AmeriScan: July 2, 2007

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Non-toxic Chemical Injections Can Add and Remove Fat

WASHINGTON, DC, July 2, 2007 (ENS) - Scientists reported Sunday that they can use non-toxic chemical injections of substances found normally in the human body to add and remove fat in targeted areas on the bodies of laboratory animals.

Investigators at Georgetown University Medical Center say the discovery, published online in the journal "Nature Medicine" on Sunday, could "revolutionize" human cosmetic surgery and treatment of diseases associated with human obesity.

"This is the first well-described mechanism found that can effectively eliminate fat without using surgery," said co-author Stephen Baker, MD, DDS, associate professor of plastic surgery at Georgetown University Hospital. "A safe, effective, non-surgical means to eliminate undesirable body fat would be of great benefit to our patients."

Cautioning that the safety and effectiveness of this discovery has yet to be proven in humans, the scientists say these findings may also, over the long-term, lead to better control of metabolic syndrome, which is a collection of risk factors that increase a patient's chances of developing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

In the paper, the Georgetown researchers describe a mechanism they found by which stress activates weight gain in mice. They say this pathway - which they were able to manipulate - may explain why people who are chronically stressed gain more weight than they should based on the calories they consume.

This pathway involves two players - a neurotransmitter known as neuropeptide Y, NPY, and the receptor, Y2R, it activates in the fat tissue: endothelial cells lining blood vessels and fat cells themselves.

In order to add fat selectively to the mice they tested, researchers injected NPY into a specific area. They found that both players are activated during stress and lead to obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Administration of Y2R blocker into the abdominal fat prevented both conditions. Blocking Y2R resulted in local elimination of fatty tissue.

"We couldn't believe such fat remodeling was possible," said the study's senior author, Zofia Zukowska, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at Georgetown.

"We are hopeful that these findings might eventually lead to control of metabolic syndrome, which is a huge health issue for many Americans," she said.

Perhaps the most rapid clinical application of these results will be in both cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery, said Baker. The ability to add fat as a graft would be useful for facial rejuvenation, breast surgery, buttock and lip enhancement, and facial reconstruction, he said.

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Infection Tracking Network Opens to All U.S. Hospitals

ATLANTA, Georgia, July 2, 2007 (ENS) - A new Web-based reporting network that lets health care facilities track infections associated with health care is now available to all facilities in the United States. The tool can help track drug resistent staph or flu infections that may be present in hospitals and other health care facilities.

The National Healthcare Safety Network, NHSN, provides multiple options for data analysis and flexibility for sharing information both within and outside a facility. The general public can be included in the data sharing if the facility so chooses.

Developed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, enrollment was opened to a limited number of facilities in 2005. A national open enrollment for hospitals and outpatient hemodialysis centers was opened in late June.

"Opening this system to all hospitals is a milestone for health protection," said Dr. Denise Cardo, director of CDC's Division of Health Care and Quality Promotion.

"Information is power, and the information tools that NHSN provides help health care facilities prevent health care-associated infections, including methicillin resistant staph infections," Cardo said.

To date, NHSN has more than 600 participants and is utilized in 45 states. CDC is already partnering with dozens of health care facilities, including Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals, to use NHSN as a tool to track the prevention of a common infection caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

Opening the NHSN to all facilities nationwide will allow even more facilities to focus on preventing this potentially deadly infection. There is no charge for participation in the network.

NHSN recently has been improved to meet the needs of states with mandatory public reporting of health care-associated infections. Public reporting of these infections is determined on a state by state basis by legislatures.

California, Colorado, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia have designated NHSN as part of their mechanism to implement legislation requiring hospitals to report healthcare-associated infections.

The system builds upon CDC's National Nosocomial Infection Surveillance, NNIS, system which, for more than 30 years, was the gold standard system for tracking health care-associated infections.

"We expect nearly 1,000 facilities will take advantage, in coming months, of NHSN's many capabilities," said Dr. Cardo. "The information collected from this system is essential to develop and maintain effective prevention programs at the local level. This information allows a hospital to track their progress and direct efforts toward patient safety improvement."

For more information on NHSN, go to http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dhqp/nhsn.html.

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Global Warming Blamed for Early California Fires

SACRAMENTO, California, July 2, 2007 (ENS) - As the 4th of July approaches, many people will be enjoying the outdoors and firefighters are bracing for more wildfires. Hot and dry conditions throughout the West continue to challenge suppression efforts on several large fires in the West.

The White Fire in eastern Kern County, California 20 miles northwest of Rosamond burned 12,400 acres last week, but is now 95 percent contained. People were evacuated to safety. The blaze was caused by human activity, fire officials said.

Visiting the site on Friday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger praised the hundreds of firefighters who worked 24 hours straight at 8,000 foot elevation in steep canyons to quell the White Fire.

