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Smuggled Medicines Up 470% Last Year

2 Feb

SINGAPORE: Smuggling cases of controlled drugs rose a staggering 470 per cent last year. The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said it detected 1,820 such cases in 2008, up from 320 cases a year ago.

The ICA said this was due to tighter and enhanced checks at various checkpoints.

Drugs seized included lifestyle drugs and aphrodisiac pills like Viagra and narcotic Romilar tablets. Most of the items were seized at air cargo checkpoints.

On the whole, contraband smuggling cases went up by 2 per cent from 37,800 in 2007 to 38,600 last year.

Cigarette smuggling fell from 23,800 cases in 2007 to 18,900 last year, a drop of 20.6 per cent. But such cases still made up almost half of the 38,600 contraband smuggling cases uncovered by immigration officers.

The ICA noted that smugglers are getting more creative, hiding contraband items in consignments such as bricks, sealed oil drums, soft toys, waste papers, polishing powder, between sawn timber and even among frozen fish.

There was a slight increase of 2.6 per cent in the number of smuggling cases involving security-related items. These included ricochet blade, nanchaku, gun replicas and decorative blowpipes that travellers tried to bring into Singapore last year.

Pirated-disc smuggling also rose, by 15.4 per cent.

Meanwhile, the number of illegal immigrants, overstayers and immigration offenders arrested fell between 20 and 26 per cent.

ICA attributed the continued decline in such cases to the vigilance of its officers, the use of sophisticated technology and greater community participation in programmes to reduce immigration-related offences such as harbouring illegal immigrants.

Last year, 110 of harbourers of immigration offenders were caught – down by almost half from 2007. The number of people arrested for employing immigration offenders also stayed low, at 110.

– CNA/ir

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Pfizer In Talks To Buy Drugs Rival Wyeth

23 Jan

NEW YORK: The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is in talks to buy rival Wyeth in a merger deal that could be worth 60 billion dollars, the Wall Street Journal said on Friday.

Pfizer, the world’s largest drug maker in terms of revenue has been “in discussions for months” with Wyeth, maker of the paediatric vaccine Prevnar, the newspaper said citing people familiar with the matter.

Pfizer’s products include the anti-cholesterol drug Lipitor and the erectile stimulant Viagra.

The combined revenue of the two is about 75 billion dollars, the report said, noting however that a deal was not imminent.

The sources also warned that “given recent market volatility and overall economic uncertainty, the talks are especially fragile and could collapse”, the paper said.

Spokesmen from both companies declined to comment, the report said.

A merger deal could help both sides cut costs through combined back-office operations, sales, manufacturing and research and development.

Down the road, both companies are looking ahead to the expiration of patents on some of their most profitable drugs, combined with tough competition from generic drug makers.

New York-based Pfizer employs 83,400 people and has slashed 15,000 jobs since January 2007 and is preparing to cut thousands more jobs in the coming months. Wyeth, based in New Jersey, counts 46,000 employees.

– AFP/so

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US Offers Viagra To Win Over Afghan Warlords

27 Dec

WASHINGTON: CIA agents are offering the potency drug Viagra and other gifts to win over Afghan warlords in the US-led war against Taliban insurgents, the Washington Post reported.

Paying for information is nothing new for the Central Intelligence Agency, but officers have started employing unusual incentives to persuade Afghan local leaders to share intelligence about the Taliban’s movements, the Post wrote, citing unnamed sources in the spy service.

“Whatever it takes to make friends and influence people — whether it’s building a school or handing out Viagra,” one CIA operative who has worked in Afghanistan was quoted as saying.

CIA agents have offered pocket knives and tools, toys and school equipment, travel visas, medical services including surgeries and sometimes the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra for Afghan chieftains, the paper said.

The aging chieftains often have up to four wives and are open to the Viagra pill as a way to “put them back in an authoritative position”, said another official.

More customary bribes such as cash and weapons can create problems, because guns may fall into the wrong hands and a sudden influx of cash can draw too much attention, agents told the paper.

