Antibiotics ‘linked to childhood obesity’ 30 September 2014 Last updated at 00:02 ETBy Smitha Mundasad Health reporter, BBC News 

Young children who are given repeated courses of antibiotics are at greater risk than those who use fewer drugs of becoming obese, US researchers say.

picture of pills

Antibiotics targeted at specific bugs did not lead to weight gain

The JAMA Pediatrics report found children who had had four or more courses by the age of two were at a 10% higher risk of being obese.

But scientists warn this does not show antibiotics cause obesity directly and recommend children continue using them.

Many more studies are needed to explain the reasons behind the link, they say.

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It would be a concern if parents took from this that they ought to be reluctant to allow antibiotic use in their children”

Dr Graham BrudgeUniversity of Southampton

Targeted therapy

US researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Bloomberg School of Public Health reviewed the health records of more than 64,500 American children between 2001 and 2013.

The children were followed up until they reached five years of age.

Almost 70% of them had been prescribed two courses of antibiotics by the time they were 24 months old.

But those who had four or more courses in this time were at a 10% higher risk of being obese at the age of five than children who had been given fewer drugs.

And the type of antibiotics they were prescribed appeared to make a difference too – those given drugs targeted at a particular bug were less likely to put on weight.

But those given a broad-spectrum antibiotic – that can kill several types of bacteria indiscriminately – were more likely to have a higher body mass.

Prof Charles Bailey at the University of Pennsylvania, said: “We think after antibiotics some of the normal bacteria in our gut that are more efficient at nudging our weight in the right direction may be killed off and bacteria that nudge the metabolism in the wrong direction may be more active.”

And researchers say the study highlights that over prescribing inappropriate antibiotics could have a negative impact on child growth.

picture of a boy
Children who were given antibiotics in the first few months of life were also at greater risk 

Prof Nigel Brown, president of the Society for General Microbiology in the UK, said: “This study adds further evidence that the use of antibiotics early in life has a role to play in obesity.

“While antibiotic use is only one factor that may predispose children to be obese, the study emphasises the importance of rapid diagnostic tests that allow precise targeting of antibiotics, which will kill the disease-causing bacteria and cause minimum disruption to the normal gut flora.”

And Prof Bailey acknowledged his study had limitations as they were not able to look at the children’s weight or exercise regimes.

He says the team will now start to explore what influence lifestyle factors has on these findings.

But Dr Graham Brudge, at the University of Southampton, said: “The design of the study did not allow testing as to whether antibiotic use during infancy causes obesity in childhood, only that there may be an association.

“It would be a concern if parents took from this that they ought to be reluctant to allow antibiotic use in their children.

“The key risk factors for childhood obesity are over-consumption of high energy, nutrient-poor foods and lack of exercise.”

Mice trials

Meanwhile in a separate study, scientists reporting in the journal of the American Society for Microbiology found that a species of gut bacteria – called Clostridium ramosum – could promote weight gain in mice.

Mice with these bacteria present in their guts became obese when fed a high-fat diet, while those that did not have the bacteria put on less weight despite being given high-calorie meals.

The scientists, from the German Institute of Human Nutrition, in Nuthetal, are now trying to understand how the bacteria interact with digestion.

Global Warming Elevates Odds of Extreme Weather, From Australia to California – By Andrew Freedman Sept 2014


Manmade global warming is causing up to a tenfold increase in the risk for prolonged and severe heat waves, and is influencing other extreme weather and climate events, a slew of new studies found.

In a collection of 22 peer-reviewed analyses on 16 extreme weather and climate events during 2013, which were published Monday as a nearly 100-page report, international teams of scientists found clear ties between global warming and extreme heat events from Australia to China, and some signs of ties between the record California drought and global warming as well.

In all, nine of the 16 extreme events were attributed at least partially to manmade global warming.

The report amounts to the most ambitious attempt yet to put extreme events, such as floods and severe storms, into a long-term climate change context using methods known as “extreme event attribution.”

Global warming contributed to the baking of Australia, Korea, Japan and China

Of the 10 studies on heat waves that are included in the lengthy report, all five found clear ties between the events and global warming. For example, a study on extremely hot temperatures in Korea during the June through August 2013 period, found that manmade global warming — which has raised average surface temperatures — has made heat waves there up to 10 times more likely. In 2013, Korea had its hottest summer nights and second hottest days since 1954, the study said.

