Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Paul On Mountaintop Removal

As someone who loves forested mountains, I find this attitude appalling.

One of the themes of U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul’s (R-KY) campaign has been that businesses are burdened with overregulation, with Paul even decrying the anti-discrimination provisions imposed on private businesses in the Civil Rights Act.

Now, Crooks and Liars has unearthed an interview Rand Paul gave in 2009 where the candidate aired these strident views with respect to mountaintop removal. When asked about the environmentally disastrous process, Paul told the interviewer that he thinks “whoever owns the property can do with the property as they wish, and if the coal company buys it from a private property owner and they want to do it, fine.” To justify his hands-off approach to environmental regulation, Paul then went on to explain that mountaintop removal isn’t that bad, anyway, saying, “I don’t think anybody’s going to be missing a hill or two here and there”:

INTERVIEWER: What about mountaintop removal?

PAUL: I think whoever owns the property can do with the property as they wish, and if the coal company buys it from a private property owner and they want to do it, fine. The other thing I think is that I think coal gets a bad name, because I think a lot of the land apparently is quite desirable once it’s been flattened out. As I came over here from Harlan, you’ve got quite a few hills. I don’t think anybody’s going to be missing a hill or two here and there.

----- (skipping)


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

U.S. Spends The Most On Health Care, Yet Gets Least

08:55 am June 23, 2010

by Julie Rovner

Pretty much no matter how you measure it, our health care system stinks.

Once again that's the sobering conclusion of the 2010 version of the annual Commonwealth Fund comparison of the U.S. health system with those in other industrialized nations.

This year the competitors were Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. The U.S. finished last.

To come up with the rankings, researchers surveyed both doctors and patients. The criteria comprised quality, access, efficiency, equity, whether people in each country lived long and productive lives, and how much each country spent per person on care. The researchers produced a spiffy interactive graphic to display the results.

But the findings were strikingly similar to those from surveys done in the previous four years. The U.S. spends more — much more — on health care and gets much less value for those dollars.

Overall, the winner in this year's contest was the Netherlands. Interestingly, perhaps, it's a nation that doesn't have a government-run system, but instead achieves universal coverage with an individual insurance mandate, much like the one recently passed by the U.S. Congress. The Dutch were first in access, first in equity, and second in quality of care.

The U.S., by contrast, was last in every category except quality, where it was second to last, squeaking in ahead of Canada. At $7,290 in annual spending per person in 2007, the U.S. also dwarfed second-place Canada at $3,895 and third-place Netherlands at $3,837.

About the only good news for America, said Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis, who was also the study's lead author, is that the new health law could put the U.S. on a path towards improvement.

"We will begin strengthening primary care and investing in health information technology and quality improvement, ensuring that more and more Americans can obtain access to high quality, efficient health care," Davis said.


Pre-Emptive Pain Regimen Decreased Opioid Usage in Patients Undergoing Robotic Prostatectomy

ScienceDaily (June 24, 2010) — Reporting in the journal Urology, researchers at Thomas Jefferson University have found that a pre-emptive multimodal pain regimen that included pregabalin (Lyrica) decreased the use of opioid analgesics in patients undergoing robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy.

Opioid usage, which involves narcotic pain medications, was significantly less in patients who received the multimodal regimen compared to patients who received a standard postoperative analgesic regimen. The mean opioid dose, which was measured in "total morphine equivalent dose," was 75.3 mg for patients who received the standard regimen, versus 49.1 mg for patients who received the multimodal regimen.

----- (skipping)

The pre-operative treatment included pregabalin, acetaminophen and celecoxib given orally, two hours before the procedure, and continued postoperatively in combination with intravenous ketorolac. The standard postoperative analgesic regimen included intravenous ketorolac, without pregabalin or celecoxib. All patients received oxycodone as needed.

Importantly, in addition to the reduced opioid usage, patients who received the pre-operative regimen did not report any additional side effects.

Although laparoscopic surgical techniques typically are associated with a reduction of postoperative pain, patients still require opioid analgesia. The side effects of opioid analgesics often hinder the benefits of laparoscopic surgery. Side effects include nausea, vomiting, a delay in the return of bowel function, ileus, respiratory depression, pruritus, urinary retention and altered sensorium.


Many Americans overtreated to death

updated 6/28/2010 9:44:18 AM ET

The doctors finally let Rosaria Vandenberg go home.

For the first time in months, she was able to touch her 2-year-old daughter who had been afraid of the tubes and machines in the hospital. The little girl climbed up onto her mother's bed, surrounded by family photos, toys and the comfort of home. They shared one last tender moment together before Vandenberg slipped back into unconsciousness.

Vandenberg, 32, died the next day.

That precious time at home could have come sooner if the family had known how to talk about alternatives to aggressive treatment, said Vandenberg's sister-in-law, Alexandra Drane.

Instead, Vandenberg, a pharmacist in Franklin, Mass., had endured two surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation for an incurable brain tumor before she died in July 2004.

"We would have had a very different discussion about that second surgery and chemotherapy. We might have just taken her home and stuck her in a beautiful chair outside under the sun and let her gorgeous little daughter play around her — not just torture her" in the hospital, Drane said.

Americans increasingly are treated to death, spending more time in hospitals in their final days, trying last-ditch treatments that often buy only weeks of time, and racking up bills that have made medical care a leading cause of bankruptcies.
Story continues below

More than 80 percent of people who die in the United States have a long, progressive illness such as cancer, heart failure or Alzheimer's disease.

More than 80 percent of such patients say they want to avoid hospitalization and intensive care when they are dying, according to the Dartmouth Atlas Project, which tracks health care trends.

Yet the numbers show that's not what is happening:

* The average time spent in hospice and palliative care, which stresses comfort and quality of life once an illness is incurable, is falling because people are starting it too late. In 2008, one-third of people who received hospice care had it for a week or less, says the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
* Hospitalizations during the last six months of life are rising: from 1,302 per 1,000 Medicare recipients in 1996 to 1,441 in 2005, Dartmouth reports. Treating chronic illness in the last two years of life gobbles up nearly one-third of all Medicare dollars.

"People are actually now sicker as they die," and some find that treatments become a greater burden than the illness was, said Dr. Ira Byock, director of palliative care at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Families may push for treatment, but "there are worse things than having someone you love die," he said.

----- (skipping)

A stunning number of cancer patients get aggressive care in the last days of their lives, she noted. One large study of Medicare records found that nearly 12 percent of cancer patients who died in 1999 received chemo in the last two weeks of life, up from nearly 10 percent in 1993.

----- (skipping)

"I've heard a lot of people over the years say what they would do if they had cancer until it is them. And then they will cling to even the smallest glimmer that something will help," she said.

"Cancer that can't be cured is often called daunting but not hopeless. So that's what patients hear. Hope is the last thing to go. People don't give that up easily."


Monday, June 28, 2010

Stem cells reverse blindness caused by burns;_ylt=Ajl5Zs5LNHaK54YRM6JcQnOs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFkdnEwbmtjBHBvcwMxNDQEc2VjA2FjY29yZGlvbl9oZWFsdGgEc2xrA3N0ZW1jZWxsc3Jldg--

By ALICIA CHANG, AP Science Writer Alicia Chang, Ap Science Writer – Wed Jun 23, 7:29 pm ET

LOS ANGELES – Dozens of people who were blinded or otherwise suffered severe eye damage when they were splashed with caustic chemicals had their sight restored with transplants of their own stem cells — a stunning success for the burgeoning cell-therapy field, Italian researchers reported Wednesday.

The treatment worked completely in 82 of 107 eyes and partially in 14 others, with benefits lasting up to a decade so far. One man whose eyes were severely damaged more than 60 years ago now has near-normal vision.

----- (skipping)

The approach would not help people with damage to the optic nerve or macular degeneration, which involves the retina. Nor would it work in people who are completely blind in both eyes, because doctors need at least some healthy tissue that they can transplant.

In the study, published online by the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers took a small number of stem cells from a patient's healthy eye, multiplied them in the lab and placed them into the burned eye, where they were able to grow new corneal tissue to replace what had been damaged. Since the stem cells are from their own bodies, the patients do not need to take anti-rejection drugs.

