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August, 2019

New study backs smoking-SIDS concerns

Babies born to smoking mums find it harder to rouse from sleep, say Australian researchers who have probed the link between cigarettes and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

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The Melbourne-based study found babies in homes where the mother smoked up to 20 cigarettes daily, during and after the pregnancy, performed poorer on arousal tests.

Associate Professor Rosemary Horne said the research shed new light on why smoking was emerging as a leading SIDS cause.

“With maternal smoking, even though these babies appeared perfectly well and healthy and normal, they did not have the same arousal patterns as those babies whose mums didn’t smoke,” said Prof Horne, scientific director of the Ritchie Centre for Baby Health Research at Monash University.

“They wake up less, and more of the arousals they do have don’t go right up to the cortex, so they don’t wake up.”

Prof Horne restricted her study to full-term babies of smoking mums who also reached a normal birth weight to prevent premature birth or low birth weight factors from confusing the results.

She recruited 12 mums who smoked routinely throughout and after their pregnancies, and monitored their babies at intervals from two weeks old to six months.

The babies’ urine was checked and traces of cotinine, a by-product of nicotine, were found confirming their ongoing exposure to second-hand smoke.

“It was apparent in the babies even though most of the parents said they smoked outside,” Prof Horne said.

No cotinine was found in the urine of 13 babies from non-smoking households, who were used as a control group.

All of the babies were put through a series of tests to see what would wake them up and this involved a puff of air, in rising pressure, shot at the nostrils of the sleeping infants.

“Their overall arousal was depressed,” Prof Horne said of the smoke-exposed babies.

“We know that nicotine does bind to receptors in the brain and it binds to receptors associated with arousal.”

Prof Horne said studies had indicated up to 70 per cent of children who die from SIDS have exposure to maternal smoking.

“If your face is covered by the bedding … either under a doona or face down, you can move. The babies who die from SIDS don’t appear to have done this,” she said.

“Arousal is crucial, and in these babies whose mums smoked between three and 20 cigarettes a day, it was modifying the arousal process in the brain.”

Prof Horne’s study is published in the journal SLEEP.

Protester dies at G20 demo

Authorities said the man was found unconscious at a G20 protest camp near the Bank of England in London\’s financial district.

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“We received a 999 (emergency) call at 7:24pm (0524 AEDT Thursday) from a member of the public reporting that a man had fallen over and was unconscious, but was breathing,” said the London Ambulance Service.

“At 7:30pm we were informed by the police that a man at the location had stopped breathing.”

He was moved to a quieter area where a police officer started to carry out CPR before ambulance staff arrived to treat him.

They “made extensive efforts to resuscitate him both there and on the way to hospital”, she said, but he was declared dead on arrival.

It was not immediately clear how he died, although some people were injured when a group held behind a cordon near the Bank of England surged against the crash barriers.

Earlier, police and campaigners clashed after angry marchers stormed their way into the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Bottles, paint bombs thrown

Police, many dressed in riot gear, were out in force as thousands of protesters demonstrated through the city\’s financial district, outside the US embassy and in Trafalgar Square.

Chanting anti-capitalist, anti-war and anti-pollution slogans, they were determined the G20 leaders heard their fury before holding talks about the global financial crisis on Thursday.

Dozens of people were arrested after violence erupted outside the Bank of England in the heart of London\’s financial district around lunchtime, local time.

Anarchists smashed the windows of a neighbouring branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland, a financial giant saved from collapse by the British government, and stormed inside.

Riot police on horses were called in to push the protesters on the street back as bottles, cans and paint bombs were thrown at officers.

Some protesters were left bleeding after being hit by baton-wielding police during the clashes.

Streets cordoned off

Police quickly cordoned off surrounding streets to coral the 4,000 protesters who had converged on the area.

Metropolitan Police commander Simon O\’Brien said the response by officers had been “proportionate”, adding that it was clear some protesters had been “determined to cause violence”.

The violence was condemned from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who has travelled to London for the G20 summit.

“When it comes to acts of violence, these are unacceptable on the streets of London as they would be on the streets of Sydney or the streets of Melbourne,” he told reporters.

“People around the world are concerned about the impact of a crisis which they did not cause and its impact on their families and their communities through the loss of jobs, I understand that.

“That does not provide any justification whatsoever to wanton violence.”

\’Financial Fools Day\’

The protest had began peacefully, with thousands of demonstrators descending on the Bank of England from four different directions for what was dubbed “Financial Fools Day”.

Led by the “four horsemen of the apocalypse”, the anti-capitalist protesters chanted “build a bonfire, build a bonfire, put the bankers on top” and “fight back, fight back”.

Effigies of bankers were hung from traffic lights, while some protesters dressed as grim reapers and devils and waved placards.

Ronnie, a 38-year-old unemployed builder, said many people were “disgusted” at the way they had been treated by governments during the credit crunch.

“They need to listen because the world is in a state,” he told AAP.

Many businesses near the Bank of England were boarded up amid fears they would be attacked, while swathes of office workers decided to take the day off to avoid any clashes.

Climate change camp

Nearby on Bishopsgate, environmentalists brought traffic to a halt on the busy road as they pitched hundreds of tents for a “climate change flash camp” outside the European Carbon Exchange.

Their demonstration remained mostly peaceful, with only a few minor skirmishes with police as officers attempted to clear the road.

The protesters planned to spend the night camped at the site to highlight their concerns about carbon trading and global warming.

Hundreds of other anti-war campaigners also rallied at Trafalgar Square after protesting outside the US Embassy in west London.

A total of 24 people had been arrested by the end of the day, including 11 who had been in an armoured vehicle with police uniforms.

