Health Media ArticlesExcerpts of Key Health Media Articles in Major Media
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What would you do if had an incurable disease and heard that something simple and common may help -- a chemical found at a pet store, or in an allergy drug, or a breakthrough injection a man in California developed? It's the sort of dilemma Alan Romantowski, a former airline pilot, faces with each news story about Alzheimer's disease treatments. "It is tempting; I'm taking ginseng, fish oil, ginkgo and all the over-the-counter things that the doctors say don't have any proof that it helps, but it doesn't hurt," said Romantowski, 55, who is suffering from the early stages of the disease. Whether scientifically sound or wacky, any news about potential Alzheimer's treatments can fill a doctor's voicemail with calls from desperate families. And a new potential treatment announced Tuesday may be no exception. Discussed at the annual Alzheimer's Association Meeting in Chicago, a drug called Rember sparked hope among researchers and within the Alzheimer community. Rember has completed a phase II trial, which means it's a long way off from meeting FDA approval as a legal therapy. But, thus far the data has shown promise -- double the improvement in cognition than a placebo gives for patients with moderate Alzheimer's disease. "There was an article about that in our paper this morning," said Josie Romantowski. "I actually even called my husband about it... as far as trying [a drug], what is there to lose really, at this point?"
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It's likely that most people have never heard of Gaucho. And no, it's not a South American cowboy. I'm talking about a pesticide. There is increasing reason to believe that Gaucho and other members of a family of highly toxic chemicals -- neonicotinoids -- may be responsible for the deaths of billions of honeybees worldwide. Some scientists believe that these pesticides, which are applied to seeds, travel systemically through the plant and leave residues that contaminate the pollen, resulting in bee death or paralysis. The French refer to the effect as "mad bee disease" and in 1999 were the first to ban the use of these chemicals, which are currently only marketed by Bayer (the aspirin people) under the trade names Gaucho and Pancho. Germany followed suit this year. So why did the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2002 grant an "emergency" exemption allowing increased use of Gaucho -- typically invoked during a major infestation -- when only a few beetles were found in blueberries? Why did the agency also grant a "conditional" registration for its close relative, Pancho, allowing the chemical on the market with only partial testing? And why is the agency, hiding behind a curtain of "trade secrets," still refusing to disclose whether the additional tests required of companies in such cases were conducted and, if so, with what results? [Pesticides] are regulated ...- under the antiquated Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. This law allows a chemical on the market unless it's proved to pose "an unreasonable risk," far too weak a standard.
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The next time you make some microwave popcorn or cook a frozen pizza, consider this: The packaging of many of these products contains a chemical that the Environmental Protection Agency considers potentially carcinogenic and wants businesses to voluntarily stop using by 2015. Studies show that this chemical -- perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA -- is present in 98% of Americans' blood and 100% of newborns. It doesn't break down and thus accumulates in the system over time. PFOA ... is used to make Teflon pans, Gore-Tex clothing and to prevent food from sticking to paper packaging. The industry says that while the EPA's carcinogen concerns are based on animal tests, there's no evidence that PFOA is harmful to humans. Public-health advocates counter that the industry is being disingenuous. "There's never been a chemical found that affects animals but has no effect on humans," said Bill Walker, vice president of the Environmental Working Group. PFOA is part of a broader constellation of substances known as perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs. When PFCs are heated, they break down into compounds that can be absorbed into food and make it into the bloodstream. Federal investigators determined in 2005 that PFOA is a "likely carcinogen" and called for expanded testing to study its potential to cause liver, breast, testicular and pancreatic cancer. Walker at the Environmental Working Group said the voluntary phaseout supported by the EPA was insufficient. It wouldn't apply to Chinese companies, which are among the leading manufacturers of food packaging.
