Sunday, 30 May 2010

Asian shares mixed after Spain rating downgrade

Asian stock markets were mostly higher Monday as investors shrugged off more sobering news about Europe's shaky finances amid new signs Asia's economies are continuing to recover.

Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange Thursday, May 27, 2010, in New York.

Oil, meanwhile, rose above $74 a barrel, and the dollar gained against the yen and weakened against the euro.

On Friday, the Dow Jones industrials shed 1.2 percent to 10,136.63 after Fitch Ratings gave Spain the second downgrade of its credit rating in a month. The rating agency's action gave investors another reminder of the long-term economic problems still facing debt-laden European countries.

The news, however, did not come as a shock to investors in Asia, where expectations of a downgrade of Spain had been circulating for some time. Markets in Asia were mixed in early trade and then mostly headed higher.

"Asians were prepared for the downgrade for Spain," said Francis Lun, general manager of Fulbright Securities Ltd. in Hong Kong. "So Asian markets are quite stable today. Even Bangkok is up."

Jackson Wong, investment manager at Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong, also said he viewed Asia as stabilizing, despite some investor nervousness.

"The momentum is still on the positive side," Wong said.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average was up 45.13 points, or 0.5 percent, to 9,806.24 amid news that industrial production in the world's No. 2 economy rose for a second straight month in April, propelled by robust growth in China and the rest of Asia.

South Korea's Kospi rose 0.8 percent to 1,635.66 and Taiwan's benchmark added 0.7 percent to 7,349.65.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.3 percent to 4,447.9 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was little changed at 19,763.98.

In Seoul, Ssangyong Motor Co. surged more than 14 percent after several companies, including India's Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., expressed interest in buying the troubled SUV maker.

Still, concerns about a possible slowdown in global demand hit big commodity names. Japanese trading house Mitsubishi Corp. lost 0.6 percent and Australian miner BHP Billiton Ltd. fell 1.2 percent.

Japanese exporters gained as the yen weakened. Canon Inc . rose 1.2 percent, and Nissan Motor Co. advanced 1.1 percent.

The S&P 500 index fell 1.2 percent in New York on Friday, while the Nasdaq composite index dropped 0.9 percent.

Charles Plosser, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, said Monday that the outlook for the United States was still good and that he does not expect a double dip recession.

"Our growth prospects remain positive," he told reporters in Seoul, where he was participating in a conference sponsored by South Korea's central bank. "But obviously, the financial turmoil in Europe raises some clouds on the horizon that we have to be cautious about."

U.S. financial markets will be closed Monday for Memorial Day.

In currencies, the dollar rose to 91.54 yen from 91.02 yen late Friday. The euro rose to $1.2318 from $1.2272, a bump upward that may stem from the overselling of euros last week.

Crude oil for July delivery was up 55 cents at $74.52 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

(ABC news money)

Central America storm, At least 86 dead

Agatha, the first named storm of the 2010 Pacific hurricane season, slammed into the Guatemalan coast near the border with Mexico on Saturday.

At least 74 people were confirmed dead in Guatemala and the authorities were investigating 20 other reports of fatalities, emergency services spokesman David de Leon said.

More than 74,000 people have fled their homes.

At least 14 people were believed dead in the town of San Antonio Palopo, 90 miles southeast of the capital, Guatemala City, after a huge mudslide engulfed an entire neighborhood.

"There was a mudslide that wiped out homes, trees and everything in its path," said a man who gave his name on local radio as Luis.

"We have found 14 bodies and we think there are another eight to 10 beneath the mud."

Rescue workers scrambled to restore communications to towns and villages cut off by landslides where other victims were feared.

The intense rainfall has sparked concern over the condition of the coffee crop in Guatemala, the region's biggest producer, as well as in El Salvador, where the rains fell heaviest in the principal coffee-growing region.

The storm dissipated overnight as it crossed the western mountains of Guatemala but emergency workers warned residents to expect heavy rain for several more days.

Swollen rivers burst their banks and mudslides buried homes in towns and cities alike. A highway bridge near Guatemala City was swept away by the floodwaters and sinkholes opened up in the capital where many neighborhoods remained without electricity.

More than 3 feet (1 meter) of rain fell in parts of Guatemala, said President Alvaro Colom.

"Many places are cut off but it appears the weather will improve a bit today and we will be able to airlift supplies to those places. The road network is badly damaged," Colom said at a news conference.

Nine people were killed in neighboring El Salvador and more than 8,000 were in shelters, President Mauricio Funes said.

Three people were reported killed in Honduras, including a woman electrocuted as she was being evacuated from her flooded home. Officials warned of possible mudslides from saturated hills.


Central America is vulnerable to heavy rains due to mountainous terrain and poor communications in rural areas. Last November's Hurricane Ida caused flooding and mudslides that killed at least 150 people as it moved past the region.

Guatemalan officials warned the flooding from the storm could be worsened by ash spewing out of the Pacaya volcano that has blocked drainage systems.

The volcano, which erupted on Thursday, had already closed the country's main international airport and aviation officials do not expect to finish cleaning ash and debris off the tarmac until at least Tuesday.

The volcano remained active on Sunday but the intensity of the eruption appeared to be diminishing, civil defense officials said.

Pacaya has been active since the 1960s but had not ejected rocks and ash since 1998.

The volcano, 25 miles south of Guatemala City, is close to some of Guatemala's most prized coffee plantations.

Coffee farms around the volcano reported some damage to plants but other areas were still out of contact, a spokeswoman for Anacafe, the national coffee association said.

