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NagyDodo/iStock/ThinkStock(NEW YORK) -- Many schools in Malaysia will be closed for two days following the nation's health concerns over thick haze in Southeast Asia, according to the BBC.

Forest fires in Indonesia are causing the haze.

Malaysian authorities determined that due to the haze polluting the air, most schools must be closed on Monday and Tuesday.  

The haze is also a contributing factor to tensions between nations in the southeast Asia region, reports BBC News.  

Exposure to the haze can cause lung infections and coughing.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Alessio Rigato/EyeEm Premium(WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.) -- Sante Fe Natural Tobacco Co. is facing a class-action lawsuit for referring to its Natural American Spirit cigarettes as "natural" and "additive-free."

The company has used those terms for American Spirit since it was founded and according to the plaintiffs, the parent company Reynolds American Inc. is misleading smokers by making them think the cigarettes are healthier than other brands, including selling them in health stores.

The lawsuit, filed at a Florida law firm this week, also cites the recent warning from the Food and Drug Administration issued to the company for using the healthy terms.

According to the Sante Fe New Mexican, the lawsuit was filed by Justin Sproule who seeks damages for himself and others who "smoke American Spirits because they have been deceived by claims, labels and advertising into regarding them as safer than other cigarettes.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(FLINT, Mich.) -- There's lead in Flint's water system, and state officials are working to get rid of it.

On Friday, officials in Michigan released a new plan to fix the water system in Flint, Michigan, after reports last week surfaced saying the number of children in the city with elevated blood-lead levels jumped over two years.

The Genesee County health department had declared the crisis a public health emergency on Thursday.

The new plan includes free and immediate testing of water and individuals, and creating an advisory committee to work directly with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Organizers have already begun to distribute about 4,000 new water filters.

Officials said they believe the Flint River is not causing the increased levels of lead, but lead pipes in Flint residents' homes could be the culprit.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the state's plan includes:

  • Immediate testing of the water in Flint public schools, with a goal to reassure parents and students that the water is safe.
  • Expanding testing of individuals to determine levels of lead.
  • Offering free water testing to Flint residents and the state setting aside $1 million for free water filters for city residents.
  • Requiring and expediting additional corrosion controls in the city's water system to minimize any leaching of lead into the city's water.
  • Creating a safe drinking water technical advisory committee in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • A long-term acceleration of plans to replace old lead service lines.
  • Expediting the completion of the Karagondi water system into the city by making sure that permit applications are handled quickly and helping the city identify workers for a second shift at the new water system.
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A drug to treat advanced stages of the most common form of lung cancer gets approved.

On Friday, the Federal Drug Administration announced the approval of Merck & Co.'s Keytruda drug used to treat patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer when treatment is beyond chemotherapy and radiation, and tumors express a protein known as PD-L1.

The FDA said it's the first drug to be approved in lung cancer for patients whose tumors express PD-L1.

“Our growing understanding of underlying molecular pathways and how our immune system interacts with cancer is leading to important advances in medicine,” said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “[Friday's] approval of Keytruda gives physicians the ability to target specific patients who may be most likely to benefit from this drug.”

In the U.S., lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths says the National Cancer Institute, with 221,200 new diagnoses reported in 2015 and 158,040 deaths.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Mobley Foundation for Charitable Surgery(SALT LAKE CITY) -- Gage Berger, a 6-year-old boy in Utah, recently got "life-changing" plastic surgery after suffering "years of bullying from kids who called him elf ears," according to his parents.

Prior to cosmetic ear pinning surgery, Gage had prominently protruding ears that made him the subject of unwanted teases and taunts, his dad Timothy Berger told ABC News. He said that over the past year, his "playful, outgoing" son had "changed." Gage started keeping to himself more, and he "didn't want to go to school."

"I'd catch him looking in the mirror and trying to pin them back, and when he got nervous or upset or when he was in trouble, he'd physically grab his ears," Timothy, 31, said. "It was subconscious. It was him thinking that his ears were the problem and that was why he must be in trouble."