Another study found that global warming “played a significant role” in raising the chance of events such as the heat wave in Japan in 2013, during which 143 locations broke their daily average temperature records. Other studies tied global warming to increased odds of heat waves in eastern China, Europe and Australia.


Regarding the heat in Australia, where the Bureau of Meteorology was forced to add a new color to its weather maps to show extremely hot temperatures up to 129 degrees Fahrenheit, the studies showed extremely low chances that the heat could have occurred without manmade global warming. One of the studies found the percent of risk of the event that could be attributable to manmade global warming to be “essentially 100%.”

“The results from the Australian studies are rather striking,” said Peter Stott, the leader of the climate assessment team at the UK Met Office in Exeter, England.

Stott said the evidence shows that “it’s very hard to imagine how you could have had those temperatures without global warming.”

September 2013 was the hottest September on record in Australia

September 2013 was the hottest September on record in Australia, and one of the studies found that the risk of such heat in September has jumped fivefold due to manmade climate change.

Scientists gain confidence in conclusions about extreme events when multiple studies use different methods, while arriving at similar conclusions. Five independent research teams looked at different factors related to the record heat in Australia in 2013, and each team came to the separate conclusion that human-caused climate change increased the likelihood and severity of that event. This raises scientists’ confidence that global warming made the prolonged heat wave in Australia much worse.

“The evidence in the Australian papers is extremely strong,” said Martin Hoerling, a researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Boulder, Colorado, who was not involved in that research.

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Republicans and Democrats: Doomed!?! – By KENNETH P. VOGEL, DARREN SAMUELSOHN and TARINI PARTI | 9/30/14 5:05 AM EDT

An attendee makes a donation to the campaign before US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at a fundraiser. | Getty

The despondency arms race is not without irony for both sides, in different ways. | Getty


BREAKING: The fight for control of Congress is EXTREMELY CLOSE, but unless something changes BEFORE MIDNIGHT, Democrats are going to suffer CRUSHING DEFEATS under a wave of Republican big money.

But wait, Republicans, too, are being BEAT UP and CAN’T DEFEND THEMSELVES against Democrats who are OUTRAISING them.

Welcome to the politics of gloom, where Democratic and Republican operatives are dashing off Chicken Little emails at a dizzying rate, urging supporters to type in their credit card numbers and give $5, $10, or more ahead of a Tuesday night federal elections deadline — all in the name of leveling the playing field with the other sides’ relentless billionaires.

(Also on POLITICO: Incumbent govs fear wipeout)

So in an election where America’s political mood is dark, but the potential to raise money is bright, both sides are embracing a simple truth: Pessimism sells.

Gloominess used to be the domain of Democrats, who this weekend alone blasted out party fundraising emails declaring “Kiss any hope goodbye,” and “If you’ve given up on this election, then we should just quit now.”

But even Karl Rove — the GOP’s preeminent mega-donor schmoozerwho helped raise $325 million in massive super PAC checks for 2012 by projecting a poll-defying optimism that was laid bare on election night — has altered his approach this time around.

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European Activists Say They Don’t Want Any U.S. ‘Chlorine Chicken’ – by SUSANNA CAPELOUTO September 30, 2014 3:37 AM ET

A poultry processing plant in France. Europe banned treating chicken carcasses with chlorine in the 1990s out of fear that it could cause cancer.

A poultry processing plant in France. Europe banned treating chicken carcasses with chlorine in the 1990s out of fear that it could cause cancer.

Christophe Di Pascale/Corbis

Mute Schimpf doesn’t want to eat American chicken. That’s because most U.S. poultry is chilled in antimicrobial baths that can include chlorine to keep salmonella and other bacteria in check. In Europe, chlorine treatment was banned in the 1990s out of fear that it could cause cancer.

“In Europe there is definitely a disgust about chlorinated chicken,” says Schimpf, a food activist with Friends of the Earth Europe, an environmental group.

The chlorine vs. no chlorine debate has come up a lot recently in the context of a massive trans-Atlantic trade agreement. This week, negotiators from Europe and the U.S. are meeting in Washington for a seventh round of talks aimed at creating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP.

The agreement would create the world’s biggest free-trade zone and touch everything from banking to agriculture. But there’s a lot of opposition to TTIP in Europe, where some fear it would degrade their food standards. And activists have found the perfect symbol for their fight in chlorinated American chicken.

On the German equivalent of The Daily Show, called the Heute Show,American poultry has become a running joke. In one skit, a reporter is in the White House kitchen eating a chicken nugget.

