Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Doctors unsure why thyroid cancer cases on the rise

INDIANAPOLIS – Thyroid cancer, which affects about 11 people per 100,000 each year, seems to be on the rise. It's a trend that baffles medical researchers.

National Cancer Institute statistics suggest that in recent years the number of cases of this often curable cancer has increased by about 6.5%. Over a decade, that has added up to make thyroid cancer the fastest-increasing cancer, says Tod Huntley, an otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon with the Center for Ear, Nose, Throat and Allergy in Indianapolis.

"Ten years ago, if I saw four new thyroid cancer patients a year, it would have been a lot," says G. Irene Minor, a radiation oncologist with Indiana University Health Central Indiana Cancer Center. "Now sometimes I see that many in a month, and I have seen three in a week."

Thyroid cancer is more common in women younger than 45, Minor said. Doctors don't know why that's the case, but thyroid problems in general — such as hyper- or hypo-thyroidism — are more common in women. Read More

Island of Montecristo to be bombed with poison after rat infestation

It was immortalised by the novelist Alexandre Dumas as the location for a stash of buried treasure, but the tiny Italian island of Montecristo is now struggling with a rather less romantic reality – a plague of black rats.

The uninhabited island, a protected nature reserve lying between the coast of Tuscany and Corsica, has been invaded by thousands of black rats.

The rodents are believed to have arrived on the four-square-mile island as stowaways on boats a few years ago but have now multiplied.

Authorities are planning to use aircraft to bombard the island with poison pellets in a bid to tackle the infestation.

The plan is to drop around 26 tonnes of pellets on the island at the end of this month.

Biologists estimate that there is one rat for every square yard of the island and say they pose a grave threat to the ecology of the nature reserve, which is part of a scattered archipelago of islands off Tuscany. Read More

‘Sacrilegious’ — Bodies Piling Up At Cook County Morgue: US

CHICAGO (STMW) – To the disgust of some staff, bodies are piling up at the office of the Cook County Medical Examiner, stacked atop each other in blue plastic tarps against a wall of the storage cooler because of ongoing financial woes, the Sun-Times has learned.

All the storage trays are full, and many have a second body on them, according to sources in the office. Some 400 adults and about 100 babies are currently being kept in the cooler designed for under 300, one source said.

“There are so many bodies in there now, they can’t keep it cool enough. The stench is like nothing I’ve ever seen,” another source in the office said. “I think it’s sacrilegious.”

Medical Examiner Nancy Jones said “yes, we do” have a larger than normal number of bodies at the office.

“What we currently have in our cooler is somewhere around 300 bodies,” she said. “There is not twice that number.” Read More

TSA to test its airport scanner operators for radiation exposure

The agency will not retest the machines or airline passengers. Also, a survey says 2012 will be a good year for the travel industry, and a man wants to help Spirit Airlines passengers avoid baggage fees.

After years of rebuffing health concerns over airport scanners, the Transportation Security Administration plans to conduct new tests on the potential radiation exposure from the machines at more than 100 airports nationwide.

But the TSA does not plan to retest the machines or passengers. Instead, the agency plans to test its airport security officers to see if they are being exposed to dangerous levels of radiation while working with the scanners.

News of the test leaked out after the TSA issued a request last month to government vendors to provide wearable, personal dosimeters, devices that measure exposure to radiation.

"TSA is dedicated to the health and safety of its employees," TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said. "We continuously test our technology to ensure it is safe for both passengers and our officers and post all results to our website." Read More

California company hoarding license-plate data on US drivers


Capitalizing on one of the fastest-growing trends in law enforcement, a private California-based company has compiled a database bulging with more than 550 million license-plate records on both innocent and criminal drivers that can be searched by police.

The technology has raised alarms among civil libertarians, who say it threatens the privacy of drivers. It's also evidence that 21st-century technology may be evolving too quickly for the courts and public opinion to keep up. The U.S. Supreme Court is only now addressing whether investigators can secretly attach a GPS monitoring device to cars without a warrant.

