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Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: Madoff's Long List Of Losers

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What the heck is a "leap second"?

The could be either the last new phrase of 2008 or the first new phrase of 2009.

Welcome the new phrase, "leap second". A leap second is a one-second adjustment that keeps broadcast standards for time of day close to mean solar time.

Broadcast standards for civil time are based on Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), a time standard which is maintained using extremely precise atomic clocks. The leap is a "correction" in time.

Officially, when a positive leap second is added at 23:59:60 UTC, it delays the start of the following UTC day (at 00:00:00 UTC) by one second, effectively slowing the UTC clock.

London's Big Ben, whose bongs bring in the new year across the UK, will be adjusted while the BBC adds an extra "pip" to mark the delayed start to the year.

Peter Whibberley, a senior research scientist at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington which is helping to coordinate the update, said:
"The difference between atomic time and Earth time has now built up to the point where it needs to be corrected, so this New Year's Eve we will experience a rare 61-second minute at the very end of 2008 and revellers all over the UK will have an extra second to celebrate."Immediately before midnight a leap second -- the first for three years -- will be added to atomic clocks around the world by official timekeepers. "The difference between atomic time and Earth time has now built up to the point where it needs to be corrected, so this New Year's Eve we will experience a rare 61 second minute at the very end of 2008 and revelers... will have an extra second to celebrate."

Therefore, the final seconds of 2008 will actually be 57, 58, 59, 60, 00 -- with 60 being the extra second.

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Tainted Weight Loss Pills Flagged as Health Risks

If your new years resolution is to lose weight- then listen up.

On Dec. 22, 2008, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) alerted consumers not to buy or use more than 25 different weight-loss pill products because the products may be harmful to their health.

Which products were cited?

The tainted weight-loss products specified in the alert are:

  • Fatloss Slimming
  • 2 Day Diet
  • 3x Slimming Power
  • Japan Lingzhi 24 Hours Diet
  • 5x Imelda Perfect Slimming
  • 3 Day Diet
  • 7 Day Herbal Slim
  • 8 Factor Diet
  • 7 Diet Day/Night Formula
  • 999 Fitness Essence
  • Extrim Plus
  • GMP
  • Imelda Perfect Slim
  • Lida DaiDaihua
  • Miaozi Slim Capsules
  • Perfect Slim
  • Perfect Slim 5x
  • Phyto Shape
  • ProSlim Plus
  • Royal Slimming Formula
  • Slim 3 in 1
  • Slim Express 360
  • Slimtech
  • Somotrim
  • Superslim
  • TripleSlim
  • Zhen de Shou
  • Venom Hyperdrive 3.0

Why did FDA act against these products?

These products contain undeclared, active pharmaceutical ingredients that may put consumers' health at risk. Some of the amounts of active pharmaceutical ingredients far exceed FDA-recommended levels.

Some of the products claim to be "natural" or to contain only "herbal" ingredients, but actually contain potentially harmful ingredients not listed on the product labels or in promotional advertisements. These products have not been approved by FDA, are illegal, and may be potentially harmful to unsuspecting consumers.

What undeclared ingredients were found?

An FDA analysis found that the undeclared active pharmaceutical ingredients in some of these products include

  • sibutramine, a controlled substance that can cause high blood pressure, seizures, abnormally rapid heart rate (tachycardia), palpitations, heart attack or stroke. It can also interact with other medications and increase patients' risk of unexpected bad side effects (adverse reactions). Sibutramine's safety has also not been established in pregnant and lactating women, or in children younger than 16.
  • rimonabant, a drug not approved for marketing in the United States, has been associated with increased risk of depression and suicidal thoughts. In Europe, where it is approved, rimonabant has been linked to five deaths and 720 adverse reactions over the last two years.
  • phenytoin, an anti-seizure medication
  • phenolphthalein, a solution used in chemical experiments that is a suspected cancer-causing agent

Where are these products sold?

These weight-loss products, some of which are marketed as "dietary supplements," are promoted and sold on various Web sites and in some retail stores.

