Friday, January 7, 2011

U.S. Officials Recommend Reduced Fluoride Levels in Water

U.S. Officials Recommend Reduced Fluoride Levels in Water

FRIDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. government officials said Friday that the amount of fluoride in the nation's drinking water should now be set at the lowest recommended level.

Although fluoride is a significant help in preventing cavities and tooth decay, too much of it can cause unattractive spotting on children's teeth. About two out of five teens have white spots and streaks on their teeth due to too much fluoride, according to a recent government study.

To prevent this problem, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are recommending that the fluoride level in drinking water be set at 0.7 milligrams per liter of water, replacing the current recommended range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams.

"One of water fluoridation's biggest advantages is that it benefits all residents of a community -- at home, work, school, or play," HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Howard K. Koh said in a statement. "Today's announcement is part of our ongoing support of appropriate fluoridation for community water systems, and its effectiveness in preventing tooth decay throughout one's lifetime."

One reason for the new recommendation is that over the years the sources of fluoride have increased from water to include toothpastes, mouth wash, fluoride supplements and fluoride applied by dentists, EPA and HHS officials noted.

According to the agencies, this new recommendation allows the maximum prevention of tooth decay through fluoridation, while reducing the possibility of children getting too much fluoride.

Overexposure to fluoride results in a condition known as fluorosis, which can damage children's developing teeth.

In the United States fluorosis is usually mild, seen as barely visible lacy white markings or spots on the enamel. The severe form of fluorosis, which causes staining and pitting of the tooth surface, is rare here, but is more common in places like China where the water has naturally occurring levels of fluoride.

A spokesman for the American Dental Association, Dr. Matthew Messina, said these government agencies are doing their job in recommending what community water supplies are supposed to do.

"They have just refined from a range and provided a more exact direction," Messina said. "We are excited that they continue to advocate the safety and effectiveness of fluoride and its value as a public health measure in preventing dental decay."

Messina noted that fluoride occurs naturally in water and different places have different levels of fluoride. Some towns may not have to add any fluoride and others only a little to reach the recommended level, he said.

"Fluoride is one of the best returns on investment as far as the small amount of money spent on fluoridating water relative to the tremendous reduction in the cost of having cavities," Messina said.

Dr. Leo Dorado, an assistant professor of oral surgery at the University of Miami, said that each locality needs to tailor adding fluoride to water to achieve the right level.

Dorado is concerned that too much fluoride can cause fluorosis in young children. "I don't think the standard has been enforced state by state," he said. "It's not just an easy fix. It is something that has to be regulated according to government standards, but state by state," he said.

IRS tax liens jump by 60%, but how effective are they? -

IRS tax liens jump by 60%, but how effective are they?

IRS liens filed against taxpayers jumped 60% since the start of the national recession, according to a new federal report that urges the tax agency to moderate the collection policy and study its effectiveness.

The IRS filed more than 1 million liens in federal fiscal year 2010, the highest in nearly two decades and a spike from the nearly 684,000 filed in the year ahead of the recession's December 2007 start, according to the annual report to Congress issued Wednesday by the National Taxpayer Advocate.

Although the IRS has taken some steps to aid financially struggling taxpayers, it "has continued the trend toward more lien filings despite the worst economy in at least a generation" — with serious financial impact on some of those unable to pay, the taxpayer advocate report concluded.

"Lien filings can badly damage or destroy a taxpayer's creditworthiness because they are picked up by the credit-rating agencies and retained on the taxpayer's credit reports for seven years from the date the tax liability is resolved, or longer if it is not resolved," wrote Nina Olson, who heads the Taxpayer Advocate's office.

For those with IRS liens filed against their property, that can mean it's harder to get a job, find affordable housing or buy insurance.

Despite the increase in liens, the report said IRS payment coding protocols make it impossible to determine how much revenue the collection effort generates. Since the IRS pays to process the liens and file them with local county clerks, the report said it is "questionable whether liens generate much, if any, direct revenue."

The increase in lien filings continued a longer trend in which the report said the 2010 total soared 553% higher than the number filed in fiscal year 1999. The IRS said the comparison was misleading, because the agency reduced lien filings in 1999 while making legal changes under a 1998 restructuring of the agency.

IRS spokesman Terry Lemons said it has moved to help taxpayers facing collection problems. He said the IRS is starting a procedure to ensure its liens are withdrawn after tax debts are paid. That change, Lemons said, "will help struggling taxpayers who face hardship caused by having a lien."

Olson, however, said the IRS should determine whether its lien-filing policies balance efficient tax collection "with the legitimate concern of taxpayers that any collection action be no more intrusive than necessary."

