6:27 PM

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Tons of released drugs taint US water

U.S. manufacturers, including major drugmakers, have legally released at least 271 million pounds of pharmaceuticals into waterways that often provide drinking water — contamination the federal government has consistently overlooked, according to an Associated Press investigation.

Hundreds of active pharmaceutical ingredients are used in a variety of manufacturing, including drugmaking: For example, lithium is used to make ceramics and treat bipolar disorder; nitroglycerin is a heart drug and also used in explosives; copper shows up in everything from pipes to contraceptives.

Federal and industry officials say they don't know the extent to which pharmaceuticals are released by U.S. manufacturers because no one tracks them — as drugs. But a close analysis of 20 years of federal records found that, in fact, the government unintentionally keeps data on a few, allowing a glimpse of the pharmaceuticals coming from factories.

As part of its ongoing PharmaWater investigation about trace concentrations of pharmaceuticals in drinking water, AP identified 22 compounds that show up on two lists: the EPA monitors them as industrial chemicals that are released into rivers, lakes and other bodies of water under federal pollution laws, while the Food and Drug Administration classifies them as active pharmaceutical ingredients.

The data don't show precisely how much of the 271 million pounds comes from drugmakers versus other manufacturers; also, the figure is a massive undercount because of the limited federal government tracking.

To date, drugmakers have dismissed the suggestion that their manufacturing contributes significantly to what's being found in water. Federal drug and water regulators agree.

But some researchers say the lack of required testing amounts to a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy about whether drugmakers are contributing to water pollution.

"It doesn't pass the straight-face test to say pharmaceutical manufacturers are not emitting any of the compounds they're creating," said Kyla Bennett, who spent 10 years as an EPA enforcement officer before becoming an ecologist and environmental attorney.

Pilot studies in the U.S. and abroad are now confirming those doubts.

Last year, the AP reported that trace amounts of a wide range of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in American drinking water supplies. Including recent findings in Dallas, Cleveland and Maryland's Prince George's and Montgomery counties, pharmaceuticals have been detected in the drinking water of at least 51 million Americans.

Most cities and water providers still do not test. Some scientists say that wherever researchers look, they will find pharma-tainted water.

Consumers are considered the biggest contributors to the contamination. We consume drugs, then excrete what our bodies don't absorb. Other times, we flush unused drugs down toilets. The AP also found that an estimated 250 million pounds of pharmaceuticals and contaminated packaging are thrown away each year by hospitals and long-term care facilities.

Researchers have found that even extremely diluted concentrations of drugs harm fish, frogs and other aquatic species. Also, researchers report that human cells fail to grow normally in the laboratory when exposed to trace concentrations of certain drugs. Some scientists say they are increasingly concerned that the consumption of combinations of many drugs, even in small amounts, could harm humans over decades.

Utilities say the water is safe. Scientists, doctors and the EPA say there are no confirmed human risks associated with consuming minute concentrations of drugs. But those experts also agree that dangers cannot be ruled out, especially given the emerging research.

___

Two common industrial chemicals that are also pharmaceuticals — the antiseptics phenol and hydrogen peroxide — account for 92 percent of the 271 million pounds identified as coming from drugmakers and other manufacturers. Both can be toxic and both are considered to be ubiquitous in the environment.

However, the list of 22 includes other troubling releases of chemicals that can be used to make drugs and other products: 8 million pounds of the skin bleaching cream hydroquinone, 3 million pounds of nicotine compounds that can be used in quit-smoking patches, 10,000 pounds of the antibiotic tetracycline hydrochloride. Others include treatments for head lice and worms.

Residues are often released into the environment when manufacturing equipment is cleaned.

A small fraction of pharmaceuticals also leach out of landfills where they are dumped. Pharmaceuticals released onto land include the chemo agent fluorouracil, the epilepsy medicine phenytoin and the sedative pentobarbital sodium. The overall amount may be considerable, given the volume of what has been buried — 572 million pounds of the 22 monitored drugs since 1988.

In one case, government data shows that in Columbus, Ohio, pharmaceutical maker Boehringer Ingelheim Roxane Inc. discharged an estimated 2,285 pounds of lithium carbonate — which is considered slightly toxic to aquatic invertebrates and freshwater fish — to a local wastewater treatment plant between 1995 and 2006. Company spokeswoman Marybeth C. McGuire said the pharmaceutical plant, which uses lithium to make drugs for bipolar disorder, has violated no laws or regulations. McGuire said all the lithium discharged, an annual average of 190 pounds, was lost when residues stuck to mixing equipment were washed down the drain.

