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Health, healthcare, science of food, and related topics

Reefer Roadshow Asks Seniors to Support Medical Pot

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Big Pot of Smiley Faces
Big Pot of Smiley Faces

Seems like a smart strategy, actually. A lot of older people have only heard anti-marijuana propaganda, so are fearful of the reefer madness. Once they are educated as to the realities of cannabis consumption, they would be much less vehemently opposed to decriminalization.

LAKE WORTH, Fla.—Selma Yeshion, an 83-year-old retiree here, says she long considered marijuana a menace. “I thought it was something that was addictive” and “would lead to harder drugs,” she says.

Then she attended a presentation at the local L’Dor Va-Dor synagogue in April put on by a group called the Silver Tour. The group aims to persuade seniors to support legislation to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes in Florida. A series of speakers, including a doctor, a patient and several advocates, argued that pot was just what the silver-haired set needed to combat conditions like chronic pain and insomnia.

 Ms. Yeshion was sold. “I want to get some cannabis,” she said afterward, with a big smile. “I have pain in my back, so it would be nice. Damn it to hell, I want to try it once in my lifetime.”

Count one more convert for the Silver Tour, which has been delivering its pot pitch at retirement communities and places of worship around the state.

Robert Platshorn, 69 years old, decided to focus on his fellow seniors—a group that isn’t exactly high on the idea of medical marijuana. People who are 65 and older helped sink a 2010 ballot initiative to legalize pot in California, voting 66% against it, more than any other age group, according to exit polls.

“Nobody in the marijuana movement is talking to seniors,” Mr. Platshorn says. Yet “seniors are the only damn people that go to the polls.” In Florida, people 65 and older represent 24% of eligible voters compared with 18% nationally, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes, says Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, an advocacy group. Six more states debated legalization bills in legislative sessions this year, he says.

According to a 1999 study by the Institute of Medicine commissioned by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, cannabis can potentially help with pain relief, nausea reduction and appetite stimulation, among other things. The study also noted that possible adverse effects include diminished motor skills and dysphoria, or unpleasant feelings.

(click here to continue reading Joint Effort: Reefer Roadshow Asks Seniors to Support Medical Pot – WSJ.com.)

KAM Isaiah Israel
KAM Isaiah Israel

and this made me giggle:

Barry Silver, the congregation’s wisecracking rabbi, told the audience that his board was a little nervous about having a group promote medical marijuana at the synagogue. “Don’t worry about it,” he says he replied. “Why do you think the holiest day of the year is the High Holy Day?”

 

Written by Seth Anderson

May 29th, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Posted in health,News-esque

Tagged with ,

Momentum builds for stronger oversight of flame retardants

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Tribune Tower
Tribune Tower

Good job by the Trib: doing actual journalism, getting results.

Since the Tribune published its “Playing With Fire” series, momentum has been building for stricter oversight of flame retardants and other toxic chemicals.

The newspaper’s investigation documented a deceptive campaign by industry that distorted science, created a phony consumer watchdog group to stoke the fear of fire and organized an association of top fire officials to advocate for greater use of flame retardants in furniture and electronics.

Promoted as lifesavers, flame retardants added to furniture cushions actually provide no meaningful protection from fires, according to federal researchers and independent scientists. Some of the most widely used chemicals are linked to cancer, neurological deficits, developmental problems and impaired fertility.

“Your series was an eye-opener,” said Joseph Erdman, legislative director for the New York Senate Committee on Environmental Conservation. “We hope other people around the state and nation read it.”

The committee has revived legislation targeting a chemical known as chlorinated tris, or TDCPP, that was voluntarily taken out of children’s pajamas more than three decades ago after studies found it could cause cancer. Recent tests have found that chlorinated tris now is commonly added to strollers, highchairs, rockers, diaper-changing pads and other baby products.

(click here to continue reading Momentum builds for stronger oversight of flame retardants – chicagotribune.com.)

Kudos to Tribune reporters Michael Hawthorne, Sam Roe, Patricia Callahan; keep up the pressure, and perhaps something good will come of this…

Written by Seth Anderson

May 23rd, 2012 at 8:38 am

Red Wine as a Probiotic Delivery System

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El Coto Rioja 2006
El Coto Rioja 2006

Hmmm, sounds like a reason to have a lil’ bit…

In studies on animals, for example, scientists have found that components of red wine seem to improve intestinal health, promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. Research on human subjects is limited. But one recent study that examined the claim was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In it, a small number of healthy adults were instructed to avoid all alcohol for two weeks — a so-called washout period.

Then they went through three separate phases of 20 days each. In one, the subjects drank red wine, about a cup daily. In another, they drank the same amount of red wine daily, but this time with the alcohol removed. In the third, they drank up to 100 milliliters a day of gin each day.

What’s the best digestive aid? Join in the discussion below. In the end, the researchers found that both types of red wine produced improvements in the bacterial composition of the gut, lowered blood pressure and reduced levels of a protein associated with inflammation. Slight improvements in gut flora were seen among gin drinkers, but the effects in the wine drinkers were much more pronounced.

