Archive | April 5, 2011

Investigation into Mystery Behind Premature Births

Investigation into Mystery Behind Premature Births

By, Viji Sundaram


PALO ALTO, Calif.—Kevin Bracy calls July 9, 2001, a “bittersweet” day—sweet because his wife delivered their son, Kobe; bitter because he was born three months premature and weighed only 2.5 pounds.

The birth of their second son exactly four years later quickly turned into grief for the couple. Kaleb, four months premature, weighed less than a pound and lived only an hour.

“As a dad,” Bracy told the gathering at Stanford University’s Li Ka Shing Center on March 30, “I’ve been in denial.”

Bracy was speaking at an event to launch a collaborative venture between the March of Dimes, a national nonprofit working toward the health of babies, and Stanford Medical School to shed light on one of the most elusive of medical mysteries—why some babies are born prematurely.

“Premature birth is common, serious and costly,” March of Dimes President Jennifer L. Howse declared.

One in eight children in the United States is born prematurely. Preterm birth is the number one cause of infant mortality.

Many preemies who survive past infancy face lifelong health problems, Howse said, at a cost to society fo $26 billion a year.

“So we have an economic stake in solving this problem,” she said, adding: “The cost to families can’t be measured.”

The March of Dimes has contributed $2 million upfront toward the launch of the Prematurity Research Centre and will provide support for the project through 2020.

The team will include about 30 investigators from many disciplines, including genetics, robotics, biology and pathology, said Dr. Atul Butte, a professor of pediatrics and computer science and one of the lead researchers. Butte also has a daughter who was born prematurely—at 28 weeks, or about three months early—and is now a “spunky 8-year-old.”

Kobe Bracy has had a rougher time of it. He spent the first two months of his life in an incubator and came home when he was just five pounds. He and his parents have been in and out of hospitals ever since.

“Even with health insurance, we get six-figure doctors’ bills,” his father said.

Now 9, Kobe has been diagnosed with intestinal neuronal dysplasia (IND), a condition that causes chronic severe constipation. He also has colitis, another disease of the intestine that causes abdominal pain and bloating, as well as a constant urge to defecate.

The pain is so severe that a couple of months ago, the Bracys took their son out of school and began home-schooling him.

Kobe has the scars of three surgical incisions on his abdomen. He wears an external pouch that collects his intestinal waste because his large intestine is incapable of safely processing it.

Despite the serious health risks, doctors don’t know the cause of premature birth in nearly half of the cases.

“Mothers for no apparent reason go into labor early,” said Dr. David Stevenson, a neonatologist and professor of pediatrics at Stanford.

“Our goal is to test new hypotheses and make discoveries that will reduce premature birth,” he said.

Recent studies seem to indicate that African-American women have higher rates of premature births than women of other races. Stevenson said causes could include genetics and biology, as well as  environmental factors.

Chronic stress is also believed to contribute to preterm birth. Psychological or physical stress leads to the production of a stress-related hormone—corticotropin-releasing hormone, or CRH—which can stimulate other hormones and trigger contractions and premature delivery.

Bracy is African American; his wife, Jessica, is white. Neither of them, he said, had the risk factors associated with parents of premature children, including stress, lack of education, or poverty.

He said he is hopeful that the March of Dimes initiative will help identify the causes of preterm births that remain a mystery for families like theirs.

“I just don’t want any other family to go through what we are going through,” he said.


* Republished under “Content Exchange” the original can be found on New American Media*


Related Topics:

Giving Birth Naturally

African-American Women and Childbirth

Premenstrual Syndrome: The Natural Approach

GM Foods and Fertility

Why Boys are Becoming Girls, and Men are…

How Western Diets Make the World Sick

How Western Diets are Making the World Sick

Canada’s Maisonneuve journal, physician Kevin Patterson described his experiences working as an internist-intensivist at the Canadian Combat Surgical Hospital in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

One detail he noticed: The Afghan soldiers, police and civilians he treated in Kandahar had radically different bodies from those of the Canadians he took care of back home.

“Typical Afghan civilians and soldiers would have been 140 pounds or so as adults. And when we operated on them, what we were aware of was the absence of any fat or any adipose tissue underneath the skin,” Patterson says. “Of course, when we operated on Canadians or Americans or Europeans, what was normal was to have most of the organs encased in fat. It had a visceral potency to it when you could see it directly there.”

In a conversation on Fresh Air, Patterson tells Terry Gross that the effects of urbanization are making people everywhere in the world both fatter and sicker.

“Type 2 diabetes historically didn’t exist, only 70 or 80 years ago,” says Patterson. “And what’s driven it, of course, is this rise in obesity, especially the accumulation of abdominal fat. That fat induces changes in our receptors that cells have for insulin. Basically, it makes them numb to the effect of insulin.”