___

Pharmaceutical company officials point out that active ingredients represent profits, so there's a huge incentive not to let any escape. They also say extremely strict manufacturing regulations — albeit aimed at other chemicals — help prevent leakage, and that whatever traces may get away are handled by onsite wastewater treatment.

"Manufacturers have to be in compliance with all relevant environmental laws," said Alan Goldhammer, a scientist and vice president at the industry trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Goldhammer conceded some drug residues could be released in wastewater, but stressed "it would not cause any environmental issues because it was not a toxic substance at the level that it was being released at."

Several big drugmakers were asked this simple question: Have you tested wastewater from your plants to find out whether any active pharmaceuticals are escaping, and if so what have you found?

No drugmaker answered directly.

"Based on research that we have reviewed from the past 20 years, pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities are not a significant source of pharmaceuticals that contribute to environmental risk," GlaxoSmithKline said in a statement.

AstraZeneca spokeswoman Kate Klemas said the company's manufacturing processes "are designed to avoid, or otherwise minimize the loss of product to the environment" and thus "ensure that any residual losses of pharmaceuticals to the environment that do occur are at levels that would be unlikely to pose a threat to human health or the environment."

One major manufacturer, Pfizer Inc., acknowledged that it tested some of its wastewater — but outside the United States.

The company's director of hazard communication and environmental toxicology, Frank Mastrocco, said Pfizer has sampled effluent from some of its foreign drug factories. Without disclosing details, he said the results left Pfizer "confident that the current controls and processes in place at these facilities are adequately protective of human health and the environment."

It's not just the industry that isn't testing.

FDA spokesman Christopher Kelly noted that his agency is not responsible for what comes out on the waste end of drug factories. At the EPA, acting assistant administrator for water Mike Shapiro — whose agency's Web site says pharmaceutical releases from manufacturing are "well defined and controlled" — did not mention factories as a source of pharmaceutical pollution when asked by the AP how drugs get into drinking water.

"Pharmaceuticals get into water in many ways," he said in a written statement. "It's commonly believed the majority come from human and animal excretion. A portion also comes from flushing unused drugs down the toilet or drain; a practice EPA generally discourages."

His position echoes that of a line of federal drug and water regulators as well as drugmakers, who concluded in the 1990s — before highly sensitive tests now used had been developed — that manufacturing is not a meaningful source of pharmaceuticals in the environment.

Pharmaceutical makers typically are excused from having to submit an environmental review for new products, and the FDA has never rejected a drug application based on potential environmental impact. Also at play are pressures not to delay potentially lifesaving drugs. What's more, because the EPA hasn't concluded at what level, if any, pharmaceuticals are bad for the environment or harmful to people, drugmakers almost never have to report the release of pharmaceuticals they produce.

"The government could get a national snapshot of the water if they chose to," said Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council, "and it seems logical that we would want to find out what's coming out of these plants."

Ajit Ghorpade, an environmental engineer who worked for several major pharmaceutical companies before his current job helping run a wastewater treatment plant, said drugmakers have no impetus to take measurements that the government doesn't require.

"Obviously nobody wants to spend the time or their dime to prove this," he said. "It's like asking me why I don't drive a hybrid car? Why should I? It's not required."

___

After contacting the nation's leading drugmakers and filing public records requests, the AP found two federal agencies that have tested.

Both the EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey have studies under way comparing sewage at treatment plants that receive wastewater from drugmaking factories against sewage at treatment plants that do not.

Preliminary USGS results, slated for publication later this year, show that treated wastewater from sewage plants serving drug factories had significantly more medicine residues. Data from the EPA study show a disproportionate concentration in wastewater of an antibiotic that a major Michigan factory was producing at the time the samples were taken.

Meanwhile, other researchers recorded concentrations of codeine in the southern reaches of the Delaware River that were at least 10 times higher than the rest of the river.

The scientists from the Delaware River Basin Commission won't have to look far when they try to track down potential sources later this year. One mile from the sampling site, just off shore of Pennsville, N.J., there's a pipe that spits out treated wastewater from a municipal plant. The plant accepts sewage from a pharmaceutical factory owned by Siegfried Ltd. The factory makes codeine.

"We have implemented programs to not only reduce the volume of waste materials generated but to minimize the amount of pharmaceutical ingredients in the water," said Siegfried spokeswoman Rita van Eck.

