -- Preventing medical errors that occur during or after surgery could save lives and almost $1.5 billion a year, according to U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) study.

The researchers analyzed data on more than 161,000 patients in employer-based health plans who underwent surgery between 2001 and 2002.

The study found that insurers paid an additional $28,218 (52 percent more) and an additional $19,480 (48 percent more) for each surgery patient who suffered acute respiratory failure or post-operative infections, respectively, compared to patients who didn't suffer those complications.

Among the other findings:


Nursing care associated with medical errors, including pressure ulcers and hip fractures, cost an additional $12,196 (33 percent more) per patient.Metabolic problems, such as kidney failure or uncontrolled blood sugar, linked to medical errors cost an additional $11,797 (32 percent more) per patient.Blood clots or other vascular or pulmonary problems associated with medical errors cost an additional $7,838 (25 percent more) per patient.Wound opening tied to medical errors cost an additional $1,426 (6 percent more) per patient.

In addition, the study found that one out of every 10 patients who died within 90 days of surgery did so due to a preventable error, and one-third of the deaths occurred after the initial hospital discharge.

The study was published in the July 28 issue of the journalHealth Services Research.

"Like the physical and emotional harm caused by medical errors, the financial consequences don't stop at the hospital door. Eliminating medical errors and their after-effects must continue to be top priority for our health care system," AHRQ director Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy said in an agency news release.

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For parents, a phone dilemma -- chicagotribune.com

NEW YORK — It's a signature parenting dilemma of the wireless age: Should kids have cell phones?

It pits parents' desire to keep tabs on their offspring against the feeling that it's wrong for youngsters to spend time chatting and texting.

Now there's further ammunition: The warning last week by the head of a prominent cancer research institute to his faculty and staff. Limit cell phone use, he said, because of the possible cancer risk — especially when it comes to children.

The warning from Dr. Ronald Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, was based on early, unpublished data and came despite studies that have not found a link between increased tumors and cell phone use. But it's struck a nerve among parents.

"Now we hear about this possible medical risk," said Marybeth Hicks, mother of four. "I couldn't possibly know if it's real or not."

It's hard to gauge but in 2004, 21 percent of those ages 8 to 10 and 36 percent of the 11 to 14 group had phones, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Should the latest medical news cause huge concern? "If you've got good reasons for them to have it, I'd go ahead," said Frank Barnes, a professor who chaired a recent report on the subject. However, he added, "they've probably got other things they should be doing."

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Industry says granite countertops are safe to use

MONDAY JULY 28, 2008 (foodconsumer.org) -- The Marble Institute of America on Friday responded to the studies by Rice University physics professor W.J. Llope saying that granite countertops pose no significant health risk.

Earlier, Llope was cited by Houston Chronicle as finding that some granite countertops generate gamma radiation and radon gas at a level that is considered dangerous by the U.S. government.

In its statement, the MIA categorized the studies as junk science and cited new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) statements to say that radon gas and radiation released from granite countertops do not pose a risk.

The MIA represents producers and quarriers, fabricators, installers, distributors and contractors worldwide in the natural dimension stone industry.

"While natural minerals such as granite may occasionally emit radon gas, the levels of radon attributable to such sources are not typically high," the EPA statement was quoted by MIA as saying.

"EPA believes the principal source of radon in homes is soil gas that is drawn indoors through a natural suction process.”

In an EPA statement cited by the industrial organization, the EPA acknowledges that the "it is possible for any granite sample to contain varying concentrations of uranium that can produce radon gas.  Some granite used in countertops may contribute variably to indoor radon levels.”

But the government agency goes on to say that it "has no reliable data to conclude that types of granite used in countertops are significantly increasing indoor radon levels."

The MIA also quoted a statement by the EPA to discount worry about the radiation from granite countertops. "Construction materials such as concrete, cinder blocks, bricks, and granite contain small amounts of radioactive materials that are found naturally in the materials used to make them," meaning that radiation is not unique with granite countertops.

