Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Fed Cuts Key Rate by a Half-Point

The Federal Reserve lowered its benchmark interest rate by half a percentage point today, tapping its most visible policy tool to free up more money for banks and businesses. The move brings the Federal funds rate to 1 percent. While Fed policy makers now have less room to maneuver on interest rates if the economy deteriorates further, investors had been hoping for the relatively aggressive cut as a sign of vigilance among American central bankers seeking to restore the free flow of credit. The move brought the rate down to near the lows reached in 2003 and 2004.

But the economic outlook is much grimmer than it was in 2003. Back then, policy makers were trying to vanquish the last remnants of a downturn. This time, policy makers face an economy that is sputtering on all fronts — consumer spending, job creation, business investment, housing and possibly even exports — and the downturn has only begun.

The Federal Reserve is within striking range of reducing the overnight lending rate to zero, a point that Japan reached in the 1990s and remained at for years while it struggled to revive its economy.

Palin Says Washington Has Failed on Energy

Sarah Palin, delivering her second policy speech as the vice-presidential nominee, blamed decades of presidents and legislators for failing to achieve energy independence.

Bio Lab in Galveston Raises Concerns

Much of the University of Texas medical school suffered flood damage during Hurricane Ike , except for one gleaming new building, a national biological defense laboratory that will soon house some of the most deadly diseases in the world. How a laboratory where scientists plan to study viruses like Ebola and Marburg ended up on a barrier island where hurricanes regularly wreak havoc puzzles some environmentalists and community leaders.

Officials at the laboratory and at the National Institutes of Health, which along with the university is helping to pay for the $174 million building, say it can withstand any storm the Atlantic hurls at it. Built atop concrete pylons driven 120 feet into the ground, the seven-floor laboratory was designed to stand up to 140-mile-an-hour winds. Its backup generators and high-security laboratories are 30 feet above sea level.

A Rise in Kidney Stones Is Seen in U.S. Children

To the great surprise of parents, kidney stones, once considered a disorder of middle age, are now showing up in children as young as 5 or 6. While there are no reliable data on the number of cases, pediatric urologists and nephrologists across the country say they are seeing a steep rise in young patients. Some hospitals have opened pediatric kidney stone clinics.

Dr. John C. Pope IV, an associate professor of urologic surgery and pediatrics at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, said, “When we tell parents, most say they’ve never heard of a kid with a kidney stone and think something is terribly wrong with their child.”

In China recently, many children who drank milk tainted with melamine — a toxic chemical illegally added to watered-down milk to inflate the protein count — developed kidney stones. The increase in the United States is attributed to a host of factors, including a food additive that is both legal and ubiquitous: salt.

Though most of the research on kidney stones comes from adult studies, experts believe it can be applied to children. Those studies have found that dietary factors are the leading cause of kidney stones, which are crystallizations of several substances in the urine. Stones form when these substances become too concentrated.

Drinking Lots of Water Is Good for Your Skin

By now, the old saw about drinking eight glasses of water a day has been thoroughly debunked. But a similar adage about excess water and healthy skin persists. Where or how the claim originated is not well known, but there is no evidence that drinking anything more than recommended amounts of water is particularly beneficial to skin.

A 2007 study on the effects of water consumption did show that drinking 500 milliliters of water, about two cups, increased blood flow to the skin. A good sign, but there was no evidence that that reduced wrinkles or improved complexion. Other studies have hinted that vitamin C might prevent wrinkles, or that estrogen use in postmenopausal women might reduce dry skin and slow skin aging. But the evidence for each is limited, and estrogen therapy can have bad side effects.

Dr. Margaret E. Parsons, a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Dermatology, said excess water did not help the skin but “if dehydrated, fine wrinkles certainly seem to show up a bit more.”

“Staying appropriately hydrated is good for our general health,” she said, “and if we are eating and drinking what we should, our bodies are healthier and therefore our skin as well.”

Her advice? Always wear sunscreen, avoid cigarettes and eat well.


Vanderbilt University, American Academy of Dermatology, University of Texas, AP, Wall Street Journal

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