"There is some defoliation and some of the beans have been damaged, but right now we are still working to determine the effect on the crop," Anacafe's Nancy Mendez told Reuters.

El Salvador's national coffee associations said poor communications had so far left it unable to determine the extent of any damage to crops.


Saturday, 29 May 2010

Local crews begin Gulf Coast cleanup

Local crews begin Gulf Coast cleanup

Clinton-Blair years focus of HBO's 'Relationship'

LOS ANGELES – Dennis Quaid and Hope Davis, starring as Bill and Hillary Clinton in a new HBO film, have a civilized difference of opinion about a Monica Lewinsky-driven quarrel that was edited out.

Quaid thinks the clash should have remained in "The Special Relationship," which focuses on Bill Clinton and then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Davis is relieved it was cut from the movie that debuts this weekend (including 9 p.m. EDT Saturday and 6:15 p.m. EDT Sunday).

"We shot a really good scene but I'm happy it was left out," said Davis ("American Splendor," "In Treatment"), who uses a wig, pantsuits and accent to convincingly evoke Hillary Clinton.

In a preview copy of the film, Bill Clinton is shown confessing to his wife that he lied about his dalliance with White House intern Lewinsky. Davis' Hillary listens stoically, and the scene ends without the ensuing row that was filmed.

"It put them in such a vulnerable place. I don't want to see them, I don't want to see her, in that position," Davis said. "We know all we need to know. We know how it wrecked his presidency and how hard it was for them to get through."

Ultimately, she said, she thinks the filmmakers and HBO wanted to be sure the film stood up to scrutiny and avoided allegations of inaccuracy or treating the Clintons disrespectfully.

HBO said the shots that were trimmed wasn't germane to the movie that is primarily about Bill Clinton and Blair.

Quaid, who once spent a weekend at the Clinton White House and golfed with the president, believes the confrontation was fair game and of dramatic value.

"I think it captured the spirit of the relationship and that's the most important thing," he said. "People are fascinated by (screenwriter) Peter Morgan's work because we get to be a fly on the wall behind closed doors."

Quaid almost said no to the project because "I didn't want to do an homage and I didn't want to do an indictment of the guy."

"It was really the writing ... that convinced me to do it," said Quaid, who dons makeup and hits Clinton's raspy Southern drawl dead-on. But he was careful, the actor said, to avoid mimicking him a la the well-known "Saturday Night Live" impersonation.

Morgan is in familiar territory when it comes to Blair: He wrote the Oscar-nominated script for "The Queen," about Blair and Queen Elizabeth (Helen Mirren, who won an Oscar for the role), and wrote "The Deal," about Blair and fellow Labour Party rival Gordon Brown, who recently resigned as prime minister.

Michael Sheen takes his third turn as the famously charming politician, with Helen McCrory as his wife, Cherie Blair, whom she played in "The Queen." Richard Loncraine is the director.

The title of the film, which will be released theatrically outside the United States, refers to Winston Churchill's characterization of the cultural and historical U.S.-Britain ties as a "special relationship."

The drama focuses on political-spectrum soulmates Clinton and Blair in the mid- to late-1990s and how the Lewinsky scandal and the Kosovo crisis divided them. It ends with news footage of Blair striking up a new partnership with incoming President George W. Bush.

Blair's subsequent support of America's Iraq policy eroded his support at home, where some labeled him "Bush's poodle" for backing the war that was unpopular in Britain.

Sheen said he was able to approach the man anew because the film looks at the Blair and his career "from a completely different point of view."

Would he be willing to tackle a film about Blair during the Bush years? No, Sheen said, because "Special Relationship" well explores Blair's desire to influence U.S. foreign policy and his stalwart confidence in himself and knowing "the right thing to do."

"All you're going to see is a downward curve," Sheen said. "All the choices have already been made. It's like the note has been struck and all you're going to hear is the note echoing."
(source yahoo news)

Obama visits Gulf Coast

BP PLC, even less popular here, kept up its efforts to "just fix it," using its "top kill" procedure to try to stop the deep oil well leak by pumping in heavy mud. If it doesn't work, something BP says will be known within a couple of days, Obama's own problems will only compound.

He said he understands people "want it made right" and that their frustration won't fade until the oil is stopped and cleaned up.

"It's an assault on our shores, on our people, on the regional economy and on communities like this one," the president said from this small barrier island town threatened by what is now established as the largest oil spill in American history. "People are watching their livelihoods wash up on the beach."

A BP drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and beginning to send millions of gallons of oil spewing into the water. That oil is now beginning to foul beaches, kill wildlife and cripple the tourism and fishing industries on which this area depends. With the crude still flowing freely, criticism has been increasingly aimed at Obama and his administration.

Amid concern that the environmental and economic disaster could also engulf his presidency, Obama has stepped up his public appearances this week to demonstrate that he is engaged. He held a rare White House news conference on Thursday, focusing almost entirely on the spill. And Friday, he flew to the coast for an inspection tour and meetings that lasted about four hours — his second visit in the 39 days of the crisis.

He noted that all may not go well in such a massive, unprecedented undertaking. Mistakes are possible, Obama said. But a lack of urgency about plugging the leak and restoring the region is not, the president declared.

"There are not going to be silver bullets or a lot of perfect answers for some of the challenges that we face," he said in front of an incongruously pristine backdrop of sparkling blue water with dolphins, fish and seabirds frequently spotted. "But we're going to keep at this every day."