THE BOTTOM LINE

According to research, red wine may improve digestive health.

(click here to continue reading Really? Red Wine as a Probiotic Delivery System – NYTimes.com.)

Wine Jug
Wine Jug

and a few more details from the National Institute of Health (since I couldn’t find the specific study at the AJCN, due to a combination of their poor search feature and researcher1 incompetence)

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Few studies have investigated the effect of dietary polyphenols on the complex human gut microbiota, and they focused mainly on single polyphenol molecules and select bacterial populations.

OBJECTIVE: The objective was to evaluate the effect of a moderate intake of red wine polyphenols on select gut microbial groups implicated in host health benefits.

DESIGN: Ten healthy male volunteers underwent a randomized, crossover, controlled intervention study. After a washout period, all of the subjects received red wine, the equivalent amount of de-alcoholized red wine, or gin for 20 d each. Total fecal DNA was submitted to polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and real-time quantitative PCR to monitor and quantify changes in fecal microbiota. Several biochemical markers were measured.

RESULTS: The dominant bacterial composition did not remain constant over the different intake periods. Compared with baseline, the daily consumption of red wine polyphenol for 4 wk significantly increased the number of Enterococcus, Prevotella, Bacteroides, Bifidobacterium, Bacteroides uniformis, Eggerthella lenta, and Blautia coccoides-Eubacterium rectale groups (P < 0.05). In parallel, systolic and diastolic blood pressures and triglyceride, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and C-reactive protein concentrations decreased significantly (P < 0.05). Moreover, changes in cholesterol and C-reactive protein concentrations were linked to changes in the bifidobacteria number.

Conclusion: This study showed that red wine consumption can significantly modulate the growth of select gut microbiota in humans, which suggests possible prebiotic benefits associated with the inclusion of red wine polyphenols in the diet. This trial was registered at controlled-trials.com as ISRCTN88720134.

(click here to continue reading Influence of red wine polyphenols and ethanol… [Am J Clin Nutr. 2012] – PubMed – NCBI.)

Footnotes:
  1. me []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 16th, 2012 at 10:19 am

Posted in Food and Drink,health,science

Tagged with

A Battle With the Brewers on Pine Ridge

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Light
Light

I have two thoughts regarding this horrific article as reported by Nicholas Kristof:

Pine Ridge, one of America’s largest Indian reservations, bans alcohol. The Oglala Sioux who live there struggle to keep alcohol out, going so far as to arrest people for possession of a can of beer. But the tribe has no jurisdiction over Whiteclay because it is just outside the reservation boundary.

So Anheuser-Busch and other brewers pour hundreds of thousands of gallons of alcohol into the liquor stores of Whiteclay, knowing that it ends up consumed illicitly by Pine Ridge residents and fuels alcoholism, crime and misery there. In short, a giant corporation’s business model here is based on violating tribal rules and destroying the Indians’ way of living.

It’s as if Mexico legally sold methamphetamine and crack cocaine to Americans in Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez.

Pine Ridge encompasses one of the poorest counties in the entire United States — Shannon County, S.D. — and life expectancy is about the same as in Afghanistan. As many as two-thirds of adults there may be alcoholics, and one-quarter of children are born suffering from fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

In short, this isn’t just about consenting adults. Children are born with neurological damage and never get a chance.

(click here to continue reading A Battle With the Brewers – NYTimes.com.)

The Longhorn Saloon - Main Street, Scenic, South Dakota

The Longhorn Saloon – Main Street, Scenic, South Dakota

First, Anheuser-Busch aka InBev has long been a sleazy corporation. You don’t give large amounts of corporate donations to scum like the Heartland Institute unless you are a willing tool of Republican agenda, and Anheuser-Busch is a willing tool of the GOP.

More Beautiful Desolation
More Beautiful Desolation

Second, and this is just wild speculation, what would happen if the Pine Ridge Reservation legalized booze sales, but vigorously controlled the sale? Stop selling to obviously intoxicated people, have a quota for how much beer a particular household could purchase in a month, and so on. Try the drug legalization model, in other words, like Switzerland or The Netherlands do (did?). Of course, the slightly-over the county line store would have to be removed, or incorporated into the plan. But isn’t this just as feasible as a public shaming of corporate scum like InBev?

I don’t doubt alcoholism is a big, big problem on the Res, but perhaps there are other ways to tackle this problem. Heroin junkies in Vancouver are allowed to shoot up, but only under watchful eyes of public health officials.

Just days after Canada’s Supreme Court smacked down the ruling Conservative party’s attempts to close Insite, the cutting-edge walk-in safe-injecting clinic in Vancouver, comes the latest volley from harm-reduction advocates north of the border. Over the next three years a new trial will test whether giving heroin addicts access to free, clean opiates can be an effective way to stabilize hardcore users and ultimately entice them into drug treatment.

