June 2008 Archives

Smoker's Burdens

Smoker's Burdens
Smoker's Burdens, originally uploaded by swanksalot. from a car window, on Milwaukee Blvd.

Booze, not pot, the real problem

I agree with Sam Smith here over 1,000 percent, if not more. Not just in professional sports, but in all walks of life, boozers cause way more societal damage than stoners. I don't want to outlaw alcohol (obviously), but rather decriminalize marijuana. From my perspective, both inebriates are roughly the same - moderate use, no problem, heavy use, possible issue - yet alcohol drinkers are more likely to run you over, more likely to be violent, more likely to negatively affect the healthcare system, yadda yadda. So why are pot smokers the ones going to jail? Anyway, Sam Smith lights one up (probably metaphorically) and ruminates about Joakim Noah being arrested for having a tiny amount of marijuana on his person, on vacation, while Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen put several six packs of beer into their gym bags after a game, presumedly to drink on the way home.

Yes, back in 2001, Charles Oakley decided that maybe 50 to 60 percent of the players in the NBA used marijuana. A few years later, the Rocky Mountain News surveyed NBA players and from a sample of about 60 decided that some 30 percent of the players were using the drug.

Both of these accounts followed a 1997 New York Times report of substance abuse among NBA players and threw out a figure of 60 to 70 percent, though lost in the fine print was no real distinction between alcohol and marijuana.

And, yes, there’s the rub.

I know, I know, marijuana is illegal and alcohol is not.

But this should give pause to everyone who reads and reacts to headlines of NBA players using or being arrested in connection with marijuana.

I don’t know how many players in the NBA use marijuana, though we do know now about Noah. We’ve previously heard issues with Allen Iverson, Chris Webber, Robert Parish, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rasheed Wallace and at one time most of Portland, though it is a particularly liberal place.

Of course, we’ve also heard the same about former President Bill Clinton, who insisted he didn’t inhale, and now U.S. Senator Barack Obama, who also wrote in his first book about experimenting with “blow,” the street name for cocaine.

Using Aristotelian logic, perhaps this means more NBA players than we think could be running for president, though in the Democratic party. Which might not be a bad thing because perhaps they’d be too mellow to be declaring war so often.

[Click to read more of HoopsHype.com NBA Blogs - Sam Smith » Booze, not pot, the real problem]

Suspicions deepen on food labs

Dog Food

FDA has been caught with its head in the proverbial sand again, sort of a don't ask, don't tell policy for food safety. Venue shopping, in other words.

A congressional committee is investigating whether some private U.S. laboratories were instructed to withhold samples of tainted food so that importers could get their goods into the United States.

In a May 1 letter to 10 labs, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce suggests they may have been encouraged by importing companies to discard test results that had failed Food and Drug Administration standards.

"We're gathering information from both the FDA and private industry about the labs almost being complicit in helping importers game the system," said Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee that is investigating the labs and food companies. "Someone told us you pay for the result you want to get from the labs."

The committee's letter reiterates Stupak's suspicion that testing on some samples was conducted repeatedly until the food passed.

In other instances, the letter says, importers whose food failed tests at one laboratory would hire a different lab to continue testing until they got a positive result. "This repeated testing is done without alerting FDA that potentially dangerous food has been imported into this country — a practice which we find deplorable," the letter states.

The committee asked 50 multinational food companies for a wide range of recall- and food-import records dating to 2000. A May 8 letter from the committee to the companies asks about instances when food was found to be contaminated with chemicals or bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella or listeria. "We wish to assess the extent of microbiological and/or chemical contamination occurring during the processing of food and the extent to which controls have failed to prevent or eliminate contamination in food," the committee wrote.

Three Chicago-area corporations— Kraft Foods Inc., Sara Lee Corp. and the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.—are included in the second request.

[From Suspicions deepen on food labs -- -- chicagotribune.com]

Sounds like a pretty big loophole to me: too bad the FDA's mandate is to protect the business interests of food manufacturers, and not consumers, or else the FDA would run its own laboratories, conducting its own tests. Privatization is usually not the best solution to address public health concerns.

Last autumn the FDA issued an alert on five types of Chinese seafood: eel, shrimp, catfish, basa and dace. The warning was recognition of the fast-growing Asian aquaculture industry and its frequent use of antibiotics banned in the United States.

To import those seafoods, companies affected by the alert must prove that their products don't contain banned substances. Conducting tests to prove it is one of the jobs the private labs perform.

So far, just 2 of the 10 labs targeted by the House committee have complied with the records request, according to committee staffers. Amir Jalaeikhoo, president of one lab that did comply, Imperial Private Laboratories Inc. of Miami, said that his firm reports negative test results to the FDA. Imperial mostly tests for pesticides in produce imported from Central and South America, Jalaeikhoo said. "Sometimes we lose clients because our standard operating procedure is that basically if something is ... in violation, we submit it," he said. "Some importers don't like that policy."

The nation can't afford to ensure the quality of its citizen's food - there are wars in the desert to fund!

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