Another codeine plant, run by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Noramco Inc., is about seven miles away. A Noramco spokesman acknowledged that the Wilmington, Del., factory had voluntarily tested its wastewater and found codeine in trace concentrations thousands of times greater than what was found in the Delaware River. "The amounts of codeine we measured in the wastewater, prior to releasing it to the City of Wilmington, are not considered to be hazardous to the environment," said a company spokesman.

In another instance, equipment-cleaning water sent down the drain of an Upsher-Smith Laboratories, Inc. factory in Denver consistently contains traces of warfarin, a blood thinner, according to results obtained under a public records act request. Officials at the company and the Denver Metro Wastewater Reclamation District said they believe the concentrations are safe.

Warfarin, which also is a common rat poison and pesticide, is so effective at inhibiting growth of aquatic plants and animals it's actually deliberately introduced to clean plants and tiny aquatic animals from ballast water of ships.

"With regard to wastewater management we are subject to a variety of federal, state and local regulation and oversight," said Joel Green, Upsher-Smith's vice president and general counsel. "And we work hard to maintain systems to promote compliance."

Baylor University professor Bryan Brooks, who has published more than a dozen studies related to pharmaceuticals in the environment, said assurances that drugmakers run clean shops are not enough.

"I have no reason to believe them or not believe them," he said. "We don't have peer-reviewed studies to support or not support their claims."

taken from yahoo health
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12:15 AM

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13 Twitter's Don't doing

You want to keep your Twitter followers happy? Avoid these okay.

he number of new Twitter users has soared over the past few months, as the microblogging service has taken the media by storm. If you're one of those new users, you may be baffled by Twitter's peculiar culture, or nervous that you'll commit some kind of microblogging faux pas.

Don't worry, we're here to help. While there aren't specific rules for how to use Twitter, avoiding these 13 Don'ts will help you fit right in—and may even gain you some adoring new followers.

1. Don't live-tweet TV shows. @CorinneIOZO warns that lots of people use DVRs or watch shows on Hulu these days, so spoiling big moments ("OMG, the smoke monster was actually from outer space! No way!") is a major no-no. As an alternative, tweet an inside joke that the show's viewers will get, but that doesn't give away any important details.

2. Don't say anything that could get you fired or prevent you from getting a job. @JoelSD points out that if your tweets are public, they really are open to everyone, as has been demonstrated time and time again.




3. Don't
be boring. A simple rule that @kmonson follows is "Never tweet about food or the weather." If your friends see one more "Good morning Twitterverse!" or "I had some awesome corn flakes for breakfast," you're getting un-followed.

4. Don't forget the Twitter lingo: RT is retweet, and @name is how you respond or give props to someone. Feel free to be generous with both your RTs and your @s.

5. Don't tweet more than ten times a day, or more than five times an hour, says @JasonCross00. It gets annoying and takes space and attention away from other Twitterers' links and observations. If you have that much to say, maybe it belongs on a blog.

6. Don't reply to every single tweet. As @seanludwig points out, it gets old fast.

7. Don't tweet drunk, cautions @whitneyarner. Just like in real life, your followers might get a kick out of your drunk tweets, but you'll probably regret them in the morning.

8. Don't tell us about something cool or life-changing without a link or picture (use a service like TwitPic for your photos, and a URL shortener like TinyURL or is.gd for your links).

9. Don't retweet something and leave off the original Twitter poster. Always give credit to those who wrote it first.

10. Don't ignore people who send you a direct message or a reply, says @LanceUlanoff. Part of the Twitter experience involves conversing with your followers when possible.

11. Don't #hashtag every topic. After a while, your topics will be ignored.

12. Don't whine about people not following you, pleads @SaschaSegan. If you're good at providing interesting stuff and you're patient, you'll get the followers you crave so badly.

13. Don't tweet your bathroom habits. Seriously. Just don't do it.

taken from pcmag.com

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12:50 AM

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Intel Begins Applying 'Stars' Ratings to Microprocessors


Will you choose a PC's processor like you choose a hotel? Intel has already bet that you will.

Years after microprocessor vendors launched "model numbers" to try and provide buyers with a simpler way of evaluating microprocessor performance, on April 1 Intel began placing point-of-sale placards and other promotional materials in stores displaying between one to five stars. The company has also jazzed up its chip logos, adding a bit of color to the almost-uniform Intel blue.

The problem is threefold: on one hand, it's almost impossible for even experienced enthusiasts to try and distinguish between two nearly identical processors, which now use a dizzying array of features to differentiate themselves: the number of cores, their clock speed, the amount of level-2 and level-3 cache, the speed of the interconnect, the memory interface and speed, as well as other features such as hyperthreading and "turbo boost". Differences can be ascertained by benchmarking both simulated and real-world applications, which sites like ExtremeTech run in spades.

