Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Honey Treats Coughs Better Than Drugs

ABC News Medical Unit
Dec. 3, 2007
There may be hope for parents looking for alternatives to drug-laden cough syrup to calm their children's coughs -- and help might be as close as that golden nectar in the kitchen. Honey can soothe throats and calm coughs, according to a new study.
The study, published Monday in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, found that children who received a small dose of buckwheat honey before bedtime slept better and coughed less than those who received either a common over-the-counter cough suppressant (dextromethorphan) or nothing at all.

"This is the first time honey has been actually proven as a treatment," says lead study author Dr. Ian Paul, a researcher at Penn State College of Medicine. He adds that honey has been recommended for ages by grandparents in certain cultures.

The researchers enrolled 105 children, between ages 2 and 18, in their randomized, partially double-blind study. On the first night of the study, the children received no treatment. Parents then answered questions about their children's sleep and cough, as well as the quality of their own sleep. The second night, the children were given either honey-flavored cough syrup or honey -- or nothing at all. Parents then reanswered the questions in the survey.

Parents whose children received the honey rated their kids' sleep and symptoms as better -- and their own sleep as improved as well.

Healing Powers of Honey
Paul says that the type of honey plays a role in the treatment.

"Darker honeys have more antioxidants than lighter honeys, and we wanted the best chance to see improvements," he says, noting that lighter honeys would probably also benefit kids. "At least locally [buckwheat honey] is available. I can get it here at the local supermarket."

Honey is also generally less expensive than over-the-counter medications, he says, and bring none of the side effects like dizziness or sleepiness.

The current study was inspired by an earlier investigation by Paul and his group. In 2004, they showed that the two most common active ingredients in cough syrup, dextromethorphan and diphenhydramine, had the same effectiveness in treating cough symptoms as a placebo ingredient.

US Research Group: World Food Prices Likely to Rise

By VOA News
04 December 2007

A U.S.-based research group says climate change and rising energy costs will likely cause world food prices to rise, threatening the health and livelihoods of the world's poor.

In a report released Tuesday at a conference in Beijing, the International Food Policy Research Institute says environmental and other changes, including urbanization and development, will contribute to higher prices and greater demand for food.

The report says global agricultural production is projected to fall 16 percent by 2020 due to global warming, with output dropping by 20 percent in developing nations. It also notes the increase in bio-fuels will likely cut into food supplies.

The report says Africa is particularly vulnerable to climate change because its agricultural system depends heavily on rainfall. It says the number of malnourished people in sub-Saharan Africa may triple between 1990 and 2080, partly because of indirect effects from climate change.

The lead author of the report, Joachim von Braun, said the days of falling food prices may be over. He said the surging demand for feed, fuel and food have recently led to drastic price increases that are unlikely to fall in the foreseeable future.

Microsoft Removes Windows Vista 'Kill Switch'

By Thomas Claburn
December 4, 2007 01:00 PM

Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) on Tuesday said it will cease hobbling Windows Vista installations that fail the company's validation processes in its forthcoming Service Pack 1 update, scheduled for next year.
Currently, Microsoft penalizes Vista users that fail to activate their operating system software within 30 days, or three days after a major hardware configuration change, by restricting Vista to running in "out-of-grace reduced functionality mode." This denies access to games included in Window Vista and to premium features like Aero Glass, ReadyBoost, and BitLocker. It also limits the amount of time the user can remain logged in to one hour.

A more restrictive state, "non-genuine reduced functionality mode" may also be imposed if the Vista detects a blocked or counterfeit product key, or incorrect or modified activation binary files.

Microsoft characterized its decision as part of an effort to bolster its anti-piracy enforcement by disabling two types exploits used to bypass the Vista activation process. The company attributed the 5% growth of Windows desktop OEM revenue in the past quarter to declining piracy and noted that the piracy rate for Windows Vista is less than half of Windows XP.

"Although our overall strategy remains the same, with SP1 we're adjusting the customer experience that differentiates genuine from non-genuine systems in Windows Vista and later in Windows Server," said Michael Sievert, Corporate Vice President for Windows Product Marketing, in an interview published on Microsoft's site. "Users whose systems are identified as counterfeit will be presented with clear and recurring notices about the status of their system and how to get genuine. They won't lose access to functionality or features, but it will be very clear to them that their copy of Window Vista is not genuine and they need to take action."

But Microsoft's elimination of the so-called Vista "kill switch" also looks a lot like a retreat, particularly in light of the difficulties the company has experienced telling legitimate customers from illegitimate ones. Back in August, Microsoft erroneously forced many new Vista customers into reduced functionality mode when its servers began rejecting activation attempts as a result of human error.

Alex Kochis, senior product manager of Windows Genuine Advantage apologized for the mistake in a blog post, but the snafu prompted people to post comments like "Again, Microsoft is a master at shooting the customer in the foot."

Divorce pains the planet

Posted by Elsa Wenzel
As if the burden of divorce weren't bad enough, people with failed marriages can be blamed for global warming, according to a study by Michigan State University.

Divorced couples use up more space in their respective homes, which amounts to to 38 million more rooms worldwide to light, heat and cool, noted the report.

And people who divorced used 73 billion kilowatt-hours more of electricity and 627 billion gallons of water than they would otherwise in 2005.

Dissolving a marriage also means doubling possessions, from the lowly can opener to the SUV. The report, however, did not estimate how many more natural resources the children of shared-custody parents consume by getting birthday and holiday gifts twice.

Nor did it count the greenhouse gases spent to shuttle kids between their pair of energy-hogging households. (Tip for carbon offsetting services: the domain name is available.).

The research suggests that singletons who shack up with someone again can undo the ecological damage. Although it might be inferred that "living in sin" is also eco-friendly, the findings did not necessarily endorse the practice of unmarried couples living together.

Rates of divorce are rising around the world, while dropping in North America along with those of marriage, according to the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University.

Divorce ends 46 percent of marriages in the United States, the seventh highest rate in the world, according to Divorce Magazine. The top world record is held by Sweden, where 55 percent of marriages end by divorce. On the other end is Guatemala, with a mere .13 percent divorce rate.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and funded partly by the National Institutes of Health.

(via New Scientist)