"Every time researchers have applied rigorous scientific standards to testing, the results have found that granite countertops pose no risk," said Jim Hogan, president of the MIA.

"Repeated studies have found that granite is safe. Unfortunately, some recent junk science being reported as fact only serves to panic the public, not inform it. Our goal is to end this fear mongering by facilitating the creation of a real scientific standard for testing granite countertops."

Llope tested 55 stones of 25 varieties of granite stones purchased from local dealers and found some homeowners would be exposed to 100 millirems of radiation in just a few months, exceeding the annual exposure limit set by the Department of Energy for visitors to nuclear labs.

Llope did not publish the names of the granite countertops that he found are most dangerous, but he was cited as saying that the highly radioactive varieties include striated granites from Brazil and Namibia.

In a document published on his website, Llope said there is no safe threshold for radiation and the general guideline is that each rem of radiation would cause cancer in 4 people in a population of 10,000.

Some granite countertops he tested released one rem of radiation in just 250 hours or 10 days.

But the MIA cited two recent studies by researchers at the University of Akron and Consumer Reports as finding no grounds to fear granite countertops because radon gas did not seem to be an issue.

It is not immediately clear if these two studies tested radiation from granite countertops.

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Central Valley air quality suffers from fires - San Jose Mercury News

FRESNO, Calif.—Smoke from a fire burning out of control near Yosemite National Park has prompted air quality warnings as far south as Kern County.

Officials from the San Joaquin Valley Air District say particulate levels from the fire, and another one near in Fresno County, are expected to be high from San Joaquin County south through Bakersfield.

Particulate in smoke can cause health problems, asthma attacks and acute bronchitis and increase the risk of respiratory infections. Air district officials warn people to avoid prolonged exposure and heavy exertion outdoors.

The fire near Yosemite fire has destroyed 12 homes and forced the evacuation of about 200 others. Fire officials say it has charred more than 40 square miles since a target shooter sparked a flame Friday.

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WTF? damn, she is madd late-90's FOXNews.com - Britney Spears Nominated for Video Music Award - Celebrity Gossip | Entertainment News | Arts And Entertainment

Britney Spears is in the running for a 2008 MTV Video Music Awards, it was announced on Friday.

After thousands of votes on VMA.MTV.com (along with ballots from select industry insiders), the 26-year-old VMA veteran is up for Best Female Music Video for "Piece of Me."

At last year's VMAs, Spears appeared nervous, out-of-shape and just plain out-of-it on stage, botching what was supposed to be her "comeback performance."

Spears will compete in the category against Katy Perry for "I Kissed a Girl," Rihanna for "Take a Bow," Mariah Carey for "Touch My Body" and Jordin Sparks for "No Air."

The 25th annual awards will be hosted by British actor/comedian Russell Brand. The show will air live on Sept. 7 at 9 p.m. ET/PT from Paramount Studios in Hollywood.

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Analysts Expect EA Posting US$111 Million In Losses [Rumor]

According to Forbes, Electronic Arts is expect to report losses of US$111 million (33 cents per share) for the quarter ending June 30th. It's apparently not the company's performance, but investor expectations as this is the first quarter EA hasn't provided "financial guidance." Speculation swirls that launching new IPS like Spore, Dead Space and Mirror's Edge and concern whether EA can actually get them out the door on time. Because of this, Forbes states, analysts earning estimates are all over the place — from 10 cents per share to a loss of 46 cents per share. The second quarter results will be posted this Tuesday.

EA Faces A Bumpy Ride [Forbes.com]

View Original Article

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Bloomberg.com: U.S.

July 28 (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Corp. said it will eliminate shifts at two truck plants and slow output at two others under a previously announced plan to build 300,000 fewer vehicles by 2009.

One shift each is being cut effective Sept. 29 at factories in Moraine, Ohio, and Shreveport, Louisiana, that make sport- utility vehicles and pickups, spokesman Tony Sapienza said in an interview today. GM also will trim the hourly production rates at SUV plants in Silao, Mexico, and Mishawaka, Indiana, he said.

