Green focus takes fantasy away from NY Auto Show


2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid hits showrooms late this year

Automakers have to learn how to make cars greener — and sexy too.

A new generation of electric cars, hybrids and fuel-efficient small cars took center stage at the New York International Auto Show. Pushed to the back were vehicles boasting big horsepower and glamorous styling, but with little fuel efficiency…

Compacts, crossovers and electric cars dominated the show’s main hall at the Jacob Javitz Center, while trucks and big SUVs were displayed to a much-smaller space two floors down.

“There is a real push on getting the products people want, rather than feeding their fantasy with extravagance,” said Dave Champion, director of auto testing at Consumer Reports. “Small cars are where the market is going…”

Survivors of last year’s crash continued to exhibit financial frugality and vigilance, with products geared toward real consumer demand and low-key displays in muted colors, devoid of spectacular events or lavish refreshments…

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Intervention drops hospital infection rate by a third

Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) is the one of the leading pathogens causing hospital-acquired infection in the United States. It may cause diarrhea, colitis, sepsis and lead to prolonged hospitalization and death. Mayo Clinic researchers say they’ve found a way to reduce the acquisition of this infection and drop its frequency to a fraction of what it had been.

The process involves consistent daily cleaning of all high-touch surfaces with a spore-killing bleach disinfectant wipe for all patients on units with high endemic rates of C. difficile infection.

“The goal was to reduce hospital-acquired C. difficile infection rates in two of our highest-incidence units by 30 percent,” says lead investigator Robert Orenstein, D.O. “Our data show we far exceeded that. When the study concluded near the end of last year, one unit had gone 137 days without a hospital-acquired C. difficile infection.” The team had hoped to increase the time between hospital-acquired cases to more than 20 days between infections…

Patients and staff tolerated this daily cleaning with the bleach wipes without significant concerns. Researchers concluded that this type of disinfection process was effective at reducing C. difficile infections on these units and should be instituted in other hospital units with high infection rates.

Not the only place where I’ve noted simple cleaning with bleach outpaces all sorts of supposedly more sophisticated means of achieving an antiseptic regime in a hospital.

Air hostesses strip over back wages

Flight attendants owed up to nine months’ wages by a grounded Spanish airline have posed nude for a calendar to draw attention to their plight.

The calendar, numerous excerpts of which appeared in the Spanish media, shows the Air Comet attendants, all female, posing provocatively in and outside airline cabins, and in one case on top of a jet turbine.

We are just demanding our rights to receive what is ours, we each have eight or nine months of unpaid salaries,” attendant Adriana Ricardo, who appears in the calendar, told Reuters.

Air Comet, run by the embattled chairman of Spain’s main employers’ association CEOE, Gerardo Ferran, filed for administration in December after a British court impounded nine of its aircraft at the request of German bank HSH Nordbank.

Pay the help before you pay the banks, Gerardo!

Pfizer = too big for the Feds to penalize for all their crimes

Imagine being charged with a crime, but an imaginary friend takes the rap for you.

That is essentially what happened when Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, was caught illegally marketing Bextra, a painkiller that was taken off the market in 2005 because of safety concerns.

When the criminal case was announced last fall, federal officials touted their prosecution as a model for tough, effective enforcement. “It sends a clear message” to the pharmaceutical industry, said Kevin Perkins, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

But beyond the fanfare, a CNN Special Investigation found another story, one that officials downplayed when they declared victory. It’s a story about the power major pharmaceutical companies have even when they break the laws intended to protect patients…

Pfizer said in court that “the company’s intent was pure”: to foster a legal exchange of scientific information among doctors. But an internal marketing plan called for training physicians “to serve as public relations spokespeople.”

According to Lewis Morris, chief counsel to the inspector general at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “They pushed the envelope so far past any reasonable interpretation of the law that it’s simply outrageous…”

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He won £9m on lottery – dies penniless and alone 5 years later

When Keith and Louise Gough won £9million on the lottery, they declared that they would ‘never have to worry again’.

Five years later, Mr Gough has died aged 58 from a heart attack brought on by drinking and money troubles.

The couple splashed out on a top-of-the-range BMW, racehorses and an executive box at Aston Villa Football Club following their win in 2005…

But Mr Gough began drinking heavily from ‘boredom’ after quitting his job at a bakery and their 27-year marriage broke down two years later.

A conman duped him out of his last £700,000 after targeting him at a clinic where he was receiving treatment for his alcohol addiction.

He collapsed at his nephew’s home in Broseley, Shropshire, and died at Princess Royal Hospital in Telford…

Before the win, Mr Gough had been an outgoing and successful family man with a happy marriage and teenage son…

Following the win…they moved from a £160,000 semi to a £550,000 detached home around the corner.