SALOME (Study to Assess Longer-term Opiate Maintenance Effectiveness) grew out of the earlier NAOMI (North American Opiate Maintenance Initiative) study. whose conclusions were similar to those of similar trials in Switzerland, Germany and other highly evolved nations: “Heroin-assisted therapy proved to be a safe and highly effective treatment for people with chronic, treatment-refractory heroin addiction. Marked improvements were observed including decreased use of illicit “street” heroin, decreased criminal activity, decreased money spent on drugs, and improved physical and psychological health,” as NAOMI’s authors wrote.

Unlike the earlier trial, the focus of SALOME is not on heroin prescribing. With the Conservative government’s panties already in a bunch over injecting rooms, a less controversial alternative to handing out heroin had to be foundt. The solution?  Hydromorphone (trade name Dilaudid), a legally available painkiller whose effects are almost indistinguishable from heroin—not a surprise given that it is synthesized from morphine. “There’s less of a stigma, less of an aura, around hydromorphone, and it’s legally available,” said British Columbia’s medical health officer, Perry Kendall. “In Switzerland and Germany, they don’t have a problem with treating people with heroin, but here we do.”

(click here to continue reading Junkies Get Free, Clean Heroin Alternative in Vancouver Trial | The Fix.)

What do you think? Could this work for alcohol too? Of course, this is idle speculation, and as long as the GOP is around, public health initiatives will get short shrift.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 6th, 2012 at 8:10 am

Komen Drops Support for Planned Parenthood Breast Cancer Screenings

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Pink Torpedo in Pilsen
Pink Torpedo in Pilsen

Susan G. Komen for the Cure Of Anti-Choice Women Only cares more about right-wing, evangelicals than it does to all women’s health. Cancer doesn’t have political affiliations, but Susan G. Komen for the Cure Of Anti-Choice Women Only decided that the majority of women aren’t worthy of the support of Susan G. Komen for the Cure Of Anti-Choice Women anymore; only those on the right of the political spectrum. Despicable. They won’t get any more money from me.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the ubiquitous charity dedicated to fighting breast cancer, is cancelling hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of grants to Planned Parenthood that help pay for cancer screenings, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

Komen has been under pressure from anti-abortion groups to drop its funding for Planned Parenthood, which received $680,000 from the anti-cancer group in 2011. Most recently, abortion foes forced a Christian publisher to stop printing pink Komen bibles and pressured bookstores to take them off the shelves. Groups have also called on supporters to boycott Komen entirely, and decried the group as a “lie from the pit of Hell.” But Komen says the anti-abortion groups’ activism didn’t play a role in its decision, which it claims is the result of a new internal policy forbidding it from funding for any organization that’s currently under investigation in Congress. (Planned Parenthood is the target of a congressional investigation, but that probe is led by an anti-abortion lawmaker who has sought to end all federal support to the group.)

One thing the AP piece misses, however, is that pressure to end the Planned Parenthood funding may have also come from within Komen itself. Karen Handel was named senior vice president at Komen in April 2011, and is now “leading the organization’s federal and state advocacy efforts.” But before joining Komen, she was a candidate in the Republican gubernatorial primary in Georgia, and was critical of Planned Parenthood. “[S]ince I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood,” she wrote in a blog post, and pledged to eliminate all state funds for breast and cervical cancer screening to the group if she were elected governor.

 

(click here to continue reading Komen Drops Support for Planned Parenthood Breast Cancer Screenings | Mother Jones.)

Healthcare Not Warfare
Healthcare Not Warfare

Planned Parenthood put out a statement that begins:

NEW YORK – Planned Parenthood Federation of America today expressed deep disappointment in response to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation’s decision to stop funding breast cancer prevention, screenings and education at Planned Parenthood health centers. Anti-choice groups in America have repeatedly threatened the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation for partnering with Planned Parenthood to provide these lifesaving cancer screenings and news articles suggest that the Komen Foundation ultimately succumbed to these pressures.

“We are alarmed and saddened that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation appears to have succumbed to political pressure. Our greatest desire is for Komen to reconsider this policy and recommit to the partnership on which so many women count,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

In the last few weeks, the Komen Foundation has begun notifying local Planned Parenthood programs that their breast cancer initiatives will not be eligible for new grants (beyond existing agreements or plans). The Komen Foundation’s leadership did not respond to Planned Parenthood requests to meet with the Komen Board of Directors about the decision.

To ensure that the Komen Foundation’s decision doesn’t jeopardize any woman’s access to lifesaving screenings and services, Planned Parenthood has launched a Breast Health Emergency Fund. The fund will offset the support that 19 local Planned Parenthood programs stand to lose from Komen. The Komen-funded Planned Parenthood programs have helped thousands of women in rural and underserved communities get breast health education, screenings, and referrals for mammograms.

“While this is deeply disturbing and disappointing, we want to assure women who rely on Planned Parenthood for breast care that we’re still here for them, and we always will be. The new fund we’re launching to support these services will ensure that the Komen Foundation’s decision doesn’t jeopardize women’s health,” added Richards.