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Housing bust creates new kind of declining city

Housing bust creates new kind of declining city

A study says cities where home prices have fallen the most — including Riverside, San Bernardino and Fresno — could suffer long-term deterioration similar to that of the Rust Belt.

January 06, 2011|By Alejandro Lazo, Los Angeles Times

In the Inland Empire and other former home-building hot spots, the housing bust has created a new kind of declining city, different from the nation's traditional rusting centers of industry, that could languish for years.

Although the causes of the decline in these metropolitan areas are distinct from the loss of employment from shrinking manufacturing and industry in some of the nation's old industrial powerhouses, these areas could experience fates similar to places such as Cleveland and Detroit, with neighborhoods experiencing high rates of vacancies for a very long time, according to a study to be released Thursday.

China eyes state rail plan - Sacramento Politics - California Politics | Sacramento Bee

China eyes state rail plan in California


Profit and prestige are seen in building, operating the system.

Published: Monday, Jan. 3, 2011 - 1:05 am
Last Modified: Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 - 1:56 pm

FRESNO -- In the 19th century, laborers from China helped build railroads spanning California and linking the U.S. coasts. In the 21st century, the Chinese may be back -- not for backbreaking labor, but with financial and technological muscle.

The People's Republic of China has more miles of track for high-speed trains than any country in the world, but California has none.

The Chinese want in on the state's fledgling high-speed rail project. They're eager to help bankroll and build the system and, eventually, provide the trains to operate on the tracks.

China's not alone. Eight nations have agreements with the California High-Speed Rail Authority to share information about high-speed rail -- and each wants a piece of California's business.

"Other countries want to be a part of this because they know high-speed rail can be profitable," said Jeffrey Barker, the authority's deputy executive director. "Their ultimate interest is operating the system."

Experts suggest that China's economic might -- and government-backed companies -- give it an advantage.

"China is cash-flush, and its highly subsidized industries are bankrolled with surplus government funds," said Usha Haley, a professor of international business at Massey University in New Zealand and an expert on China's worldwide business strategies. "They're investing in infrastructure around the world ... and if they're bidding in an open-bid process, China will get that bid."

California and the United States are squarely in China's sights, said Christopher Barkan, director of the Rail Transportation and Engineering Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

On a tour of China's largest rail manufacturer last summer, Barkan met with a Ministry of Railways official who prominently displayed a map of the United States on his office wall.

"They are extremely interested in the U.S.," Barkan said. "We're the largest untapped market for high-speed rail in the world."

Read more:

John Wheeler Murder Gets More Baffling - CBS Evening News - CBS News

John Wheeler Murder Gets More Baffling

John Wheeler III in a 2010 Sunday Morning interview.
(CBS) His body tumbled from a garbage truck into a landfill, reports CBS News chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford.

John Wheeler, the driving force behind the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and former White House and Pentagon aide, was found dead on New Year's Eve, buried in the trash.

Police say Wheeler's body was picked up from a dumpster in Newark, Delaware. But there's much they don't know about a crime that seems to get more baffling with every new clue.

In the days before his death, Wheeler seemed to come unhinged.

On Dec. 29th, he showed up at this pharmacy in New Castle, Delaware, asking for a ride. That night, Wheeler was captured on surveillance tape, stumbling through a parking garage, looking for his car -- which wasn't there.

"He didn't look good, he was really weird," said parking lot attendant Iman Goldsborough. "He had no overcoat on and one shoe in his hand."

At about 8:30 the next night, Dec. 30, Wheeler was seen at a former DuPont Company building in Wilmington, again seeming disoriented.

The next day his body was found at the landfill.

Robert Dill, a neighbor who had seen Wheeler Christmas Eve, was shocked at Wheeler's condition on the tape.

"I have never seen him like that in my life," said Dill. "I have no idea."

Wheeler, a veteran, was working in Washington for a defense contractor and was recently interviewed on CBS News Sunday Morning.

But law enforcement sources say the murder was apparently not related to his government work.

"It's got us totally confused," said Dill. "At this point I couldn't even give you a theory."

Police haven't said how Wheeler was murdered or even where he was actually killed. They are looking at a legal battle with a neighbor -- but friends say they can't imagine that dispute would have led to his death.

RealClearPoliti Afghanistan Is A "National Embarrassment"

Dem Congresswoman: Afghanistan Is A "National Embarrassment"

Dem Congresswoman: Afghanistan Is A "National Embarrassment"

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) talks about the "disastrous" war that is Afghanistan. "This war represents an epic failure, a national embarrassment and a moral blight," Rep. Woolsey said.