At a retailer like Best Buy, however, such benchmarks are rarely, if ever, provided to the user; OEMs like Hewlett-Packard and Acer are more interested in presenting the advantages of their own hardware and software bundles.

The third issue: the number of processor options companies like Intel and its rival AMD offer; Intel offers a total of 30 desktop processors, and 57 notebook processors, not including the three Atom processors which can appear in either a "nettop" or netbook.

When asked, Intel spokesman Bill Calder agreed that "there were too many models; too many brands." Intel's desktop brands include the Pentium, Celeron, Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad, Core i7, and Core i7 Extreme Edition. Most are centered around what Calder called a "hero" brand: the Core series. But, he added, it was too soon to say whether older brands, such as the Celeron, would be discarded.

"It's important for people to understand that we've got all these different brands, but we have a challenge when people come to retail," he said. "How do I distinguish between the Pentium and Celeron and Core and Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad?"

Over the last few months, Intel has been re-evaluating its brands and embarking on a fairly broad band simplification effort, he said. Both the revised logo and the "stars" classifications are "small but important elements" of that, Calder said. "And there will be more," he added.

The "stars" rating," Calder said, is an "easy, intuitive way" to see the processors in connection with one another, in a way that he said communicates "relative performance, not a price-performance type of thing," he said. They will be applied to both desktop and notebook product lines, but not the Atom, he said.

Five-star desktop processors include the Intel Core i7 and Core i7 Extreme; four-star processors include the Q9300+ and E8000 series. Three-star processors include the Q8000 series and E7000 series. Intel has drawn a more distinct line between the three- and two-star designations, placing the Pentium line in its own two-star category. At the bottom of the heap is the Celeron, a one-star chip.

(Some of the distinctions can appear arbitrary; the three-star Q8300 is a four-core, 2.5-GHz processor that uses a 1,333-MHz front-side bus with 4 Mbytes of cache; the four-star Q9300 is identical, but includes 6 Mbytes of cache.)

Calder emphasized that the star ratings were not based entirely on performance, but on features, such as the "turbo boost" capability that allows the Core i7 architecture to overclock a single core running one single-threaded application. They won't be directly affixed to a PC, but have been accompanying sales circulars since the first of the month. Additional point-of-sale training will be required, Calder said.

The revised logos remain largely unchanged from Intel's traditional "Intel Inside" logo, except with the Core brand prominently displayed, and color coding applied to help differentiate the brands. The logo also includes a "peeled-away" portion, revealing a die-like graphic. The orientation is now horizontal, although the logo will take up the same "footprint," or space.

The new logos are more colorful and ornamental, Calder said.

taken from pcmag.com

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12:09 AM

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Beware Conficker Awakens, Mutates, Hustles

Reports are all over that a new and interesting version of the Conficker worm is around, and that it is pushing rogue anti-malware to its users. Thus a purpose to the whole endeavor begins to emerge: Money. But the vendor analyses of this new variant are not yet in synch; they disagree on some points and are confused on others.

ESET calls this new variant Win32/Conficker.AQ; the names are really beginning to diverge among the vendors. The new variant is split into client and server components. The server, a Windows device driver, attempts to perform the infections of other systems through the MS08-067 vulnerability in Windows that made Conficker famous, but which had actually been removed from the previous variant. It also sets up an HTTP server on a random TCP port. Curiously, after May 3 the server part of the program will remove itself from the system as of the next reboot.

The client program is a newly-obfuscated version of the old, familiar Conficker program. ESET says the new version dumps the domain name distribution scheme; this seemed clever, but was too susceptible to organized resistance by the industry and authorities. The new version attempts only to communicate through the already established peer network. They also suspect that the Autoun propagation system has been removed from it too, but haven't completed analysis on that point.

ESET has a removal tool for this variant.

Symantec is reporting that the driver patches tcpip.sys in order to increase the number of concurrent connections on the system. They call this variant W32.Downadup.E. Symantec describes the DLL portion as the C variant and that the purpose of the infection is to install that C variant. This isn't exactly what ESET says. Symantec also doesn't say that the Autorun propagation has been removed and they still recommend in their technical description disabling Autorun, but the description of E variant doesn't mention Autorun anymore.

The Microsoft description has more details than most others:


* Before it spreads itself it appends a stream of randomly generated garbage to itself to confuse file identifiers, but this won't be too hard to defeat.