Four Viagra pills transformed the attitude of one influential 60-year-old warlord who had been wary of the United States.

“He came up to us beaming,” one official told the Post.

“And after that we could do whatever we wanted in his area.”

– AFP/yt

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Ex-Bangladesh Military Ruler Could Emerge As Election Surprise

26 Dec

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s charismatic former military ruler Hussain Muhammad Ershad, ousted in 1990 and then jailed for corruption, may emerge as kingmaker after general elections on Monday.

Sheikh Hasina Wajed is widely tipped to become the next prime minister but with a third of voters casting ballots for the first time, her rival Khaleda Zia could make it a close race — leaving Ershad holding the balance of power.

The 78-year-old retired army general, who leads the fourth biggest political party, grabbed power in a bloodless coup in 1982 and ruled Bangladesh until 1990, when Sheikh Hasina and Zia worked together to oust him.

His Jatiya Party is among a 15-party leftist “grand alliance” lead by Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League party, which Ershad says has promised him the presidency if it comes to power.

But analysts say Ershad’s loyalty to Sheikh Hasina is not set in stone and he may be calling the shots once the votes are counted.

“The general view is that the Awami League will win but there are a huge number of undecided voters,” said Manzoor Hasan, director of BRAC University’s Institute of Governance Studies in Dhaka.

Hasan said the polls may result in a hung parliament, with Ershad — famed for his extra-marital affairs — emerging as a kingmaker.

His personal life became a talking point in conservative Muslim-majority Bangladesh earlier this year when his estranged second wife published a book about her life with him entitled “Sleeping with the Enemy.”

In her bestseller, Bidisha described her ex-husband as a “sexual pervert”, who kept Viagra in his briefcase and regularly visited prostitutes.

A spokesman for Ershad, who has a seven-year-old son with Bidisha and two adopted adult children from his first marriage, said the politician was unfazed by the book.

“It is a story written by a disgruntled divorcee. Our leader hasn’t even picked it up,” a Jatiya Party spokesman said.

Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has used the contents of the book in a bid to discredit Ershad during campaigning for the election.

Ershad, who spent six years in jail on corruption charges after he was deposed in 1990 but was later cleared on most counts, has said becoming the country’s next president is his “ultimate dream”.

“I want to die with honour and dignity. I want to vindicate my position,” he told AFP last month.

Monday’s election is the first in Bangladesh in seven years and will end two years of rule by an army-backed government.

– AFP/yt

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Health Alert Issued On "Menergy M-Essence"

12 Dec

SINGAPORE : A health product “Menergy M-essence” that is sold as an alternative to Viagra, is being recalled and anyone who has purchased the product is being advised by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) not to consume it.

HSA says that although the product which comes in the form of capsules, is labelled as containing natural ingredients, it does not declare the presence of two chemical substances, acetildenafil and acetilacid.

Both substances said the HSA can potentially cause serious adverse reactions such as heart attack, stroke and severe hypotension, especially in those with heart conditions and/or who are taking nitrate drugs.

The HSA said in a news release there have not been any reported cases of adverse reactions relating to the consumption of the product and the two chemical substances were detected by the HSA through its ongoing post-market surveillance programme.

Both acetildenafil and acetilacid are substances that are chemically similar to sildenafil, a potent prescription drug prescribed by a doctor for the treatment of male erectile dysfunction.

The HSA said it is carrying out a market recall of “Menergy M-essence” as the safety of this product is in question.

The HSA is also warning the public not to consume “Menergy M-essence” as the product is known to be distributed by individuals through multi-level marketing channels and can be bought over the Internet.

Deputy Director (Enforcement Operations) of HSA’s Health Products Regulation Group, Ruth Lee said members of the public should not purchase health products from unknown and ambiguous Internet sources.

“While HSA conducts ongoing surveillance to check the safety of health products in the market,consumers can play a vital role in safeguarding their own health by being cautious and exercising discretion in the choice of health products they buy” she said.