He blamed ‘boredom’ for pushing him to drink and split from his wife in 2007…He soon checked into the Priory clinic in Birmingham for his alcoholism. There he fell victim to fraudster James Prince, who conned him out of £700,000 over two years…

Since then, Mr Gough had descended further into alcoholism, gambling and depression over his financial worries, say friends.

He was staying in a spare room at his nephew Paul Clark’s two-bedroom semi before his death.

The answer is always as simple as getting a hobby. If he’d stayed with fly-fishing, added another segment or two of interest to his life, I think he would have been alright. His ex-wife certainly is OK.

Taking your winnings and using them to be a super-consumer may be what life in modern times tells you to do. But, human beings are always better off when they have something in their lives that gives them a sense of accomplishment – whatever the scale.

Mounties apologize – and fork it over for stun gun death


The memorial held for Robert in B.C. right after his death

The mother of Robert Dziekanski admitted she was exhausted after trying for 2 ½ years to hold the RCMP accountable for their role in the taser-related death of her son at the Vancouver airport.

“My health is getting worse and I cannot sleep at night. I am very tired,” Mr. Dziekanski’s mother, Zofia Cisowski, told reporters after announcing that she had accepted an apology from the Mounties and an out-of-court settlement with the RCMP, the Canadian Border Services Agency and the Vancouver Airport Authority.

“I have to close this chapter,” she said. “I think I will sleep better, from today.”

Ms. Cisowski said she was not upset with authorities for prolonging the process and not apologizing earlier. “I am not angry, but now it is over and I feel much better, from today,” Ms. Cisowski said.

In a horrifying incident caught on video by another traveler, Mr. Dziekanski died on Oct. 14, 2007, after police tasered him five times. The Mounties were responding to a 911 call. Mr. Dziekanski was agitated after being in the airport for 11 hours after spending 20 hours in transit from Poland. He did not know his mother was waiting for him outside the airport arrivals area and did not figure out how to leave the area he was in. He was 40 years old. Ms. Cisowski filed a lawsuit last fall against the RCMP, the border services and airport authority…

Deputy Commissioner Bass said he hoped that public confidence in the RCMP would be restored following the settlement of Ms. Cisowski’s civil lawsuit and changes in RCMP policies, practices, training and reporting requirements related to the use of tasers…

I’ll bet he does.

The RCMP could have done things better, he said, but he refused to acknowledge mistakes were made. He declined to comment on the actions of police officers involved in the incident before the release of the report of retired B.C. judge Thomas Braidwood, who held a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the tasering of Mr. Dziekanski. The report is expected to be completed in June.

Ms. Cisowski said she accepted the apology, which she felt was more personal than the first one issued by the RCMP in May, 2009, in Ottawa. She was not looking for an apology from the officers who used the taser on her son, although she would like them to face consequences at their workplace. “That’s all. I do not want them charged criminally. That’s no help to me at all,” she said…

The report is coming out in June. What? Are they writing in big block letters with a soft pencil? They’ve had 2½ years to roll this out.

Scientist says slimming soybeans are nearing market-ready

Doctor Elvira de Mejia

If you’re serious about losing weight, check out recent studies done in Elvira de Mejia’s University of Illinois laboratory. Her research provides insight into the way a certain type of soy protein inhibits fat accumulation and reduces inflammation.

“We found that soybeans rich in beta-conglycinins limit lipid accumulation in fat cells by inhibiting an enzyme called fatty acid synthase,” said de Mejia, a U of I associate professor of food science and human nutrition.

“What’s more, we have identified the specific peptides (digested proteins) that do this, and we are now beginning to understand the mechanism behind it. This is exciting research because it could lead to the development of nutraceuticals to fight obesity,” she added.

The study was also the first to establish the anti-inflammatory properties of soy high in this type of protein. “The peptides fight inflammation by blocking key enzymes in the body’s immune response,” said the scientist…

“Using the latest molecular marker-assisted breeding techniques, soybeans with the right composition can be tagged and later identified using a simple leaf tissue sample. This would make it possible to create high-yielding cultivars that contained the ‘slimming’ trait for soybean farmers to grow in their fields,” she said.

de Mejia and her colleagues are now taking their research a step further by performing human trials with soy milk that is high in beta-conglycinins.

“For years we’ve known that soy protein is a good source of essential amino acids. Soy helps us maintain muscle mass, and its peptides make people feel full so they don’t eat as much,” she said.

“Now it appears that products made from soybeans selected for this particular protein profile may also help limit fat accumulation. Food manufacturers will be able to create soy products targeted at consumers who are trying to maintain their ideal weight,” she said.

One more example of what Asian cultures discovered over time – that holds a promising alternative to negative aspects of a Western diet.