``This is a response to the continuing change by consumers to cars and crossovers from larger trucks,'' Sapienza said. ``This gets us much closer to the balance of production we have been seeking.'' The actions, along with more idling of some other plants, will trim output by 117,000 on an annual basis, he said.

GM, the largest U.S. automaker, is building fewer SUVs, pickup trucks and vans after a 21 percent drop in its first-half U.S. sales of the light trucks. Such sales fell 18 percent industrywide because more buyers shifted to cars as average gasoline prices rose above $4 a gallon. GM, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC, the three U.S.-based automakers, all rely on light trucks for a majority of sales in their home market.

Trimming the shifts at Moraine and Shreveport affects about 1,760 hourly and salaried jobs, Sapienza said. GM makes Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy, Saab 9-7X and Isuzu Ascender SUVs at Moraine. The Shreveport plant builds Hummer H3 sport-utility vehicles and Chevrolet Colorado, and GMC Canyon pickups.

GM also plans additional idle time for truck plants in Silao; Ft. Wayne, Indiana; Oshawa, Ontario; and Pontiac and Flint, Michigan, beginning Sept. 2, Sapienza said.

Representatives of the IUE-CWA, which represents hourly workers at Moraine, and the United Auto Workers, which represents those employees at Shreveport, weren't immediately available for comment.

GM fell 55 cents, or 4.6 percent, to $11.35 at 11:39 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

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PC World - Business Center: Facebook Poaches Mozilla's Engineering VP

Facebook is strengthening its product development team at the expense of Mozilla Corp., whose vice president of engineering will join Mark Zuckerberg's social networking company.

Mike Schroepfer, a leader in the development of Mozilla's Firefox browser and a former Sun Microsystems CTO, has accepted a job as engineering director with Facebook and will start in a few weeks, Facebook said Monday.

Schroepfer's position is a new one. One of four Facebook engineering directors, he will focus on front-end product and platform engineering and will report directly to Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder and CEO.

At Sun, Schroepfer was CTO of its data-center automation division and became a distinguished engineer. He arrived at Sun when the company acquired CenterRun, where Schroepfer was founder and chief architect and engineering director.

Facebook needs all the high-level engineering help it can get as it attempts to retain and attract subscribers by providing new and enhanced social networking features and to take its application platform to the next level as developers' expectations and competing options continue to rise.

Facebook's new services have been hit-and-miss in the past year or so, ranging from disappointing introductions, like its Beacon ad program, to well-received, albeit far from perfect, efforts like its developer program.

Facebook has a lot of opportunity to improve its core subscriber services, like photo management, search and messaging, while it continues to tweak its application development program to promote truly useful applications and weed out spammy and generally pointless ones.

At the same time, competition has heated up not only from traditional rivals like MySpace but also from new ones, like Google, which has significantly increased its attention on the social networking market, and like microblogging phenoms Twitter and FriendFeed.

For example, OpenSocial, a project launched by Google and now supported by a variety of players, including MySpace and Yahoo but not Facebook, is seen as a competitive reaction to Facebook's application platform. Google and Facebook also recently locked horns over their respective data portability efforts.

Meanwhile, Facebook is rolling out a significant redesign of its user interface, in part intended to highlight the short, spontaneous and frequent messages and updates that have made Twitter and FriendFeed so popular.

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UPDATE: Tyson: No Recovery In Chicken Sector Before October

CHICAGO -(Dow Jones)- Tyson Foods Inc. (TSN) warned Monday that its U.S. chicken business would take longer than expected to recover from the impact of high feed costs, despite solid demand.

Dick Bond, president and chief executive of the largest U.S. meat producer by revenues, also cautioned that the viability of the U.S. chicken business was under threat, with foodservice companies prepared to pay higher prices to guarantee supply.