Adult stem cells have been used for decades to cure blood cancers such as leukemia and diseases like sickle cell anemia. But fixing a problem like damaged eyes is a relatively new use. Researchers have been studying cell therapy for a host of other diseases, including diabetes and heart failure, with limited success.

----- (skipping)

The Italian study involved 106 patients treated between 1998 and 2007. Most had extensive damage in one eye, and some had such limited vision that they could only sense light, count fingers or perceive hand motions. Many had been blind for years and had had unsuccessful operations to restore their vision.

----- (skipping)


Solar power done cheap

By Steve Hargreaves, Senior writerJune 28, 2010: 4:28 PM ET

LOS ANGELES ( ) -- In a construction van winding through Los Angeles' crowded streets one hot spring morning, 25-year old Tim Morris laid bare his contribution to changing America's dirty, fossil fuel-based economy.

"I'd like to see America and the world become sustainable," said Morris, a transplant from Flint, Mich., who's been in L.A. just a little over four months. "Solar is the biggest difference I can make with what's on the market."

By Steve Hargreaves, Senior writerJune 28, 2010: 4:28 PM ET

LOS ANGELES ( ) -- In a construction van winding through Los Angeles' crowded streets one hot spring morning, 25-year old Tim Morris laid bare his contribution to changing America's dirty, fossil fuel-based economy.

"I'd like to see America and the world become sustainable," said Morris, a transplant from Flint, Mich., who's been in L.A. just a little over four months. "Solar is the biggest difference I can make with what's on the market."

----- (skipping)

Holder, 44-years old and an electrical engineer with the Los Angeles sanitation department, uses a lot of power.

Between him, his wife and their two kids Holder says the washer and dryer get a constant workout. Plus, the family has a salt water pool the requires the filter to run nearly non-stop.

The result was an electric bill that reached nearly $600 a month last year, said Holder.

That's when he decided to call SolarCity. Now, he says he pays about $300 a month to the utility, and another $180 to SolarCity, with no change in electricity use.

"It was a no-brainier," he said. "and the only thing I have to do is hose off the panels every once in a while."

Other customers do it more for the environment.

On a hillside overlooking nearly all of Los Angeles, Andrea Kreuzhage recently put down $1,000 to install a SolarCity system on her roof.

Kreuzhage, a 47-year old documentary film maker, is not a big user of power. Before her solar system, her monthly electric bill was about $50 a month. Her lease with SolarCity is $55, although her solar panels now actually produce more power than she uses. (Local law doesn't yet allow her to sell that power back to the utility, although people are working to change that.)

But for her, the extra $5 a month is well worth it.

"The idea is to walk the walk, to be active, to do more," she said. And besides, "I'd rather pay a green business instead of a huge utility."

----- (skipping)


Job blues for gray-haired workers

By Chris Isidore, senior writer
June 28, 2010: 4:16 AM ET

NEW YORK ( -- Companies are starting to hire again, but many are turning their backs on older job seekers.

Statistics from the Labor Department show the employment outlook is improving for most workers. The unemployment rate for those in the 25 to 54-year-old age group has fallen from a record high of 9.2% in October to 8.7% in May.

But the nationwide unemployment rate for older workers -- while lower than that of younger workers -- has barely moved since hitting a record high of 7.2% in December. It's currently 7.1%.

"All the gains we've seen from the peak last fall to now, they've gone to people less than 55 years old," said Heidi Shierholz, labor economist with the Economic Policy Institute.

Experts also said the unemployment rate for older workers may be artificially low. Older workers are more likely to become discouraged and stop looking, thus no longer being counted as unemployed in the government figures.

The divergence in job prospects for older and younger workers is new. In past recessions, the unemployment rate for the different age groups generally moved in tandem, said Shierholz.

But the problem for older job seekers could get even worse. That's because they are much more likely to be among the long-term unemployed, which will make it more difficult for them to eventually find a job.

----- (skipping)


The United States gave workers the second-least number of days off

by Belinda Goldsmith
updated 6/24/2010 11:58:12 AM ET

SYDNEY — The Japanese are the most holiday-deprived nation in the developed world, taking an average nine days off a year, while the French enjoy the most, averaging 34.5 days off annually, a survey found.

A poll of 9,000 adults in 13 countries by Harris Interactive for online travel company Expedia found Japanese workers not only got the least vacation of about 16.5 days a year but they tended to use only about half of them.

The French, however, get the highest number of vacation days a year, an average of 37.5, and were happy to take almost full advantage of this R&R.

The United States gave workers the second-least number of days off a year, averaging 17, of which most people would take 14, according to the so-called vacation deprivation survey conducted between April 13 and April 22.

----- (skipping)


Sunday, June 27, 2010

To Boycott or Not?

I am certainly unhappy with BP, and I have boycotted other companies. I have been boycotting Nestle's & Mobile/Exxon for years. But I decided not to boycott BP. I don't expect other gas companies are any better; if there are, I don't know how I can find that out. I would say they are typical of Americans/humans in general, in being unrealistically optimistic. But they are not one of the energy companies, such as Mobil/Exxon, that is deliberately waging an agressive propaganda campaign to cover up the threat of global warming. It really sickens me that Mobile/Exxon is doing so well financially, when their leaders are so deliberately evil.;_ylt=An5c7n2KusmLj20BY8H8.CCs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFmOXUxZXR0BHBvcwMxMDEEc2VjA2FjY29yZGlvbl9idXNpbmVzcwRzbGsDZnJ1c3RyYXRlZGJ5 HARRY R. WEBER, AP Business Writer Harry R. Weber, Ap Business Writer – 13 mins ago
Tension is mounting between BP and the neighborhood retailers that

sell its gasoline.

As more Americans shun BP gasoline as a form of protest over the

Gulf oil spill, station owners are insisting BP do more to help them convince motorists that such boycotts mostly hurt independently owned businesses, not the British oil giant.

To win back customers, they'd like the company's help in reducing the price at the pump.

BP owns just a fraction of the more than 11,000 stations across the U.S. that sell its fuel under the BP, Amoco and ARCO banners. Most are owned by local businessmen whose primary connection to the oil company is the logo and a contract to buy gasoline.

In recent weeks, some station owners from Georgia to Illinois say sales have declined as much as 10 percent to 40 percent.

----- (skipping)


Small Amount of Common Preservative Increases Toxins from Harmful Bacteria in Food

Vinegar is acetic acid

ScienceDaily (June 25, 2010) — In response to consumer demand for more natural food, the food industry has reduced the amount of preservatives in food over recent years. A common preservative is acetic acid, which is used to stop bacterial growth in dressings, sauces, cheese and pickles.

However, new research shows that a small amount of acetic acid does not have the intended effect, but rather the opposite -- it increases the amount of toxin from the harmful bacteria in the food.

"In my studies I saw that a small amount of acetic acid caused the bacteria to become stressed, which meant they reacted by producing more toxin. However, if a large amount of acetic acid is added, as was done in the past, the acidity is greatly increased and the bacteria do not survive," explains Nina Wallin Carlquist, Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering at the Division of Applied Microbiology, Lund University.

----- (skipping)

According to Nina Wallin Carlquist this provides far from the whole picture because the bacteria are affected by other micro-organisms in the food and also by how much fat, acid and salt the food contains.


High Levels of Fructose, Trans Fats Lead to Significant Liver Disease

ScienceDaily (June 23, 2010) — Scientists at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center have discovered that a diet with high levels of fructose, sucrose, and of trans fats not only increases obesity, but also leads to significant fatty liver disease with scar tissue.

----- (skipping)


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Chlordecone Exposure and Risk of Prostate Cancer

ScienceDaily (June 22, 2010) — In an article to be published on 21 June 2010 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers from Inserm (Inserm unit 625 -- Research Group on Human and Mammalian Reproduction, University of Rennes 1), the CHU (University Hospital Centre) in Pointe à Pitre (urology department, University of the French West Indies and Guiana) and from the Center for Analytical Research and Technology (University of Liège, Belgique), show that exposure to chlordecone (also named Kepone), an organochlorine chemical with well defined estrogenic properties used in the French West Indies until 1993, is associated to a significant increased risk of prostate cancer.