“Anyone who has specific medical concerns should consult a doctor instead of resorting to dubious products touting unproven claims.”

The HSA strongly advises anyone who has consumed “Menergy M-essence” to seek medical advice if they feel unwell or are concerned about their health.

-CNA/sf

Channel News Asia

Consumption Of Illegal Sex Enhancement Drugs May Cause Brain Damage

20 Nov

SINGAPORE: Illegal sex enhancement drugs may not only have no effect on performance, it can also lead to permanent disability, brain damage and even death.

A new study by the National Neuroscience Institute, in collaboration with hospitals and the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), found that patients were severely affected by hypoglycemia or low blood sugar after taking these drugs.

The drugs had contained glibenclamide, a prescription medicine used for treatment of diabetes by lowering the blood sugar. Severe low blood sugar can lead to coma and death if left untreated.

Of the eight patients who were involved in the study, one has died, and five had moderate to severe disabilities.

The HSA had issued an advisory, warning consumers not to purchase sexual enhancement drugs from dubious sources.

The doctor leading the study wants more national and international collaboration to stop these drugs from entering the legitimate supply in Singapore.

Associate Professor Tchoyoson Lim, Senior Consultant Neuroradiologist, National Neuroscience Institute, said: “It is common experience that we get a lot of spam and junk mail in our email inbox.

“Many of these are advertising Viagra-like drugs and enhancement products. There is a real danger that these could find their way… into Singapore.”

– CNA/yt

Channel News Asia

Spreading The Love

24 Oct

SINGAPORE: He’s one man, with three wives, seven children and a thousand and one problems. But Bill is taking it all in stride – Paxton that is. Not that Bill Henrickson isn’t trying hard to keep it all together in the second season of HBO black comedy “Big Love”, which debuts on Monday.

Indeed, Hollywood star Paxton shares more than a first name with the polygamist he’s played since 2006. He told TODAY over the phone from Los Angeles that he could “totally be that guy”.

Said Paxton: “Yes, it is politically incorrect for anyone to say that they would love to be married to three women but hey, who wouldn’t want to be him? He is a patriarchal figure. He’s the head of his business and his household. He’s a negotiator and a multi-tasker. He is able to make love to three women. He’s superman! He’s a complete fantasy!

“And his get-out-of-jail-free card is that he’s not sneaking around with these three women. He’s upfront and committed to each of them so, in a way, it’s okay to be in love with three women.”

Added the candid actor who has starred in major blockbusters including “Twister”, “Apollo 13” and “Aliens”: “Some journalist from South America came up to me and said, ‘You are a hero in my country!'”

The controversial Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated drama series, which just wrapped up filming its third season, centres around a true believer of the practice of polygamy, and his trials and tribulations balancing the financial, emotional and romantic needs of his three wives.

The real-life father of two kids and husband to just one wife also said that he was drawn to the show by the character-driven part, the quality of the cast (which includes Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin as his three wives) and the fact that Tom Hanks was one of the producers.

“To be honest, I never thought of doing a TV series. I really enjoyed having a career in movies, and I had even started directing films. But when I read the piece, I realised how original it was, how funny and how it had a lot of heart,” he said.

“I never got to do romantic parts in films throughout my career … so with three gorgeous leading ladies, this was like hitting the trifecta! Plus, the quality of the show is so amazing. We shoot the series like a big, long movie with no ending.”

So, what do we have to look forward to in Season 2? “There are a lot of plot developments but one of them has (my character Henrickson) meeting a pie waitress and thinking maybe it’s time to look for a fourth wife! The man is a serial polygamist – very dangerous!” he said, with a laugh.

“Maybe he’s taking too much Viagra. I don’t know. He’s like a vampire, but instead of blood, he needs to have sex everyday.”