Is FDA taking further action?

The agency is currently seeking product recalls. FDA may take additional enforcement steps, such as issuing warning letters or initiating seizures, injunctions, or criminal charges.

Tips for consumers

  • If you use any of these weight-loss products, stop taking them and consult your health care professional immediately.
  • Seek guidance from a health care professional before purchasing weight-loss products.
  • Report serious adverse reactions or product quality problems to FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program at

This article appears on FDA's Consumer Health Information Web page (, which features the latest updates on FDA-regulated products. Sign up for free e-mail subscriptions at

For More Information

FDA Press Release

Information for Consumers

FDA MedWatch

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Encourage a New Year's Resolution: Send a CDC Health-e-Card!

Photo: Family

The CDC has more than 40 free, electronic greeting cards or Health-e-Cards. Select an e-Card and quickly email a health and safety message to friends and family or promote a special observance like the New Year.

Holiday and New Year Health-e-Cards

Season's Greetings Happy Holidays Happy New Year

The 12 Ways to Health. This holiday e-Card provides tips to holiday health and safety and links to the song, sung to the tune of The Twelve Days to Christmas. The lyrics to the song are also available, so you can sing along! Visit Health-e-Card site to send one of these CDC e-Cards to your friends, family, and colleagues today.

New Year Resolutions

Photo of active people Photo of pregnant woman and man
Be Fit - image of man working out Picture of baby in safety seat
If you'd like to inspire your friends and family to keep specific resolutions, you can send a Health-e-Card to encourage smoke-free living, weight management, fitness and more! Visit our Health-e-Card site to send a greeting to help loved ones keep their resolutions!

In the near future, you'll find Health-e-Cards for STD awareness, Valentine's Day and Mother's Day. Many of the new e-Cards will be available in English and in Spanish.

Information about Health-e-Cards

To send a CDC Health-e-Card, you must provide both your name and email address and the recipient's name and email address. Please note that after the card is sent electronically, the names and email addresses are discarded.

Additional Information

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Popular New Year's Resolutions

Lose Weight-
Obesity has been linked to increased risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as diabetes and cancer. Sixty percent of adult Americans are either overweight or obese. Middle-aged folks are not the only ones susceptible to getting a "spare tire" around their waist. The number of overweight adolescents has tripled since 1980. 14% of those aged 12 to 19 are considered to be overweight, and three quarters of them remain overweight as adults.
  • Experts recommend at least three 20 minute sessions of exercise per week. If you are trying to lose a significant amount of weight, 5 times a week may be what you need.
  • Remember, the elderly or people with health problems should consult with their doctor before doing anything strenuous.
  • Some winter chores and activities are good forms of exercise, for example, moderate snow shoveling and ice skating (see warning above).
  • Take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator.
  • The President's Counsel on Physical Fitness and Sports (PCPFS) has many publications about how to design your own exercise regimen.
  • (the website of the PCPFS) also has tips about exercise and weight control.
  • Make exercise part of your daily routine. With a treadmill or exercise bike at home, you can watch your favorite TV show while you burn those calories.

2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

For policy makers and health professionals

The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans [PDF Version - 7.8 MB] provides science-based guidance to help Americans aged 6 and older improve their health through appropriate physical activity. Developed with health professionals and policymakers in mind, the Guidelines can help you

  • Learn about the health benefits of physical activity
  • Understand how to do physical activity in a manner that meets the Guidelines
  • Understand how to reduce the risks of activity-related injury
  • Assist others in participating regularly in physical activity

At-A-Glance: A Fact Sheet for Professionals [PDF Version - 180 KB] is a 1-page desk reference that presents the Guidelines for all population groups and the health benefits of physical activity as supported by the scientific evidence. program.

Take the Adult Fitness Test. Are you ready? Start here.