Timothy said he and his wife, Kallie Berger, began to do research on cosmetic ear pinning surgery because they didn't want the bullying to permanently damage Gage.

"This isn't any different than taking your child to get braces to 'fix' the appearance of crooked teeth," Timothy said. "We explained to him the surgery, which is only a short two-hour procedure. He was so excited for it. Obviously, if he wasn't on board with it, we wouldn't have touched him. Ultimately, we told him it was up to him."

Gage decided he wanted to get ear-pinning surgery, and his parents got connected with facial plastic surgeon Dr. Steven Mobley, who runs the Mobley Foundation for Charitable Surgery in Salt Lake City, Utah. The foundation provides free cosmetic surgeries for school-aged children who are being bullied whose parents cannot afford the particular surgery they and their child wish to have.

Mobley told ABC News that like Gage, he was also picked on as kid for having big ears and that he also got ear-pinning surgery, though later at age 19. He added that he wants to emphasize that he isn't endorsing cosmetic surgery for kids and that "it's a very personal and private decision parents and children need to make together."

"I get a lot of patients with big ears, and some of them decide they like their ears and they have the strength and resilience to stand up to bullies," he said. "But I also have other patients who are just crushed, and they shouldn't be shamed for wanting a procedure that helps them gain back their confidence."

Mobley added that the minimum age he performs the procedure on children is 5, since the ear is then 70 to 80 percent the size of its full adult size. He said he also takes the child's mental outlook and maturity into consideration.

After consultation, Mobley said he deemed Gage OK for surgery. The 6-year-old went through the two-hour procedure under local anesthesia early this past September, Mobley said. Gage also brought along his beloved stuffed tiger named "Tygie" who also got the "surgery."

When Gage got his new ears unwrapped two days later, he "grinned from ear to ear," Mobley said.

"His smile said it all, and the parents had such a relived look in their eyes," he said. "I've been texting with his parents since then, and I'll see him in a few weeks for a two-month post-operation check-up where we'll hand over the official before-and-after pictures."

Gage's dad, Timothy, said that his son is "back to his old self again" and "couldn't be any happier."

"He's so much more confident," he said. "If anyone's picking on him for any other reason now, he'll go up to them. When he comes home from school, and I ask him how his day went, he isn't telling me no one wants to play with him anymore. He'll say things like, 'Everything was good! We played outside, and I made like 10 new friends!"

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Kimberly Bellinger(WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.) -- A dog that fell 11 stories from a Florida balcony and survived is being called a "miracle" dog.

Kimberly Bellinger was visiting her mom in West Palm Beach with her 12-year-old Pekingese Bonzo when the pooch fell “at least 120 feet” from the condo's balcony, Bellinger told ABC News Friday.

With Bonzo, which she rescued eight years ago, having neurological problems from a prior stroke and hip dysplasia causing him limited mobility, Bellinger said she thought she wouldn’t have to worry about letting him out on the balcony by himself since he couldn't walk very well.

“I went out to the balcony and I didn’t see him there. I looked over the edge of the balcony and I saw his little body laying there on the grass all the way down,” Bellinger recounted. “I was completely hysterical. I thought he was dead.”

Bellinger ran down to find Bonzo, surprisingly still breathing, and rushed him to Palm Beach Veterinary Specialists. After tests and x-rays were performed, only one broken rib was found and Bonzo was free to go home five days later, Bellinger said.

Dr. Ellen Gray, the veterinarian who treated Bonzo, told ABC News: “It's incredible that Bonzo survived, especially in light of his pre-existing orthopedic, neurologic and cardiac diseases. I have never seen an animal survive after a fall from such a great height. I am so happy that he could return to the loving home of the Bellinger family.”

Now, Bonzo is walking around, giving kisses, snuggling and begging for snacks like he used to, and is “back to being a little meatloaf,” Bellinger said. “It’s a miracle.”