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They're some of the most trusted voices in the defense of vaccine safety: the American Academy of Pediatrics, Every Child By Two, and pediatrician Dr. Paul Offit. But CBS News has found these three have something more in common - strong financial ties to the industry whose products they promote and defend. The vaccine industry gives millions to the Academy of Pediatrics for conferences, grants, medical education classes and even helped build their headquarters. The totals are kept secret, but public documents reveal bits and pieces. A $342,000 payment from Wyeth, maker of the pneumococcal vaccine - which makes $2 billion a year in sales. A $433,000 contribution from Merck, the same year the academy endorsed Merck's HPV vaccine - which made $1.5 billion a year in sales. Every Child By Two, a group that promotes early immunization for all children, admits the group takes money from the vaccine industry, too - but wouldn't tell us how much. Then there's Paul Offit, perhaps the most widely-quoted defender of vaccine safety. He's gone so far as to say babies can tolerate "10,000 vaccines at once." In fact, he's a vaccine industry insider. Offit holds in a $1.5 million dollar research chair at Children's Hospital, funded by Merck. He holds the patent on an anti-diarrhea vaccine he developed with Merck. And future royalties for the vaccine were just sold for $182 million cash.
Note: For an excellent report endorsed by dozens of respected doctors and nurses on the serious risks and dangers of vaccines, click here. And read an excellent list of questions related to the usefulness of vaccines that are almost never raised by the major media. This US government webpage states, "Since the first National Vaccine Injury Compensation (VICP) claims were filed in 1989, 3,981 compensation awards have been made. More than $2.8 billion in compensation awards has been paid to petitioners."
The head of a prominent cancer research institute issued an unprecedented warning to his faculty and staff: Limit cell phone use because of the possible risk of cancer. The warning [came] from Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. Herberman is basing his alarm on early unpublished data. He says it takes too long to get answers from science and he believes people should take action now — especially when it comes to children. "Really at the heart of my concern is that we shouldn't wait for a definitive study to come out, but err on the side of being safe rather than sorry later," Herberman said. [His] advice is sure to raise concern among many cell phone users and especially parents. In the memo he sent to about 3,000 faculty and staff, he says children should use cell phones only for emergencies because their brains are still developing. Adults should keep the phone away from the head and use the speakerphone or a wireless headset, he says. He even warns against using cell phones in public places like a bus because it exposes others to the phone's electromagnetic fields. Herberman cites a "growing body of literature linking long-term cell phone use to possible adverse health effects including cancer." "Although the evidence is still controversial, I am convinced that there are sufficient data to warrant issuing an advisory to share some precautionary advice on cell phone use," he wrote in his memo.
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The United States of America is becoming less united by the day. A 30-year gap now exists in the average life expectancy between Mississippi, in the Deep South, and Connecticut, in prosperous New England. Huge disparities have also opened up in income, health and education depending on where people live in the US, according to a report published yesterday. The American Human Development Index has [issued a report] measuring well-being ... with shocking results. The US finds itself ranked 42nd in global life expectancy and 34th in survival of infants to age. Suicide and murder are among the top 15 causes of death and although the US is home to just 5 per cent of the global population it accounts for 24 per cent of the world's prisoners. The report points to a rigged system that does little to lessen inequalities. "The report shows that although America is one of the richest nations in the world, it is woefully behind when it comes to providing opportunity and choices to all Americans to build a better life," the authors said. Some of its more shocking findings reveal that ... Asian-American males have the best quality of life and black Americans the lowest, with a staggering 50-year life expectancy gap between the two groups. Using official government statistics, the study points out that because American schools are funded primarily from local property taxes, rich districts get the best state education. The US has no federally mandated sick pay, paternity leave or annual paid vacation.
