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October 25, 2009|Shari Roan; Austin Knoblauch; Kim Murphy; Valerie J. Nelson


Pacifiers can lead to speech problems

Questions on whether a baby should be given a pacifier or allowed to thumb-suck have existed for generations. The concerns center on whether sucking habits will impact tooth alignment and speech development. The latest evidence, published Wednesday, suggests that long-term pacifier use, thumb-sucking and even early bottle use increase the risk of speech disorders in children.

The study looked at the association between sucking behaviors and speech disorders in 128 children, ages 3 to 5, in Chile. Delaying bottle use until at least 9 months old reduced the risk of developing a speech disorder, researchers found. But children who sucked their thumb, fingers or used a pacifier for more than three years were three times as likely to develop speech impediments. Breast-feeding did not have a detrimental effect on speech development.

The authors of the study noted that other research suggests that use of a pacifier or thumb-sucking for less than three years also increases the risk of a speech problem. The sucking motion may change the normal shape of the dental arch and bite. Breast-feeding, however, seems to promote positive oral development.

"The development of coordinated breathing, chewing, swallowing and speech articulation has been shown to be associated with breast-feeding. It is believed that breast-feeding promotes mobility, strength and posture of the speech organs," the authors wrote.

The study is published in the open access journal BMC Pediatrics.

-- Shari Roan

From Booster Shots: Oddities, musings and news from the world of health

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Thomas hurt by Magic's book

It appears Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas still have their differences.

Thomas told Sports Illustrated he's "really hurt" over criticisms about him found in Johnson's new book, "When The Game Was Ours." The book, which will be released Nov. 4 and is co-written with Larry Bird and author Jackie MacMullan, deals extensively with the Lakers-Celtics-Pistons rivalry of the late 1980s and early '90s.

Thomas takes issue with several parts of the book, including how Magic opposed having Thomas play on the 1992 Olympic "Dream Team."

"I'm glad that he's finally had the nerve and courage to stand up and say it was him, as opposed to letting Michael Jordan take all the blame," Thomas told

"I wish he would have had the courage to say this stuff to me face to face, as opposed to writing it in some damn book to sell and he can make money off it."

The book also accuses Thomas of spreading rumors that Magic was homosexual or bisexual after Johnson announced he had HIV. "Isiah kept questioning people about it. . . . The one guy I thought I could count on had all these doubts. It was like he kicked me in the stomach," the book says.

-- Austin Knoblauch

From The Fabulous Forum: The who, what, where, when, why -- and why not -- of L.A. sports

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Coral reef species face extinction

Coral reef species are facing an escalating danger of extinction as a result of rising temperatures. Up to one-third of the small animals could be wiped out in the coming years due to warmer ocean waters, increasing acidity in the sea, and the compounding impacts of fishing and pollution, scientists predict.

To help save 83 imperiled coral species in U.S. waters, the Center for Biological Diversity has petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect them under the federal Endangered Species Act.

"Coral reefs are the world's most endangered ecosystems and provide an early warning of impacts to come from our thirst for fossil fuels," Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director for the organization, said in a statement announcing the petition.

"Within a few decades, global warming and ocean acidification threaten to completely unravel magnificent coral reefs that took millions of years to build."

Up to one-fifth of the world's coral reefs already have been lost and the threatened species in U.S. waters could be gone by midcentury if steps are not taken, the petition said. Warmer waters have led to fatal bleaching of coral reefs, while ocean acidification, which occurs from the sea's absorption of carbon dioxide, prevents reefs from developing protective skeletons.

Elkhorn and staghorn corals in Florida became the first coral species to be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2006. Expanding the ESA listings could mean further controls on fishing, dumping, dredging and offshore oil development that could threaten reefs.

-- Kim Murphy

From Greenspace: Environmental news from California and beyond

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Paid obits appear on TV station

Since September, the local CBS affiliate in Saginaw, Mich., has been generating advertising revenue from a new source -- obituaries.

When three of four daily newspapers in the region reduced publication to three days a week, WNEM stepped in to fill the void, reports Advertising Age.

For $100, the station runs a photograph and name of the departed on the air, then publishes a more traditional paid obituary notice on So far, the station has more than 700 obituaries in its system.

The names of people who've passed away are broadcast during the station's local morning and noon shows Monday through Friday, as well as on weekend morning shows.

Station owner Meredith Corp. plans to expand the concept to other TV stations.

Why not just skip TV altogether and post the obits exclusively online? According to an Ad Age source, the natural audience for such announcements -- the elderly -- are less likely to have access to a computer.

-- Valerie J. Nelson

From Afterword: Musing with the news obituaries staff

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