(click here to continue reading “Alarmed and Saddened” by Komen Foundation Succumbing to Political Pressure, Planned Parenthood Launches Fund for Breast Cancer Services.)

If you want to shame the anti-women’s health nut jobs at Susan G.Komen for the Cure of Anti-Choice Women Only, Planned Parenthood is accepting donations here

Written by Seth Anderson

January 31st, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Posted in health,politics

Tagged with

Mind-altering drugs research call from Prof David Nutt

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Shroom as Big As Your Head
Shroom as Big As Your Head

If only governments listened to reason…

Former government drugs adviser Prof David Nutt has said that regulations should be relaxed to enable researchers to experiment on mind-altering drugs.

Prof Nutt told BBC News that magic mushrooms, LSD, ecstasy, cannabis and mephedrone all have potential therapeutic applications.

However, he said they were not being studied because of the restrictions placed on researching illegal drugs.

He said the regulations were “overwhelming”.

His comments followed the publication of new research by his group in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which suggests that the active ingredient in magic mushrooms could be used to treat depression.

“I feel quite passionately that these drugs are profound drugs; they change the brain in a way that no other drugs do. And I find it bizarre that no-one has studied them before and they haven’t because it’s hard and illegal,” he said.

Prof Nutt was sacked by the home secretary from his government advisory role three years ago for saying that ecstasy and LSD were less harmful than alcohol.

We need to have a more scientific rational approach to drugs and vilifying drugs like psilocybin whilst at the same time actively promoting much more dangerous drugs like alcohol is totally stupid scientifically” Prof David NuttHe says his new research indicated that there were no “untoward effects” from taking magic mushrooms and that it should not be illegal to possess them.

Prof Nutt and his team scanned the brains of volunteers who had been injected with a moderate dose of psilocybin, the active ingredient of magic mushrooms.

They had expected higher activity in areas of the brain associated with visual imagery. But in fact they found that the drug switched off a network of interconnected regions of the brain which regulated an individual’s sense of being and integration with their environment.

The researchers say that this alters consciousness because individuals are less in touch with their sensations and normal way of thinking.

(click here to continue reading BBC News – Mind-altering drugs research call from Prof David Nutt.)

LSD Partners  Dylan

LSD Partners – Bob Dylan

Written by Seth Anderson

January 23rd, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Posted in government,health,science

Tagged with ,

How Exercise May Keep Alzheimer’s at Bay

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Sharpening Stones and Walking On Coals
Sharpening Stones and Walking On Coals

Cautiously encouraging is better than despair, no?

Alzheimer’s disease, with its inexorable loss of memory and self, understandably alarms most of us. This is especially so since, at the moment, there are no cures for the condition and few promising drug treatments. But a cautiously encouraging new study from The Archives of Neurology suggests that for some people, a daily walk or jog could alter the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or change the course of the disease if it begins.

For the experiment, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis recruited 201 adults, ages 45 to 88, who were part of a continuing study at the university’s Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. Some of the participants had a family history of Alzheimer’s, but none, as the study began, showed clinical symptoms of the disease. They performed well on tests of memory and thinking. “They were, as far as we could determine, cognitively normal,” says Denise Head, an associate professor of psychology at Washington University who led the study.

The volunteers had not had their brains scanned, however, so the Washington University scientists began their experiment by using positron emission tomography, an advanced scanning technique, to look inside the volunteers’ brains for signs of amyloid plaques, the deposits that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. People with a lot of plaque tend to have more memory loss, though the relation is complex.

(click here to continue reading How Exercise May Keep Alzheimer’s at Bay – NYTimes.com.)

Can’t hurt to walk a bit every day, why not do it?

Written by Seth Anderson

January 19th, 2012 at 9:53 am

Posted in health,science

Tagged with

Where Germs Lurk on Planes

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Waiting, 3 AM, Milano Airport
Waiting, 3 AM, Milano Airport

Flying is stressful enough, but getting sick as a result of traveling is even worse.

Air travelers suffer higher rates of disease infection, research has shown. One study pegged the increased risk for catching a cold as high as 20%. And the holidays are a particularly infectious time of year, with planes packed full of families with all their presents—and all those germs.

Air that is recirculated throughout the cabin is most often blamed. But studies have shown that high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters on most jets today can capture 99.97% of bacterial and virus-carrying particles. That said, when air circulation is shut down, which sometimes happens during long waits on the ground or for short periods when passengers are boarding or exiting, infections can spread like wildfire.

One well-known study in 1979 found that when a plane sat three hours with its engines off and no air circulating, 72% of the 54 people on board got sick within two days. The flu strain they had was traced to one passenger. For that reason, the Federal Aviation Administration issued an advisory in 2003 to airlines saying that passengers should be removed from planes within 30 minutes if there’s no air circulation, but compliance isn’t mandatory.