She added: “I’m so grateful I’ve been given another chance for me to give him as much love as possible and for him to receive as much love as he deserves.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- When former Who's the Boss? star Danny Pintauro scheduled a routine physical three years ago, he didn't realize that he was sick.

So, when he got a call from his doctor on his lunch break shortly thereafter, he wasn't prepared for the news that he had tested positively for HIV.

"I had no idea," Pintauro recalled on The View. "[I] went to the doctor’s office and got the news, walked back to work, spent another six hours doing talent agent stuff and went home and cried."

Pintauro, now 39, explained that in the years prior, he had been abusing crystal meth and having unprotected sex.

"The problem with meth is that it’s completely intertwined with sex, so soon as I wanted to explore some rougher sides of my sexuality I encountered meth," said Pintauro.

"The reason I kept doing [meth] over the years was probably because I had some stuff going on in my life that I was not ready to deal with, or that I was having a hard time dealing with," the former child star explained.

Now, Pintauro wants others to learn from his story. He quit his job and wants to work with HIV/AIDS organizations, speaking to the gay community about why it's important to live "a responsible lifestyle."

"I don't want to be a hero, or I don't want to be the role model," he said. "I want to be the example of what can happen if you get into drugs, if you're being promiscuous, if you're not taking care of yourself."

And he is. Pintauro, who's taking medication, also gave intimate details about his relationship with his husband, Wil Tabares.

"You try not to have limits in your marriage but there have to be limits for us," he said. "I'm taking care of myself and he's taking care of himself."

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Mary Lou Dodson/Vanderbilt University Medical Center(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — An intensive care unit was recently turned into wedding chapel for one couple anxious to get married before it was too late.

Caleb Hanby and Bethany Davidson were married at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center last week, just hours after Hanby was rushed to the hospital due to breathing problems, according to the hospital.

Hanby, 28, was diagnosed last year with a rare cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma that affected his skeletal muscle in the jaw.

The couple had already planned for a quick wedding after the terminal diagnosis, but at the hospital Hanby was deteoriating quickly and they still had weeks before their wedding date. As a result the couple decided they should marry that day before Hanby's health got even worse, according to the hospital.

“I knew it needed to happen that day,” said Davidson, 26, on the Vanderbilt University Medical Center website. “I couldn’t live without the opportunity to be married to my soul mate.”

While they didn't have a lot of time to turn the ICU room into a lavish wedding space, the hospital staff and family and friends jumped into action. The ICU medical receptionist found extra bouquets to adorn the room and ordered a special wedding cake rush-ordered from the cafeteria, according to the hospital.

Davidson, wearing a green sweatshirt instead of the traditional white gown, carried a small bouquet from the hospital gift shop. The groom wore a hospital gown with a small boutinnere affixed to the front. The processional involved a nurse in scrubs scattering rose petals and Dr. Todd Rice, the attending physician for the ICU.

“They’ve made us feel like we’re the most important people at this hospital, with all that they’ve done,” Davidson said on the hospital website.

Brittney Woodard, 25, a friend of the couple, acted as impromptu maid of honor at the ceremony. She was able to get their wedding bands at the hospital gift shop free of charge after they heard her story.

"When we knew [the ceremony] was happening. We all just started crying because it was the tears of joy and tears of knowing he may not make it," Woodard told ABC News Friday of the moments before the ceremony. "Even though it was in this horrible ... situation you didn’t want, it was just the most amazing thing. There’s so much love in both of them."

Woodard posted a moving video on Facebook of the couple's ceremony showing the couple holding hands as they said their vows.

"Hey, handsome I can honestly say I have waited for this day my entire life. The day I get to become your wife," Davidson said during her vows. "No matter how much time we have together, you will always be the love of my life."

After the ceremony, the couple celebrated with a small reception and even got to cut their wedding cake. Even though Hanby was unable to stand on his own, he said the ceremony was beautiful.

“It made me feel complete,” he said on the Vanderbilt University Medical Center website.