Obama made an unqualified promise to coast residents reminiscent of previous presidents speaking after disasters — such as George W. Bush after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"I'm here to tell you that you are not alone, you will not be abandoned, you will not be left behind," Obama said. "The media may get tired of the story, but we will not. We will be on your side and we will see this through."

With more than 20,000 people already working to contain and clean up the oil, the president announced he was tripling the manpower in places where the sticky mess has come ashore or is about to.

As for specific advice for beleaguered local residents and the concerned U.S. public, he pointed them to the White House website,, for guidance.

Obama directed those in the region who are filing claims for damages to count on the government — state and federal — to help cut any red tape. He was joined by the governors of Louisiana, Florida and Alabama.

To the public at large, he pleaded for volunteers to join the cleanup and for tourists to flock to the majority of the region's coastline that is untouched.

His first stop of the day was Fourchon Beach, where absorbent boom and sandbags have been laid for miles to try to keep more oil from darkening the beach. A shirt-sleeved Obama walked to the water's edge, kneeling in the sand as Adm. Thad Allen of the Coast Guard explained what he was seeing.

Obama called over reporters traveling with him and picked up a few of the pebble-sized tar balls. "Obviously the concern is that, until we actually stop the flow, we've got problems," the president said.

He then was off to nearby Grand Isle for his statement and a formal briefing from Allen, who is overseeing the spill response for the federal government. One woman along his route held up a sign saying, "Clean Up the Gulf."

Asked as he was walking off if he was confident in the latest fix attempt, the president demurred. "All I can say is we've got the best minds working on it, and we're going to keep on at it."

"I like the man, but I personally feel he's only here to please everybody," said local resident Virginia Smith.

Ward was in the midst of building a gated fishing community here when the oil rig exploded. "We don't know if it's going to be six months or six years before we get back to normal, if ever," he said.

Early in the morning in advance of the president's arrival, hundreds of workers clad in white jumpsuits and rubber gloves hit the beaches to dig oily debris from the sand and haul it off. Workers refused to say who hired them, telling a reporter they were told to keep quiet or lose their jobs.

(Source yahoo news)

BP spill clouds future of U.S. drilling

In this Wednesday, May 26, 2010 photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, the mobile offshore drilling unit Q4000 holds position directly over the damaged Deepwater Horizon blowout preventer as crews work to plug the wellhead using a technique known as "top kill." The procedure is intended to stem the flow of oil and gas and ultimately kill the well by injecting heavy drilling fluids through the blow out preventer on the seabed, down into the well. (Petty Officer 3rd Class Ann Marie Gorden / U.S. Coast Guard via AP )

Differences by Sex in Tobacco Use and Awareness of Tobacco Marketing

The majority of the world's 1.3 billion tobacco users are men, but female use is increasing (1,2). To examine differences in tobacco use and awareness of tobacco marketing by sex, CDC and health officials in Bangladesh, Thailand, and Uruguay (among the first countries to report results) analyzed 2009 data from a newly instituted survey, the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS). This report summarizes the results of that analysis, which indicated wide variation among the three countries in tobacco use, product types used, and marketing awareness among males and females. In Bangladesh and Thailand, use of smoked tobacco products was far greater among males (44.7% and 45.6%, respectively) than females (1.5% and 3.1%, respectively). In Uruguay, the difference was smaller (30.7% versus 19.8%). Use of smokeless tobacco products in Bangladesh was approximately the same among males (26.4%) and females (27.9%), but females were significantly more likely to use smokeless tobacco in Thailand (6.3% versus 1.3%), and use in Uruguay by either sex was nearly nonexistent. Males in Bangladesh were twice as likely as females to notice cigarette advertising (68.0% versus 29.3%), but the difference between males and females was smaller in Thailand (17.4% versus 14.5%) and Uruguay (49.0% versus 40.0%). In all three countries, awareness of tobacco marketing was more prevalent among females aged 15--24 years than older women. Comprehensive bans on advertising, sponsorship, and promotion of tobacco products, recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) (1), can reduce per capita cigarette consumption if enforced (3).

GATS* is a new nationally representative household survey of persons aged ≥15 years, initially conducted during 2008--2009 in 14 countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Russian Federation, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay and Vietnam. Bangladesh, Thailand, and Uruguay were among the first countries to report results. The GATS core questionnaire includes detailed questions regarding the demographic characteristics of respondents, their tobacco use, and a wide range of tobacco-related topics (e.g., cessation, secondhand smoke, economics, media, and knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions). In each country, a multistage cluster sample design is used, with the number of households selected proportionate to population size. Households are chosen randomly within a primary sampling unit or secondary sampling unit, and one respondent is selected at random from each selected household to participate in the survey. Interviewers administer the survey in the country's local language, using handheld electronic data collection devices. Interviews are conducted privately and same-sex interviewers are used in countries where culturally appropriate (e.g., Bangladesh). Response rates and number of participants for the three countries in 2009 were as follows: Bangladesh, 93.6% and 9,629; Thailand, 94.2% and 20,566; and Uruguay, 95.6% and 5,581.

To examine differences in tobacco use by sex, estimates of current tobacco use† in the three countries were analyzed for both smoked tobacco products§ and smokeless tobacco products.¶ To examine differences in tobacco marketing awareness by sex, "yes" responses were analyzed to questions regarding whether participants had noticed advertising, promotion, or sponsorship of cigarettes in the preceding 30 days. Estimates were reported for noticing any cigarette marketing, noticing marketing in stores where cigarettes are sold, and noticing marketing other than in stores where cigarettes are sold.** In Bangladesh, similar questions regarding bidi†† and smokeless tobacco marketing were included in the survey. All estimates were weighted to reflect the noninstitutionalized population aged ≥15 years in each country, accounting for clustered sampling in the variance estimation. Statistical significance of differences in values was determined using a chi-square test, with significance determined at p<0.05.