Season 2 of “Big Love” premieres on Monday, October 27 at 11pm on HBO (StarHub Ch60). –

Channel News Asia

It's Not Healthy To Be Down

21 Sep

Dr Peter Ng Eng Pin says the penis is the dipstick to your health. If it is down, your health may also be down.

WHAT’S good for your penis is also good for your heart. That’s what health industry sources are finding out.

Consultant urologist Dr Peter Ng Eng Pin says chest pains used to be one of the only outward indications of heart disease.

But now, erectile dysfunction (ED) is the new warning sign of underlying vascular problems.

“The penis is a dipstick to your health. When that is down, your health is down as well.

“In many studies in was reported that more than 50 per cent of men with ED developed a heart condition within three years.
“It used to be the other way around, where people with heart problems had ED. Now, we’re learning that ED is a warning for more serious diseases.”

ED is an early manifestation of the blood vessel damage caused by high blood pressure, diabetes and other heart disease risk factors.

“ED is the centre of a lot of diseases. If you have it, you must check for all other vascular diseases, including prostrate problems. It’s a common mechanism, treating one will treat them all.

“People used to worry that if you have a heart problem, you should not take Viagra, but that’s not true. These people were not healthy enough to be having sex in the first place.”

Dr Ng says a good self-test to see if you’re healthy enough to have sexual intercourse is if you can climb two flights of stairs in 20 seconds.

If you can’t, you should see a doctor immediately as this could indicate serious problems.

“Many people think it’s as simple as popping a pill and solving all your problems.

“But ED is an early warning sign. If the warning sign is ignored, you could have a heart attack or a stroke.

“Some ED cases are all in the mind. They’re caused by psychological problems, but a majority of ED patients are not ‘clean’ in other areas of their health.”

He calls for wives to push their husbands to see a doctor as soon as they notice an ED problem.

“If your husband suffers from ED, you could save his life by making him see a doctor.

“But not just any doctor. It’s important to see a medical practitioner that will not only push pills to you, but counsel you and look at your overall health.”

Many men, he says, suffer for years with ED before being egged on by their wives to seek help.

Dr Ng does, however, warns against counterfeit magic blue pills.

“Viagra is the most bootlegged drug out there. People are giving it away over the counter and selling it in markets.”

He says the public should not self-prescribe medication, much less buy them from dodgy places.

New Straits Times

It’s Not Healthy To Be Down

21 Sep

Dr Peter Ng Eng Pin says the penis is the dipstick to your health. If it is down, your health may also be down.

WHAT’S good for your penis is also good for your heart. That’s what health industry sources are finding out.

Consultant urologist Dr Peter Ng Eng Pin says chest pains used to be one of the only outward indications of heart disease.

But now, erectile dysfunction (ED) is the new warning sign of underlying vascular problems.

“The penis is a dipstick to your health. When that is down, your health is down as well.

“In many studies in was reported that more than 50 per cent of men with ED developed a heart condition within three years.
“It used to be the other way around, where people with heart problems had ED. Now, we’re learning that ED is a warning for more serious diseases.”

ED is an early manifestation of the blood vessel damage caused by high blood pressure, diabetes and other heart disease risk factors.

“ED is the centre of a lot of diseases. If you have it, you must check for all other vascular diseases, including prostrate problems. It’s a common mechanism, treating one will treat them all.

“People used to worry that if you have a heart problem, you should not take Viagra, but that’s not true. These people were not healthy enough to be having sex in the first place.”

Dr Ng says a good self-test to see if you’re healthy enough to have sexual intercourse is if you can climb two flights of stairs in 20 seconds.

If you can’t, you should see a doctor immediately as this could indicate serious problems.

“Many people think it’s as simple as popping a pill and solving all your problems.

“But ED is an early warning sign. If the warning sign is ignored, you could have a heart attack or a stroke.

“Some ED cases are all in the mind. They’re caused by psychological problems, but a majority of ED patients are not ‘clean’ in other areas of their health.”

He calls for wives to push their husbands to see a doctor as soon as they notice an ED problem.