* It establishes the server by using SSDP to find an Internet gateway device and then issues a SOAP command to set up port forwarding to itself. This is UPnP, and router configuration program often do similar things.

Kaspersky's Threatpost then follows through on the business model of Conficker: pushing rogue anti-malware. They report that infected systems are getting popups with warnings that push a $49.95 scam product, SpywareProtect2009. Kaspersky has their own disinfection tool.

More on Conficker:

A New Old Worm Follows in Conficker's Footsteps

Where Are the Infected Conficker Systems?

Conficker Post-Mortem...It Is Dead, Isn't It?

Infected with Conficker? Here's What to Do

Conficker--a Bullet-Proof Botnet?

The 7 Most Important Things to Know About Conficker

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1:03 AM

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Disable Write Access to USB Hard Disk and Flash Key Drives

There is a registry hack that able to disable the USB drive access to USB mass storage device such as flash drive, USB key, thumb drive, pendrive and portable hard disk while keeping the USB hardware device such as webcam, mouse, keyboard, printer and scanner connected to USB ports working as usual. However, the hack disable the USB access to disk drive completely. User cannot copy data to the USB disk storage, nor able to read any files and documents from the USB drive.

For user who just want to disable write access to the external removable USB mass storage disk drive, there is another registry hack of WriteProtect in StorageDevicePolicies registry key that able to restrict Windows system from writing to the USB disk drive, and hence effectively user to copy any sensitive or private data from the PC to USB key stick. The trick works in a similar way to write-protect feature used in floppy disk and backup tape which make the disk read-only, only that in this case, it’s system wide implementation that block any writing and recording of data to USB mass storage device.

To disable writing access to USB drives and make all USB drives has only read-only access, follow these steps:

1. Run Registry Editor (regedit).
2. Navigate to the following registry key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control
3. Create a New Key named as StorageDevicePolicies.
4. Highlight StorageDevicePolicies, and then create a New DWORD (32-bit) Value named as WriteProtect.
5. Double click on WriteProtect, and set its value data to 1. Read mOre Guys...

11:41 PM

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Best Security Tools

These eight free downloads and services will help you beat back the bad guys with antivirus and antispyware programs, personal firewalls, and even a program that can detect whether your Web site is under attack.

BEST BET
Avast Home Edition: The big names in security software charge you big bucks for big suites full of big, bloated software. It scans your system for malware and kills what it finds, and gives you seven different types of "shields" to keep you safe from harm, such as one for protecting you from dangers that might be lurking on Web sites (such as drive-by downloads), one for guarding against peer-to-peer attacks, another that stops instant messaging threats, and so on. And it does all that, amazingly enough, without taking up much RAM or system resources.

a-Squared HiJackFree: Spyware is notorious for evading even the most rigorous cleaners, which is why you need more than one antispyware utility on your PC. HiJackFree is a great download to use in concert with your main antispyware program for extra protection. Rather than offering a live shield, it checks your system for spyware and then eradicates it. For the geeky, it offers a lot more as well, such as tools for viewing what programs are using your TCP ports, and for examining programs that run on startup.

Attack Trace: Worried that the bad guys are targeting your Web site? This free service checks to see if your site is under attack.

Comodo EasyVPN Home: This download allows you to create secure peer-to-peer networks over the Internet for sharing information, chatting, and so on. Everything is encrypted, so no one else will be able to snoop on what you're doing.

EULAlyzer: Hidden in some end-user license agreements (EULAs) are indicators that the software may be spyware, or that it might invade your privacy in other ways. This downloadable analyzer examines EULAs and warns you about dangers.

Online Armor Personal Firewall
: This is the best personal firewall you've never heard of. It provides solid protection, but unobtrusively. Lots of firewalls bug you constantly when you first install them, asking about any program that wants to access the Internet. This software starts out by allowing known safe applications to access the Web and bothers you only about the programs it's unsure about. It also has a clever "Safer mode" that will allow certain apps to run with stripped-down privileges.

SpywareBlaster: With this downloadable antispyware utility, you can make sure you don't get infected in the first place rather than scanning for and killing spyware after it hits your machine. It works differently from most competitors by restricting the actions that potentially dangerous Web sites can perform when you visit them. It also protects against dangerous ActiveX controls, and keeps tracking cookies off your PC.

SuperAntiSpyware: Here's an excellent antispyware tool thjavascript:void(0)
Publish Postat does a thorough job of scanning your system for dangers, and then whacks any it finds. This download scans not just your files and memory, but also your Registry. It doesn't offer real-time protection, though.

taken from pcmag.com
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