In all three countries, current tobacco use was higher among males than females, but use of tobacco varied substantially by sex. In Bangladesh, overall smoking prevalence among females (1.5%) was far lower than males (44.7%) (Table 1). However, the prevalence of smokeless tobacco use among females (27.9%) and males (26.4%) was approximately the same. In Thailand, smoking prevalence was much lower among females, compared with males (3.1% versus 45.6%), but smokeless tobacco use was higher among females than males (6.3% versus 1.3%, respectively). In Uruguay, 19.8% of females were current smokers, compared with 30.7% of males, but only one of the 5,581 participants reported using smokeless tobacco.

Regardless of age group or region type (urban or rural), males were more likely to smoke than females in all three countries. Among both males and females, smoking prevalence varied by age group but did not vary greatly by region type. In Bangladesh and Thailand, smokeless tobacco use among both males and females increased with age group, and smokeless tobacco use was higher in rural than urban areas. In each of these countries, the greatest prevalence of smokeless tobacco use was among women aged ≥65 years: 64.1% in Bangladesh and 32.9% in Thailand.

The percentage of females who noticed any cigarette advertising, sponsorship, or promotion in the preceding 30 days was 29.3% in Bangladesh, 14.5% in Thailand, and 40.0% in Uruguay (Table 2). Among males, the prevalence was 68.0% in Bangladesh, 17.4% in Thailand, and 49.0% in Uruguay. Among females, awareness of cigarette marketing in stores where cigarettes are sold was 22.0% in Bangladesh, 7.6% in Thailand, and 24.0% in Uruguay. In Thailand and Uruguay, little or no difference in awareness of in-store cigarette marketing was observed between males and females; however, in Bangladesh, the prevalence among males (54.8%) was more than double the prevalence among females. Similar patterns by sex were observed for awareness of cigarette marketing other than in stores where cigarettes are sold. The percentage of females who noticed tobacco advertising, sponsorship, or promotion other than in stores where cigarettes are sold was 16.5% in Bangladesh, 8.3% in Thailand, and 31.6% in Uruguay.

In all three countries, awareness of cigarette advertising was greater among females aged 15--24 years than women aged ≥25 years. Similar age differences were observed among males in all three countries. In Bangladesh, awareness of bidi (80.1%) and smokeless tobacco (69.9%) marketing was widespread among females and did not vary by age. In Thailand, for both males and females, those who lived in urban areas were more likely to report exposure to cigarette marketing than those in rural areas. This relationship also was observed among males in Uruguay. In contrast, awareness of both bidi and smokeless tobacco marketing in Bangladesh was more common among males in rural areas than in urban areas (Table 2).
Reported by

S Choudhury, PhD, National Heart Foundation Hospital & Research Institute, Dhaka, Bangladesh. M Kengganpanich, PhD, Thailand Mahidol Univ; S Benjakul, PhD, Thailand Ministry of Public Health. A Lorenzo, MD, W Abascal, MD, National Tobacco Control Program, Uruguay Ministry of Health. BJ Apelberg, PhD, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. SA Mirza, L Zhao, J Hsia, KM Palipudi, L Andes, J Morton, S Asma. Global Tobacco Control Br, Office on Smoking and Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC.
Editorial Note

This report is the first to compare results among countries that participated in GATS. The findings demonstrate the wide variation in prevalence of tobacco use and types of tobacco used by males and females in Bangladesh, Thailand, and Uruguay and also the widespread exposure to tobacco marketing in these three countries, particularly among persons aged 15--24 years. Although tobacco use surveys have been conducted previously in all three countries, the results from GATS are the first that allow comparison among countries using the same core questionnaire and survey method.

One finding from these surveys is the lower prevalence of current smoking among females in Bangladesh and Thailand compared with males, but the higher prevalence of smokeless tobacco use among females. This reflects the traditional social acceptance of smokeless tobacco use among females in Southeast Asian countries (4), where older women are more likely to be users. In contrast, in Uruguay, smokeless tobacco use by either sex is virtually nonexistent. Tobacco use in individual countries reflects a complex interaction of personal, familial, cultural, and social factors, including exposure to tobacco industry marketing (5). For example, in the United States, girls and young women have been shown to be particularly susceptible to beliefs about self-image and weight control
, and might be influenced more by female friends and role models who smoke or use tobacco (5).

GATS survey results like these can be used to better understand comparative patterns of tobacco use among countries, which, in turn, can be used to create more effective control programs and monitor the impact of these programs. GATS was created to enable systematic monitoring of tobacco use by persons aged ≥15 years and key tobacco-control indicators in low- and middle-income countries. Over time, GATS will provide detailed information on a range of tobacco-control topics, including cessation, secondhand smoke, economics, media, and knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions.

The theme of WHO's World No Tobacco Day 2010 (May 31) is "gender and tobacco with an emphasis on marketing to women." Tobacco marketing is important to the initiation and maintenance of tobacco use (6). In all three countries in this report, greater awareness of cigarette marketing was found among females aged 15--24 years than older women, suggesting that tobacco companies might be targeting this age group. Historically, the tobacco industry has taken advantage of increasingly liberalized social attitudes toward women and increased economic empowerment of women to aggressively market and sell its products (7). In the absence of effective tobacco control policies, this pattern might repeat itself in low- and middle-income countries, resulting in a rise in tobacco use and tobacco-related disease and death.