Tips on Eating Right

  • Cut down on your portion sizes and make healthy substitutes. For example, fruit makes a great low fat, high fiber dessert.
  • Stick with low-fat, high fiber entrees such as steamed vegetables, grilled or broiled lean meats, fish, and turkey and chicken without the skin.
  • Choose water and seltzer more often. Both are healthy, no-calorie beverages that can quench your thirst and help you feel full.
  • For more taste, there are plenty of flavored waters on the market, just read the label to ensure that it's a no-calorie or low calorie beverage.
  • Seltzer mixed with fruit juices or hot apple cider are refreshing and colorful alternatives to higher calorie holiday beverages, like soda and egg nog.
  • Use the nutrition facts on food labels to get necessary nutrients and cut calories.
  • Avoid foods that will comprise more than 20% of your fat for the day. Look at the example in this link. This particular brand of macaroni and cheese, at 18%, is high in fat.
  • Eating too much fat may also increase your risk of certain chronic diseases, like heart disease, some cancers , or high blood pressure.
  • Pay attention to serving sizes. Often, what we think of as one serving is really two or more!
  • Do not skip meals or deprive yourself of food altogether. Skipping meals may cause you to eat more next meal because you will feel more hungry than usual.

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Winter Car Tips

It seems like every winter car tip list starts with this one. Check your tires!

The better the tread = the better the grip.
Take a look at the grooves in your tires and make sure that the tire has not worn down to the tire wear bars. If your tires are past this point, you should replace them.

Consider snow tires. If you have a rear wheel drive car, or a car with low profile high performance tires, snow tires should be installed on your car before winter. Rear wheel drive cars do not have much weight positioned over the rear of the car which means not much pressure on the rear wheels to keep them from skidding. Counter this problem by installing snow tires and by adding some weight to the trunk of your car.

High performance tires were designed to stick like glue to dry pavement. Their grip is not usually so good in bad conditions.

Consider rubber floor mats to protect your carpet.

Replace your windshield wipers at the end of every winter because ice, snow and cold temperatures can crack and tear the rubber blades on your wipers.

Check your washer fluid every time you fill up for gas. You may want to have a spare gallon of washer fluid in your trunk in case you run low.

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Pack an Emergency Kit

* Flashlight with spare batteries.

* Ice scraper / brush for clearing your windshield.

* Sand or gravel in case you get stuck in the snow and need to get some extra traction under your wheels.

* Jumper cables.

* A spare jacket, blanket and work gloves.

* If you don't have one yet, you may want to get a cell phone. Being able to call for help from your car is a big advantage over flagging down another car, or walking to get help. Make sure you have an automobile charger for your phone in your car at all times.

Drive Safely

* Whenever you park your car while it is snowing, raise your wipers off of the windshield of your car. This helps in two ways. First, the wiper blades won't freeze to your windshield. Second, you won't damage your wipers while clearing snow and ice off of your windshield.

Frozen Locks?

Try lock deicer , warm the key with a match or lighter, then try thawing your way into the frozen lock; or, try putting the key in as far as it will go, then burn a piece of twisted paper near the frozen lock and key.
When you lock the car, cover the locks with thin magnet strips. Remove them when you return for frost-free locks.


Replace an older battery before it gives you cold weather trouble. Remove it and take it into a warm house or garage at night when the temperature is expected to drop very low. Be careful where you leave it, batteries are filled with acid that can corrode surfaces. Battery contents are flammable; keep them away from flames and heat sources.

* In slippery conditions, your car will not be able to stop or turn as quickly as it would on dry pavement. Follow traffic at a greater distance than normal.