Much of the danger comes from the mouths, noses and hands of passengers sitting nearby. The hot zone for exposure is generally two seats beside, in front of and behind you, according to a study in July in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(click here to continue reading Where Germs Lurk on Planes – WSJ.com.)

and even the security check-in area is a pit of filth and disease:

You think the plane is bad? Security checkpoints harbor a host of hazards as well, researchers say.

Jason SchneiderAirport security areas can make it easy to get sick. People are crowded together, and plastic storage bins that hold personal effects are not cleaned after each screening.
People get bunched up in lines, where there is plenty of coughing and sneezing. Shoes are removed and placed with other belongings into plastic security bins, which typically don’t get cleaned after they go through the scanner.

Layers of Weakness

Layers of Weakness

So, other than having a healthy immune system, what to do?

According to Scott McCartney:

  • Drink lots of water. Dry air is a ideal place for viruses, and plane air has hardly any humidity. You can go so far as to spray your own nasal passages to keep them moist.
  • Clean your hands frequently.
  • Avoid touching the seat-back pockets. Who knows what lurks there? Likewise be wary of the tray tables. Some viral particles can live for 24 hours.
  • Aim your air vent in front of your face – it can keep airborne particles from landing on you. Well, possibly.
  • Avoid airline pillows and blankets – they are rarely, if ever, sanitized.

Or else, be part of the 1%, and get a private plane…

Written by Seth Anderson

December 21st, 2011 at 8:56 am

Posted in health

Tagged with ,

Research Points to Early Detection of Alzheimer’s

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Poached Scrambled eggs in the pot
Poached Scrambled eggs in the pot

Research continues on this dread disease, so don’t draw any drastic conclusions from this one study, but interesting nonethless.

“Earlier intervention will allow us to treat patients when they have much less disability and when it could still be possible to prevent or delay such [memory] losses,” said Howard Feldman, Bristol-Myers Squibb’s vice president of global clinical research for neuroscience.

The exact causes of Alzheimer’s are still unknown, but clumps of a sticky substance called amyloid and masses of tau protein in the brain are thought to be key factors in its development. Until recently, amyloid plaques and tau tangles could be seen only in the brain upon autopsy.

But during the past decade, the identification of biomarkers—proteins and other chemicals in the brain and spinal fluid associated with amyloid and tau levels—as well as better brain-scanning technology have provided a clearer picture of Alzheimer’s in living patients and how it progresses over time.

Increasingly, the evidence suggests that amyloid, which many researchers had fingered as likely contributing to memory loss in Alzheimer’s and which has been the most popular target of experimental drugs, may be most toxic early in the disease process, before symptoms appear.

It appears to trigger a cascade that causes tau protein—which normally serves to stabilize cell structure—to break down, form tangles and kill brain cells. The tau changes, many experts now believe, are at the heart of the dementia symptoms.

In one study presented at the Paris conference, Mayo’s Dr. Jack and his colleagues examined 298 patients spanning the cognitive spectrum from normal to severe Alzheimer’s dementia over the course of a year. Using brain scans and biomarker analyses, they found little change in amyloid among patients progressing toward Alzheimer’s. But there were substantial changes in tau and brain volumes, suggesting that they change later in the course of the disease than amyloid.

(click here to continue reading Research Points to Alzheimer’s Early Toll – WSJ.com.)

 

Written by Seth Anderson

August 5th, 2011 at 8:36 am

Posted in health,science

Tagged with , ,

Bush Administration Prevented Regulation of Perchlorate In Drinking Water

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Mendenhall Glacier Melt Off

Mendenhall Glacier Melt Off

Simply and unequivocally criminal. Disgustingly craven, and a lot more besides. We wrote about this travesty back in November, 2008.

The EPA’s controversial 2008 decision not to regulate a drinking water contaminant long connected to impaired brain development and decreased learning capability in infants had more to do with the interests of the Bush administration than with scientific findings regarding its safety, according to a report (146 page PDF) released Tuesday by a congressional watchdog agency, the LA Times reports.

Perchlorate is a toxin in rocket fuel and fireworks, is present in most states’ drinking water, lettuce and milk, and is found in high concentrations near current and former military bases as a byproduct of weapons testing. The E.P.A. currently says it could be contaminating the public wells supplying anywhere from 5 million to 17 million Americans. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked to look into the EPA’s evaluation of the known thyroid-disturbant, and found that the path to the no-regulation decision “used a process and scientific analyses that were atypical, lacked transparency, and limited the agency’s independence in developing and communicating scientific findings.”

Instead of the EPA’s usual process—which begins with creating a work group of “professional staff with relevant expertise from across the agency”—the Agency placed a “less inclusive, small group of high-level officials” in charge of the deliberations.

These high-level members included officials who answered directly to the White House, from the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Department of Energy, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture. NASA and the Department of Defense were part of the board as well.

Not included in the work group was the Office of Children’s Health Protection, a bureau essentially created for this purpose, despite the EPA’s conclusion of the risk perchlorate poses to pregnant women and children. The chemical can inhibit iodide uptake, causing increased the risk of neurodevelopmental impairment in fetuses of pregnant women, and contribute to developmental delays and decreased learning capability in infants and children, according to the report.