Globally, each year, the tobacco industry spends tens of billions of dollars on direct and indirect advertising of tobacco products (8). Comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, sponsorship, and promotion have been shown to reduce per capita cigarette consumption (3) if adequately enforced. Enforcement of bans on tobacco advertising, sponsorship, and promotion, is a component of WHO's MPOWER strategy (1). According to WHO, only 26 countries have implemented comprehensive bans on direct and indirect tobacco advertising, and many do not have high levels of compliance (8). Bangladesh and Uruguay have a ban on all national television, radio, and print media, and on some, but not all, other forms of direct and/or indirect advertising of tobacco products. In these countries, enforcement is rated as high, but not complete (8). Thailand has a ban on all direct and indirect advertising, with the level of enforcement rated somewhat lower.§§ The results presented in this report indicate that the lowest prevalence of awareness of cigarette marketing, among both males and females, was found in Thailand, where prohibition of the display of cigarettes packets or logos of tobacco brands at the points of sale was enforced beginning in 2005.

The findings in this report are subject to at least two limitations. First, the prevalence results are based on self-reports. In certain settings, social norms (i.e., unacceptability of women smoking) might result in underreporting. However, this tendency might have been mitigated by using same-sex interviewers and conducting interviews in private settings. Second, regarding the findings on awareness of tobacco marketing, slight variations in the number and type of specific response categories used in each country might limit comparability. For example, Thailand added a category of "pubs/bars" as a site for tobacco marketing to the core GATS questionnaire and removed "public walls." Uruguay added the category "e-mail" to promotions, and Thailand added a category for the "Internet." Aside from these differences, the response categories were similar among the three countries.

Continued monitoring will be needed to determine trends in tobacco use and awareness of tobacco marketing and the differences between males and females. Repeated GATS surveys in participating countries will allow the countries to compare results to other countries, track key tobacco control indicators, and monitor progress toward tobacco-control goals.

This report is based, in part, on contributions by R Caixeta, DDS, Pan American Health Organization, and D Sinha, MD, Southeast Asian Regional Office, World Health Organization.

1. World Health Organization. WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2008: the MPOWER package. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2008. Available at Web Site Icon. Accessed May 25, 2010.
2. CDC. Global youth tobacco surveillance, 2000--2007. Surveillance Summaries. January 25, 2008. MMWR 2008;57(No. SS-1).
3. Blecher E. The impact of tobacco advertising bans on consumption in developing countries. J Health Econ 2008;27:930--42.
4. Gupta PC, Ray CS. Smokeless tobacco and health in India and South Asia. Respirology 2003;8:419--31.
5. World Health Organization. Gender, women, and the tobacco epidemic. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2010. In press.
6. National Cancer Institute. Monograph 19: the role of the media in promoting and reducing tobacco use. Rockville, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2008. Available at Web Site Icon. Accessed May 25, 2010.
7. Shafey O, Fernandez E, Thun M, Schiaffino A, Dolwick S, Cokkinides V. Cigarette advertising and female smoking prevalence in Spain, 1982--1997: case studies in international tobacco surveillance. Cancer 2004;100:1744--9.
8. World Health Organization. WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2009: implementing smoke-free environments. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2009. Available at Web Site Icon. Accessed May 25, 2010.

* Additional information available at

† Percentage of respondents who reported currently smoking tobacco or using smokeless tobacco on a "daily" or "less than daily" basis.

§ In Bangladesh, these included manufactured cigarettes, bidis, and other smoked products such as cigars, pipes, and water pipes. In Thailand and Uruguay, they included manufactured and hand-rolled cigarettes.

¶ In Bangladesh, these included betel quid with tobacco, sada pata, gul, khoinee zarda, and pan masala. In Thailand, they include betel quid with tobacco. In Uruguay, they included any smokeless or chew tobacco product; however, only one respondent in Uruguay indicated smokeless tobacco use.

** Noticing any cigarette marketing included noticing advertisements or signs promoting cigarettes, cigarette company sponsorship of sporting events, or cigarette promotions in the preceding 30 days. Noticing cigarette marketing in stores where cigarettes are sold included noticing cigarettes at sale prices, free gifts, or discount offers on other products while buying cigarettes, or any advertisements or signs promoting cigarettes in stores where cigarettes are sold in the preceding 30 days. Noticing cigarette marketing in places other than in stores where cigarettes are sold included noticing any advertisements or signs promoting cigarettes, cigarette company sponsorship of sporting events, or cigarette promotions in the preceding 30 days other than in stores where cigarettes are sold.

†† Hand-rolled cigarettes made of tobacco flakes wrapped in a temburini or tendu leaf and tied with a string.

§§ Enforcement ratings are measured on a 10-point scale and are based on an in-country qualitative assessment by national tobacco-control experts. Bangladesh received an enforcement rating of 9, Thailand 7, and Uruguay 9.

Coleman's Death

No Details on Accident Prior to Coleman's Death

For Ship sinking China offers SKorea condolences

The premier of China, North Korea's main ally, offered condolences Saturday to South Korea for the sinking of a warship blamed on Pyongyang after promising that Beijing — under pressure to punish the North — would not defend any country guilty of the attack.