Tyson and rivals such as Pilgrim's Pride Corp. (PPC) have suffered from oversupply in the chicken industry, leaving them unable to pass on higher feed and transport costs to customers.

The Springdale, Ark.-based company had hoped its chicken unit would recover profitability by the end of its fiscal fourth quarter in September.

However, Bond said a rebound would take longer, with losses in the fourth quarter likely to exceed the $44 million operating deficit in the three months ended June 28.

Tyson's chicken sales rose 1.9% to $2.25 billion in the latest quarter, with prices 6.9% higher on average.

The problems in the chicken industry countered profits from its beef and pork segments as Tyson reported a net profit of $9 million, or 3 cents a share, in the fiscal third quarter, compared with a profit of $111 million, or 31 cents a share, a year earlier. The latest quarter included a $75 million unrealized loss on derivative positions.

The performance fell short of analysts' expectations and Tyson shares were down 5.5% at $15.33 in morning trading, with Pilgrim's Pride - the largest U.S. chicken producer by revenue - down 8% at $12.38.

Bond said that an additional $200 million in feed and transport costs and weak pricing in the higher-margin breast meat segment would weigh on the chicken unit in the current quarter. Pilgrim's Pride reports earnings Tuesday.

He said that chicken was historically more "recession proof" than other meats and that was holding true in the current U.S. economic downturn.

Biodiesel Versus Ethanol

Tyson is focusing on international sales and its nascent renewable energy business to drive future profits, as well as sales of higher-margin prepared foods.

Beef, its largest segment by sales, has benefited from the reopening of exports to South Korea after a protracted trade dispute over food safety standards. Pork sales, notably to China, are also producing above-average margins.

Bond said the fourth quarter was shaping up to "be a blockbuster" for the beef business.

Tyson's push into renewable fuels includes joint ventures with ConocoPhillips Inc. (COP) and Syntroleum Corp. (SYNM) to produce biodiesel from animal byproducts that would not be fed back into the food chain.

Bond has been the most vociferous food industry critic of subsidies to the ethanol industry, which he said crowds out feed supplies for animal and human consumption and inflates prices.

He has called for the removal of U.S. subsidies and import tariffs for ethanol - which Tyson calls "a well-established industry" - but supports tax credits and other support for what it describes as "new alternative fuels", including diesel made from waste animal fats.

"I do believe that these (ethanol subsidies) will be altered," Bond said Monday.

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Sempra Engery to buy Mobile's EnergySouth for $510M - Birmingham Business Journal:

Sempra Energy, a Fortune 500 company, boosted its natural gas storage capacity by acquiring EnergySouth's two underground sites that will have the capacity to hold 57 billion cubic feet of natural gas when fully developed, a news release said. Sempra also acquired Mobile Gas Service Corp., an Alabama natural gas distribution utility owned by EnergySouth. Mobile Gas serves about 93,000 customers in southwest Alabama.

"This acquisition supports our natural gas strategy by expanding our Gulf Coast operations to serve key markets where gas demand outpaces the national average," Sempra CEO Donald E. Felsinger said in a statement.

Shareholders of EnergySouth will receive $61.50 per share for their EnergySouth stock, according to a news release. The deal is expected to contribute up to 30 cents per share in 2012, Felsinger said.

Upon completion of the acquisition, Sempra Energy's Sempra Pipelines & Storage unit will operate the EnergySouth Inc. assets. The transaction, which is subject to approval by the shareholders of EnergySouth and regulators, as well as other customary conditions, is expected to close by year-end. The boards of directors of Sempra Energy and EnergySouth both have approved the transaction.

Mobile Gas Service Corp., EnergySouth's natural gas distribution company, purchases, sells and transports natural gas through pipeline networks to homes, businesses, and industry in Mobile and surrounding areas.

Sempra, based in San Diego, is an energy services holding company with 2007 revenues of more than $11 billion. Sempra has more than 29 million consumers worldwide.