----- (skipping)


High Rates of Sexually Transmitted Infections Among Older Swingers

ScienceDaily (June 23, 2010) — Swingers -- straight couples who regularly swap sexual partners at organised gatherings and clubs and indulge in group sex -- have rates of sexually transmitted infections comparable with those of recognised high risk groups, reveals research published ahead of print in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Those who are over the age of 45 are particularly vulnerable, indicates the research, yet swingers are largely ignored by healthcare services, representing a "missed target," say the authors.

----- (skipping)


Friday, June 25, 2010

Senate confirms TSA nominee

Some people have criticized President Obabma for doing more, but ignore the fact that Republicans have been blocking his appointments of people who might make change.

June 25, 2010
Senate confirms TSA nominee
Posted: June 25th, 2010 11:22 AM ET

Washington (CNN) - The Senate has confirmed John Pistole as head of the Transportation Security Administration. Pistole was Obama's third nominee for the post.

----- (skipping)


Link between migraines and reduced breast cancer risk confirmed in follow-up study

Public release date: 9-Jul-2009
Contact: Dean Forbes
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Link between migraines and reduced breast cancer risk confirmed in follow-up study

SEATTLE – The relationship between migraine headaches in women and a significant reduction in breast cancer risk has been confirmed in a follow-on study to landmark research published last year and conducted by scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The new study found a 26 percent reduced risk of breast cancer among both premenopausal and postmenopausal women with a clinical diagnosis of migraines.

----- (skipping)


REM Sleep Deprivation Plays a Role in Chronic Migraine

ScienceDaily (June 23, 2010) — Reporting at the American Headache Society's 52nd Annual Scientific Meeting in Los Angeles, scientists say new research shows that sleep deprivation leads to changes in the levels of key proteins that facilitate events involved in the underlying pathology of migraine.

----- (skipping)


Migraine Sufferers Who Experienced Childhood Abuse Have Greater Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

ScienceDaily (June 23, 2010) — Migraine sufferers who experienced abuse and neglect as children have a greater risk of cardiovascular (CV) disease including stroke and myocardial infarction (MI) among others, say scientists presenting data at the American Headache Society's 52nd Annual Scientific Meeting in Los Angeles.

----- (skipping)


Adverse Childhood Experiences Linked to Frequent Headache in Adults

ScienceDaily (June 23, 2010) — Children who experience maltreatment such as emotional, physical and sexual abuse are more likely to experience frequent headaches, including chronic migraine, as adults, say scientists presenting data at the American Headache Society's 52nd Annual Scientific Meeting in Los Angeles.

----- (skipping)

"We looked at eight ACEs [Adverse Childhood Experiences] -- emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, witnessing domestic violence, growing up with mental illness in the home, having household members who were incarcerated or were abusing drugs, and experiencing parental separation or divorce,." said Dr. Tietjen. "Each ACE increased the chance of frequent headache, and as the number of ACEs increased, so did the risk of frequent headache. This 'dose-response' relationship' suggests that ACEs may contribute to the development and frequency of severe headaches later in life."

Nerve Stimulation Therapy Alleviates Pain For Chronic Headache

ScienceDaily (Oct. 13, 2008) — A novel therapy using a miniature nerve stimulator instead of medication for the treatment of profoundly disabling headache disorders improved the experience of pain by 80-95 percent, according to a new study from the University of California, San Francisco and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London.

----- (skipping)


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Toxic heavy metals found in whales

updated 2:58 p.m. ET, Thurs., June 24, 2010

AGADIR, Morocco - American scientists who spent five years shooting nearly 1,000 sperm whales with tissue-sampling darts discovered stunningly high levels of toxic heavy metals in the animals, according to a report obtained Thursday.

The levels of cadmium, aluminum, chromium, lead, silver, mercury and titanium together are the highest ever found in marine mammals, the scientists say, warning that the health of both ocean life and the people who consume seafood could be at risk.

Analysis of cells from the sperm whales showed pollution is reaching the farthest corners of the oceans, from deep in the polar region to "the middle of nowhere" in the equatorial regions, said biologist Roger Payne, founder and president of Ocean Alliance that conducted the research.

----- (skipping)

"These contaminants, I think, are threatening the human food supply. They certainly are threatening the whales and the other animals that live in the ocean," he said.

Ultimately, he said, they could contaminate fish that are a primary source of animal protein for 1 billion people.

"You could make a fairly tight argument to say that it is the single greatest health threat that has ever faced the human species. I suspect this will shorten lives, if it turns out that this is what's going on," he said.

----- (skipping)

Payne said whales absorb the contaminants and passed them on to the next generation when a female nurses her calf. "What she's actually doing is dumping her lifetime accumulation of that fat-soluble stuff into her baby," he said, and each generation passes on more to the next.

The consequences could be horrific for both whale and man, he said.

"I don't see any future for whale species except extinction. This not on anybody's radar, no government's radar anywhere, and I think it should be."


Ignoring Stress Leads Recovering Addicts to More Cravings

ScienceDaily (June 23, 2010) — Recovering addicts who avoid coping with stress succumb easily to substance use cravings, making them more likely to relapse during recovery, according to behavioral researchers.

"Cravings are a strong predictor of relapse," said H. Harrington Cleveland, associate professor of human development, Penn State. "The goal of this study is to predict the variation in substance craving in a person on a within-day basis. Because recovery must be maintained 'one day at a time,' researchers have to understand it on the same daily level."

----- (skipping)

The researchers found that how addicts cope with stress -- either by working through a problem or avoiding it -- is a strong predictor of whether they will experience cravings when faced with stress and negative mood.

"Whether you avoid problems or analyze problems not only makes a big difference in your life but also has a powerful impact on someone who has worked hard to stay away from alcohol and other drugs," explained Cleveland. "When faced with stress, addicts who have more adaptive coping skills appear to have a better chance of staying in recovery." The findings appeared in a recent issue of Addictive Behaviors.

----- (skipping)

"We found that addicts who deal with stress by avoiding it have twice the number of cravings in a stressful day compared to persons who use problem solving strategies to understand and deal with the stress," explained Cleveland. "Avoidance coping appears to undercut a person's ability to deal with stress and exposes that person to variations in craving that could impact recovery from addiction."

According to Cleveland, the findings suggest the impulse to avoid stress is never going to help recovering addicts because stressful experiences cannot be avoided.

"If your basic life strategy is to avoid stress, then your problems will probably end up multiplying and causing you more problems," he added.


Republicans kill Senate jobless aid measure;_ylt=Ao9wOlDWVPkVdEuNO8wDdkSs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFlZW9iY3A5BHBvcwM4MQRzZWMDYWNjb3JkaW9uX3BvbGl0aWNzBHNsawNyZXB1YmxpY2Fuc2s-

By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press Writer Andrew Taylor, Associated Press Writer – 28 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Republicans in the Senate have defeated an election-year bill to continue weekly jobless benefits for millions of long-term unemployed workers.

The 57-41 loss was a major blow for President Barack Obama and Democrats. They needed three more votes — for a total of 60 — to stop a GOP filibuster.

The rejected bill would also have provided billions of dollars in new aid, protecting the jobs of tens of thousands of state and local government workers as the country begins to emerge from the worst recession in seven decades.

Democrats have been trying to advance the measure for months as an insurance policy against a double-dip recession.

Despite another round of cuts to the measure aimed at pacifying GOP deficit concerns, not a single Republican broke with party leaders determined to kill the measure for adding more than $30 billion to the deficit.

updated 50 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - Republicans in the Senate appear likely to kill legislation to provide continued unemployment checks to millions of people and provide states with billions of dollars to avert layoffs.

It would be a bitter defeat for President Barack Obama and Capitol Hill Democrats, who have been trying to advance the measure for months as an insurance policy against a double-dip recession.

Despite another round of cuts to the measure aimed at pacifying GOP deficit concerns, the measure seems doomed to die by a filibuster in a vote expected as early as Thursday.

----- (skipping)

The death of the measure would mean that more than 200,000 people a week would lose their jobless benefits because they would be unable to reapply for additional tiers of benefits enacted since 2008. People seeking the popular homebuyer tax credit would be denied a paperwork extension approved by the Senate last week.

----- (skipping)

By the end of this week, about 1.2 million people will have lost their jobless benefits since a temporary extension expired at the beginning of the month, according to Labor Department estimates.