Premier Wen Jiabao later joined the leaders of South Korea and Japan in a three-way summit on the southern Korean island of Jeju, saying he hoped it would help achieve peace.

"I hope this summit will conclude with solid results and that we will try together to ensure that it will contribute to world peace," Wen said, according to a Korean-language transcript released by the South Korean president's office.

A multinational team of investigators said last week that evidence proved a North Korean torpedo struck the ship, and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has pledged to take the North to the U.N. Security Council.

North Korea has denied responsibility and warned that any retaliation or punishment would mean war.

The two-day summit was expected to be overshadowed by the sinking in March of the 1,200-ton Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors in one of South Korea's worst military disasters since the 1950-53 Korean War. But the summit's first session Saturday focused on improving economic cooperation. The ship sinking was not discussed but is on Sunday's agenda, said Kazuo Kodama, a Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Before the meeting, the three leaders observed a 10-second moment of silence for the Cheonan's dead crew members, a gesture proposed by Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

Laying out the investigation results, Lee urged the Chinese premier during bilateral talks Friday to play an "active role" in convincing North Korea to admit its wrongdoing, the presidential Blue House said. Wen told Lee that his country "will defend no one" responsible for the sinking, Lee's office said.

As North Korea's main ally, China has faced growing pressure to take punitive action against Pyongyang for the sinking of the warship. But Beijing has been cautious about taking a stance, saying it still needs to examine the investigation results, Wen told Lee, according to a briefing by presidential adviser Lee Dong-kwan.

Wen offered condolences earlier Saturday to the South's people and the families of the dead sailors at a meeting with South Korean Prime Minister Chung Un-chan, the prime minister's office said.

"China is a responsible nation which insists on justice and is seriously considering the findings of the multinational investigation," Wen said, according to Chung spokesman Kim Chang-young. "China has maintained consistent views on the stability of peace on the Korean peninsula and opposes acts that destroy it," he quoted Wen as saying.

Japan has already given its backing to Seoul, and Tokyo recently instituted new sanctions against North Korea.

South Korean President Lee met with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on Saturday in Jeju ahead of the three-nation summit.

Hatoyama reaffirmed Japan's "active support," pledging to play a leading role in backing South Korea's stance at the U.N. Security Council, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

A Japanese government spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Hatoyama paid his respects to the dead sailors earlier Saturday during a visit to the National Cemetery in Daejeon, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Seoul, en route to Jeju.

Tensions have been mounting after South Korea's leader announced a slate of punitive measures against the North, including cutting trade, resuming anti-North Korean propaganda broadcasts across the border and launching large-scale naval exercises. U.S.-South Korean military drills are to follow in the coming months.

Also Saturday, some 20 South Korean military commanders met to discuss responses to the ship sinking, a Defense Ministry official said.

"They discussed how to cope with different types of North Korean military provocations and strengthen defense readiness against the North," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the meeting with the media.

South Korea's military reported no unusual moves by North Korean troops in the last week, he said.

North Korea has accused Seoul of fabricating evidence in the ship sinking.

"The South Korean puppet regime's faked sinking of the Cheonan has created a very serious situation on the Korean peninsula, pushing it toward the brink of war," Maj. Gen. Pak Rim Su, director of the powerful National Defense Commission's policy department, said at a rare news conference covered by broadcaster APTN in Pyongyang.

Begin Gulf Coast cleanup

Previously, BP officials and government scientists had said 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) of crude were flowing out daily.

"This is clearly an environmental catastrophe," BP CEO Tony Hayward said Friday. "There's no two ways about it."

Under intense political pressure to take control of the situation, President Obama toured the region Friday.

"We want to stop the leak, we want to contain and clean up the oil and we want to help the people in this region return to their lives and livelihoods as soon as possible," the president said.

About 25 percent of the Gulf of Mexico exclusive economic zone has been put off limits, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and fishermen are worried the gushing oil will take a more serious toll than Hurricane Katrina did in 2005.

"Katrina was nothing but rain, water and wind. This is poison. It's gas," oysterman Arthur Etienne said.

Obama said Friday that federal officials were prepared to authorize moving forward with "a portion of" an idea proposed by local officials, who want the Army Corps of Engineers to build a "sand boom" offshore to keep the water from getting into the fragile marshlands.

That did not satisfy Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has advocated immediate construction of the booms. Noting in a written statement that 107 miles of the state's coast have been oiled, he said, "We continue to ask federal officials to approve our entire sand-boom plan from the northern Chandeleurs to the Isle Dernieres chain."

Obama said he has directed federal officials to triple the manpower in places where oil has hit shore or appears within a day of doing so.

A Gulf Coast official said several hundred workers BP sent to the scene Friday left Grand Isle, Louisiana, shortly after Obama did.

Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts told CNN's "Situation Room" that the workers were offered $12 an hour to work while Obama was there.

Suttles downplayed the claim Friday evening, telling CNN it is not unusual to see people wrapping up work in the afternoon.

"These individuals are working out in the heat of the sun. These are long days. They start early in the morning and they stop early in the evening," he said. "So the fact that they were leaving the location late in the afternoon was not unusual. It's not associated with the president arriving."

Suttles said the workers would be back Saturday morning to continue cleanup efforts.

Friday, 21 May 2010

United States Senate goes a long way

The Wall Street Reform bill passed last night by the United States Senate goes a long way toward reining in the reckless casino economy that cost eight million Americans their jobs, and brought our economy to its knees.

But its passage signals an even more significant shift in the economic assumptions and power relationships that undergird American political and economic life.

