Saturday, March 20, 2010

360 Weekend News Briefs

Obama To Iran: We Want A Brighter Future For You

President Barack Obama told Iranians in an online video message that the U.S. wants more educational and cultural exchanges, and lamented that Tehran's leaders have "turned their backs" on good faith overtures in the past to expand opportunities for their people.

State radio in Iran quickly accused the Americans of "pursuing the same Iranophobic policy" as always.

In the second such video of his presidency directed at Iran, Obama said the U.S. offer of diplomatic dialogue still stands, but that the Iranian government has chosen isolation. He said the U.S. believes in the dignity of every human being.

The White House released the video late Friday, timing it, as it did last year, to coincide with Nowruz, a 12-day holiday celebrating the arrival of spring and the beginning of the new year on the Persian calendar. The video comes as the United States has hit a rough patch in its relationships in the region, particularly with Israel.

Obama To Congress: Act Soon On Financial Reform

The U.S. needs major changes to its financial system so consumers are better protected, banks fortified and the economy safeguarded from sliding into another Depression, President Barack Obama said Saturday.

In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama told Congress to act quickly and pass "commonsense rules that will our allow markets to function fairly and freely while reining in the worst practices of the financial industry."

House Dems Confident In Overcoming Abortion Rift

Obama and Company have set their sights on rallying House Democrats on today for a final health care push as party leaders appeared confident they had overcome a flare-up within their ranks over abortion funding restrictions in the legislation.

Building on Democrats' momentum, the House Rules Committee worked to set the terms for floor debate and a final vote Sunday on Obama's top priority and the defining issue of his first year in office. The battle tilted in Obama's direction as more Democrats disclosed how they would vote.

Bernanke: Keep Fed As Small Banks Watchdog

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made a fresh pitch Saturday to retain oversight of small banks, contending that what the Fed learns from that role helps it assess the overall health of the entire U.S. financial system.

Bernanke, in a speech to the Independent Community Bankers of America's meeting in Orlando, Fla., argued against a Senate proposal that would scale back the Fed's banking duties.

Close connections with community banks give the Fed a better understanding of the nation's financial risks, including problems in commercial real-estate and small-business lending, according to Bernanke's prepared remarks.

UPDATE: Teen Charged In Walmart Racial Comment Case

A 16-year-old boy visiting a Walmart store in southern New Jersey took over the public-address system and ordered black people to leave, angering customers and prompting company leaders to apologize, police said today.

Police said the boy, whose name is not being released because he is a juvenile, went on the intercom at Walmart's Washington Township store last Sunday evening and calmly announced: "Attention, Walmart customers: All black people, leave the store now."

The teen was arrested Friday on charges of harassment and bias intimidation. Authorities said he was released to the custody of his parents; they did not know whether he had a lawyer.

Authorities would not say whether the announcement was planned or made impulsively. Police said they were also investigating a teenage boy who accompanied the suspect to the store, but had not charged the other boy.

Although a manager quickly went on the intercom system and apologized for the remark, many customers expressed their anger to store management.

Officials for Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said the announcement was "unacceptable." Spokesman David Tovar said the company planned to release a statement later Saturday, after the news conference.

The company said it has already updated the store's intercom system to prevent a similar incident from happening again.

Study: Lesser-Known Bug A Bigger Hospital Threat

As one superbug seems to be fading as a threat in hospitals, another is on the rise, a new study suggests.

A dangerous, drug-resistant staph infection called MRSA is often seen as the biggest germ threat to patients in hospitals and other health care facilities. But infections from Clostridium difficile - known as C-diff -- are surpassing MRSA infections, the study of 28 hospitals in the Southeast found.

MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, are bacteria that can't be treated with common antibiotics. They are often harmless as they ride on the skin, but become deadly once they get in the bloodstream. They enter through wounds, intravenous lines and other paths.

C-diff, also resistant to some antibiotics, is found in the colon and can cause diarrhea and a more serious intestinal condition known as colitis. It is spread by spores in feces. The spores are difficult to kill with most conventional household cleaners or alcohol-based hand sanitizers, so some of the disinfection measures against MRSA don't work on C-diff.

Deaths from C-diff traditionally have been rare, but a more dangerous form has emerged in the last ten years. Still, MRSA is generally considered a more lethal threat, causing an estimated 18,000 U.S. deaths annually.

The new study looked at infection rates from community hospitals in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia in 2008 and 2009. It found the rate of hospital-acquired C-diff infections was 25 percent higher than MRSA infections.

Here are the numbers: The hospitals counted 847 infections of hospital-acquired C-diff, and 680 cases of MRSA. It has also been reported that C-diff was increasing at the hospitals since 2007, while MRSA has been declining since 2005.

Last year, a government report noted a decline in MRSA infections in a study of 600 hospital intensive-care units. MRSA bloodstream infections connected with intravenous tubes fell almost 50 percent from 1997 to 2007, according to data reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

C-diff has seemed to be increasing in recent years, but the trend is not uniform - some hospitals report falling rates. The prevalence of different infections can vary in different parts of the country, said Dr. L. Clifford McDonald, a CDC expert who was not part of the Duke study.

BBC; Wall Street Journal; AP; Reuters; CDC.

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