----- (skipping)

Crestfallen Democrats tried in vain to win support from moderate Republicans like Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, leaving them apparently two votes short of the 60 needed to defeat a filibuster. But talks collapsed Wednesday, aides said


Health Insurance accounting

This is a comment from the linked blog entry.
The same kind of accounting decisions are made at other kinds of businesses, too.

Devin said in reply to Morgan...

"The insurers just rubber stamp CMS's decisions"

What are you talking about??? My mom spent 20+ years in claims review for a major insurer, and my wife has a chronic condition, so I can tell you from plenty of first hand experience there is no rubber stamp in use. Every claim is reviewed first by a medically trained person (like my mom, a nurse), and once it passes muster as medically appropriate, it then gets reviewed by an accountant who looks at whether it's financially appropriate. The accountant gets final say.

Not many people who've been bankrupted by a medical condition are in any position to sue. And when you're talking about procedures that would cost the company, at a minimum, tens of thousands of dollars, the math goes something like this...let's say the insurance company knows that 2% of denials will lead to a lawsuit (that's an example, I guarantee the accountant knows the actual number). So if you turn down 50 procedures at an average cost of $100k, conservatively, that's $5 million you've saved. If you've just freed up $5 million to defend the lawsuit, you've got almost a sure thing that you'll defeat the plaintiff who just lost all their money to a medical disaster. They don't care about being vilified or being dragged before Congress. Both things happen regularly with no impact on the bottom line. And anything that doesn't impact the bottom line doesn't matter.

The reason this doesn't keep costs down as it does in the UK and other countries is probably (and I'm speculating) because the US accountant is looking at the cheapest way to ultimately drop the patient as a member, and then they're not the insurance company's problem anymore. The UK economist is looking at what's the best value over the life of the patient, because there's not a way to simply shove the patient's problem onto somebody else. Once the US insurer gets rid of the patient, the costs continue to pile up (probably more than they would have been if medically appropriate care hadn't been delayed during the fight with the insurance company), but those costs are paid out-of-pocket, absorbed by the hospital when the patient goes bankrupt, or paid by the government if the patient qualifies for assistance.

Of course, the other big cost driver is the amount the US system spends trying to avoid paying for medically necessary care so somebody else will have to foot the bill. The oft-cited statistic is 30% of insurance company costs are overhead...and a substantial chunk of that is going to finding ways to screen members and deny claims for those members that get through the screens and still have the audacity to get sick or injured. If insurers simply accepted all applicants (as they're now being required to do), overall costs will definitely go down, even though they'll go up for the individual insurer.


Coffee may protect against head and neck cancers

Well, I still won't drink coffee, because I can't stand the taste. Too bitter for me. I'll have to stick with tea.

Public release date: 22-Jun-2010
Contact: Tara Yates
American Association for Cancer Research
Coffee may protect against head and neck cancers

PHILADELPHIA — Data on the effects of coffee on cancer risk have been mixed. However, results of a recent study add to the brewing evidence that drinking coffee protects against cancer, this time against head and neck cancer.

----- (skipping)

Using information from a pooled-analysis of nine studies collected by the International Head and Neck Cancer Epidemiology (INHANCE) consortium, participants who were regular coffee drinkers, that is, those who drank an estimated four or more cups a day, compared with those who were non-drinkers, had a 39 percent decreased risk of oral cavity and pharynx cancers combined.

Data on decaffeinated coffee was too sparse for detailed analysis, but indicated no increased risk. Tea intake was not associated with head and neck cancer risk.

The association is more reliable among those who are frequent, regular coffee drinkers, consuming more than four cups of coffee a day.

----- (skiping)

At the AACR Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference last December, researchers from Harvard presented data that showed a strong inverse association between coffee consumption and the risk of lethal and advanced prostate cancers — men who drank the most coffee had a 60 percent lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer than men who did not drink any coffee.

More recently, results of another study published in the January issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention showed a decreased risk of gliomas, or brain tumors, associated with coffee. This association was found among those who drank five or more cups of coffee or tea a day, according the researchers from the Imperial College, London.

----- (skipping)


US ranks last among 7 countries on health system performance

Public release date: 23-Jun-2010
Contact: Mary Mahon
Commonwealth Fund
US ranks last among 7 countries on health system performance
Affordable Care Act holds promise for US performance; focus on information technology and primary care vital to achieving high performance

New York, NY, June 23, 2010—Despite having the most expensive health care system, the United States ranks last overall compared to six other industrialized countries—Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom—on measures of health system performance in five areas: quality, efficiency, access to care, equity and the ability to lead long, healthy, productive lives, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report. While there is room for improvement in every country, the U.S. stands out for not getting good value for its health care dollars, ranking last despite spending $7,290 per capita on health care in 2007 compared to the $3,837 spent per capita in the Netherlands, which ranked first overall.

----- (skipping)

On measures of access to care, people in the U.S. have the hardest time affording the health care they need—with the U.S. ranking last on every measure of cost-related access problems. For example, 54 percent of adults with chronic conditions reported problems getting a recommended test, treatment or follow-up care because of cost. In the Netherlands, which ranked first on this measure, only 7 percent of adults with chronic conditions reported this problem.

On measures of healthy lives, the U.S. does poorly, ranking last when it comes to infant mortality and deaths before age 75 that were potentially preventable with timely access to effective health care, and second to last on healthy life expectancy at age 60.

On measures of equity, the U.S. ranks last. Among adults with chronic conditions almost half (45%) with below average incomes in the U.S. reported they went without needed care in the past year because of costs, compared with just 4 percent in the Netherlands. Lower-income U.S. adults with chronic conditions were significantly more likely than those in the six other countries surveyed to report not going to the doctor when they're sick, not filling a prescription, or not getting recommended follow-up care because of costs.


Extreme heat wave sets all-time high temperature records in Africa and Middle East

I expect this will bring out the energy industry propagandists to posting lies on blogs that have a lot of readers, to counteract this information. news.

A withering heat wave of unprecedented intensity and areal covered has smashed all-time high temperatures in four nations in the Middle East and Africa over the past week. Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Chad, and Niger all set new records for their hottest temperatures of all time, and several other Middle East nations came within a degree of their hottest temperatures ever. The heat was the most intense in Iraq, which had its hottest day in history on June 14, 2010, when the mercury hit 52.0°C (125.6°F) in Basra. Iraq's previous record was 51.7°C (125.1°F) set August 8, 1937, in Ash Shu'aybah. It was also incredibly hot in Saudi Arabia, which had its hottest temperature ever on Tuesday (June 22): 52.0°C (125.6°F), measured in Jeddah, the second largest city in Saudi Arabia. The previous record was 51.7°C (125.1°F), at Abqaiq, date unknown. The record heat was accompanied by a sandstorm, which caused eight power plants to go offline, resulting in blackouts to several Saudi cities.

In Africa, Chad had its hottest day in history on Tuesday (June 22), when the temperature reached 47.6°C (117.7°F) at Faya. The previous record was 47.4°C (117.3°F) at Faya on June 3 and June 9, 1961. Niger tied its record for hottest day in history on Tuesday (June 22), when the temperature reached 47.1°C (116.8°F) at Bilma. That record stood for just one day, as Bilma broke the record again on Wednesday (June 23), when the mercury topped out at 48.2°C (118.8°F). The previous record was 47.1°C on May 24, 1998, also at Bilma.

Three countries came within a degree of their all time hottest temperature on record during the heat wave. Bahrain had its hottest June temperature ever, 46.9°C, on June 20, missing the all-time record of 47.5°C (117.5°F), set July 14, 2000. Temperatures in Quatar reached 48.8°C (119.8°F) on June 20. Quatar's all-time record hottest temperature was 49.6°C (121.3°F) set on July 9, 2000. It was also very hot in Kuwait, with temperatures reaching 51°C (123.8°F) in the capital on June 15. Kuwait's all-time hottest temperature was 51.9°C (125.4°F), on July 27,2007, at Abdaly. According to Essa Ramadan, a Kuwaiti meteorologist from Civil Aviation, Matrabah, Kuwait smashed this record and had Asia's hottest temperature in history on June 15 this year, when the mercury hit 54.0°C (129.2°F). However, data from this station is notoriously bad, and each year bogus record highs have to be corrected, according to an email I received from weather record researcher Maximiliano Herrera. Asia's hottest temperature in history will very likely remain the 53.5°C (128.3°F) recorded at MohenjuDaro, Pakistan on May 26 this year.