"This is the driest fire season in a long time, and so we have to be very careful," said the governor. "This is just the beginning. This is the first time that California has seen fires that early in the year, because normally they start in late summer or fall."

"But I think that, you know, global warming has something to do with that, the higher temperatures, the lack of rain, the disappearing of the snowpacks, the lowering of the snowpacks, early runoffs, and all of those kinds of things. So we just have to be very, very careful," Schwarzenegger said.

Also in California, the Angora Fire that destroyed more than 220 homes two miles southwest of South Lake Tahoe last week is now 95 percent contained after burning through 3,100 acres. This fire was started by a campfire, officials said.

Other large fires of concern include the Neola North Fire on Indian land three miles north of Neola, Utah. The fire has claimed three lives, about 300 people have been forced to evacuate their homes and structures are currently threatened.

The Neola North fire started Friday morning - it has burned 30,499 acres and is just five percent contained. The cause has not yet been determined.

The Dry Creek Fire 30 miles west of Grangeville, Idaho, has charred 1,500 acres and is only 20 percent contained. Structures are threatened and fire officials are reporting extreme fire behavior.

"When you work and play in our precious forests and rangelands, it's critical for you to be FIRESAFE," warns the National Fire Information Center, NIFC, in Boise, Idaho.

Equipment and vehicles like chain saws, motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles must have spark arresters, the NIFC advises.

"Modern exhaust systems can easily ignite vegetation, so drive and park in designated areas, and avoid dry brush and grass. Make sure your campfires are dead out by using dirt and water and stirring the coals. And remember that fireworks have no place on public lands," warns the NIFC.

Very hot and dry weather is on tap this week across the West, with record heat in some areas. Gusty winds are expected in some of the southern California mountains the next few days, as well as over parts of Montana. Thunderstorms and lightning are expected to increase in Arizona and western New Mexico starting around Wednesday, with the threat of thunderstorms for northern California starting around Thursday.

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Oahu's North Shore Coastal Bluff Protected

HONOLULU, Hawaii, July 2, 2007 (ENS) The Trust for Public Land and the North Shore Community Land Trust have acquired for permanent protection the 1,129 acre Pupukea-Paumalu coastal bluff, located along Oahu's North Shore, beloved by surfers from around the world.

The City of Honolulu and the State of Hawaii will each own separate parcels for natural resource protection and public benefit.

This acquisition comes after two decades of growing community support to protect the land. In the 1990's, Japan-based Obayashi Corporation secured the rights to develop a residential subdivision on the property. Community residents raised concerns regarding Obayashi's project, and the proposed development was placed on hold. Unfavorable economic timing and corporate restructuring led Obayashi to place the property on the market in 2002, creating an opportunity for an unique public-private partnership.

Knowing the property was for sale, the two land trusts negotiated with the landowner for the purchase of the property. Through the Surfrider Foundation Japan, a meeting was arranged between representatives of Obayashi and musician Jack Johnson who represented the North Shore Community Land Trust at the meeting in Japan.

Johnson encouraged Obayashi to consider TPL's purchase offer.

In 2006, the Trust for Public Land and Obayashi signed a $7.95 million purchase agreement, even though other potential buyers were interested in the property.

An unprecedented partnership between the two land trusts, the U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii, the governor, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, the State Legislature, the mayor, the City Council, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, and Hawaii's federal Congressional delegation formed to raise the funds.

The purchase price was assembled from the following local, state, and federal sources:

The city and the state each put in a million dollars, NOAA contributed nearly two million, the Army kicked in $3.344 million, and the North Shore Community Land Trust raised $626,600 to buy the property for $7.95 million.

Al Itamoto, executive vice president of Obayashi Hawaii, said, "The North Shore community has shown true commitment in protecting this land. We respect and appreciate the hard work of Trust for Public Land and North Shore Community Land Trust in making this sale happen for the public benefit."

"We are deeply grateful to Obayashi, TPL, our government officials, and the innumerable Pupukea Paumalu community supporters," said North Shore Community Land Trust President Blake McElheny. "Community dreams can be achieved when we bring people together around shared values for the benefit of the public."

"This sweeping landscape is known throughout the islands and the world, and the Army is honored to take part in protecting it and other local treasures, like Waimea and Moanalua Valleys," said Colonel Howard Killian, commander, U.S. Army Pupukea-Paumalu, U.S. Army Garrison, Hawaii. "The past has taught us too well that we need to be conscious of our deeds; change, growth and consequence are inevitable. We can shape a sustainable tomorrow, but only if we take action today, and that is what the Army is prepared to do."

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Detergent Maker Fined $3.8 Million for Clean Water Crimes

ATLANTA, Georgia, July 2, 2007 (ENS) - An Atlanta chemical blending facility that makes detergent and cleaning products has pleaded guilty to a knowing violation of the Clean Water Act. U.S. District Judge Marvin Shoob Friday imposed a fine of $3.8 million and three years probation.