“Everyone who’s paying attention knows that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson is acutely tuned-in to the political signals coming from the White House – so tuned-in that his conversations with the executive branch have become a form of highly privileged state secret,” Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope told NBC in 2008.

 

The GAO report also found significant flaws in the actual testing process. The work group chose to use data from a 2005 National Academy of Sciences report, which was based primarily on the results of a single two-week clinical study which did not include infants or children younger than six years old.

 

(click here to continue reading Bush Administration, Not Science, Prevented Regulation of Toxin In Drinking Water | TPMMuckraker.)

No Dumping - Drains to Creek
No Dumping – Drains to Creek

Luckily, the Obama administration is a huge improvement in this area at least, and reversed this Bush era mistake last February.

Written by Seth Anderson

July 13th, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Cell Phone Cancer Probably Just Another Hype

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Cell phone-iphile

Cell phones are in the news, as the latest scientific-related worry causer. Our media thrives on such scary stories, whether or not they are factually true or not. I wouldn’t throw out your cellphone just yet…

Basically, the WHO put cell phones into the Group 2B category, meaning they are “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. Aiiiieee! Sounds scary… except that word “possibly”, it turns out, needs to be understood a little more quantitatively.

I poked around some news sites (like CNN and MSNBC), and while they aren’t over-hyping it, in my opinion they aren’t being entirely fair, either. The claims I’ve seen from people linking cell phones to brain cancer make it seem as if the connection is obvious, but the results from the WHO make it clear that’s not the case. There might be a connection, but if there is it’s not terribly clear. I’ll note the studies only appear to cover a time base of ten years; it’s not possible to know what happens after, say 15 or 20 years. Even then, other environmental factors dominate such studies, making teasing out a weak signal very difficult.

You may also wish to note what other things are categorized as Group 2B possible carcinogens, including gasoline, pickled vegetables, and (GASP!) coffee. My opinion here is that while a link between cell phones and brain cancer cannot be ruled out, without a strong correlation and a numerical statement about the odds, it seems very unlikely to me that such a connection is something to worry about. I’m far more worried about the dingus in traffic in front of me gabbing to his friend on his phone and causing an accident than I am about me getting brain cancer from my own.

(click here to continue reading Why I’m (still) not worried about my cell phone hurting my brain | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine.)

Do Not Overreach

Written by Seth Anderson

June 1st, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Posted in health

Tagged with , ,

GOP Plan To Stick It to Medicare

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Don’t Call Me Yellow

According to Rupert Murdoch’s paper of record, the GOP just needs to stick to their plan of destroying Medicare, and eventually voters will flock to their side. Hmm, well, that’s an option I guess.

Republican lawmakers reaffirmed Wednesday their embrace of a controversial Medicare overhaul despite an electoral setback, ensuring the federal health program will remain a divisive issue through the 2012 election.

Republicans responded to Democrat Kathy Hochul’s Tuesday victory in a traditionally Republican New York Congressional district by saying they needed to attack the Democrats’ Medicare position more forcefully, rather than back off their own plan.

“We need to make it a choice between a do-nothing approach that will ultimately destroy Medicare, and life-saving reforms,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R., Okla.). Added Rep. Cliff Stearns (R., Fla.): “It’s a wake-up call on how you frame it. It obviously wasn’t framed right.”

Democrat Kathy Hochul defeated Republican Jane Corwin in a closely watched House race in western New York State. The race gained national attention when Corwin announced she favored an overhaul of Medicare.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), who authored the Medicare plan, said Democratic attacks on his plan were effective in Tuesday’s election to fill an open House seat near Buffalo. “They are shamelessly demagoguing and distorting it,” Mr. Ryan said, adding that Republicans would have a better chance to make their case over the next 18 months.

(click here to continue reading GOP Sticks to Plan on Medicare – WSJ.com.)

Everything's Been Returned Which Was Owed - Pinko version

The proof will come in 2012, especially now that Senator Reid finally scheduled a vote on the Ryan plan

The GOP continued its bloody walk into the Medicare buzzsaw Wednesday, when 40 out of 47 Senate Republicans voted in support of the House GOP budget, and its plan to phase out and privatize the popular entitlement program.

The test vote failed by a vote of 57-40. But the roll call illustrates that Medicare privatization — along with deep cuts to Medicaid and other social services — remains the consensus position of the GOP despite the growing political backlash against them.

Voting with all of the Democrats against debating the plan were Sens. Scott Brown (R-MA), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) — both 2012 incumbents — along with Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Rand Paul (R-KY) voted against it because it wasn’t radical enough.

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) did not vote.

Democrats intentionally scheduled the vote less than 24 hours after a Democrat won a special election in New York’s 26th — and heavily Republican — congressional district, on the strength of defending Medicare from a GOP onslaught. The outcome of that election heightened the political stakes, but sent few Republicans bolting for the exits.