A ruling in that case has yet to be handed down, but a telling exchange occurred during oral arguments. Chief Justice John Roberts asked lawyers for the government if even he and other members of the court could feasibly be tracked by GPS without a warrant. Yes, came the answer. Read More

Vermont delegation rewarded staffers with $236,830 in bonuses

WASHINGTON — As demands for fiscal austerity dominated debate in Washington, Vermont’s three congressional lawmakers gave their staffers a combined $236,830 in bonuses last year.

Many other congressional lawmakers also rewarded staffers with year-end bonuses, and the Vermont lawmakers found other ways to save. Each will return a significant amount of unspent office money — about 10 percent of their budgets — to the federal government.

The Vermont lawmakers saw the bonuses as a way to reward hard-working staffers, many of whom earn much less than they would in the private sector.

Michael Briggs, a spokesman for independent Sen. Bernie Sanders said, “We have an extremely hard-working and aggressive staff that puts in long hours and (Sanders) could hire more people but does not. Read More

Seize the chance to end the craziness in North Korea: Eric Margolis

You’ve got to hand it to the North Koreans, they certainly know how to throw a funeral.

I stayed up until two am watching the mammoth funeral of the “Dear Leader,” Kim Jong-il, live on TV from North Korea’s eerie, snowy capitol, Pyongyang. Giant floats and goose-stepping soldiers made this old Cold War Warrior nostalgic for the 1970’s

What next for the Hermit Kingdom? Kim 3 – Kim Jong-un - has successfully made the transition. The 1.1-million armed forces, the Party, and security organs remain the power behind his leadership.

So far, a power struggle between these groups that could have led to the collapse of the North Korean state has not happened, avoiding South Korea’s greatest fear, “unexpected reunification” - a human tsunami of millions of starving northerners flooding south.

North Korea is branded a dangerous rogue state that threatens the entire world. This is certainly the common view in the United States.

However, the advent to power of “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong-un presents North Korea’s uneasy neighbors and the United States with an opportunity to defuse many of the peninsula’s dangerous tensions and even begin a process of opening the isolated Stalinist state to the outside world. Read More

Gorbachev: The man who prevented World War III

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In 1988, I saw the surest sign the USSR was facing an earthquake when I became the first western journalist to be invited into KGB’s Moscow headquarters, the Lubyanka Prison.

Moscovites were so terrified of the KGB secret police, they avoided uttering its dreaded name, referring to it instead by the name of a nearby toy store, “Detsky Mir.”

Two senior KGB generals explained to me how their organization was breaking with its murderous past, modernizing and reforming. What they really meant: KGB, which understood the USSR faced collapse, was preparing to abandon the Communist Party.

The Red Army’s 100 divisions and 50,000 tanks so frightened Europe that the Swiss and Dutch had even continued building border forts against Soviet attack until the mid 1980’s.

But three years later, in December 1991, the mighty, feared Soviet Union collapsed under its own rotten weight.

The Soviet Union’s disintegration could easily have ignited World War III with the US and NATO. That it did not was due to two remarkable men: Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and chief ally, Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze. Read More

SYRIAN TIME BOMB

It’s dark and foggy here today along the mighty Bosphorus that separates Europe and Asia. Just as murky and dangerous as exploding next-door Syria.

Turkey’s formerly very successful “no problems” foreign policy crafted by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutogolu buried old arguments with Syria, Iran, and Lebanon and opened billions of new trade for Turkey’s bustling exporters. Turkey’s red hot economy grew 7% last year- almost as fast as China.

But that was before Libya, Syria and Egypt erupted. Turkey’s highly popular prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was forced to take sides . Turkey called for Egypt’s terminally ill pharaoh, Hosni Mubarak, to leave office, but still kept its support with Egypt’s all-powerful army. This was ironic since Erdogan had just waged a decade-long battle to push Turkey’s bullying army out of politics.

By contrast, Turkey reluctantly abandoned Libya’s Gadaffi, and old friend, with whom Ankara was doing about $23 billion in trade, as a lost cause. Erdogan’s response to Syria was similar: Erdogan insists the Assad family must go and be replaced by a Turkish-style democracy tempered with Islamic values of social welfare and justice. Read More