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Bloomberg.com: Worldwide

July 28 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. budget deficit will widen to a record of about $490 billion next year, an administration official said, leaving a deep budget hole that will constrain the next president's tax and spending plans.

The projected deficit for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 is higher than the $407 billion forecast by President George W. Bush in February. The bigger shortfall reflects dwindling tax receipts because of the U.S. economic slowdown, the cost of a $168 billion economic stimulus package and spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

``We've already seen a pretty sharp cooling in tax receipts, and it's just going to continue into next fiscal year,'' Stephen Stanley, chief economist at RBS Capital Markets, said in a telephone interview.

The deficit projection will burden either Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, the presumptive presidential nominees of the major political parties, with a constricted budget that has little room for cutting taxes or increasing spending. The next president also will inherit the deepest housing recession in a generation, fears of a crisis in the banking industry, a falling dollar and high energy prices.

Campaign Promises

McCain has promised corporate and individual tax cuts that are projected to cost $4.2 trillion over 10 years along with spending to promote U.S. energy independence. Obama is vowing to enact a plan for universal health care, middle-class tax cuts and proposes spending on education and job training.

Instead, both likely will be forced to put their campaign promises on hold to reinvigorate the economy and drive down the deficit while also grappling with left-over foreign policy problems such as the wars and the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea.

The official, who asked not to be named, also confirmed a report in USA Today that the deficit this year will be less than the $410 billion estimated in February. The White House budget office will release its mid-session review of the government's balance sheets at 1:45 p.m. today.

Treasuries rose as the forecast for a higher budget deficit and a rise in European bond prices led to increased speculation the U.S. economy will slow amid decreasing global growth.

The deficit is one of the ``underlying themes that people are nervous about. It's just more bad news, and that leads to more buying of Treasuries,'' said Charles Comiskey, co-head of U.S. Treasury trading in New York at HSBC Securities USA Inc.

Deteriorating Budget

The shortfall reflects a deterioration of the budget over the past seven years. Bush inherited a budget surplus of $128 billion when he took office in 2001. The budget worsened almost immediately, because of recession, the Sept. 11 attacks, the beginning of the war in Afghanistan and, later, the war in Iraq that began in March 2003.

Bush recorded his first deficit a year after being sworn in, and it widened to the current record of $413 billion in 2004.

Five months ago, the administration projected a shortfall of more than $400 billion this year and next, reflecting a struggling economy, and forecast a recovery to a $160 billion deficit in 2010, declining to $96 billion in 2011 and finally a $48 billion surplus in 2012.

War Costs

The current projections may understate the deficit next year because the administration hasn't requested money to prosecute the wars for the full year, leaving that to the next president. Military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan now are costing about $10 billion to $12 billion a month.

Asked today if the administration still believes it's on a path to a balanced budget by 2012, White House press secretary Dana Perino said , ``I believe so, yes.''

She called the deficit ``temporary and manageable.''

The Bush administration and Congress also haven't dealt with the largest long-term fiscal problems: the growing costs of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Those three programs consumed an estimated 41 percent of the federal budget in 2007.

Obama is meeting today with his top economic advisers ``on America's pressing economic challenges,'' his campaign said. The Illinois senator was to meet with business and labor officials on oil, food and other commodities, topped with discussions with investor Warren Buffett, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker, and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, among others.

McCain Meetings

McCain, an Arizona senator, was scheduled to talk about the economy at town-hall meetings with voters in Nevada and Wisconsin.

Record gasoline prices, plunging home values and shrinking credit access have thrust the economy to center stage. The Labor Department this week may report a seventh straight month of job losses.

House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt, Democrat of South Carolina, took the administration to task for a record deficit, citing news accounts.

``If these reports prove accurate, they confirm the dismal legacy of the Bush administration: under its policies, the largest surpluses in history have been converted into the largest deficits in history,'' Spratt said in an e-mailed statement.

A Bloomberg survey of 28 analysts completed July 25 showed the average estimate for the deficit at $447 billion next year and $407 billion this year
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