We've now had six countries in Asia and Africa that have beaten their all-time hottest temperature record during the past two months. As I discussed in my blog about Pakistan's May 26 record, Southeast Asia also had its all-time hottest temperature in May, when the mercury hit 47°C (116.6°F) in Myinmu, Myanmar on May 12. All of these records are unofficial, and will need to be certified by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). According to Chris Burt, author of Extreme Weather, setting four national heat records in one month is not unprecedented--in August 2003, five countries (the UK, France, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein) all broke their all-time heat records during that year's notorious summer heat wave. Fortunately, the residents of the countries affected by this week's heat wave are more adapted to extreme high temperatures, and we are not seeing the kind of death tolls experienced during the 2003 European heat wave (30,000 killed.) This week's heat wave in Africa and the Middle East is partially a consequence of the fact that Earth has now seen three straight months with its warmest temperatures on record, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. It will be interesting to see if the demise of El Niño in May will keep June from becoming the globe's fourth straight warmest month on record.

----- (skipping)


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Farmer who put up sign claiming Democrats are ‘party of parasites’ has taken $1 million in farm subsidies

Missouri farmer David Jungerman has raised the hackles of local residents with a politically-charged sign he’s placed on his “45-foot-long, semi-truck box trailer” on his farm. The trailer reads: “Are you a Producer or Parasite Democrats – Party of the Parasites.” Now, the Kansas City Star reveals that Jungerman has been the recipient of over a million dollars of federal farm subsidies since 1995:

The Raytown farmer who posted a sign on a semi-truck trailer accusing Democrats of being the “Party of Parasites” received more than $1 million in federal crop subsidies since 1995.

----- (skipping)


7th-Graders Discover Mysterious Cave on Mars;_ylt=ApWVwTj8G6gMXTvsViE4wuqs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTRlOHJnOHNnBGFzc2V0A3NwYWNlLzIwMTAwNjIxLzd0aGdyYWRlcnNkaXNjb3Zlcm15c3RlcmlvdXNjYXZlb25tYXJzBGNjb2RlA21vc3Rwb3B1bGFyBGNwb3MDMTAEcG9zAzcEcHQDaG9tZV9jb2tlBHNlYwN5bl9oZWFkbGluZV9saXN0BHNsawM3dGgtZ3JhZGVyc2Q-

Clara Moskowitz
Senior Writer clara Moskowitz
senior Writer – Mon Jun 21, 5:00 pm ET

A group of seventh-graders in California has discovered a mysterious cave on Mars as part of a research project to study images taken by a NASA spacecraft orbiting the red planet.

The 16 students from teacher Dennis Mitchell's 7th-grade science class at Evergreen Middle School in Cottonwood, Calif., found what looks to be a Martian skylight — a hole in the roof of a cave on Mars.

The intrepid students were participating in the Mars Student Imaging Program at the Mars Space Flight Facility at Arizona State University. The program allows students to frame a research question and then commission a Mars-orbiting camera to take an image to answer their question.

The newfound hole on Mars resembled features seen on other parts of Mars in a 2007 study by Glen Cushing, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist.

----- (skipping)


Dr. Demento: Off The Air, But Still Happily Deranged

June 22, 2010

For 40 years, Barret Hansen, known on the airwaves as "Dr. Demento," has broadcast everything weird in the music world. The Dr. Demento Show has become a cult radio institution, providing an outlet for what Demento describes as "mad music and crazy comedy." This past month, the show has finally gone off the air.

----- (skipping)

Still, fans need not fear. The Dr. Demento Show will continue on Internet radio. His fan base is still going strong, and he says he hopes to remain an attraction for music aficionados who don't fit into the traditional mainstream demographic of radio listener.


World's rich got richer amid '09 recession

And Conservatives are promoting austerity for the rest of us.;_ylt=Ap2MNDtjSCOOtXyi1BMQ1j.s0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFpb29mZjZlBHBvcwM0MARzZWMDYWNjb3JkaW9uX21vc3RfcG9wdWxhcgRzbGsDd29ybGQzOXNyaWNo

By Joseph A. Giannone Joseph A. Giannone – Tue Jun 22, 2:04 pm ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The rich grew richer last year, even as the world endured the worst recession in decades.

A stock market rebound helped the world's ranks of millionaires climb 17 percent to 10 million, while their collective wealth surged 19 percent to $39 trillion, nearly recouping losses from the financial crisis, according to the latest Merrill Lynch-Capgemini world wealth report.

Stock values rose by half, while hedge funds recovered most of their 2008 losses, in a year marked by government stimulus spending and central bank easing.

"We are already seeing distinct signs of recovery and, in some areas, a complete return to 2007 levels of wealth and growth," Bank of America Corp wealth management chief Sallie Krawcheck said.

The fastest growth in wealth took place in India, China and Brazil, some of the hardest hit markets in 2008. Wealth in Latin America and the Asia-Pacific soared to record highs.

Asia's millionaire ranks rose to 3 million, matching Europe for the first time, paced by a 4.5 percent economic expansion.

Asian millionaires' combined wealth surged 31 percent to $9.7 trillion, surpassing Europe's $9.5 trillion.

In North America, the ranks of the rich rose 17 percent and their wealth grew 18 percent to $10.7 trillion.

The United States was home to the most millionaires in 2009 -- 2.87 million -- followed by Japan with 1.65 million, Germany with 861,000, and China with 477,000.

Switzerland had the highest concentration of millionaires: nearly 35 for every 1,000 adults.

----- (skipping)


Judge Who Struck Down Moratorium Has Owned Transocean Stock

The previous source linked to the following:

By Kate Sheppard
Tue Jun. 22, 2010 11:51 AM PDT

A federal judge in New Orleans on Tuesday sided with the oil industry, striking down the temporary moratorium on new offshore exploration and deepwater drilling the Obama administration imposed last month. That judge, it turns out, has in recent years had interests in Transocean—the world's largest offshore drilling company and the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig—as well as other energy companies engaged in offshore oil extraction.

According to the most recently available financial disclosure form for US District Court Judge Martin Feldman, he had holdings of up to $15,000 in Transocean in 2008. He has also recently owned stock in offshore drilling or oilfield service providers Halliburton, Prospect Energy, Hercules Offshore, Parker Drilling Co., and ATP Oil & Gas. Feldman was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983.

Obama's six-month moratorium put the brakes on the approval of new permits for deepwater drilling and suspended work at 33 exploratory wells in the Gulf and Pacific. A group of oil and gas companies, with the support of the state of Louisiana, asked the court to throw out the moratorium so they can continue drilling. Feldman heard two hours of arguments Monday on whether to grant an injunction to lift the moratorium before rendering his decision today. Describing the moratorium as "arbitrary and capricous," Feldman wrote in his opinion: "If some drilling equipment parts are flawed, is it rational to say all are? Are all airplanes a danger because one was? All oil tankers like Exxon Valdez? All trains? All mines? That sort of thinking seems heavy-handed, and rather overbearing."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the Obama administration would immediately appeal Feldman's ruling.

----- (skipping)

Feldman's most recent financial disclosures are not yet available online, so it remains unclear whether he still has holdings in Transocean and a host of other firms with a stake in the verdict he rendered on Tuesday. If he does, that raises the question of whether he should have barred from hearing the case because of his financial interests.

Feldman was nominated to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana by President Ronald Reagan on September 9, 1983.

With the exception of the territorial courts (Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands), federal district judges are Article III judges appointed for life, and can be removed involuntarily only when they violate the standard of "good behavior." The sole method of involuntary removal of a judge is through impeachment by the United States House of Representatives followed by a trial in the United States Senate and a conviction by a two-thirds vote. Otherwise, a judge, even if convicted of a felony criminal offense by a jury, is entitled to hold office until retirement or death. In the history of the United States, only twelve judges have been impeached by the House, and only seven have been removed following conviction in the Senate.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Steve Forbert/Good Planets Are Hard to Find

Prior Exposure to Seasonal Influenza May Explain the Mildness of the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic

ScienceDaily (June 21, 2010) — Hong Kong researchers suggest a new theory for why swine flu infections turned out to be so mild. Prior exposure to seasonal influenza A, either infection or vaccination, may induce a cross-reactive immune response against the pandemic virus. They report their findings in the July 2010 issue of the Journal of Virology.