Hanby died due to complications from his cancer on Thursday, just a over week after saying his vows.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

It’s the calorie conscious question that’s plagued us for decades: What’s better? Walking or using the elliptical?

According to recent estimates by the Mayo Clinic, when it comes to calories, ellipticals burn more. Research shows that a 160-pound person using an elliptical for one hour will burn about 365 calories. That same person will burn just 314 calories walking for the same amount of time.

But why? Experts say the unique elliptical pattern your leg muscles are forced to move in, plus the added motion of your arms, gives you a bigger burn.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new report indicates that diabetes is rising in the United States, and minority groups are more at risk.

According to the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the percentage of Americans suffering from the disease rose from 10 percent in 1988 to 12 percent in 2012. Dr. Amisha Wallia, assistant professor of medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Native Americans and Asian-Americans are more at risk to have diabetes. Twenty-nine million Americans have the disease, and for a large percentage of people, it is undetected. This has inspired a new emphasis on education about prevention, early diagnosis and treatment.

Diabetes often leads to more health problems. Dr. David Nathan, director of the Diabetes Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, tells, “Diabetes is the biggest cause of blindness, biggest cause of kidney failure, biggest cause of amputations." He continues, "It leads to erectile dysfunction in men, it increases your risk for heart disease by anywhere from two-to-fivefold.”

Solomon Rosenblatt, assistant professor of medicine at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in Rochester, Michigan, says it is critical to identify diabetes patients. “If we can identify an individual with diabetes earlier," he says, "we are more likely to be successful with our treatment in preventing complications.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Scientists at the University of Sydney have successfully mapped 1,000 molecular reactions to exercise, a discovery that researchers say could lead to drugs that mimic the health benefits of exercise for people — without them actually doing it.

The research, which was undertaken in collaboration with researchers from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, was published in Cell Metabolism.

"Exercise is the most powerful therapy for many human diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and neurological disorders," said lead researcher Professor David James, Leonard P. Ullmann Chair of Metabolic Systems at the University's Charles Perkins Centre. "However, for many people, exercise isn't a viable treatment option. This means it is essential we find ways of developing drugs that mimic the benefits of exercise."

The researchers scanned for molecular changes in muscle biopsies taken from a group of male test subjects who underwent 10 minute bursts of vigorous exercise. Using mass spectrometry, scientists were able to track the molecular changes, allowing them to compile what's being called, "the world's first comprehensive exercise blueprint."

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (SAN FRANCISCO) -- It is hard to forget the images from California’s recent wildfires. As the flames tore through the northern part of California, families were forced to leave everything and flee their homes. But there is another side that many did not see -- the pets that families were sometimes forced to leave behind.

“There were so many families who came in [to the evacuation center] who literally had 5 minutes to get out,” Wine Country Animal Lovers (WCAL) Board President Pam Ingalls told ABC News. Her organization volunteered at the Calistoga Evacuation Center in Napa County. While she was there, Ingalls met a dog owner who could not get back to their house to rescue their pup. Horse owners had no other choice but to open the pasture and let the horses run.

“It was really sad because there were a lot of people who got [to the evacuation center] without their animals,” she said. Other evacuees brought injured animals with them.

The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine treated more than 50 injured animals in the aftermath of the fires, according to Communications Officer Rob Warren.

“The overwhelming majority of animals had burns (1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree) to their paws and face,” Warren said.

Cats were by far the most commonly injured; however, the veterinary teaching hospital treated some more unusual animals as well, including four chickens, two pigs, two goats and a rabbit. Warren told ABC News that all of the animals are “showing great signs of improvement” but they will remain in the hospital for three to four more weeks.

Beyond just rescuing and rehabilitating the animals, many organizations are working to re-unite them with their owners. UC Davis located the owners of 11 of their treated animals. Groups have cropped up on social media dedicated to sharing pictures of lost and found pets, using hashtags like #ValleyFirePets and #ButteFirePets. In the wake of so much devastation, being able to reunite owners with their pets is a spot of hope.