The allegations arise out of wastewater discharges from Acuity Specialty Products, Inc. Within the facility are different plants, each of which produces a different type of detergent or cleaning product, including industrial and domestic liquids, aerosols, powders and acids.

In its plea Friday, Acuity admitted that from at least September 1998 until November 2002, while inspectors from the City of Atlanta Watershed Department were at the Acuity facility conducting sampling, Acuity employees altered the wastewater flow to render the sampling inaccurate, with the intention of misleading the City of Atlanta.

As a result of the investigation, Daniel Schaffer, Acuity's former director of environmental compliance, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act, in February 2006. He is awaiting sentencing.

Acuity admitted in its plea that this improper practice had been in place before 1998, when it had first hired Schaffer. Acuity admitted that on numerous occasions, it had failed to report accurate wastewater flow data, phosphorus concentrations and pH results in reports that were submitted to the City of Atlanta.

Acuity also admitted that on two occasions, it had failed to report discharges to the City of Atlanta, including a 10,000 gallon phosphorus discharge in 2000, and an acid spill in March 2002.

"Employees of Acuity showed a flagrant disregard for the environmental laws of the United States," said Acting U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.

"Today's sentence is the harshest sentence ever imposed on a company in the Northern District of Georgia for a violation of environmental laws," said Yates. "This sentence signals to the business community that it must comply with laws that protect our environment and that a failure to do so will result in prosecution and severe penalties."

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Insecticide Could Wipe Out Checkerspot Butterfly

SANTA FE, New Mexico, July 2, 2007 (ENS) - Forest Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity today requested that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant emergency federal protection to the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly. Ongoing insecticide spraying in the village of Cloudcroft, New Mexico, and proposed spraying on adjacent Lincoln National Forest land prompted the request.

The butterfly is found on less than 2,000 acres, centered around Cloudcroft. Insecticides being sprayed target budworms and looper caterpillars, but they can also kill checkerspots.

"Current insect control in Cloudcroft poses an acute risk to the imperiled checkerspot butterfly," said Nicole Rosmarino of Forest Guardians. "Emergency protection for this rare butterfly is needed to keep it from vanishing forever."

The Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly is found only in areas within six miles of the village of Cloudcroft, and the village appears in the checkerspot's scientific name: Euphydryas anicia cloudcrofti.

The Center for Biological Diversity formally petitioned the Service to protect the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly under the Endangered Species Act in January 1999. As a result of the petition and subsequent legal action, the butterfly was on track for federal protection in September 2001, when the Service issued a proposed rule to list the checkerspot as endangered and proposed to designate all of its habitat as critical habitat.

The Service withdrew the listing proposal in December 2004 claiming that threats to the butterfly had been reduced.

The groups filing the butterfly petition point out that if the listing had been finalized, the butterfly would not face the current emergency.

"The Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly is a unique and irreplaceable icon of the Sacramento Mountains," said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. "The Bush administration's denial of protection for this little critter in its tiny home range must be reversed before it's too late."

The petition also concerns impacts to the checkerspot from climate change. Across the globe, butterflies are known to be at high risk from climate change.

The checkerspot butterfly is at risk from extreme weather and other climate change effects because of its limited range and its close relationship with a narrowly distributed plant, the New Mexico penstemon.

This penstemon is the butterfly's primary host plant and the only plant known to provide butterfly egg-laying sites. The plant is restricted to the Sacramento Mountains, and the groups warn that a slight shift in the plant's distribution or productivity could further imperil the checkerspot. <

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EPA Power Profiler Calculates Greenhouse Gas Emissions

WASHINGTON, DC, July 2, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has added greenhouse gas emissions data to its online calculator that shows householders how much air pollution results from individual electricity use, the fuels used to produce that electricity and ways to reduce the impact.

"EPA's Power Profiler makes it easy to research the air emissions that come from using electricity at home," said Bob Meyers, acting assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation. "All you need is a ZIP code and you're on your way to understanding your environmental impact. "

EPA has updated the Web-based Power Profiler with recently released data on emissions and fuels. In addition to learning the emissions from their individual electricity use, users can see how they compare with national averages.

The air emissions used in the calculator are the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, CO2, and the acid rain and smog forming chemicals sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

Power Profiler displays the fuel mix in percent coal, oil, gas, nuclear, hydro-electric, and other renewable sources such as biomass, wind, solar, geothermal, and landfill gas.

With information from the calculator on their monthly electricity use, consumers can assess their annual emissions.

The site also guides users to other Web-based information showing how to reduce emissions from a home or business through greater energy efficiency and use of renewable energy.

Power Profiler uses information from EPA's Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database, eGRID, a comprehensive source of data on the environmental characteristics of nearly all electric power generated in the United States.

For more about the Power Profiler, click here.

More about eGRID is online at: epa.gov/cleanenergy/egrid

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.