Although the outbreak of human H1N1 in 2009 spread to pandemic proportions, the illness was considered mild in most patients compared to seasonal influenza. Currently available seasonal flu vaccines do not offer cross-reactivity to pandemic H1N1 in any age group, suggesting that individuals previously infected or exposed to seasonal influenza A viruses may have memory cell-induced cross-protection to pandemic H1N1.

Prior research showed humans having cross-reactive memory cells to a wide range of H5N1 peptides despite any previous exposure to avian influenza A (H5N1). In this study researchers determined that memory cells established by seasonal influenza viruses can break down pandemic H1N1-infected target cells and ultimately induce cross-protective antibodies.

"Our data suggest that individuals who were infected with seasonal human influenza A viruses previously or who received seasonal human influenza vaccines may derive benefit, at least in part, from the preexisting cross-reactive memory cytotoxic T lymphocytes to reduce the severity of pdmH1N1 infection even without protective antibodies," say the researchers.

Poor Control of Diabetes May Be Linked to Low Vitamin D

ScienceDaily (June 19, 2010) — Vitamin D deficiency is highly prevalent in patients with Type 2 diabetes and may be associated with poor blood sugar control, according to a new study.

----- (skipping)


Lion Dance


Ocean Changes May Have Dire Impact on People

ScienceDaily (June 19, 2010) — The first comprehensive synthesis on the effects of climate change on the world's oceans has found they are now changing at a rate not seen for several million years.

In an article published June 18 in Science magazine, scientists reveal the growing atmospheric concentrations of man-made greenhouse gases are driving irreversible and dramatic changes to the way the ocean functions, with potentially dire impacts for hundreds of millions of people across the planet.

----- (skipping)

The "fundamental and comprehensive" changes to marine life identified in the report include rapidly warming and acidifying oceans, changes in water circulation and expansion of dead zones within the ocean depths.

These are driving major changes in marine ecosystems: less abundant coral reefs, sea grasses and mangroves (important fish nurseries); fewer, smaller fish; a breakdown in food chains; changes in the distribution of marine life; and more frequent diseases and pests among marine organisms.

Report co-author, Dr John F. Bruno, an Associate Professor at The University of North Carolina, says greenhouse gas emissions are modifying many physical and geochemical aspects of the planet's oceans, in ways "unprecedented in nearly a million years." "This is causing fundamental and comprehensive changes to the way marine ecosystems function," Dr Bruno said.

"We are becoming increasingly certain that the world's marine ecosystems are approaching tipping points. These tipping points are where change accelerates and causes unrelated impacts on other systems, the results of which we really have no power or model to foresee."

----- (skipping)


Monday, June 21, 2010

What liberal media?

The supposedly liberal Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported yesterday
"Sen. Claire McCasKill (D.-Mo.) said she has enough votes to end the Senate's long-standing and much-criticized practice of allowing the use of anonymous holds to block nominations. (skipping) Republicans have been particlarly aggressive in their use of the holds during the Obama administration)."

This is in a small (2" X 4.75 ") column near the bottom of page A5, where hardly anybody will read it. As obvious by many comments I have seen on other blogs, most people are unaware of the extensive use of this practice by Republicans in the current Congress.

----- (skipping)


My New Hero

My new hero is the owner of Critter Catchers, who rescued my cat from a branch 60 feet up a tree! After climbing a 40 foot ladder, he climbed the rest of the way like a lumber jack! They serve North Georgia.

We service the following areas: Whitfield, Murray, Fannin, Gilmer, Gordon, Pickens, Lumpkin, Dawson, Floyd, Bartow, Cherokee, Forsyth, Hall, Polk, Haralson, Paulding, Cobb, Gwinett, Rockdale, Carroll, Douglas, Fulton, Dekalb, Clayton, Fayette, Henry

----- (skipping)


Can Psychosocial Stress At Work Increase Risk Of Developing Rheumatoid Arthritis?

ScienceDaily (Sep. 1, 2009) — A Swedish study published in one of the latest issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics discloses new relationships between stress at work and development of rheumatoid arthritis.

Psychosocial work stress, in terms of high psychological demands, low decision latitude or the combination of these stressors (job strain), is associated with an increased risk of several diseases (e.g. cardiovascular disease), but it has not been studied in relation to rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, research on the relationship between psychosocial work stress and immunological parameters also suggests a possible association with inflammatory conditions, including RA.

----- (skipping)


Coffee or tea: enjoy both in moderation for heart benefits

Study highlights:

* Both high and moderate amounts of tea are linked with reduced heart disease deaths.
* Moderate amounts of coffee are linked with reduced heart disease risk.
* Neither coffee nor tea consumption was associated with stroke risk in this Dutch study.

DALLAS, June 18, 2010 —Coffee and tea drinkers may not need to worry about indulging – high and moderate consumption of tea and moderate coffee consumption are linked with reduced heart disease, according to a study published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers in The Netherlands found:

* Drinking more than six cups of tea per day was associated with a 36 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to those who drank less than one cup of tea per day.
* Drinking three to six cups of tea per day was associated with a 45 percent reduced risk of death from heart disease, compared to consumption of less than one cup per day.

And for coffee they found:

* Coffee drinkers with a modest intake, two to four cups per day, had a 20 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to those drinking less than two cups or more than four cups.
* Although not considered significant, moderate coffee consumption slightly reduced the risk of heart disease death and deaths from all causes.

Researchers also found that neither coffee nor tea consumption affected stroke risk.

----- (skipping)


Many givng up looking for work

At first I thought this would be good news.
The headline : "Unemployment falls in 37 states in May"
But then the subheading : "But most of the declines came as people gave up searching for work"

By Martin Crutsinger
updated 5:00 p.m. ET, Fri., June 18, 2010

WASHINGTON - A majority of states saw their unemployment rates drop in May. But the widespread declines were mainly because people gave up work searches and were no longer counted.

The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate fell in 37 states and the District of Columbia. Six states had increases and seven saw no change.

Forty-one states and the District of Columbia saw a net increase in jobs. But that reflected national data showing a huge gain because of government hiring of temporary census workers.

----- (skipping)

Nationally, the unemployment rate dropped to 9.7 percent in May from 9.9 percent in April. But the drop was largely because hundreds of thousands of jobless people stopped searching for work.

A total of 431,000 new jobs were added across the country in May, the biggest gain in a decade. Still, the surge came from 411,000 temporary census jobs. Private-sector job growth slowed significantly.

----- (skipping)


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Alcohol consumption lowers risk of developing several arthritic conditions

Public release date: 16-Jun-2010
Contact: Rory Berrie
European League Against Rheumatism
Alcohol consumption lowers risk of developing several arthritic conditions
Impact of alcohol consumption on systemic inflammation unclear

Rome, Italy, Wednesday 16 June 2010: Alcohol consumption is associated with a significantly reduced risk of developing several arthritic conditions including Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Osteoarthritis (OA), reactive arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and spondylarthropathy, according to results of a new study presented today at EULAR 2010, the Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism in Rome, Italy. Regardless of the type of arthritis, all patients reported drinking less alcohol than controls, leading to questions around the inflammatory pathways behind the effects seen.

----- (skipping)


Vitamin D deficiency confirmed as common across a range of rheumatic conditions

Public release date: 18-Jun-2010
Contact: Rory Berrie
European League Against Rheumatism
Vitamin D deficiency confirmed as common across a range of rheumatic conditions
Recommended supplementation is not sufficient to normalize vitamin D levels in RA and osteoporosis patients

Rome, Italy, Friday 18 June 2010: Two separate studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency is common in patients with a range of rheumatic diseases, with over half of all patients having below the 'normal' healthy levels of vitamin D (48-145 nmol/L) in their bodies. A further study assessing response to vitamin D supplementation found that taking the recommended daily dose did not normalise vitamin D levels in rheumatic disease patients. The results of these three studies were presented today at EULAR 2010, the Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism in Rome, Italy.