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Most parents have never heard of him, but Joseph Biederman of Harvard may be the United States' most influential doctor when it comes to determining whether their children are normal or mentally ill. In 1996, for example, Biederman suggested that drugs like Ritalin might serve 10 percent of American kids for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. By 2004, one in nine 11-year-old boys was taking the drug. Biederman and his team also are more responsible than anyone for a child bipolar epidemic sweeping America (and no other country) that has 2-year-olds on three or four psychiatric drugs. The science of children's psychiatric medications is so primitive and Biederman's influence so great that when he merely mentions a drug during a presentation, tens of thousands of children within a year or two will end up taking that drug, or combination of drugs. This happens in the absence of a drug trial of any kind - instead, the decision is based upon word of mouth among the 7,000 child psychiatrists in America. That's why [the] recent revelation that Biederman did not declare $1.6 million in drug company consulting fees is so important, scary and tragic. American medicine, with psychiatry the most culpable, has fallen back to a time more than 100 years ago. Now once again, drug company money is corrupting medical practice and the maintenance of our country's health. Virtually all doctors who receive drug company money say they are not influenced, but every independent study examining the effects of such money says they are.
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It seemed an ideal marriage, a scientific partnership that would attack mental illness from all sides. Psychiatrists would bring ... their expertise and clinical experience, drug makers would provide their products and the money to run rigorous studies, and patients would get better medications, faster. But now the profession itself is under attack in Congress, accused of allowing this relationship to become too cozy. After a series of stinging investigations of individual doctors’ arrangements with drug makers, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, is demanding that the American Psychiatric Association, the field’s premier professional organization, give an accounting of its financing. "I have come to understand that money from the pharmaceutical industry can shape the practices of nonprofit organizations that purport to be independent in their viewpoints and actions," Mr. Grassley said. In 2006 ... the drug industry accounted for about 30 percent of the association’s $62.5 million in financing. One of the doctors named by Mr. Grassley is the association’s president-elect, Dr. Alan F. Schatzberg of Stanford, whose $4.8 million stock holdings in a drug development company raised the senator’s concern. Commercial arrangements are rampant throughout medicine. In the past two decades, drug and device makers have paid tens of thousands of doctors and researchers of all specialties. Worried that this money could taint doctors’ research plans or clinical judgment, government agencies, medical journals and universities have been forced to look more closely at deal details.
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Three Polish doctors and six nurses are facing criminal prosecution after a number of homeless people died following medical trials for a vaccine to the H5N1 bird-flu virus. The medical staff, from the northern town of Grudziadz, are being investigated over medical trials on as many as 350 homeless and poor people last year, which prosecutors say involved an untried vaccine to the highly-contagious virus. Authorities claim that the alleged victims received Ł1-2 to be tested with what they thought was a conventional flu vaccine but, according to investigators, was actually an anti bird-flu drug. The director of a Grudziadz homeless centre, Mieczyslaw Waclawski, told a Polish newspaper that last year, 21 people from his centre died, a figure well above the average of about eight. Investigators are also probing the possibility that the medical staff may have also have deceived the pharmaceutical companies that commissioned the trials. The news of the investigation will come as another blow to the reputation of Poland's beleaguered and poverty-stricken national health service. In 2002, a number of ambulance medics were found guilty of killing their patients for commissions from funeral companies.
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In 2002, at a Johns Hopkins University laboratory, a business consultant named Dede Osborn took a psychedelic drug as part of a research project. She felt like she was taking off. She saw colors. Then it felt like her heart was ripping open. But she called the experience joyful as well as painful, and says that it has helped her to this day. "I feel more centered in who I am and what I'm doing," said Osborn, now 66, of Providence, R.I. "I don't seem to have those self-doubts like I used to have. I feel much more grounded (and feel that) we are all connected." Scientists reported ... that when they surveyed volunteers 14 months after they took the drug, most said they were still feeling and behaving better because of the experience. Two-thirds of them also said the drug had produced one of the five most spiritually significant experiences they'd ever had. The drug, psilocybin, is found in so-called "magic mushrooms." It's illegal, but it has been used in religious ceremonies for centuries. The project made headlines in 2006 when researchers published their report on how the volunteers felt just two months after taking the drug. The new study followed them up [to] a year after that. Fourteen months after taking the drug, 64 percent of the volunteers said they still felt at least a moderate increase in well-being or life satisfaction, in terms of things like feeling more creative, self-confident, flexible and optimistic. The questionnaire answers indicated lasting gains in traits like being more sensitive, tolerant, loving and compassionate.