For a long time, the human body can compensate — the pancreas secretes even larger amounts of insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels. But over time, the pancreas begins to fail to secrete enough insulin, and that is when diabetes develops.

He explains that the increase in abdominal fat has driven the epidemic of diabetes over the last 40 years in the developed world — and that he’s now seeing similar patterns in undeveloped regions that have adapted Western eating patterns.

Patterson explains that in his Canadian practice, where he takes care of indigenous populations near the Arctic Circle, there is a marked increase in the number of diabetic patients he sees.

“The traditional Inuit culture of relentless motion and a traditional diet consisting mainly of caribou, Arctic char, whale and seal has been abandoned over this period of time for Kentucky Fried Chicken and processed food and living a life very similar to ours,” he says. “[They’re] spending a lot of time in front of a glowing screen.”

Part of the problem, says Patterson, is that it’s so much cheaper for processed food to be flown into the Arctic Circle than fresh food.

“There’s no roads or rail access to any of those communities,” he says. “So a 4 liter jug of milk can cost you $10 or $11. But there’s a very clear parallel between that and the inner city. In poorer neighborhoods in North American cities, fresh food is either not available or extremely expensive compared to — on a calorie-by-calorie basis — compared to fast food available on every street corner.”

And the diabetes epidemic correlates to a strain on health care systems around the globe, says Patterson.

Listen to the full interview on NPR Radio

Related Topics:

Eating Away at Our Earth Pt2.

Diabetes from Unnatural Causes

U.S. Sought to Retaliate Against Europe over Monsanto GM Crops

Who or What is Financing the States?

Who or What is Financing the States?

By Hwaa Irfan

As a complete novice, this is the main question that comes to mind when one reads of how this is the first time ever that the 27 states that constitute the geographical anomaly the U.S. have no income of their own, and have become totally reliant on federal state funding?  This does not constitute the image that the U.S. projects as it goes off gun-ho spending $550mn on bombing Libya with an expected $40mn over the coming weeks as the U.S. run NATO takes over the ill-named Odyssey Dawn. One may tire of hearing such rantings, but really in the midst of The Great Recession, when the unemployment statistics are worse than being declared, poverty is further being entrenched, and massive redundancies are ear-marked, how is it that a government is ready and able to dash across the seas to another terrain in the name of humanity when everyone knows it is not, and yet there is no income from its provinces, and their population are in need.

Long before the Great Recession, in 2005, Senator Kent Conrad was reported to have said:

“Well, increasingly we are going into debt with other countries around the world. We owe Japan over $680 billion. We owe China over $240 billion. We owe the United Kingdom over $140 billion. My favourite is the Caribbean banking centres.”

Usually when one is in debt it means that one has no money to pay what is outstanding, but the U.S. continues to be in debt, and continues to spend millions backing unsavoury regimes in the name of American interests. The only way American interests on foreign shores seem to pay off is due to extreme effort in maintaining (with difficulty) its neocolonialistic presence in the world, and those who profit from it! Otherwise it seems quite apparent to a simpleton not entrained to blind that the U.S. is bankrupt. One is almost sure that any investor would not continue to invest in something that was a sinkhole, but somehow, somewhere they do, and they do so even when the dollar is depreciating, devaluing any financial benefit on the part of the investor – so there must be some benefit not apparent to the U.S. citizen or benefiting the U.S. citizen except the chosen few.

In a list of countries that are major foreign holders of U.S. treasury securities, one stands out being not listed as a country i.e. the Caribbean banking centers. From January 2010 – January 2011, the Caribbean banking centers apparently have been holders of U.S. treasury securities to the following sums in billions of dollars:



“Caribbean offshore banking sector offers financial services which a subject to minimal controls and provides bank secrecy.”  – Offshore Banking Today tells us.

In other words the Caribbean functions like the tax havens of Switzerland, while impoverishing the Caribbean without being monitored. It may be the key reason behind the secrecy of U.S. interest in keeping the Caribbean under its gum boots. An economist with 44 years experience with offshore and tax havens, Michael Hudson, in an interview long before the Great Depression began in December 2007 highlighted the following with Counterpunch:

Banking centres or “SHIPS” was an innovation of the American oil industry to escape paying income tax over 100 years ago!

The U.S. government in the 1960s “…encouraged American banks to set up branches in Caribbean hot-money centers and more distant islands as a means of attracting foreign money into the dollar. The initial aim was to help finance the Vietnam War by turning America into a new Switzerland for the world’s hot money.”

The system that runs these banking centres helps multinational corporations to avoid paying taxes, and kleptocrats.

This system also helps “…U.S. and European investors to shed taxes simply by hiring a lawyer to set up a boiler-place office and finding an accounting firm willing to take its records at face value–which is good enough for the tax authorities to accept in these days of downsized fiscal operations.”

