kin of mumbai attack victims welcome

Relatives of victims of the 2008 Mumbai attack victims on Wednesday welcomed the execution of the lone surviving attacker, Ajmal Kasab, saying justice has been finally delivered. In Varanasi, Sunita Yadav, wife of victim Upendra Yadav, expressed her gratitude to the authorities for carrying out the execution.

Daily Bollywood News:Bipasha Basu - Bollywood will remain a hero-centric business

Women are active in show business like never before, but will they surpass the status Bollywood heroes enjoy? Never, says Bipasha Basu, who feels there is minimum opportunity for female actors in the Hindi film industry

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Secretary Salazar and Secretary Vilsack Pledge Coordinated Federal Response to California Drought


Washington, DC - Today Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the creation of a Federal Drought Action Team that will work cooperatively to respond to communities facing significant drought. With California currently facing one of its worst droughts in decades, the Drought Action Team will work with Governor Schwarzenegger's state drought response team to minimize the social, economic, and environmental impacts of the current drought.

The announcement follows last Friday's announcement by the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation that, based on water forecasts, initial Water Year (WY) 2009 allocations for the Federal Central Valley Project (CVP) will be significantly limited for agricultural, municipal, industrial, and environmental uses.

"The drought situation in California is dire," said Secretary Salazar. "Farms, ranches, and communities across the Central Valley are withering on the vine and in need of any help that the federal government can provide. The formation of a Federal Drought Action Team will ensure that the federal government's response to the drought is coordinated across all agencies and that we are doing all we can to provide assistance where it is needed as quickly as possible."

"President Obama has emphasized the need to have coordinated, transparent, and accountable actions throughout the federal government. With the creation of this Federal Drought Action Team, USDA and DOI will be working together to quickly deploy help to the communities that need it most," Secretary Vilsack said. "During a disaster such as extreme drought, it is essential that farmers, ranchers, and rural communities have confidence that the government will be working together to ensure they have access to every tool available."

The Federal Drought Action Team will include representatives appointed by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, along with representatives from other federal agencies. A similar federal drought action team was formulated in July, 2005, to coordinate drought relief in the Pacific Northwest.

In addition, Secretary Salazar is directing the Bureau of Reclamation to work closely with State authorities to facilitate water transfers for the Drought Water Bank that is operated by the State. He also is directing Reclamation to provide operational flexibility to convey and store water to facilitate additional transfers and exchanges that can move water to critical-need areas, and to expedite any related environmental review and compliance actions. Finally, the Secretary is calling on Reclamation to explore ways in which funds recently appropriated to Reclamation under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for water reuse projects, and other water projects, might be used to help stretch California's water supplies in the coming months.

Both USDA and DOI offer a range of assistance programs that help farmers, ranchers and rural communities impacted by drought. USDA programs that provide relief assistance include the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Crop Insurance through the Risk Management Agency (RMA), and the protection of rangeland forage from grasshopper outbreaks through the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). When approved, producers in individual counties may be eligible for Emergency Loans and the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) administered by FSA. In addition, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides technical assistance to help producers plan and manage natural resources on private lands and administers the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to assist land managers with efficient water quantity management during drought conditions. The NRCS also administers Agricultural Water Enhancement Program focuses specifically on conservation of ground and surface water.

Additionally, in partnership with the California Department of Water Resources, the NRCS Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Program provides water supply information applicable to the affected area.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Human Ancestors Put Best Foot Forward 1.5M Years Ago


Fossils thought to be oldest evidence to date of an essentially modern foot.



"Finding footprints in the early stage of human evolution is very rare. They're very fragile and they don't often preserve," explained study co-author John W.K. Harris, a professor of anthropology at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. "This is only the second finding in 30 years."

"This is not the first time that a footprint has been found that has shouted to us through time, but it certainly is one of the most important," added Jeffrey T. Laitman, distinguished professor and director of anatomy and functional morphology and of gross anatomy at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Laitman was not involved with the study.

The features of the footprints indicate that they belonged to the hominid Homo ergaster, or early Homo erectus. These are the oldest footprints that can be linked to mankind's genus, Homo, according to an accompanying perspective article in the journal. This creature had the longer legs and shorter arms of modern man, rather than the longer arms and shorter legs of the more ape-like ancestors.
According to fossil records, the ability to walk on two feet -- called bipedalism -- seems to have emerged about 6 million years ago. But it's unclear when the more human form of bipedalism evolved.

Thirty years ago, in 1978, British archaeologist/anthropologist Mary Leakey discovered 3.75-million-year-old footprints at the Laetoli archaeological site in Tanzania.