* Always be cautious when entering an intersection, as other traffic might not be able to stop for you and may skid into the intersection. The best plan is to take everything slowly and carefully. Preventing an accident is much easier to deal with than handling the results of an accident.
Here's a list of important items to bring:

* Copy of car warranty.
* Contact number for emergency car service.
* Map.
* Cell phone.
* Flashlight.
* Extra batteries for flashlight.
* First-aid kit.
* Spare tire, inflated to recommended tire pressure.
* Jumper cables.
* Road flares or triangles.
* Container for gasoline.
* Gloves.
* Basic tool kit.
* Blanket.
* Rain poncho.
* Windshield shade.
* Extra wiper fluid.
* Extra water for radiator.
* Bottled water to drink.
* Snacks that won't melt, such as protein bars, pretzels, raisins and sunflower seeds.
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Singer, dancer and actress Eartha Kitt is dead

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New Crash tests of Small Cars: Good Ratings in Frontal Tests but Many Models Need Better Side and Rear Crash Protection

From the Insurance Institute on Highway Safety

Most new small cars now earn good ratings in frontal crash tests but not when it comes to side and rear crashes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently completed front, side, and rear tests of seven 2009 model small cars: Chevrolet HHR, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, Saturn Astra, Suzuki SX4, and Toyota Matrix. All earn the highest rating of good for occupant protection in frontal crashes. Only the SX4 and Matrix and its twin Pontiac Vibe also earn good ratings for protection in side crashes. Among seat/head restraints evaluated, only those in the Focus earn a good rating for protection in rear impacts. The Institute also tested the Mini Cooper, a minicar that earns good ratings for front and rear crashworthiness but not for side protection.

"Automakers have made big improvements to small cars to better protect people in frontal crashes," says Institute senior vice president Joe Nolan. "They've also added stronger structures and standard head-protecting side airbags to help in side crashes, which are tougher on smaller, lighter cars."

Eleven of the 21 current small car models the Institute has rated earn good ratings for side protection. "This is a huge improvement from our last comprehensive round of small car crashworthiness evaluations in 2006," Nolan says. "Then only 3 of the 19 tested earned a good rating in the side evaluation. Most earned a poor rating."

The Institute's side test is especially challenging for small cars because the barrier that strikes the test vehicle represents the front end of a pickup truck or SUV. Side airbags designed for head protection are crucial because the barrier crashes into the side of the car right at the head level of the two dummies that are positioned in the driver seat and in the rear seat behind the driver.

"Side airbags were mostly optional in the 2006 round of small car tests," Nolan says. "A major change is that side airbags are standard in all of the seven small cars we tested this time around."

Small cars have grown especially popular as gasoline prices fluctuate and consumers become more conservation-minded. Nolan cautions that even though current models do a better job of protecting people in front, side, and rear crashes than earlier ones, small cars inherently afford less crash protection than bigger, heavier vehicles. "There's no escaping the laws of physics," Nolan says. "People in larger, heavier cars fare better in crashes with other vehicles and in single-vehicle crashes than people in smaller ones."

PT Cruiser earns poor ratings for side, rear protection: The Chrysler PT Cruiser is the only small car in the recent test series to earn poor marks in both side and rear evaluations. In the side test, measures recorded on the driver dummy indicate that in a real-world crash of similar severity, rib fractures and internal organ injuries would be likely, along with a possible pelvic fracture. The rear passenger dummy's head contacted the C-pillar during the test because this car doesn't have rear-seat side airbags. Measures recorded on the dummy indicate that serious neck injuries and a fractured pelvis would be possible in a crash of this severity.

The PT Cruiser's seat/head restraints are the only ones the Institute tested this time around that earn the lowest rating of poor for occupant protection in rear crashes. The seat/head restraint combinations in the Chevrolet HHR and Suzuki SX4 earn the next lowest rating of marginal. Looking at the larger group of 21 current small car models the Institute has rated, the PT Cruiser still has the worst seat/head restraint rating.

"The PT Cruiser doesn't offer the same crash protection level as other small cars," Nolan says. "For consumers who want to drive small cars, there are many good alternatives to the PT Cruiser, including the six Top Safety Pick winners the Institute announced last month. There are lots of good choices, too, among midsize and large cars."

Top Safety Pick recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, and rear crashes based on good ratings in Institute tests. Winners also must have electronic stability control (ESC), which research shows significantly reduces crash risk. The 2009 small car winners are the Honda Civic 4-door (except the Si model), Mitsubishi Lancer, and Toyota Corolla, all with optional ESC, and the Scion xB, Subaru Impreza, and Volkswagen Rabbit 4-door, all with standard ESC.

