AP News


Man arrested after bodies found in suitcases PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by Associated Press   
Thursday, 26 June 2014 09:45
WEST ALLIS, Wis. (AP) — Detectives wearing hazmat suits have removed bags of evidence and a refrigerator from the suburban Milwaukee apartment of a man arrested in connection with two suitcases found stuffed with the remains of two women.
The 52-year-old security officer was arrested Wednesday, but he has not been charged in the deaths.
The Town of Geneva Police Chief Steven Hurley said in a news release that the man was arrested in connection with the killing of Laura Simonson, 37, of Farmington, Minnesota, whose body was discovered June 5 in a suitcase discarded along a rural road in Town of Geneva.
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Freed soldier’s parents say they’re proud of son PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by The Associated Press   
Monday, 02 June 2014 07:20
BOISE, Idaho — The father of an American soldier who was just released after spending five years in the hands of the Taliban says his family is starting on the next step of a long mission: Helping Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl recover from his ordeal.
“We’re still in recovery mode ourselves, let alone our concern about how Bowe is going to come back, and what we need to work on,” Bob Bergdahl told dozens of journalists and supporters during a press conference in Boise on Sunday.
“Someday there will be a time for interviews and books and whatever. I have a lot to say about this. I know Bowe is going to have a lot to say about this. But that’s still a distant, future thing, and I won’t let things get in the way of Bowe’s recovery,” he said.
Bowe Bergdahl was captured in 2009, and questions remain about the circumstances of his capture and the U.S. government’s decision to release five Guantanamo terrorism detainees in exchange for his freedom.
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New allergy tablets offer alternative to shots PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by The Associated Press   
Monday, 02 June 2014 07:15
TRENTON, N.J. — For decades, seasonal allergy sufferers had two therapy options to ease the misery of hay fever. They could swallow pills or squirt nasal sprays every day for brief reprieves from the sneezing and itchy eyes. Or they could get allergy shots for years to gradually reduce their immune system’s over-reaction.
Now patients can try another type of therapy to train their immune system, new once-a-day tablets that dissolve quickly under the tongue and steadily raise tolerance to grass or ragweed pollen, much like the shots.
“It’s been several decades since the last big breakthrough,” Cleveland Clinic allergy specialist Dr. Rachel Szekely said.
The downside: The pills must be started a few months before the grass or ragweed pollen season. That means it’s too late for people with grass allergies, but the time is now for ragweed allergy sufferers.
The Food and Drug Administration in April approved two tablets from Merck, Grastek for grass pollen and Ragwitek for ragweed, plus a grass pollen tablet called Oralair from Stallergenes.
The tablets could become popular with people who dislike pills that can make them drowsy or don’t provide enough relief. They’ll likely appeal even more to patients with severe allergies who fear needles or can’t make frequent trips to the allergist, key reasons that only about 5 percent of U.S. patients who would benefit from allergy shots get them.
Meanwhile, new treatments for other types of allergies, including to peanuts and eggs, are in various stages of testing and could turn out to be big advances.
Drugmaker Merck & Co. has a tablet for house dust mite allergies in final patient testing that could hit the market in two or three years, and it’s considering other therapies. France’s Stallergenes SA is testing a tablet for birch tree allergies and, with partner Shionogi & Co. Ltd. in Japan, tablets for allergies to dust mites and Japanese cedar pollen. Britain’s Circassia Ltd. has a cat allergy treatment in final testing and six others in earlier testing.
A handful of companies also are looking at possible new ways to administer immunotherapy, including drops under the tongue, capsules and skin patches, said Fort Lauderdale, Florida, allergist Dr. Linda Cox, former president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
The new tablets are not right for everyone, particularly patients with allergies to multiple substances, Szekely cautioned.
That was the case with one of her patients, 10-year-old Samantha Marshall of Mentor, Ohio, who has been getting allergy shots since last fall.
“She’s not loving them,” said her mother, Rachel, who recently asked Szekely about switching to the tablets. Szekely explained that shots are more effective because Rachel is also allergic to weeds and dust mites, and the shots she receives are a customized mix of extracts to all those substances.
The tablets are also pricey: Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, is charging about $8.25 per daily tablet and Stallergenes about $10. Insurers are expected to cover most of the cost, as they usually do with allergy shots. Those generally cost only $15 to $25 per visit without insurance, because they’re given by a nurse.
Allergy tablets are less likely to trigger a dangerous allergic reaction than shots, which have been used for a century, Cox said.
In Merck’s testing, about 5 percent of patients experienced tingling, itching or swelling in the mouth or tongue, said Dr. Sean Curtis, Merck’s head of respiratory and immunology research. Less than 1 percent had serious reactions, nearly all after the first dose.
Longtime hay fever sufferer Kim Steen of Sidman, Pennsylvania, participated in one of Merck’s studies last year.
“After the second, maybe third week, I started noticing a difference in the symptoms,” said the 41-year-old contracts administrator. “It was pretty significant, not feeling like you have a cold all the time.”
Prevalence of hay fever in the U.S. has declined slightly since 2000, according to National Center for Health Statistics data. In 2012, about 17.6 million adults, or 7.5 percent, reported having hay fever, as did about 6.6 million children, or 9 percent. Millions more don’t see a doctor and get by with nonprescription medicines like Benadryl or Claritin.
Treatment can be tricky because of body chemistry differences and the complexity of the immune system, which is still poorly understood.
“You can’t just have one size fits all,” Szekely said.
For people with mild hay fever, inexpensive pills that suppress immune chemicals called histamines work well. Allegra, Benadryl, Claritin and Zyrtec are available without prescription, often competing with store brands.
Other patients fare better on prescription pills or nasal sprays. But for patients with severe allergies, those aren’t enough. They suffer — though hardly in silence — or try allergy shots.   
Rarely, the shots cause systemic allergic reactions, from hives and itching to dangerous airway narrowing, because small amounts of allergen circulate in the bloodstream. That’s why patients must be observed by a nurse for a half-hour after each shot.
With the new tablets, as they dissolve, the grass extract inside drains into lymph nodes in the neck, which produce protective antibodies against the effects of pollen that’s inhaled or gets in the mouth. Since the extract is unlikely to enter their blood, patients need only be watched the first time, then can take the pills at home.
Typically, patients get allergy shots of gradually increasing dosage two or three times a week initially, then once a week for up to nine months, then monthly. After three years, at least two-thirds have minimal symptoms, while most of the rest have reduced symptoms.
With the tablets, patients start at the top dose, at least three months before allergy season, and continue through the season or even year-round.
The grass pollen tablets aren’t likely to take off until next spring, although Stallergenes’ U.S. marketing partner, Greer Laboratories Inc. of Lenoir, North Carolina, made Oralair available and began promoting it to allergy specialists in May.
Merck has followed study participants through three years of treatment and then two years after that, when patients still reported significantly reduced symptoms.
But Cox, the Florida allergist, expects that benefit to last at least eight years after treatment ends, nearly as long as with allergy shots.
It won’t be clear whether the tablets will be a hit with patients or big moneymakers for their manufacturers until next spring, when patients and more doctors will be familiar with them.
 