More protests are planned tomorrow when the G20 leaders, including US President Barack Obama, meet for their talks in the Docklands, in London\’s east.

France, Germany defiant at G20

France and Germany have vowed to stand together to press for “non-negotiable” new global finance rules, at a G20 summit clouded by US-Europe tensions over how to fix the global economy.

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel underlined their unity in an unusual joint news conference ahead of today\’s gathering of the Group of 20 countries.

“Without new regulations there will be no confidence. And without confidence there will be no recovery. It\’s a major aim, non-negotiable,” said Sarkozy, who did not repeat a threat to walk out of the summit.

Speaking as leaders struggled to resolve differences over finding a way out of the global economic crisis, Merkel said world powers could not wait until a subsequent meeting to take action on a new rule book for global finance.

“The important thing is that we have a new architecture to the world financial system,” she said.

“We must not be content with generalizations,” she said, referring to the final communique leaders are to draw up at the London summit.

Global regulations

While France and Germany are pushing for global regulations, the United States and other major economic powers would prefer to see the London meeting produce guidelines for reforms on the national level.

Speaking of the last G20 summit in Washington last November, Sarkozy added: “In Washington we set out the principles. In London we want concrete things, results.”

When asked about his threat made Tuesday to walk out of the summit if leaders failed to agree on sufficient new regulations, he said: “This is a historic moment and we cannot run away.”

But Sarkozy said Germany and France had nevertheless laid out “red lines” where they wouldn\’t budge, including a demand for action on tackling offshore tax havens and on supervision of hedge funds.

“The 20 heads of state and government must say to the entire world: are they for the end of tax havens or for their continuation,” he said.

“It is very clear that there must be a list and the margin for negotiation is on whether the list will be published right away or in a few days.

“We also want hedge funds to be registered and supervised. The principle is no financial institution without supervision.”

Merkel also underlined her call for new international accounting standards and a framework for pay in the financial sector, putting an end to bonus systems that reward particularly risky behaviour.

“We must not forget how we got into this crisis,” she said.ac

Sarkozy dismissed criticism, most recently by Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, that countries such as Germany and France were doing too little to fire up their ailing economies.

“Germany and France have put everything into (promoting) recovery, we have to fuel that, and we have done that,” he said.

Sarkozy said he was “confident” that Barack Obama, on his first trip overseas as US president, would join the effort to promote a stronger regulatory framework for the way the world does business.

“I am sure that he will help us. I am sure that he understands us,” he said.

“But the day after tomorrow is too late. The time for taking decisions is today and tomorrow.”

Merkel also signalled fresh support for beefing up the International Monetary Fund\’s means to rescue poor countries stricken by the economic meltdown.

“This crisis has created thousands of victims who are totally blameless,” she said.

“We need to ensure fiscal stimulus for those who cannot do it themselves.”

Al Capone\’s family home for sale

A six-room Chicago home once owned by notorious mobster Al Capone and his family has gone on the market for $450,000.

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The brick-built home at 7244 South Prairie Avenue, in the Park Manor neighbourhood, boasts ornate tile work, a cellar big enough to hide ill-gotten gains, and an impressive pedigree.

Listed for sale at $US$US450,000 ($A645,485), the property is priced well above similar houses on Chicago\’s South Side, which normally sell for $US180,000 ($A258,195) to $US230,000 ($A329,915).

But no other home in Chicago can match the history of the modest home that has had just two owners since Capone\’s mother died in 1952.

“I\’m looking for people who would be interested in the historical value of this home,” said real estate agent Patrice Brazil. “It\’s an excellent home, and it\’s in great shape.”

Capone barricaded inside

Records show the Capones bought the home for $US5,500 ($A7,890) in 1923 after moving from Brooklyn, where Al Capone\’s notorious business interests began.

Capone headquartered his bootlegging, gambling and prostitution enterprises in Cicero, Illinois, and later moved them to the old Lexington Hotel at Cermak and Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

But he was a frequent guest of his mother\’s, famously barricading himself inside one December night in 1927 when police threatened to arrest him.

Since 1963, the home has belonged to Barbara Hogsette, 71, who is selling it so she can move to California to be with her son.

Hogsette said she knows the home\’s history might not appeal to every buyer, but charm and character count for a lot – especially in real estate.

“The time is right for me to move on and let someone else in,” she said.

Tropics are a boon for baby girls

It points to big differences in the proportions of male to female births between tropical latitudes and temperate and sub-arctic latitudes.

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This gap remains even when local cultural and social preferences — such as the preferences for males in India and China, resulting in the abortion of female foetuses — are taken into account.

University of Georgia endocrinologist Kristen Navara looked at official data collected from 202 countries over a decade, from 1997-2006, and published in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook.

Averaged around the world, there were 51.3 percent male births to 48.7 female births, she found.

Light and temperature may favour one gender

But this average masked big differences according to latitude: in tropical latitudes, male dominance fell to 51.1 percent of births. In tropical sub-Saharan Africa, it was just 50.8 percent.

“Significantly more females were produced at tropical latitudes,” she told AFP. “This relationship emerged despite enormous lifestyle and socio-economic variation among countries and continents.”

Navara, whose paper appears in the British journal Biology Letters, said more research is needed to explain the puzzle.

She speculated that human gametes — sperm and eggs — may be affected by ambient light and temperature, and this could exert a bias in favour of one gender or another.

Previous studies in small mammals (Siberian hamsters, house mice and meadow voles) have discovered that these animals produce more males during the winter months or when daylight hours are fewer.

In China, the pro-male bias was 52.8 percent while in India it was 51.2 percent, slightly below the global mean, Navara said.