For four decades Wall Street had its way with American government. The big Wall Street banks and their economic apologists dominated the main stream of economic thought - and their army of lobbyists called the shots on Capitol Hill. Last night their domination came to a screeching halt.

Wall Street's minions - and their Republican enablers - did fend off many proposals that would have strengthened the bill that passed last night. But, contrary to conventional wisdom, as the original Wall Street Reform bill moved from the House to the Senate - and then to the Senate floor - the bill actually got tougher.

The bill that pased the Senate includes provisions detested by the biggest Wall Street banks that would prevent them from trading in derivatives - the economic time bombs that were at the center of the 2008 financial collapse. That provision alone would cost the big Banks $40 to $50 billion in profit.

As the bill moved through Senate debate, provisions were added to place new restrictions on credit rating agencies, limit fees that credit card companies can charge to merchants, and force big banks to maintain higher capital requirements.

Wall Street failed in its attempt to stop a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that would protect borrowers from many of the abusive and fraudulent financial practices that lead to the economic collapse and siphoned billions -- from the pockets of those who work in the real economy -- to the bloated financial sector.

In the final hours of the debate, Republicans made one last attempt to exempt auto dealers from consumer protection rules when they make auto loans. They couldn't manage to get the provision to a vote.

The reason for their change in fortunes is simple. Wall Street is toxic. Support for Wall Street is becoming another third rail in American politics. Even the Republicans justified their defense of Wall Street in Orwellian terms that made it appear they were attacking their Wall Street sponsors. Democrats found that attacking Republicans for supporting the Wall Street banks was like shooting fish in a barrel.

The economic collapse, the taxpayer bailout, and then their subsequent return to business as usual - to the same old recklessness and greed -- have sickened everyday Americans. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. Or to put it another way: the pigs get fat, the hogs get slaughtered.

Not that it's time to have a tag day for the "ten million dollar bonus" crowd. And Wall Street's army of lobbyists will do everything they can to weaken the final bill in House-Senate conference. But a significant turning point has been reached. The notion that the "geniuses of Wall Street" know best - that they should be left on their own to suck up as much of the nation's wealth as possible because it serves the "common good" - that dog will no longer hunt.

In 1792, the nation suffered its first credit crisis. Financial crises recurred in the United States roughly every 15 years until the Great Depression. Then New Deal reforms changed the game. The Security and Exchange Commission instituted tough new rules for the stock market. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation provided stability to the nation's banks - and its means of allocating credit to the real, productive economy. And the Glass-Steagall Act created a firewall between banking and the risky speculative activities that had - in large measure - caused the credit collapse that led to the Great Depression.

For the next fifty years America had uninterrupted economic growth - with no recurrence of financial meltdown. That ended when the resurgent "markets-know-best" conservative economic movement led to the deregulation of the savings and loan industry. Undaunted by the bust that followed the savings and loan disaster, Wall Street successfully pushed to repeal Glass-Steagall - and prevent the regulation of its new "innovative" esoteric derivative securities. The casino economy and financial sector exploded.

During the period 1973 to 1985, the financial sector never earned more than 16% of domestic profits. This decade, it has averaged 41% of all the profits earned by businesses in the U.S. In 1947, the financial sector represented only 2.5% of our gross domestic product. In 2006, it had risen to 8%. In other words, of every 12.5 dollars earned in the United States, one dollar goes to the financial sector, much of which, let us recall, produces nothing.

Wall Street's expansion is one big reason that most of America's economic growth during the last decade has flowed into the hands of investment bankers, stock traders and partners in firms like Goldman Sachs. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that fully two-thirds of all income gains during the last economic expansion (2002 to 2007) flowed to the top 1% of the population. And that, in turn, is one of the chief reasons why the median income for ordinary Americans actually dropped by $2,197 per year since 2000.

The passage of Wall Street Regulatory Reform symbolizes a fundamental change in the political power of Wall Street, and a collapse of the economic and political narrative that it used to justify its confiscation of an ever-growing portion of the economic pie.

Wall Street is in political retreat. But the most important lesson of politics is that when they're on the run, that's the time to chase them. Progressives - and all advocates for the interests of everyday working people - need to make sure that we consolidate our victories as the Wall Street Reform bill goes to conference. And once that is done we should continue the crusade to limit the size and power of the financial sector, and redirect resources to the people in our economy who actually create the goods and services that generate widely-shared economic growth.

Financial stocks turned higher Friday as some uncertainty was removed with the U.S. Senate's passage of its version of a financial-overhaul bill, though investors are still concerned about what the final bill will include and continue to grapple with ongoing fears about the debt crisis in Europe.

Investors have been in limbo for months, wondering what provisions will be in the final law. The Senate still needs to reconcile its bill with the one passed by the House in December. But the Senate's passage of its measure does offer a little more clarity because its bill had undergone a multitude of changes and amendments while it was up for debate.

A lot of the uncertainty is over, which should give the stocks some immediate relief, First American Funds analyst Alan Villalon said, but investors are still wondering about some pieces of the legislation, including the parts on derivatives, capital requirements and the Volcker rule, which would curb lucrative proprietary trading practice at most banks. The Senate's version of the bill also contains a contentious provision that would require banks to spin off their derivatives-trading businesses.

There is "a lot of concern" about how much time the banks are going to have to spend implementing the changes under the financial regulations as opposed to time spent focusing on a recovery, he said.

The financial sector of the Standard & Poor's 500 was recently the best-performing sector, up 1.6%.