Government warns against indoor tanning for minors PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by The Associated Press   
Thursday, 29 May 2014 18:12
WASHINGTON — Tanning beds and sun lamps will carry new warnings that they should not be used by anyone under age 18, part of a government action announced Thursday aimed at reducing skin cancer linked to the radiation-emitting devices.
The Food and Drug Administration has regulated tanning machines for over 30 years, but the agency is now requiring more prominent warnings about the cancer risks of indoor tanning.
Makers of sun lamps and related devices must include a bold label, known as a black box warning stating that they should not be used by people under age 18. Additionally, manufacturers must provide more warnings about cancer risks in pamphlets, catalogues and websites that promote their products. Those materials must warn that the devices shouldn’t be used by people who have had skin cancer or have a family history of the disease.
For years, medical groups have urged the U.S. government to take action on tanning beds because of rising rates of skin cancer among teenagers and 20-somethings, particularly women. Over 76,000 new cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, are expected to be diagnosed this year, and the disease is expected to cause 9,710 deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. While most cases are diagnosed in people in their 40s and 50s, the disease is linked to sun exposure at a young age. But melanoma is also the second-most common form of cancer among young adults, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
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Cracks appear on ledge at Chicago’s Willis Tower PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by The Associated Press   
Thursday, 29 May 2014 18:01
CHICAGO — Officials at Chicago’s Willis Tower say the popular tourist attraction is safe, even though a glass ledge jutting from the building’s 103rd floor appeared to crack beneath the feet of a visiting family.
The see-through glass bays are known as The Ledge and extend about 4 feet from the building, which was once called the Sears Tower.
Officials say the family wasn’t in danger when the cracks appeared Wednesday.
In a statement Thursday, Willis Tower said a protective coating covering the glass surface cracked, not the glass itself. It says the coating occasionally cracks but does not affect the “structural integrity” of the ledge.
Officials say the four ledges that have been a popular — if frightening — experience since opening in 2009 have been temporarily closed for “routine inspection.”
 
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