“You can’t be mad at someone who makes such a tasty chlorinated chicken,” he quips. “Mmm, it has a slight aroma of kiddy pool.”

But the chlorine isn’t really a public health concern, says Scott Russell, a professor of poultry processing at the University of Georgia. “Most of these concerns about chemical use and those kinds of things are blown up in the media to become a problem that really doesn’t exist,” he says.

American processors use about a cap full of chlorine per gallon, or 50 parts per million, in a water tank that chills the chicken carcasses. That chlorine, he explains, is used to disinfect the poultry. He says it gets washed off and poses no health threat to consumers.

But the EU takes a different approach — it operates on the precautionary principle, a kind of abundance of caution when it comes to any substance that enters your body.

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Morningstar strips Pimco Total Return Fund of its gold rating Tue Sep 30, 2014 5:15am EDT

“““Bill Gross, co-founder and co-chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO), speaks at the Morningstar Investment Conference in Chicago, Illinois, June 19, 2014. 


(Reuters) – Morningstar downgraded its analyst rating on the Pimco Total Return Fund to “bronze” from “gold”, citing uncertainty about outflows and the reshuffling of management responsibilities after the exit of co-founder Bill Gross.

Gross, the bond market’s most renowned investor, quit Pimco for distant rival Janus Capital Group Inc (JNS.N) on Friday, a day before he was expected to be fired from the huge investment firm he helped found more than 40 years ago.

Dan Ivascyn, one of Pimco’s deputy chief investment officers, was named Group Chief Investment Officer to replace Gross. With Bill Gross’ abrupt departure, Pimco’s $222 billion flagship Total Return Fund has been taken over by Scott Mather, Mark Kiesel and Mihir Worah.

“The fund’s Bronze Morningstar Analyst Rating reflects Morningstar’s high level of confidence in PIMCO’s resources and overall abilities but also the uncertainty as to exactly how all of these parts will mesh in the wake of Gross’ departure,” Mornigstar analyst Eric Jacobson wrote in a report on Monday.

Since the start of the year, investors have pulled $25 billion from the Pimco Total Return Fund, the world’s largest bond fund, according to Morningstar data as of the end of August. This latest downgrade could set off another chain reaction of negative cash outflow momentum for the Pimco Total Return Fund.

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Wildlife populations fall by half in 40 years – September 30, 2014 12:42AM ET

World Wildlife Fund blames human threats to nature for biggest share of decline, particularly in tropical regions

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at Sep 30, 2014 2.20 1

In a study released on Tuesday, the Swiss-based World Wildlife Fund blamed human threats to nature for the decline particularly in tropical regions like Latin America.

The group described the study it has carried out every two years since 1998 as a barometer of the state of the planet.

“There is no room for complacency,” said WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini, calling for a greater focus on sustainable solutions to the impacts that people are inflicting on nature, particularly through the release of greenhouse gases.

The latest “Living Planet” study analyzed data from about 10,000 populations of 3,038 vertebrate species from a database maintained by the Zoological Society of London.

It is meant to provide a representative sampling of the overall wildlife population in the world, said WWF’s Richard McLellan, editor-in-chief of the study.

It reflects populations since 1970, the first year the London-based society had comprehensive data. Each study is based on data from at least four years earlier.

In the new WWF study, hunting and fishing along with continued losses and deterioration of natural habitats are identified as the chief threats to wildlife populations around the world.

The same report two years ago put the decline at 28 percent between 1970 and 2008.

The worst decline was among populations of freshwater species, which fell by 76 percent over the four decades to 2010, while marine and terrestrial numbers both fell by 39 percent.

Other primary factors are global warminginvasive speciespollution and disease.

The Religious Right’s Slow-Motion Suicide – Michael Tomasky 09.29.14

In fairness, the culture-war right has done less damage than the neocons and the super rich have. But they’re still the ones on the ropes.

I’m not sure what’s come over me and I suppose it’ll pass, but at just this moment I’m feeling a little bit sorry for evangelical conservatives. They were apparently pretty droopy, these proceedings over the weekend at the Values Voter Summit, as my colleague Ben Jacobs described things. Oh, yes, Ted Cruz fired them up, and some of the old stalwarts put in respectable appearances, but they have to know deep down that they’re like the horse-and-buggy lobby after Henry Ford has hit town. It’s only a matter of time.