“I’ve been surprised a lot of the times about how they’re voting here,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at a press conference after the vote.

(click here to continue reading Senate Republicans Vote Overwhelmingly To End Medicare | TPMDC.)

Che Guevara - Detail at Casa Aztlan Community Center

Parenthetical point: the WSJ used to attempt to be neutral in its non-editorial pages, but since Murdoch purchased it, that’s been scrapped. WSJ now operates in the Fox News model: note how many Democrats are quoted in the above article versus how many Republicans, and also notice that half the rest is regurgitated GOP talking points. Too bad. I dropped my print subscription, but am hanging on to the online WSJ because there is good business news there, sometimes.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 26th, 2011 at 9:10 am

Posted in health,politics

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Novak Djokovic and His Gluten-Free Diet

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Pot O Rice

Interesting, yet not definitive since this is not a controlled experiment. Would Novak Djokovic suddenly start losing if he had a cold, refreshing beer?

How did Novak Djokovic conquer the tennis world?

Maybe the answer is as simple as this: Since last year, he’s swearing off pasta, pizza, beer, French bread, Corn Flakes, pretzels, empanadas, Mallomars and Twizzlers—anything with gluten.

It’s no secret that Djokovic has had a breakout season, or that he has been, by any reasonable standard, the world’s best athlete of 2011. On Sunday, he beat Rafael Nadal in the Rome Masters, his fourth-straight win over the Spaniard. It was his second win over Nadal on clay in two weeks, and again, amazingly, he did it without losing a set. The match ran Djokovic’s 2011 record to 37-0 with seven titles.

As the French Open begins Sunday, Djokovic’s amazing streak—the longest to start a season since 1984—is threatening to push Roger Federer (the winner of a record 16 Grand Slam titles) and Nadal (the French Open’s five-time champion) off the front pages. But the transformation from odd man out to invincible overlord also is leaving gobsmacked tennis fans searching for answers. Clearly something has clicked for the Serb. But what?

Djokovic’s serve, sloppy as recently as last season, is now precise, fluid and, at times, devastating. His forehand used to break down in tense moments; now he hits winners that seem to subscribe to undiscovered laws of physics. His backhand, always solid, is now impenetrable, even with Nadal’s famously high-bouncing forehand. And then there’s the gluten.

Last year, Djokovic’s nutritionist discovered that Djokovic is allergic to the protein, which is found in common flours. Djokovic banished it from his diet and lost a few pounds. He says he now feels much better on court.

(click here to continue reading Novak Djokovic’s Gluten-Free Ascendancy – WSJ.com.)

Schlitz

Written by Seth Anderson

May 19th, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Posted in Food and Drink,health,Sports

Tagged with ,

Keep Your Hands Off My Medicare

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Red and Blue

How many low-information voters regret their votes for economy-destroying, Medicare-ending, environment-despoiling Republicans now? Even some of the Teabaggers wish they had paid a bit more attention to the lying Republicans who asked for their votes…

Katrina Vanden Heuvel reports:

It’s been a common refrain of politicians in Washington for as long as the capitol has been unpopular: “It’s good to get outside the beltway, good to go get back to the real America.” But in recent days that cliché might feel a bit stale for Republican House members, who voted last month for Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal. Inside the beltway, Ryan is called “courageous,” a “visionary,” a “serious man,” for having the bravery to put forth a budget that pays for tax cuts for the wealthy by ending Medicare as we know it. Back home in his district, he’s becoming known as the leader of the most serious assault on seniors since President Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security.

In April, Ryan was greeted, not with the outsized praise of New York Times columnist David Brooks at his town hall in Milton, Wisconsin, but instead, with sustained boos. On Friday, according to Politico, he asked police to remove a man from his town hall because the man refused to stop yelling about the impact the Ryan budget would have on Medicare.

He’s not alone. In New Hampshire, the first six questions posed to Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH) were about his vote in favor of Ryan’s budget. “I’m not surprised it’s controversial,” said Bass of his vote. But for a man who won his seat during the 2010 Republican wave by a little more than 3,000 votes, it’s an open question as to whether his career can afford such controversy.

In addition to Ryan and Bass, at least six other GOPers have faced pointed questions and outright protest at town halls, reminiscent of the tea party anger seen at Democratic town halls in 2009. Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) arrived at his town hall greeted with signs that said “Hands Off Medicare.” The meeting became so contentious that police officers intervened to quiet the crowd. The New York Times described one such town hall as approaching “near chaos.” The Orlando Sentinel described another as reaching the level of “bedlam.”

Already, some members are backing away from their votes. By the end of Charlie Bass’s town hall, he already seemed to be wavering. “If there are certain facets of the budget that are manifestly unpopular, I think that should be taken into consideration… this is the beginning of a long conversation.” How manifestly unpopular is Ryan’s plan for Medicare? A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that more than 80 percent of all Americans disapprove of cuts to the program. A whopping 70 percent of Republicans opposed them, as well, making it one of the most unpopular positions supported by a national party in modern memory.