“Most of the owners that we’ve identified have lost everything,” Warren said.

As communities work to rebuild, Ingalls suspects that their work will continue.

“There will be a lot of [pet] surrenders because people have lost their homes and don’t feel that they can care for them,” she said. Ingalls encourages those who want to help the animal survivors to adopt or donate for their medical needs.

“We’ve been able to do so much because of the community,” she said. “There’s a lot that we can do.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers that dietary supplements meant to improve sexual performance may contain ingredients that are found in prescription erectile dysfunction pills like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra.

The agency expressed concern on Thursday that high dosages or unintended combinations could make taking some such supplements dangerous for consumers. In total, the FDA says, nearly 300 suppements found online, in gas stations or in vending machines could contain some of these ingredients.

The supplements take a number of forms, including pills, coffees and chewing gums and are labeled "all natural" or "herbal." By not disclosing the hidden ingredients, the FDA says, even cautious consumers would be left unaware that they may be taking excessively high doses.

"We're finding an alarming number of these products sold online and in retail stores," the FDA's National Health Fraud Coordinator Gary Coody said in a statement. "Consumers have no way of knowing which drugs or ingredients are actually in the product just by reading the ingredients on the label."

The FDA reccomends being wary of products promising quick results, being advertised as alternatives to FDA-approved drugs, have labels written in a foreign language, or are sold in single servings.

"Some of these products," Coody added, "have as many as six different ingredients contained in FDA-approved prescription drugs and analog of those ingredients." He expressed concern that the agency can't tell what danger the drugs pose, "because these combinations have never been studied before they're sold to unsuspecting consumers."

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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The Snyder Family(MINNEAPOLIS) -- A Minnesota teen has died after ingesting a synthetic psychedelic drug, police said Thursday.

Alexander Snyder was found face up in a marsh on Sunday by police officers after he was reported missing, police said, noting the 17-year-old was found with his shoes off having a seizure in the water. Police officers were sent to the scene by the teen's father, who tracked his location through his cell phone GPS, police said.

The officers took him to a hospital, where he later died on Tuesday, police said.

Jason Kamerud, Chief Deputy at the Carver County Sheriff's Office, said investigators believe that Snyder died from an accidental overdose of a synthetic psychedelic drug that he snorted with a friend. Police did not name the drug. The medical examiner is looking into the cause of death, police said.

Another teen was found with Snyder and was taken to the hospital where he was treated and released for symptoms associated with the synthetic drug, police said.

Officials believe the teens got the drug from a Chinese manufacturer over the Internet, Kamerud said, noting the drug was likely not illegal because synthetic drugs can be altered so that they are chemically slightly different from banned substances.

Snyder's father, Jeremy Snyder, told ABC News that his son was on track to graduate six months early and had wanted to be an astrophysicist. He said he was frustrated that his son was able to get synthetic drugs online and said his son had recently been experimenting with different drugs, though trying just a single drug at a time. He said he believed this synthetic psychedelic drug was the second synthetic drug he tried. He said parents should be aware of how easy it can be to get certain synthetic drugs online and that they should do everything they can to intervene if their child starts to experiment with drugs.

"These things are really, really not safe," Jeremy Snyder told ABC News. "If the parents are suspecting [teens are using synthetics] they should probably cut them off all financially."

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

From headaches to high blood pressure, stress can take a toll on you. But now, there are growing concerns that stress can also affect fertility.

A study from Ohio State University found that women with the highest stress levels took 29 percent longer to get pregnant compared to other women, and their risk of infertility doubled.

As an OB/GYN and as a woman, I know just how stressful it can be for a couple trying to conceive. The good news is that there are simple ways to reduce stress that could make a big impact:

  • Separate the tasks that need to be done from the those that would be nice to get done.
  • Stop smoking, and cut back on caffeine and alcohol.
  • Practice relaxation methods, such as yoga or my favorite, meditation.
  • And for fertility, relax -- there’s a reason so many couples conceive while on vacation.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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