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While carrying out field work in Papua New Guinea in the late 1980s, [Dr. David Pritchard] noticed that Papuans infected with the Necator americanus hookworm, a parasite that lives in the human gut, did not suffer much from an assortment of autoimmune-related illnesses, including hay fever and asthma. Over the years, Dr. Pritchard has developed a theory to explain the phenomenon. "The allergic response evolved to help expel parasites, and we think the worms have found a way of switching off the immune system in order to survive," he said. "That's why infected people have fewer allergic symptoms." To test his theory, and to see whether he can translate it into therapeutic pay dirt, Dr. Pritchard is recruiting clinical trial participants willing to be infected with 10 hookworms each in hopes of banishing their allergies and asthma. Never one to sidestep his own experimental cures, Dr. Pritchard initially used himself as a subject. After Dr. Pritchard's self-infection experiment, the National Health Services ethics committee let him conduct a study in 2006 with 30 participants, 15 of whom received 10 hookworms each. Tests showed that after six weeks, the T-cells of the 15 worm recipients began to produce lower levels of chemicals associated with inflammatory response, indicating that their immune systems were more suppressed than those of the 15 placebo recipients. Despite playing host to small numbers of parasites, worm recipients reported little discomfort. Trial participants raved about their allergy symptoms disappearing.
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Between 1983 and 1999, men’s life expectancy decreased in more than 50 U.S. counties, according to a recent study by [Majid] Ezzati, associate professor of international health at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), and colleagues. For women, the news was even worse: life expectancy decreased in more than 900 counties—more than a quarter of the total. This means 4 percent of American men and 19 percent of American women can expect their lives to be shorter than or, at best, the same length as those of people in their home counties two decades ago. The United States no longer boasts anywhere near the world’s longest life expectancy. It doesn’t even make the top 40. In this and many other ways, the richest nation on earth is not the healthiest. Poor health is not distributed evenly across the population, but concentrated among the disadvantaged. But in the United States, the gap between the rich and the poor is far wider than in most other developed democracies, and it is getting wider. That is true both before and after taxes: the United States also does less than most other rich democracies to redistribute income from the rich to the poor. Living in a society with wide disparities—in health, in wealth, in education—is worse for all the society’s members, even the well off. People at the top of the U.S. income spectrum “live a very long time,” says Cabot professor of public policy and epidemiology Lisa Berkman, “but people at the top in some other countries live a lot longer.”
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In a major breakthrough in the search for a cure for cancer, the first human trials are to begin using a technique that has already been shown to destroy the disease in mice. The trials are the culmination of years of research prompted by the discovery of a cancer-proof mouse by researchers almost a decade ago. More than 20 cancer patients will be given white blood cells with cancer-killing properties in an attempt to boost their immune system's fight against the deadly illness. The work stems from experiments into the metabolism of a humble laboratory mouse whose immunity to cancer defied the repeated attempts of scientists to kill it with high-level doses of cancer cells. White blood cells taken from the animal and its offspring were subsequently used to cure other mice of advanced cancers. The white blood cells destroyed the cancer cells but left normal cells alone. This discovery encouraged scientists to study how people might be helped to fight off cancer by being given a boost of white blood cells called granulocytes. Laboratory tests have since shown how human granulocytes can destroy cervical, prostate and breast cancer cells, provided sufficient numbers of cancer-killing granulocytes from healthy donors are used. Scientists are now confident that the treatment will prove just as successful in humans as it has been in mice. Hundreds of donors will be recruited for the new treatment – which is called leukocyte infusion therapy – and a process similar to platelet donation will be used to collect the granulocytes.