Morgan Stanley (MS) led gainers among the big banks, rising 3.7% to $26.60, while Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) climbed 3.5% to $140.91, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) rose 3.3% to $39.08, Citigroup Inc. (C) gained 1.9% to $3.70 and Bank of America Corp. (BAC) increased 1.7% to $15.55.

"People are hopeful that some of the harshest things...are actually softened in the reconciliation process" with the House, Morningstar analyst Matthew Warren said. But that won't be clear for another month or so, he said, and uncertainty is going to remain and continue to weigh on the stocks as different elements get added and subtracted to the legislation.

In addition to the still-fuzzy outlook for new financial-system regulations, the precarious fiscal condition of several European countries has also weighed on financial stocks. Economists have worried about government defaults on debt in countries such as Greece, Portugal and Spain, and investors continue to be unsure which U.S. banks, if any, could suffer losses from troubles in Europe. Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase each reported holding less than $2 billion in exposure to Greece as of March 31, which J.P. Morgan called "modest."

Investors are worried about the euro-zone news because the recovery in the U.S. is very sensitive, and a major crisis there could cause the U.S. to double dip into another recession, Villalon said. And the fact that U.S. banks will be busy restructuring under new financial regulations makes it more difficult for them to separate themselves from Europe, which they need to do to keep the U.S. recovery going, he said.

The Senate's passage of the reform bill has some clear negatives for ratings agencies Moody's Corp. (MCO) and McGraw-Hill's (MHP) Standard & Poor's, but no provisions are "terminally threatening to the economics of the industry," Piper Jaffray said. "Resolution of regulatory uncertainty should ultimately serve as a catalyst to higher multiples on the shares of [Moody's] and [McGraw-Hill] as we are better able to quantify the cost associated with regulatory reform," the firm said. Lowering the threshold for legal liability is one of the biggest negatives, but the firm said even that is "not a 'game changer'."

Moody's was recently up 2.3% to $21.69, while McGraw-Hill edged up 0.8% to $28.28.

Meanwhile, Janney Capital Markets upgraded MasterCard Inc. (MA) to buy from neutral, saying the shares will benefit from multiple expansion as investor sentiment begins to improve after the Senate passed its bill. MasterCard and other credit-card stocks had rallied Thursday as well after the failure of a proposal that would have allowed individual states to impose interest-rate caps on cards. MasterCard and Visa Inc. (V), the card network companies, rose 3.8% to $213.33 and 3.3% to $75.25, respectively, while card issuers Discover Financial Services (DFS) rose 1.7% to $13.26, American Express Co. (AXP) edged up 0.3% to $38.73 and Capital One Financial Corp. (COF) was up a penny at $41.34.

Transformers 3 Megan Fox will not be starring in

"Megan Fox will not be starring in 'Transformers 3'," reps for the actress, 24, tell PEOPLE. "It was her decision not to return. She wishes the franchise the best."

Citing unnamed sources, Variety reports the studio and the film's director, Michael Bay, intend to cast another actress as star Shia LaBeouf's love interest to move the story in a different direction.

Shooting for the film, slated for a July 2011 release, is expected to kick off this summer in locations across the U.S.

Fox, meanwhile, is prepping for the June 18 release of "Jonah Hex," an action film she stars in opposite Josh Brolin, John Malkovich and Will Arnett.

Fox told People magazine it was her decision to quit. Other reports indicate that Bay fired Fox for making critical comments about the films.

One thing is clear: Whatever you think of the Transformers franchise, Fox’s departure translates into a casting vacancy that would guarantee worldwide exposure for the actress who takes over the role delivering action and eye candy for the franchise.

Here are a few contenders:

Olivia Wilde — if she has time. The ex-House star, next appearing in TRON: Legacy has been cast in Cowboys & Aliens from Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau.

British actress Gemma Arterton. She survived Clash of the Titans and picks up additional steam next week when Prince of Persia opens.

Evangeline Lilly (above, middle). The freckled Canadian told David Letterman she’s more interested in writing than acting now that Lost is in the can. However, the athletic actress could clearly hold up her end of any action scene.

Mila Kunis (above, right). She already delivered sexy action hijinks in The Book of Eli but Transformers would give the Russian-born spitfire an international platform.

Avatar star Zoe Saldana. Showing fierce chops in The Losers, Saldana proved she could remain watchable even when surrounded by goofy car chases and explosions.

What’s your take? Who have we missed? Which actresses are best qualified to fill Ms. Fox’s high heels? Weigh in below.

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Valerie Bertinelli- getting married at 50 years old!

Valerie Bertinelli - Actress Valerie Bertinelli is looking good on her Jenny Craig diet, and getting married at 50 years old! The lucky sailor is Tom Vitale, who has been dating Valerie Bertinelli for over six years now. Mind you, Valerie Bertinelli has been married once before nearly 30 years ago, and has a 19 year-old son for her ex (both of whom play for a little band called Van Halen). While Valerie Bertinelli and her husband are still tight - she was at his wedding as a guest when he remarried - Valerie has been pining for a marriage of her own, in the very least so she could right some previous wrongs. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Valerie Bertinelli said:

Bertinelli, the former "One Day at a Time" star, is engaged to her businessman boyfriend of six years, Tom Vitale, she tells AARP The Magazine, and the two plan to tie the knot in the fall. "We'd talked about getting married, but I was still shocked," Bertinelli, who turned 50 April 23. "It was sweet when he asked me because he was so scared. I was like, 'Are you kidding me?'"