“If your husband suffers from ED, you could save his life by making him see a doctor.

“But not just any doctor. It’s important to see a medical practitioner that will not only push pills to you, but counsel you and look at your overall health.”

Many men, he says, suffer for years with ED before being egged on by their wives to seek help.

Dr Ng does, however, warns against counterfeit magic blue pills.

“Viagra is the most bootlegged drug out there. People are giving it away over the counter and selling it in markets.”

He says the public should not self-prescribe medication, much less buy them from dodgy places.

New Straits Times

Wall Street Gains As Oil Prices Fall, Banks Recover

24 Jul

NEW YORK: Wall Street stocks rose modestly on Wednesday amid another sharp decline in crude oil prices and an extension of the improbable rally in beaten-down banking shares.

Analysts said the market also got a lift from prospects for passage of a major housing relief bill after the White House dropped its threat of a veto.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 29.88 points (0.26 percent) to close at 11,632.38 and the technology-heavy Nasdaq composite rose 21.92 points (0.95 percent) to 2,325.88.

The broad-market Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 5.19 points (0.41 percent) to finish at 1,282.19.

A big factor for Wall Street was another sharp decline in crude oil futures. New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for September delivery, dropped a hefty 3.98 dollars to close at 124.44 dollars a barrel.

Meanwhile, the S&P bank index was up 1.6 percent, extending the surprising rebound for the troubled sector as traders mulled the prospects for a turnaround.

“The rally over the last week that largely has been driven by the drop in the price of crude oil and a major rebound in the financial sector naturally has prompted the question of whether the rebound has been too much, too soon,” said Gregory Drahuschak at Janney Montgomery Scott.

“The financial sector was so deeply oversold that a significant lift could have been expected at any point. We noted last week that the extraordinarily low earnings expectations for the banks set them up for a bounce if the dire expectations were not met. So far they have not been.”

Meanwhile a compromise reached by the White House and congressional leaders appeared to ensure passage of a major bill to provide billions of dollars in relief to the ailing US housing sector.

“The favourable news of an impending pass of a major housing bill is boosting shares of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae,” the government-sponsored but shareholder-owned mortgage finance giants, according to analysts at Charles Schwab & Co.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said President George W. Bush agreed to the plan to help deal with the crisis, despite a number of objections.

“The president would not have signed this bill if we had a lot of extra time on our hands. We don’t,” she said.

Fannie Mae shares rallied 11.8 percent to 15.00 dollars and Freddie Mac advanced 11.3 percent to 10.80.

Among the banks, Wachovia extended its surprising gains, climbing 5.1 percent to 17.65 dollars a day after rallying despite reporting a loss of more than 8.6 billion dollars.

Citigroup advanced 1.1 percent to 21.12 dollars and Bank of America added 3.4 percent to 33.44.

Among other stocks in focus, Pfizer increased 4.03 percent to 19.09 as the pharmaceutical giant and maker of Viagra and Lipitor said its second-quarter net profit more than doubled due to surging international sales and reaffirmed its 2008 outlook.

But Boeing fell 3.7 percent to 66.72 dollars after reporting a disappointing 19 percent drop in quarterly profits.

McDonald’s fell 0.77 percent to 59.66 dollars in a lukewarm response to forecast-beating results.

In technology, Yahoo fell 4.7 percent to 20.39 dollars as traders reacted to a disappointing earnings report from the troubled Internet giant.

Bonds dipped. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury bond rose to 4.148 percent from 4.097 percent on Tuesday while that on the 30-year bond increased to 4.700 percent from 4.663 percent. Bond yields and prices move in opposite directions.

European stock markets posted solid gains, powered by positive corporate results, notably in the banking and auto sectors, and in response to falling oil prices.

In London the FTSE 100 index rose 1.60 percent to close at 5,449.90, while in Paris the CAC 40 added 1.88 percent to finish at 4,408.74. The Frankfurt Dax climbed 1.45 percent to 6,536.09. – AFP/de

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