Smokers trying to quit sometimes use nicotine patches to fight their tobacco dependence. But patches don't work for everyone. New research suggests that patches might be made more effective if used in combination with hypnosis, just as they tend to work better when used in conjunction with professional counseling. A recently published study showed hypnotherapy to be as effective as standard behavioral counseling when combined with nicotine patches in helping smokers to quit and stay off cigarettes for one year. "This study provides much-needed evidence that hypnosis is indeed a very helpful treatment," says lead author Timothy Carmody. During hypnotherapy, Carmody explained, patients are coaxed into a relaxed state and then provided with a series of skills for coping with withdrawal symptoms and the urge to smoke. A total of 286 participants were randomly divided and received either hypnosis or standard behavioral counseling aimed at smoking cessation. Hypnosis was particularly helpful for would-be quitters who reported a history of depression. That finding suggests that smokers who have struggled with depression—or perhaps with other psychiatric conditions, Carmody says—might someday receive hypnosis as part of the quitting process. Brian Hitsman, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, called the results encouraging and added that the hypnotic intervention evaluated in the study may have the potential to serve as another nonpharmacological treatment option in addition to standard counseling.
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A man who had been given less than a year to live had a complete remission of advanced deadly skin cancer after an experimental treatment that revved up his immune system to fight the tumors. The 52-year-old patient's dramatic turnaround was the only success in a small study, leading doctors to be cautious in their enthusiasm. However, the treatment reported in ... The New England Journal of Medicine is being counted as the latest in a small series of successes involving immune-priming treatments against deadly skin cancers. "Immunotherapy has become the most promising approach" to late-stage, death-sentence skin cancers, said Dr. Darrell Rigel, a dermatology researcher at the New York University Cancer Institute in New York. About 20 years ago, some scientists discovered that immune cells could latch onto and attack skin cancers. "There's a long history behind all of this," said Dr. Steven Rosenberg of the National Cancer Institute. In recent experiments, Rosenberg and other researchers have focused on souping up a certain kind of immune system cell - the "killer T cells" that envelop and kill foreign agents. Scientists focused ... on specific helper T cells that are adept at locking onto a cancer cell and guiding the killer cells to their target. The researchers drew blood from patients, located the special helper cells and then grew more of them in the laboratory. They then infused roughly 5 billion of the cells back into the patients without chemotherapy or the other harsh drugs. "It's a simpler and less toxic approach to melanoma than had been previously employed," said Dr. Louis Weiner, director of the cancer center at Georgetown University.
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Europe this month rolled out new restrictions on makers of chemicals linked to cancer and other health problems, changes that are forcing U.S. industries to find new ways to produce a wide range of everyday products. The new laws in the European Union require companies to demonstrate that a chemical is safe before it enters commerce -- the opposite of policies in the United States, where regulators must prove that a chemical is harmful before it can be restricted or removed from the market. The changes come at a time when consumers are increasingly worried about the long-term consequences of chemical exposure and are agitating for more aggressive regulation. The European Union's tough stance on chemical regulation is the latest area in which the Europeans are reshaping business practices with demands that American companies either comply or lose access to a market of 27 countries and nearly 500 million people. From its crackdown on antitrust practices in the computer industry to its rigorous protection of consumer privacy, the European Union has adopted a regulatory philosophy that emphasizes the consumer. "There's a strong sense in Europe and the world at large that America is letting the market have a free ride," said Sheila Jasanoff, professor of science and technology studies at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. "The Europeans believe . . . that being a good global citizen in an era of sustainability means you don't just charge ahead and destroy the planet without concern for what you're doing."