I refer here chiefly to same-sex marriage, the big issue on which the cultural right now represents a quickly shrinking minority. You know the storm clouds are gathering when even Michele Bachmann is throwing in the towel—she declared same-sex marriage “not an issue” and even “boring” at the meeting.

But it’s not just same-sex marriage. The country has liberalized culturally in a range of ways in the past six or eight years, and it’s not only not going back, it’s charging relentlessly forward. The religious right also has no leaders anymore of the remotest interest. Back in the ’80s, Jerry Falwell was a figure to contend with; to loathe, certainly, but also to fear. Today? Pat Robertson has lost his marbles, seemingly, and after him, who? Tony Perkins? No one even knows his name, or if they do, they inevitably think of the guy who played filmdom’s most famous matricidal cross-dresser and aren’t entirely sure that this Tony Perkins might not be that Tony Perkins, which is not quite the type of association they’re looking for.

It’s a group that is losing power, and I think the leaders and even the rank-and-filers know it. Their vehicle, the Republican Party, is going libertarian on them. Rand Paul, whether he wins the 2016 nomination or not, is clearly enough of a force within the party that he is pushing it away from the culture wars. He is joined in this pursuit by the conservative intellectual class, which knows the culture wars are a dead-bang loser for the GOP and which finds the culture warriors more than a little embarrassing, and by the establishment figures, the Karl Rove types, who stroked them back in 2004 but who now see them as a liability, at least at the presidential level. There are still, of course, many states where these voters come in quite handy in that they elect many Republican representatives and senators.

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The Internet Is Broken, and Shellshock Is Just the Start of Our Woes – BY ROBERT MCMILLAN 09.29.14 | 6:30 AM



Brian Fox drove from Boston to Santa Barbara, with two tapes stashed in his trunk.

These weren’t music tapes or video tapes. They were computer tapes—two massive reels loaded with software code and data, the sort you can see spinning on furniture-sized computers in classic movies like Dr. Strangeloveand Three Days of the Condor.

The year was 1987, and as Fox drove cross-country to his new home, the tapes held a software program called Bash, a tool that Fox had built for the UNIX operating system and tagged with a license that let anyone use the code and even redistribute it to others. Fox—a high school dropout who spent his time hanging out with MIT computer geeks such as Richard Stallman—was a foot soldier in an ambitious effort to create software that was free, hackable, and unencumbered by onerous copy restrictions. It was called the Free Software Movement, and the idea was to gradually rebuild all of the components of the UNIX operating system into a free product called GNU and share them with the world at large. It was the dawn of open source software.

Fox and Stallman didn’t know it at the time, but they were building the tools that would become some of the most important pieces of our global communications infrastructure for decades to come. After Fox drove those tapes to California and went back to work on Bash, other engineers started using the software and even helped build it. And as UNIX gave rise to GNU and Linux—the OS that drives so much of the modern internet—Bash found its way onto tens of thousands of machines. But somewhere along the way, in about 1992, one engineer typed a bug into the code. Last week, more then twenty years later, security researchers finally noticed this flaw in Fox’s ancient program. They called it Shellshock, and they warned it could allow hackers to wreak havoc on the modern internet.

Shellshock is one of the oldest known and unpatched bugs in the history of computing. But its story isn’t that unusual. Earlier this year, researchers discovered another massive internet bug, called Heartbleed, that had also languished in open source software for years. Both bugs are indicative of a problem that could continue to plague the internet unless we revamp the way we write and audit software. Because the net is built on software that gets endlessly used and reused, it’s littered with code that dates back decades, and some of it never gets audited for security bugs.

When Bash was built, no one thought to audit it for internet attacks because that didn’t really make sense. “Worrying about this being one of the most [used] pieces of software on the planet and then having malicious people attack it was just not a possibility,” Fox says. “By the time it became a possibility, it had been in use for 15 years.” Today, it’s used by Google and Facebook and every other big name on the internet, and because the code is open source, any of them can audit it at any time. In fact, anyone on earth can audit it at anytime. But no one thought to. And that needs to change.

How the Web Was Built

In digital terms, Fox’s Bash program was about the same size as, say, a photograph snapped with your iPhone. But back in 1987, he couldn’t email it across the country. The internet was only just getting off the ground. There was no world wide web, and the most efficient way to move that much data across the country was to put it in the trunk of a car.

Bash is a shell utility, a black-boxy way of interfacing with an operating system that predates the graphical user interface. If you’ve used Microsoft’s Windows command prompt, you get the idea. That may seem like an archaic thing, but as the internet took off, fueled by web browsers and the Apache web server, the Bash shell became a simple yet powerful way for engineers to glue web software to the operating system. Want your web server to get information from the computer’s files? Make it pop up a bash shell and run a series of commands. That’s how the web was built—script by script.