“The resulting plunge in the ratio of corporate tax obligations to national income has been a major factor in America’s soaring federal budget deficit.”

“Businesses–and especially the financial sector–establish dummy companies and adjust their transfer pricing (e.g. on sales of raw materials to refineries, and of refined or semi-manufactured products to their final distributors in the industrial nations) so as to take all their profits in these tax-free enclaves.”

“Un-taxing business income–and financial income in particular–leaves individual taxpayers to bear the fiscal burden through wage withholding for Social Security, Medicare and pension-fund contributions. Consumers also bear a rising burden through the sales tax and other local taxes.”

“The reality is that U.S. companies make a lot more money than they report. However, offshore banking centers free them from having to pay taxes on this income, or on capital gains. That’s why we’re running such high budget deficits today.”

“The essence of this game is that Esso and other oil majors were able to “game” the world’s tax systems by selling their crude oil at so low a price to their tanker companies as to leave little income for Saudi Arabia, Venezuela or other oil producing countries. This discouraged them from taking control of their mineral wealth, especially as they had no tanker fleets to move this oil. The corporate shipping affiliates turned around and sold their oil to their downstream refineries. These generally were located safely offshore in different political jurisdictions (e.g., Trinidad for Venezuelan oil). The oil was transferred at so high a price that despite the heavy capital investment in these facilities, the refiners and distributors reported losses year after year, decade after decade.”

“The I.R.S. already had permitted tax avoidance to occur under pressure from the large multinationals such as the oil and mining companies. Vertical integration enabled them to administer transfer pricing in a way that minimized their global tax liability. Refraining from taxing the interest paid on U.S. Treasury bonds favoured U.S. hot money.”

When asked about the European and U.S. authorities responsible for taxation, Hudson replied:

That’s where the political lobbying power of major vested interests came into play. Their ability to avoid having to declare earnings on which taxes would be due reflected the passivity of tax collectors in Europe and North America where most downstream facilities were located. One might think that such governments would have imputed a minimum tax, on the principle that any investment must expect to earn at least a normal rate of return; otherwise it would not be made or kept in place. Turning a blind eye to this logic, governments accepted the profit-and-loss statements as company accountants submitted them. They permitted the profits from oil drilling, refining and marketing to disappear down the statistical black hole of international shipping.”

“Parent companies consolidated their oil fields in the Near East, Africa and South America into their domestic U.S. balance sheets by organizing them not as corporately distinct foreign affiliates but as “branches.” This technicality allowed them to take the full U.S. depletion tax credit against their income. Depleting the resources of other countries was treated as if they were part of the American economy–except that the profits were taken in Liberia and Panama.”

The interview reveals much more, and one should take the time to read it, for it explains many things about the realities of the Great Recession which we are experiencing, and who is really paying the price, and why the current solutions are only about maintaining the status quo, and why more and more people are working harder each day to find the rising cost of food is all that one can pay for. When Obama responded to demonstrations  for jobs in the last mid-term elections, he responded by going out like a door-to-door salesman, selling arms to raise the dough after officially withdrawing from Iraq. Either he was a novice who had to learn quick to stay in the game, but after selling those arms, U.S. citizens are none the better, and other countries are none the wiser for virtually inviting the U.S., NATO,  and the international elite to prepare for the next stage of neo-colonialism to feed the few, and starve the many. WWI and WWII was all about oil, and war-profiteers who now look for their next war!

There is an African proverb that goes one can lie 99 times but the hundredth?  Wars, insurgencies, and coups may only belong to developing countries, but that is for a reason, the trouble is though one may live in the West, those of the West have also been pawns in that same game!


Clark, M. “Offshore Banking Caribbean, Caribbean Banking Centers.”

Hodgson, F. “A First in American History: 2011 Federal Aid Set to Overwhelm State General Funds.”

Hudson, M. “An Insider Spills the Beans on Offshore Banking Centres.”

“Major Foreign Holders of Treasury Securities”

Related Topics:

No More Lies Please America

The Doctrine of Discovery

The House of Three Rooms

Oil vs. Communities: The Case of the Niger Delta

U.S. Set to Destabilize the Rest of the World

G20 Reasons Why Your Fortune is Not Your Own!

Reawakening Afghan Gardens With a Purpose

The Echo of Life

Increasing Food Insecurity for Short Term Gain

ANSWER Coalition Responds to President Obama’s Speech on Iraq

The Banks Surviving on the Man in the Street

The U.S. Looking for War

After Cancun: Fair Trade for Africa!?

Oil vs. Communities: The Case of Sudan

The Land of Truth

Pricing Us Out of Food

Global Economic Crisis Bailouts in Context

Egypt: Bullying a Return to Normalcy

Silencing American Trade Unions

Controlling Haiti

More Redundancies and More Meddling on the Horizon

The War Against Libya in Historical Perspective

March for the Alternative Turned Nasty