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Because she was planning to get pregnant, Janelle ... decided last year to go off powerful medication for stress-induced migraines in favor of a more fetus-friendly therapy. With sensors attached to her fingertips, neck, and abdomen, she spent 20 sessions learning to relax her muscles and slow her breathing and heart rate while watching a computer monitor for proof of the desired result. Eventually, she was able to do the work on her own. "The migraine pain doesn't go away completely," says the 39-year-old from Bethesda, Md., who has remained off medication since her son's birth two months ago. "But it's been greatly reduced, and I'm able to deal with it better." Like meditation and yoga, the biofeedback method that Janelle now swears by is enjoying a sort of renaissance; while it's been around for some 40 years, a growing body of research has brought it to the mainstream, indicating that it can relieve some hard-to-manage conditions exacerbated by stress. Many major hospitals and clinics, including Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital and Duke University Medical Center, now offer biofeedback to people with hypertension and jaw pain as well as headaches, for example. Biofeedback's major appeal is that one series of sessions purportedly teaches a set of skills you can use for lifeâ€”without side effects. And it's pre-emptive. "Biofeedback teaches you to identify early signs that stress is starting to get to you and to bring that stress reaction down before it causes physical symptoms," explains Frank Andrasik, a professor of psychology at the University of West Florida in Pensacola.
Amalgam or 'silver' dental fillings contain mercury which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Pregnant women and persons who may have a health condition that makes them more sensitive to mercury exposure, including individuals with existing high levels of mercury bioburden, should not avoid seeking dental care, but should discuss options with their health practitioner," the agency said in the udpated "Question and Answer" fact sheet about dental amalgams. The FDA will issue a more specific rule next year for fillings that contain mercury, FDA spokeswoman Peper Long [said]. Dental amalgam, which is made up of liquid mercury and a powder containing silver, tin, copper, zinc and other metals, has long been used to fill or restore teeth that have cavities. The mercury concentration in dental amalgams is generally about 50 percent by weight, while the silver concentration ranges from 20 to 35 percent, according to the FDA.
Race and place of residence can have a staggering impact on the course and quality of the medical treatment a patient receives, according to new research showing that blacks with diabetes or vascular disease are nearly five times more likely than whites to have a leg amputated and that women in Mississippi are far less likely to have mammograms than those in Maine. The study, by researchers at Dartmouth, examined Medicare claims for evidence of racial and geographic disparities and found that on a variety of quality indices, blacks typically were less likely to receive recommended care than whites within a given region. But the most striking disparities were found from place to place. For instance, the widest racial gaps in mammogram rates within a state were in California and Illinois, with a difference of 12 percentage points between the white rate and the black rate. But the country’s lowest rate for blacks — 48 percent in California — was 24 percentage points below the highest rate — 72 percent in Massachusetts. The statistics were for women ages 65 to 69 who received screening in 2004 or 2005. In all but two states, black diabetics were less likely than whites to receive annual hemoglobin testing. But blacks in Colorado (66 percent) were far less likely to be screened than those in Massachusetts (88 percent). The study was commissioned by the nation’s largest health-related philanthropy, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which on Thursday planned to announce a three-year, $300 million initiative intended to narrow health care disparities across lines of race and geography.
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Silver-colored metal dental fillings contain mercury that may cause health problems in pregnant women, children and fetuses, the Food and Drug Administration said, after settling a related lawsuit. As part of the settlement with several consumer advocacy groups, the FDA agreed to alert consumers about the potential risks ... and to issue a more specific rule next year for fillings that contain mercury. "Dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses," the FDA said. "Pregnant women and persons who may have a health condition that makes them more sensitive to mercury exposure, including individuals with existing high levels of mercury bioburden, should not avoid seeking dental care, but should discuss options with their health practitioner," the agency said. The lawsuit settlement was reached ... with several advocacy groups, including Moms Against Mercury, which had sought to have mercury fillings removed from the U.S. market. Some consumer groups contend the fillings can trigger a range of health problems such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease. Mercury has been linked to brain and kidney damage at certain levels. Amalgams contain half mercury and half a combination of other metals. Charles Brown, a lawyer for one of the groups called Consumers for Dental Choice, said the agency's move represented an about-face. "Gone, gone, gone are all of FDA's claims that no science exists that amalgam is unsafe," he said.
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Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news articles on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.