But these prints seem to have belonged to a less "modern" bipedal creature, still with the big toe separated from the rest of the toes and with the more ape-like long arms with shorter legs.

And any skeletons of mankind's more modern-proportioned ancestors tend to have lacked foot bones.

"There's not much information regarding feet ... only a few foot bones have survived through time," Laitman said.

The new discovery, made at Ileret in Kenya, is notable for a number of reasons, Harris said.

"The size of the foot is conspicuous," he explained. "The foot is much larger than the bony remains we have of the feet of earlier hominids, and it's longer and more elongated. You or I could put our feet into the prints of what we've found on the landscape from 1.5 million years ago."

Harris realized the importance of the prints when a local tribesman started to put his foot into one of the prints. "He could almost put his modern foot into one of the prints," Harris recalled. "It's like the coloratura soprano hitting the high notes. It sends shivers up your spine."

The shape and other features of the foot also more closely resemble those of modern man.

"There's a well-defined heel, nice and round and large. It also shows the arch from where we transfer the weight from back to front and, then, the most conspicuous feature, is the big toe which is in line with other toes," Harris said. "That gives us the platform to step off. These are all features that define the modern foot, and they were there 1.5 million years ago."

The distance between the footprints also shows a much greater stride than had been evident before, indicating a change in landscape and in the hominids' ability to traverse this landscape.

"At this time, 1.5 to 1.7 million years ago, there was a change in the climate to more dire conditions, so patches of food were further apart," Harris said. "For a hominid to be successful on that landscape, he had to have a more efficient way of moving across the landscape... The creature was increasing its home range. We think that it was at this stage of human evolution that Homo erectus left the continent of Africa."

"You're uncovering a little window in time, a snapshot in time that nobody's looked at in 1.5 million years," he added. "Nobody's uncovered these prints since they were made by the hominid himself."

Lowering BP in Dialysis Cases Cuts Heart Risks


Study says drugs could prevent 2 of 10 deaths expected in every 100 patients per year.





Those studies assessed the effects of lowering blood pressure in a total of 1,679 adult dialysis patients who experienced 495 cardiovascular events. The review authors found that treatment with blood pressure-lowering drugs reduced the risk of cardiovascular complications, cardiovascular deaths, and death by all other causes.

Data from seven studies showed that average systolic blood pressure was 4.5 mm HG lower and diastolic blood pressure was 2.3 mm HG lower in patients who received blood pressure-lowering drugs than in untreated patients.

The protective effects of a wide range of blood pressure-lowering drugs were similar regardless of hypertension and other health conditions. The review authors also found that blood pressure-lowering treatment was tolerated well by patients.

"If our data are applied to a broad population of patients on dialysis with an annual mortality rate of about 10 percent, we calculate that blood pressure-lowering treatment could prevent two of the 10 deaths expected to occur in every 100 patients per year. The absolute benefit will be greater for individuals at higher absolute risk, and is much greater than that reported for many other interventions in routine use," concluded Vlado Perkovic, of The George Institute for International Health in Australia, and colleagues.

The findings were published online and were expected to be in an upcoming print issue of The Lancet.

Each year, between 10 percent and 20 percent of dialysis patients die, and almost half of those deaths are due to cardiovascular causes. Currently, there are no treatments proven to reduce that risk.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Space Shuttle Program Completes New Plan for Next Launch

WASHINGTON -- NASA's Space Shuttle Program has established a plan that could support shuttle Discovery's launch to the International Space Station, tentatively targeted for March 12. An exact target launch date will be determined as work progresses with the shuttle's three gaseous hydrogen flow control valves.

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians have started removing Discovery's three valves, two of which will undergo detailed inspection. Approximately 4,000 images of each valve will be reviewed for evidence of cracks. Valves that have flown fewer times will be installed in Discovery. Engineering teams also will complete analysis and testing to understand the consequences if a valve piece were to break off and strike pressurization lines between the shuttle and external fuel tank. Hardware modifications may be made to the pressurization lines to add extra protection in the unlikely event debris is released.

NASA and contractor teams have been working to identify what caused damage to a flow control valve on shuttle Endeavour during its November 2008 flight. Part of the main propulsion system, the valves channel gaseous hydrogen from the main engines to the external tank. After a thorough review of shuttle Discovery's readiness for flight on Feb. 20, NASA managers decided more understanding of the valve work was required before launching Discovery.

The Space Shuttle Program will hold a meeting March 4 to review new data and assess ongoing work. Managers then will determine whether to move forward with a flight readiness review March 6.