Today, Bash is still an important part of the toolkit that helps power the web. It’s on the Mac, and virtually any company that runs the Linux operating system, the descendant of UNIX, uses it as a quick and easy way to connect computer programs—web server software, for example—with the underlying operating system.

But the lead developer of the program doesn’t work for any of these big names. He doesn’t even work for a tech company. His name is Chet Ramey, and he’s a coder at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He works on Bash in his spare time.

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Ello and the High-Speed Hype Cycle of a New Social Network – By David Marchese September 29, 2014 4:35 p.m.


The internet hive mind is good at a lot of things. Telling the future is not necessarily one of them. Late last week, the new social network Ello reached a tipping point, moving from a weird, unfamiliar term you saw popping up on people’s Twitter feeds to the cause of a full-blown FOMO outbreak, with desperate would-be users even attempting to buy entrée into the invite-only site. A self-reported 3,000 to 4,000 new users were signing on per hour, an overload that caused Ello, still in beta, to suspend invitations while it played catch-up to demand. The network had burst fully, virally to life. Then, in the space of, oh, a day or two, it was declared seriously ill. Fruit flies have been allowed more time to come into their own.

So what, exactly, is Ello? The creators positioned it, explicitly, as the “anti-Facebook.” They shared a high-minded manifesto (and actually called it a manifesto), in which they explained their belief that “a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce, and manipulate — but a place to connect, create, and celebrate life.” Ello, unlike the social network that shall not be named, would never have ads, it would never sell your data, it wouldn’t even make you use your real name. It would, in its enlightened state, respect your privacy. As if on cue, Ello got a nice lift when it became an alternative for those eager to ditch Facebook after the latter had deep-sixed the accounts of drag artists who’d tried to use pseudonyms rather than their real names. Here, finally, was the humane counter to the Facebook Borg.

It didn’t seem to matter that the actual uses of Ello were less intuitive and easy to parse than its anti-marketing, pro-privacy positioning. After signing up, you can designate other users as friends, and their images or text appears in your feed. Designate them as “noise” and their posts show up in a separate feed. The layout is spacious and clean, with lots of white space. It seems better suited for images than text. The whole thing scans like a prettier, more schizophrenic and personally curated Tumblr feed. There are, of course, no ads. The vibe is less evocative of an impassioned revolutionary meeting place than it is, say, a Scandinavian espresso bar with a delightfully robust community corkboard. But aside from the privacy and the ideological eff-you to Facebook, it’s hard to see what Ello can do for you that other social networks — where your friends are already hanging out — can’t.

Ello utopianism lasted about a day. Ello’s stance was hypocritical. (Founder Paul Budnitz created an account for his bicycle company.) Ello’s privacy controls were insufficient. (It did not, at least initially, allow users to block unwanted or abusive followers.) Ello was a sell-out. (VC firm FreshTracks Capital had given $435,000 in seed money.) Companies like Sonos and Netflix quickly created Ello accounts. There went the neighborhood.

Who’s right, the yays or nays? Obviously, no one knows. Twitter used to be the thing where narcissists shared what they had for breakfast. Then Instagram took that role, and Twitter became a breaking-news wire. Before Facebook was Facebook, it was a Hot or Not for Harvard kids. There’s no way the Defense Department geeks fiddling with ARPANET had any inkling that their creation would reshape how we communicate with each other, let alone the vastness of our desire for cute sloth videos. These things, Ello included, take on lives — and deaths — of their own.

The real lesson of Ello, then, is a lesson in public posturing. People want to be on Ello so they can have an opinion about Ello. And on the off-chance that Ello is the next big social network, best to put down a stake early. It’s the need to perform a stance, pro or con, which compelled the attention. It’s the same impulse that, for example, drove millions of people who very likely did not have a particular prior interest in coprophagic porn to check out 2 Girls, 1 Cup—content matters less as content than as an occasion to expound. (And God forbid you find yourself in the shameful position of not knowing about something.) Same goes, so far, anyway, for Ello. We came, we saw, we chattered. But social networks must grow rapidly or die, and unless Ello can find a way to convert this burst of attention into something that Facebook isn’t already supplying, soon we’ll move on. After all, there’s something coming, just over the horizon, and we are going to have to talk about it.