ESC should be standard: Among the small cars in this round of tests, only the Chevrolet HHR and Pontiac Vibe have standard ESC. It isn't available at all on the PT Cruiser and optional on the rest, including the Vibe's twin Toyota Matrix. ESC helps reduce rollovers, especially fatal single-vehicle ones. When ESC senses a vehicle is becoming unstable, it automatically engages to help a driver regain control and put the vehicle back in the intended travel direction. ESC lowers fatal rollover crash risk by as much as 70 percent. "Cars aren't involved in rollovers as often as SUVs and pickups, but when they do roll the consequences can be deadly," Nolan notes. "The smallest cars that most need this crash avoidance feature often don't have it."

Rear crashworthiness needs improving: Many automakers haven't paid as much attention to protection in rear crashes, compared with front and side, Nolan points out. Good seat/head restraints are key to preventing whiplash injuries. Neck sprain or strain is the most frequently reported crash injury in US insurance claims. When a vehicle is struck in the rear and driven forward, its seats accelerate occupants' torsos forward. Unsupported, the head will lag behind the forward torso movement, and the differential motion causes the neck to bend and stretch. The higher the torso acceleration, the more sudden the motion, the higher the forces on the neck, and the more likely a neck injury is to occur. Keeping the head and torso moving together is crucial to reducing whiplash injury risk. To accomplish this, the geometry of a head restraint has to be adequate — high enough to be near the back of the head. Then the seat structure and stiffness characteristics must be designed to work in concert with the head restraint to support an occupant's neck and head, accelerating them with the torso as the vehicle is pushed forward.

"In stop and go commuter traffic, you're more likely to get in a rear-end collision than any other kind of crash," Nolan says. "It's not a major engineering feat to design seats and head restraints that afford good protection in these common crashes." For example, when Toyota redesigned the Corolla for 2009 it incorporated active head restraints to help guard against whiplash injuries. Active head restraints are designed to move closer to the backs of occupants' heads in rear-end crashes.

Mini Cooper results: This minicar was redesigned for the 2007 model year, and it earned a good rating for frontal crash protection in a previous test. New side and rear tests were conducted to assess further design changes made for the most recent models. This minicar earns a good rating for rear protection and an acceptable rating for side protection. Measures recorded on the driver dummy indicate that a fractured pelvis would be possible in a side crash of the same severity, but there's low risk that other significant injuries would occur to the driver. For the rear passenger, rib fractures and/or internal organ injuries would be possible. ESC is newly standard for the 2009 model year.

How vehicles are evaluated: The Institute's frontal crashworthiness evaluations are based on results of 40 mph frontal offset crash tests. Each vehicle's overall evaluation is based on measurements of intrusion into the occupant compartment, injury measures recorded on a Hybrid III dummy in the driver seat, and analysis of slow-motion film to assess how well the restraint system controlled dummy movement during the test.

Side evaluations are based on performance in a crash test in which the side of a vehicle is struck by a barrier moving at 31 mph. The barrier represents the front end of a pickup or SUV. Ratings reflect injury measures recorded on two instrumented SID-IIs dummies, assessment of head protection countermeasures, and the vehicle's structural performance during the impact.

Rear crash protection is rated according to a two-step procedure. Starting points for the ratings are measurements of head restraint geometry — the height of a restraint and its horizontal distance behind the back of the head of an average-size man. Seat/ head restraints with good or acceptable geometry are tested dynamically using a dummy that measures forces on the neck. This test simulates a collision in which a stationary vehicle is struck in the rear at 20 mph. Seats without good or acceptable geometry are rated poor overall because they can't be positioned to protect many people.


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Obama delivers holiday message

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NOAA Weather for the US

How will weather impact your travel plans?
Weather in one part of the country can have a significant impact on airport delays in other parts of the country. For the latest information on airport delays, check the Federal Aviation Administration site at Details...

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2008 in Review: hot shots and low blows

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