If Discovery's tentative launch date holds, there will be no effect on the next two shuttle launches: STS-125 to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and STS-127 to the International Space Station.

Iodine in Prenatal Vitamins Varies Widely


Labeling doesn't always reflect content, which is crucial to fetal neurological development, researchers note.



WEDNESDAY, Feb. 25 (Health Day News) -- Most prenatal vitamins marketed in the United States don't contain as much iodine as is stated on the label, researchers report.

The variance is troubling, they say, since iodine is critically important to the health of a developing fetus.

In a letter appearing in the Feb. 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, the team also noted that the actual levels of iodine found in the supplements were typically below those recommended by the American Thyroid Association (ATA).

"Iodine nutrition is critically important in pregnancy," explained Dr. Elizabeth Pearce, co-author of the letter and an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University Medical Center. "Women who are deficient in pregnancy have children often with lower IQs or neurocognitive delays. Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of preventable mental retardation in the world."

But, based on the new findings, "it seems that an ideal prenatal vitamin, in terms of iodine, does not exist," she said. "About half of them have iodine that's derived from kelp and that's very variable."

Through an Internet search, the authors found 127 nonprescription and 96 prescription prenatal vitamins currently available in the United States.

Product labeling on 114 products (87 nonprescription and 27 prescription) claimed that the vitamins contained iodine. According to the labeling, 101 (89 percent) of these products contained at least 150 micrograms of iodine in a daily dose.

Sixty-seven vitamins contained iodine from potassium iodide, 42 from kelp, and five from some other source.

"Products containing iodine from potassium iodide tended to be more consistent, [but] 150 micrograms of potassium iodide is not the same as 150 micrograms of iodine," Pearce stressed. "If you really want people to get what the American Thyroid Association [ATA] has recommended -- which is 150 micrograms [of iodine] a day in a supplement -- there isn't one, but we would prefer products made from potassium iodide."

After measuring actual iodine contained in 60 randomly selected products, the authors determined that the mean dose overall was 119 micrograms of iodine. But this level varied widely, depending on where the iodine came from. For example, potassium iodide contained about 76 percent iodine, while the level of iodine from vitamins with kelp ranged anywhere from 33 to 610 micrograms per daily dose.

In 13 of the vitamin brands sampled, the actual iodine content differed from what was stated on the labeling by 50 percent or more, the researchers reported.
"The values of iodine are all over the map," Pearce concluded.

Beyond being essential for the developing fetus, iodine is also critical for women who are breast-feeding. And adults who don't have enough of the element can develop goiter.

According to background information in the article, 2.2 billion people worldwide suffer from iodine deficiency.

The ATA recommends that women who are pregnant or breast-feeding take prenatal vitamins with 150 micrograms of iodine a day. Both the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend higher amounts. The IOM suggests 220 micrograms daily during pregnancy and 290 micrograms while breast-feeding; the WHO recommends 250 micrograms daily during both pregnancy and breast-feeding.

According to the researchers, manufacturers should only use potassium iodide and should make sure supplements contain at least 197 micrograms of potassium iodide to ensure the recommended dose of iodine.

A representative of the supplements industry welcomed the findings.
"We compliment the article for identifying a significant potential problem and recommending to some degree that something be done about it," said John Hathcock, senior vice president for scientific and international affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, in Washington, D.C. "If iodine levels keep declining [iodine levels in U.S. adults have decreased by about 50 percent since the 1970s, most dramatically among women of childbearing age] and maybe even at present levels, there could be pockets of individuals with certain dietary habits who could [develop problems]."

Differences in labeling requirements for drug or food products on the part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration may also account for some of the discrepancies, Hathcock added.

The good news, Pearce said, is that mild iodine deficiency in the United States is not likely to result in major or even detectable neurodevelopment delays.

"But because we know the potential is there and it's such an easy thing to prevent, it makes sense to make sure that women get adequate iodine nutrition," she said.

Consumers should be able to read on the label whether the iodine comes from kelp or potassium iodide, she said.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Summits and Afghanistan on EU agenda




The General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) is meeting on 23-24 February. The Czech Presidency will present the agenda for the summits on 1 March and 19-20 March while the foreign ministers will discuss Afghanistan and other issues. Sweden will be represented by Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt and Minister for EU Affairs Cecilia Malmström.

Gunilla Carlsson to meet Mahmoud Abbas


On Wednesday 25 February, President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas will arrive in Sweden and meet Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt and Minister for International Development Cooperation Gunilla Carlsson.