(click here to continue reading Keep Your Hands Off My Medicare! | The Nation.)

Amusing to contrast/compare the media and fake media1 response to contentious Town Halls in 2008 versus now. I don’t recall any police throwing out teabaggers.

Keene Block

Still waiting for Harry Reid to schedule a Senate vote on the Ryan ridiculousness so that Senate Republicans can face similar tough questions.

And the Ryan plan doesn’t do much, really, besides shift the burden the state level…

Enter the House Republicans’ budget proposal. Instead of a commitment to insure as many people as meet the criteria, it would substitute a set amount per state. Starting in 2013, the grant would probably equal what the state would have received anyway through federal matching funds, although that is not spelled out. After that, the block grant would rise each year only at the national rate of inflation, with adjustments for population growth.

There are several problems with that, starting with that inflation-pegged rate of growth, which could not possibly keep pace with the rising cost of medical care. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that federal payments would be 35 percent lower in 2022 than currently projected and 49 percent lower in 2030.

To make up the difference, states would probably have to cut payments to doctors, hospitals or nursing homes; curtail eligibility; reduce benefits; or increase their own payments for Medicaid. The problems do not end there. If a bad economy led to a sharp jump in unemployment, a state’s grant would remain the same. Nor would the block grant grow fast enough to accommodate expensive advances in medicine, rising demand for long-term care, or unexpected health care needs in the wake of epidemics or natural disasters. This would put an ever-tightening squeeze on states, forcing them to drop enrollees, cut services or pump up their own contributions.

This is not the way to go. The real problem is not Medicaid. Contrary to most perceptions, it is a relatively efficient program — with low administrative costs, a high reliance on managed care and much lower payments to providers than other public and private insurance.

The real problem is soaring medical costs. The Ryan plan does little to address that. The health care law, which Republicans have vowed to repeal, seeks to reform the entire system to deliver quality care at lower cost.

(click here to continue reading The Ryan Plan for Medicaid – NYTimes.com.)

 

Footnotes:
  1. aka Fox News []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 3rd, 2011 at 11:28 am

Our Broken Healthcare System

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Blue and Moist

My sister Katie writes about her travails with America’s broken healthcare system, and her insurance provider, Aetna:

I don’t let Lupus define me. Most of the people I encounter everyday don’t know I have it. But, I do, and for the first time since I was diagnosed 10 years ago, I am speaking up.

The fall of 2000 and the beginning of 2001 was a busy time for me. I was planning a March wedding, in college full-time, had both an internship and a part-time job. For most of that time, i was feeling run down and achy, which I attributed to my hectic life. However, I then developed what looked like a rash on my legs. After a week or so, when it didn’t go away, I had it checked out by my family doctor. He referred me to a specialist, a hematologist. The hematologist examined me, ran several tests and since the “rash” was actually inflamed blood vessels, he gave me a prescription for a corticosteroid (Wikipedia: prednisone). A few days later, while with my brother picking up his groomsmen tuxedo for my wedding, my Dr. called me with the results. All the test results pointed to Lupus (Wikipedia). He told me to enjoy my wedding and I would see him again a few weeks later. That was the first (of many) occasions where I told myself to bear up and focus on the positive. 

Over the years, I have seen the specialist at least twice a year and have controlled a fairly mild case of the chronic disease. I have had two, healthy children, hold a full-time job that I love and lead a fairly normal life. However, there have been many days of pain. My joints are arthritic and achy. I run low-grade fevers often. I can’t spend much time in the sun and I sometimes am so fatigued that I can’t get enough sleep. Recently, I have had new symptoms that include pain and a heavy, tingly feeling in my legs. This may be from arthritis in my spine. (I’m waiting to get some lab work back.)

Besides a handful of short rounds of prednisone over the years, the drug that has given me the most relief has been Celebrex (Wikipedia). Celebrex is classified as a Cox2 inhibitor non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It suppresses the inflammation, so fevers, arthritis, and fatigue aren’t a problem while I am on the medication.

I was recently denied coverage of Celebrex by my health insurance company, Aetna. When the nurse called me with the news, I was shocked. My first thought was: how can I live the rest of my life in pain? My doctor’s office is still fighting the insurance company, but I am starting to lose hope that the drug will ever be covered. The out of pocket cost is $180/month. Aetna has specific criteria the patient must meet for the expensive drug to be covered. One of them is having documented gastrointestinal bleeding. In other words, I have to be bleeding internally from taking cheaper medications, in order to be on a more expensive one. Make sense? No.”

I would describe our healthcare system in one word: broken. Why should anyone, including the health insurance companies, make a profit from people being sick? Why aren’t more politicians trying to change this? I don’t want to fight this problem for the rest of my life. People who are really ill don’t have the time (and many don’t have the resources) to do so.

While I know that this blog post won’t change the system or make my pain go away, it feels good to put it in words.

Written by Seth Anderson

April 19th, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Posted in health

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