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Four times as many children prescribed antidepressants

Press Association, Guardian
The number of prescriptions for antidepressants and other mind-altering drugs given to children under 16 has more than quadrupled in the last decade, according to official figures released today.

There were more than 631,000 such prescriptions recorded in the last financial year, according to government figures, compared to 146,000 in 1996-97.

The prescriptions, for drugs including antidepressants and treatments for mental health problems as well as for conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder were dispensed outside hospitals in England. Figures from 2000 include prescriptions made out by dispensing GPs.

The new figures are revealed amid growing concern about rising levels of childhood depression and pressures faced by young people.
(23 July 2007)

Obesity Spreads In Social Circles As Trends Do, Study Indicates

Rob Stein, Washington Post
Obesity appears to spread from one person to another like a virus or a fad, researchers reported yesterday in a first-of-its-kind study that helps explain — and could help fight — one of the nation’s biggest public health problems.

The study, involving more than 12,000 people tracked over 32 years, found that social networks play a surprisingly powerful role in determining an individual’s chances of gaining weight, transmitting an increased risk of becoming obese from wives to husbands, from brothers to brothers and from friends to friends.

The researchers found that when one spouse became obese, the other was 37 percent more likely to do so in the next two to four years, compared with other couples. If a man became obese, his brother’s risk rose by 40 percent.

The risk climbed even more sharply among friends — between 57 and 171 percent, depending on whether they considered each other mutual friends. Moreover, friends affected friends’ risk even when they lived far apart, and the influence cascaded through three degrees of separation before petering out, the researchers found.

“It’s almost a cliche to speak of the obesity epidemic as being an epidemic. But we wanted to see if it really did spread from person to person like a fashion or a germ,” said Nicholas A. Christakis of Harvard Medical School, who led the study, being published tomorrow in the New England Journal of Medicine. “And the answer is, ‘Yes, it does.’
(26 July 2007)

Pollution-cholesterol link to heart disease seen

Marla Cone, Los Angeles Times
The combination activates genes that can cause clogged arteries, UCLA researchers say.

Strengthening the link between air pollution and cardiovascular disease, new research suggests that people with high cholesterol are especially vulnerable to heart disease when they are exposed to diesel exhaust and other ultra-fine particles that are common pollutants in urban air.

Microscopic particles in diesel exhaust combine with cholesterol to activate genes that trigger hardening of the arteries, according to a study by UCLA scientists to be published today.

“Their combination creates a dangerous synergy that wreaks cardiovascular havoc far beyond what’s caused by the diesel or cholesterol alone,” said Dr. André Nel, chief of nanomedicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a researcher at UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute. He led a team of 10 scientists who conducted the study, published in an online version of the journal Genome Biology.

Although diet, smoking and other factors contribute to the risk of cardiovascular disease – the leading cause of death in the Western world – scientists have long believed that air pollution, particularly tiny pieces of soot from trucks and factories, plays a major role, too.
(26 July 2007)

Electricity shortage threatens Macau gambling industry

Online Casino Extra
Macau’s gambling industry is growing so fast it has placed a serious burden on the city’s electricity grid.

It has been reported that the city’s infrastructure is struggling to cope with the glitz and glamour of the may new casinos that have sprung up there in recent times.

The first five months of the year saw a 17.6 percent hike in electricity consumption and Macau is now relying on Southern China for half its electricity. And the construction of an extra supply cable between Macau and China began last month. This should increase power supplies there by 60 percent and alleviate the current problems in the short term at least.

The increased pressure on power supplies has resulted in several power cuts in recent months.

While the booming industry may be enduring some teething problems, on the whole the gambling industry is providing a major boost to the economy.

The former Portuguese enclave has experienced massive boom in gaming revenues with a hike of 46.1 percent year-on-year for the first half of 2007.
(26 July 2007)

Globalisation backlash in rich nations

Chris Giles, Financial Times
A popular backlash against globalisation and the leaders of the world’s largest companies is sweeping all rich countries, an FT/Harris poll shows.

Large majorities of people in the US and in Europe want higher taxation for the rich and even pay caps for corporate executives to counter what they believe are unjustified rewards and the negative effects of globalisation.

Viewing globalisation as an overwhelmingly negative force, citizens of rich countries are looking to governments to cushion the blows they perceive have come from the liberalisation of their economies to trade with emerging countries
(22 July 2007)
Also at Common Dreams.

UPDATE. Reader GY writes:
An interesting survey, but it doesn’t take a statistician to know why people are fed-up. I work at a major U.S. corporation. Looking at the company’s own quarterly report, if the net profit the firm earned in the last three months where divided equally amongst all the employees, they would each have a $46,000 bonus. I happen to know this is more than many of it’s employees make in a year. Naturally, this will never happen because the stockholders are more important to publicly traded firms than their own employees. So when companies are this blatantly callus toward the hard working employees that make this kind of profit possible, what would you expect?