It's a sobering fact for millions of young women heading back to school: The more alcohol they drink before motherhood, the greater their risk of developing breast cancer. In a study published online this week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine say they have linked increased breast cancer risk to drinking. The study concluded that if a female averages a drink per day between early adolescence and her first full-term pregnancy, she increases her risk of breast cancer by 11 percent. The researchers also found that for every bottle of beer, glass of wine or shot of liquor consumed daily, a young woman increases her risk of benign breast disease by 15 percent. Although such lesions are noncancerous, their presence increases breast cancer risk by as much as 500 percent.
The Commerce Department said Friday that consumer spending rose just 0.1 percent in July from the previous month. That's slower than June's 0.6 percent increase. Consumers cut their spending on long-lasting manufactured goods, such as cars and appliances. Spending on services was unchanged.
Income rose 0.1 percent in July following a 0.3 percent June gain. Overall wages and salaries tumbled $21.8 billion from June — a third of the decline came from forced furloughs of federal workers.
Consumers' spending drives roughly 70 percent of economic activity. The weak spending report led some economists to sound a more pessimistic note about economic growth in the current July-September quarter. It follows July data showing steep drops in orders for long-lasting manufactured goods and new-home sales.
"This is a disappointing report on a number of levels," said James Marple, senior economist at TD Economics. "Prospects for a pickup in economic growth in the third quarter hinge on a broad-based acceleration in spending by households and business to offset the ongoing drag from government. The data for the first month of the quarter are not following this script."
Several analysts said that economic growth is unlikely to match the 2.5 percent annual rate reported Thursday for the April-June quarter. That was more than twice the growth rate in the first quarter and far above an initial estimate of a 1.7 percent rate for April through June.
Marple predicts third-quarter growth will fall around 2 percent, perhaps even lower.
The Federal Reserve will consider the consumer spending and income data at its September meeting, when it decides whether to begin slowing its $85 billion a month in bond purchases. The bond purchases have helped keep long-term borrowing rates low.
But the most critical factor that the Fed will weigh is the August employment report, which will be released next Friday. It's the final jobs report before the Fed meets.
Another concern is that rising interest rates could dampen consumer spending, particularly on homes and cars. Mortgage rates have already risen more than a full percentage point since May.
In July, the savings rate was unchanged at 4.4 percent of after-tax income. That was the smallest since the rate had been 4.3 percent in March.
The small rise in spending was driven by a 0.8 percent gain in purchases of nondurable goods, such as clothing. Purchases of durable goods such as autos fell 0.2 percent and purchases of services such as utilities and doctor's visits were unchanged in July.
A price gauge tied to consumer spending was up a small 0.1 percent in July compared to June. Prices excluding volatile food and energy are up just 1.4 percent compared to a year ago, significantly below the Federal Reserve's 2 percent target for inflation.
The collapse of British support for a mission to punish Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons puts pressure on President Barack Obama as resistance grows at home — and comes with the irony that France was the most vocal critic of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
French President Francois Hollande pledged backing for a potential American operation to hit the Damascus regime.
"The chemical massacre of Damascus cannot and must not remain unpunished," Hollande said in an interview published Friday by the newspaper Le Monde, as U.N. experts in Damascus began what is expected to be the last day of their probe into the alleged attack.
Amid the turmoil of a British "no" and mounting American skepticism, Obama appeared undeterred in his desire to punish Syrian leader Bashar Assad, and advisers said he would be willing to retaliate against Syria on his own.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, speaking from Manila, Philippines, issued an impassioned defense of the principles behind the planned strike.
"I don't know of any responsible government around the world ... that has not spoken out in violent opposition to the use of chemical weapons on innocent people," Hagel said, adding that such attacks violate basic standards of decency.
He said that Washington would continue to seek partners in its Syria mission: "Our approach is to continue to find an international coalition that will act together."
On Thursday, the U.S. administration shared intelligence with lawmakers in an effort to persuade them that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people.
In Damascus, shops and supermarkets filled with people stocking up on bread, canned food and other necessities ahead of the expected strikes, although there appeared to be no signs of panic or food shortages. Prices have shot up because of the high demand, residents complained.
Kheireddine Nahleh, a 53-year-old government employee, put on a brave face.
"We got used to the sound of shelling," he said. "Death is the same, be it with a mortar or with an American missile. I'm not afraid."
On the last expected day of chemical weapons inspections, three U.N. vehicles headed out for more on-site visits, following an early morning delay.
The U.N. has said the inspectors will wrap up their investigation Friday and leave Syria for the Hague, Netherlands, on Saturday. Some of the experts will travel to laboratories in Europe to deliver the material they've collected this week during trips to the Damascus suburbs purportedly hit by toxic gas.
Russia, which as a firm backer of the Assad regime is fiercely hostile to military intervention, expressed bewilderment Friday at why the U.N. team was leaving so soon.
"We don't quite understand why the entire team had to be going back to the Hague when there are many questions about a possible use of chemical weapons in other areas in Syria," said Yuri Ushakov, President Vladimir Putin's foreign policy adviser.
U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said the timing reflected the urgency of getting any samples to laboratories, noting that the inspectors must do that themselves to "ensure the chain of custody." He said the inspectors intend to return to Syria to investigate other alleged attacks.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has warned that military strikes would lead to long-term destabilization of Syria and the region. He has spoken against any use of force without U.N. Security Council approval, which he said would be a "crude violation of international law." Russia has remained a strong ally of Syria throughout the civil war, which has left more than 100,000 people dead.
In Paris, Hollande suggested that action could even come ahead of Wednesday's extraordinary session of the French Parliament, called to discuss the Syria situation; lawmakers' approval is not needed for Hollande to order military action.
"I will not take a decision before having all the elements that would justify it," he told Le Monde. However, noting that he had convened parliament, he added: "And if I have (already) committed France, the government will inform (lawmakers) of the means and objectives."
The British parliament voted late Thursday against military action in Syria, whittling down the core of the planned coalition to the United States and France. Italy and Germany have said they won't take part in any military action that doesn't have Security Council backing.
Hollande said that France is among the few nations capable of "inflicting a sanction by the appropriate means" and "it is ready." A decision will be made in close coordination with allies, he said.
France has historic ties to Syria, having once ruled the country; it also has warplanes and strategic interest in the region. Paris has embraced the Syrian opposition and urged a firm response against Assad over the purported Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus.
French military analysts say France's most likely role would be from the air, including use of Scalp cruise missiles that have a range of about 500 kilometers (300 miles), fired from Mirage and Rafale fighter jets. French fighters could likely fly directly from mainland France — much as they did at the start of a military campaign against Islamic radicals in Mali earlier this year — with support from refueling aircraft. France also has six Rafale jets at Al Dhafra air base, near Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates on the Persian Gulf, and 7 Mirage-2000 jets at an air base in Djibouti, on the Red Sea.
Hollande reiterated that any action is aimed at punishing Assad, not toppling him.
"I won't talk of war, but of a sanction for a monstrous violation of the human person," he said. "It will have a dissuasive value."
___ Angela Charlton in Paris, Zeina Karam in Beirut and Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report. ___ Follow Ganley on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/Elaine_Ganley