----- (skipping)

Furthermore, a third study undertaken in Italy3 aimed to evaluate the affect of vitamin D supplementation in patients with inflammatory autoimmune disease (IAD) and non-inflammatory autoimmune disease (NIAD). Following supplementation, only 29% patients reached vitamin D levels greater than the level clinically considered to be 'sufficient' in healthy subjects, with no significant differences in vitamin D levels observed between the IAD and NIAD groups.

----- (skipping)


Gut-residing bacteria trigger arthritis in genetically susceptible individuals

Public release date: 17-Jun-2010
Contact: Alyssa Kneller
Harvard Medical School
Gut-residing bacteria trigger arthritis in genetically susceptible individuals

BOSTON, Mass. (June 17, 2010) – A single species of bacteria that lives in the gut is able to trigger a cascade of immune responses that can ultimately result in the development of arthritis.

Our gut, like that of most mammals, is filled with thousands of species of bacteria, many of which are helpful and aid in the development of a normal, healthy immune system. Gut-residing bacteria can also play a role in disorders of the immune system, especially autoimmune disorders in which the body attacks its own cells.

It turns out that rheumatoid arthritis is one such disorder. Researchers in the laboratories of Christophe Benoist and Diane Mathis at Harvard Medical School and Dan Littman at New York University made this discovery while working in mice prone to arthritis.

"In the absence of all bacteria, these mice didn't develop arthritis, but the introduction of a single bacterium was enough to jump-start the immune process that leads to development of the disease," says Mathis, an HMS professor of pathology.

----- (skipping)


Too Much Physical Activity May Lead to Arthritis

ScienceDaily (Dec. 1, 2009) — Middle-aged men and women who engage in high levels of physical activity may be unknowingly causing damage to their knees and increasing their risk for osteoarthritis, according to a new study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

----- (skipping)


Access to Medicine in Question for Future Medicare Patients Who Suffer from Disabling Hip and Knee Arthritis

ScienceDaily (June 1, 2010) — Healthcare reform -- and the many options for fixing a broken system -- have appeared in the news headlines for months. According to an article in the June issue of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (JBJS), Medicare patients -- many who suffer from disabling arthritis of the hip and knee, among other age-related ailments -- may end up facing an accessibility crisis to medical care.

----- (skipping)


Rheumatoid Arthritis Incidence on the Rise in Women

ScienceDaily (May 27, 2010) — The incidence of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in women has risen during the period of 1995 to 2007, according to a newly published study by researchers from the Mayo Clinic. This rise in RA follows a 4-decade period of decline and study authors speculate environmental factors such as cigarette smoking, vitamin D deficiency, and lower dose synthetic estrogens in oral contraceptives may be the source of the increase.

----- (skipping)

Prior studies have clearly demonstrated that cigarette smoking is associated with a greater risk for RA development in both sexes. While smoking rates in the U.S. are declining, the rate is significantly slower in women than men, which researchers believe may, in part, explain the modest increase of RA incidence in women. Researchers also note that lower doses of estrogens found in modern oral contraceptives offer less protection against RA development then at the previously higher doses found in older medications, which they suspect may contribute to the increased RA incidence among women. Furthermore, several studies have shown vitamin D deficiency to be associated with RA development and coupled with evidence that this deficiency, particularly in women, has risen over the past decades the Mayo team considered it a possible contributor to the upward trend in RA.

Women who consume large amounts of tea have increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis

So tea helps prevent some diseases and helps increase others. Not hard to believe, since it appears to affect the immune system. Immune factors have the same effect, helping in some areas, hurting in others.

Public release date: 18-Jun-2010
Contact: Caroline Butt
European League Against Rheumatism
Women who consume large amounts of tea have increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis
Association between coffee consumption and RA not found

Rome, Italy, Friday 18 June 2010: Women who drink tea have an increased risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) compared with those who drink none (p=0.04), according to results presented today at EULAR 2010, the Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism in Rome, Italy. Further results from the same study showed no correlation between the amount of coffee consumption and RA incidence (p=0.16).

The results of the US based longitudinal cohort study involving 76,643 women showed a positive association of incident RA in tea drinkers with an increasing Hazard Ratio (HR) observed alongside tea consumption (p=0.03). Consuming any amount of tea carried a significant risk of developing RA (HR 1.40 (95%CI 1.01-1.93) p=0.04) and women who drank ≥4 cups of tea per day had an increased risk of developing RA compared to those who drank none (HR 1.78 (95%CI 0.83-3.82)). An analysis of the method of preparation of coffee (filtered vs unfiltered) and presence or lack of caffeine in the beverage did not show any significant associations with RA or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system harms the body's own healthy cells and tissues) (RA: filtered p=0.08, unfiltered p=0.38, SLE: filtered p=0.74, unfiltered p=0.97). No increase was shown in the risk of developing RA in participants who drank coffee compared to those that did not (RA: HR 1.09 (95%CI 0.77-1.54 p=0.63).

"We set out to determine whether tea or coffee consumption, or the method of preparation of the drinks was associated with an increased risk of RA or SLE – it is surprising that we saw such differences in results between tea and coffee drinkers," said Professor Christopher Collins, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, USA. "This does make us wonder what it is in tea, or in the method of preparation of tea that causes the significant increase in risk of developing RA."

----- (skipping)


Why do certain diseases go into remission during pregnancy?

June 16, 2010

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- During pregnancy, many women experience remission of autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and uveitis. Now, scientists have described a biological mechanism responsible for changes in the immune system that helps to explain the remission.

The expression of an enzyme known as pyruvate kinase is reduced in immune cells in pregnant women compared to non-pregnant women, according to Howard R. Petty, Ph.D., biophysicist at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center and Roberto Romero, M.D., of the National Institutes for Health.

The study, which appears online ahead of print in the August issue of the American Journal of Reproductive Immunology, also reports that expression of the enzyme is lower in pregnant women compared to those with pre-eclampsia, a condition with inflammatory components.

The study is significant because the newly discovered mechanism points to a pathway that could be targeted for treatment. “It may be possible to design drugs that mildly suppress pyruvate kinase activity as a means of replicating the immune status of normal pregnancy,” says Petty.

In addition to pre-eclampsia, he believes that rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and uveitis may eventually yield to similarly designed drugs.

----- (skipping)


Saturday, June 19, 2010

What's So Funny About Peace, Love, and Understanding?


Campbell Soup recalls SpaghettiOs

By Mary Clare Jalonick
updated 12:02 p.m. ET, Fri., June 18, 2010

WASHINGTON - Campbell Soup Co. is recalling 15 million pounds of SpaghettiOs with meatballs after a cooker malfunctioned at one of the company's plants in Texas and left the meat undercooked.

The Agriculture Department announced the recall late Thursday. Campbell spokesman Anthony Sanzio said the company is recalling certain lots of the product manufactured since December 2008 "out of an abundance of caution" because officials don't know exactly when the cooker at the Paris, Texas, plant malfunctioned. Officials believe it happened recently but aren't sure, he said.

The meatballs that went through the cooker did not get the requisite amount of heat, according to the company.

Recalled are certain lots of three varieties of the pasta product often consumed by children: SpaghettiOs with Meatballs, SpaghettiOs A to Z with Meatballs, and SpaghettiOs Fun Shapes with Meatballs (Cars).

The USDA said there are no reports of illnesses associated with the product and Sanzio said the company has received no customer complaints to date.

The recalled products have "EST 4K," as well as a use-by date between June 2010 and December 2011 printed on the bottom of the can. The products were manufactured between December 2008 and June 2010 and distributed to retail establishments nationwide.

----- (skipping)


Part-owner of blown-out well calls BP 'reckless'

NBC, and news services
updated 4:24 a.m. ET, Sat., June 19, 2010

Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which owns a quarter of BP's blown-out oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, on Friday blasted BP for "reckless decisions and actions" that it said led to the well's explosion.

Joining in the torrent of criticism of the British oil giant as it seeks to escape the huge financial liability, Anadarko said that BP's behavior before the blowout likely represented "gross negligence or willful misconduct."

"We will be looking at our contractual remedies based on the information that we have already received about the behaviors and practices on the well in the finishing days," Anadarko Chief Executive James Hackett told Reuters.

----- (skipping)


Poor BP?

These are the same people who say that people (at least, people who are not super-rich) should pay for the consequences of their own mistakes and misfortunes.

While Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) has been mostly lampooned for apologizing to BP for the White House’s alleged “shakedown” of the company to create a $20 billion escrow fund, some conservatives have been willing to defend the congressman.

Today, Kentucky Republican Senate nominee Rand Paul — the tea party darling who has himself faced criticism for defending BP — offered his sympathies to Barton, saying he knows “what it is like to be piled on.” While Paul stopped short of endorsing Barton’s point of view, he suggested that the criticism of Barton was “over the top,” and said that Barton “should be given the chance to explain himself”:

“I don’t know about that,” Paul said, when asked about Barton’s statement during an appearance on WVLK-AM radio on Friday. “I don’t want to pile on him. … I know what that feels like. What I will say is I have never liked the tone of the president when he said things or his administration says things like he is going to put the boot on the throat of BP.” [...]

“I’m not really in a position to know about what they should do to [Barton] personally. I do know what it is like to be piled on,” he said. “I do know that people sometimes can go over the top and I think he should be given the chance to explain himself.“

Paul joins a host of conservative pundits who have come to Barton’s defense, praising his “courage” and “legitimate point[s].” Meanwhile, the right-wing media’s fearless leader, radio host Rush Limbaugh, threw his weight behind Barton yesterday as well. As the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel noted, “Discussing Barton’s comments, Limbaugh repeatedly called the fund a ’shakedown,’ [and] worried that it was a plot by Obama to ‘redistribute that money to ACORN.’” Limbaugh said the “shakedown” showed the Obama “regime” was behaving like “a branch of organized crime”:

LIMBAUGH: Joe Barton apologized to BP executives on behalf of himself, the American people, for the shakedown. … The United States government may as well be a branch of organized crime the way that it is being conducted and the way it’s doing business, and the way it’s looking out for itself and no one else. … Organized crime. It’s the closest thing I can think to analogize what’s happening here. And even these guys that are being shaken down, they’re paying protection money, and it isn’t enough. It isn’t enough.

----- (skipping)


Record Rainfalls

Posted by: JeffMasters, 2:45 PM GMT on June 15, 2010

Oklahoma City's rainiest day in history brought rampaging floods to the city and surrounding areas yesterday, as widespread rain amounts of 8 - 11 inches deluged the city.

----- (skipping)

We've had an inordinate number of severe floods in the U.S. so far this year. The worst was the May Tennessee flood, which killed 31 people--the highest death toll from a non-tropical cyclone flooding event in the U.S. since 1994, and the most devastating disaster in Tennessee since the Civil War. The Tennessee floods were rated as a 1000-year flood for Middle Tennessee, West Tennessee, South Central and Western Kentucky and northern Mississippi. Two-day rain totals in some areas were greater than 19 inches.Last Friday's disastrous flash flood in Albert Pike Recreation Area, Arkansas, killed twenty people. That flood was triggered by 8+ inches of rain that fell in just a few hours over the rugged mountains west of Hot Springs. And in March, record rains from a slow-moving and extremely wet Nor'easter triggered historic flooding in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts, with several rivers exceeding their 100-year flood levels. The 16.32" of rain that fell on Providence, Rhode Island, made March that city's wettest month in recorded history.

All of these flooding events were associated with airmasses though [sp. probably "that"] brought record-breaking warm temperatures to surrounding regions of the country. For example, during the overnight hours when the June 11 flood in Arkansas occurred, fifty airports in the Southern and Midwestern U.S. had their highest minimum temperatures on record. During the 1000-year flood in Tennessee, 51 warm minimum temperatures records were set in the eastern half of the U.S. on May 1, and 97 records on May 2. Rhode Island's record wettest March also happened to be its record warmest March. And the air mass that spawned yesterday's Oklahoma City floods set record warm minimum temperatures at 22 airports across the central and Eastern portions of the U.S. on Monday. All this is not surprising, since more moisture can evaporate into warmer air, making record-setting rainfall events more likely when record warm temperatures are present. The total number of airports in the U.S. considered for these comparisons is around 500, so we're talking about significant portions of the U.S. being exposed to these record-breaking warm airmasses this year. For the spring months of March - May, it was the 21st warmest such period in the 116-year record, according to the National Climatic Data Center. At the 500 or so largest airports in the U.S., daily high temperature records outnumbered low temperature records by about a factor 2.5, 1200 to 508. Record high minimums this spring outnumbered record low maximums by 1163 to 568. So far in June, record daily highs have outpaced record lows by 176 to 13, and record high minimums have outpaced record low maximums, 419 to 62.

Groisman et al. (2004) found that in the U.S. during the 20th century, there was a 16% increase in cold season (October - April) "heavy" precipitation events (greater than 2 inches in one day), a 25% increase in "very heavy" precipitation events (greater than 4 inches in one day), and a 36% rise in "extreme" precipitation events (those in the 99.9% percentile--1 in 1000 events.) A sharp rise in extreme precipitation is what is predicted by global warming models in the scientific literature Hegerl et al. (2004). According the landmark 2009 U.S. Climate Impact Report from the U.S. Global Change Research Program, "the amount of rain falling in the heaviest downpours has increased approximately 20 percent on average in the past century, and this trend is very likely to continue, with the largest increases in the wettest places." Most of this increase came since 1970, due to the approximate 1°F increase in U.S. average temperature since 1970. That 1°F increase in temperature means that there is 4% more moisture in the atmosphere, on average.

Dr. Joe Romm over at has an excellent interview with Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center of Atmospheric Research on the subject of heavy precipitation events and global warming. Dr. Trenberth is the world's leading expert on water vapor in the atmosphere, and he comments that "since the 1970s, on average, there's about a 4% increase in water vapor over the Atlantic Ocean, and when that gets caught into a storm, it invigorates the storm so the storm itself changes, and that can easily double the influence of that water vapor and so you can get up to an 8% increase, straight from the amount of water vapor that's sort of hanging around in the atmosphere.

----- (skipping)

We cannot say that any of this year's flooding disasters were definitely due to global warming, and part of the reason for this year's numerous U.S. flooding disasters is simply bad luck. However, higher temperatures do cause an increased chance of heavy precipitation events, and it is likely that the flooding in some of this year's U.S. flooding disasters were significantly enhanced by the presence of more water vapor in the air due to global warming. We can expect a large increase in flooding disasters in the U.S. and worldwide if the climate continues to warm as expected.

----- (skipping)


Record precipitation events have also been happening in other countries around the world.


Mental Activity Might Protect Against Memory Problems in Multiple Sclerosis

ScienceDaily (June 16, 2010) — A new study shows that a mentally active lifestyle may protect against the memory and learning problems that often occur in multiple sclerosis (MS). The study is published in the June 15, 2010, print issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

"Many people with MS struggle with learning and memory problems. This study shows that a mentally active lifestyle might reduce the harmful effects of brain damage on learning and memory. That is, learning and memory ability remained quite good in people with enriching lifestyles, even if they had a lot of brain damage (brain atrophy on brain scans). In contrast, persons with lesser mentally active lifestyles were more likely to suffer learning and memory problems, even at milder levels of brain damage," said study author James Sumowski, PhD, with the Kessler Foundation Research Center in West Orange, New Jersey.

----- (skipping)

"These findings are similar to research on cognitive reserve in aging and Alzheimer's disease," Sumowski said. "Studies on aging have also shown that engagement in specific cognitive leisure activities, such as reading books or playing games, also protects against the effects of Alzheimer's disease. More research is needed to investigate the contribution of specific leisure activities to cognitive reserve in people with MS."


Friday, June 18, 2010

Jobless claims rise

By Alan Zibel
updated 3:01 p.m. ET, Thurs., June 17, 2010

WASHINGTON - The number of people filing new claims for jobless benefits jumped last week after three straight declines, another sign that the pace of layoffs has not slowed.

Initial claims for jobless benefits rose by 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 472,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was the highest level in a month and overshadowed a report that showed consumer prices remain essentially flat.

The rise in jobless claims highlighted concerns about the economic rebound — especially after a report earlier this week said home construction plunged in May after government tax credits expired.

----- (skipping)


Older men face longer job searches

Many women of all ages are the sole wage earner in their family. Why ignore us?

Andrea Orr
June 17, 2010

This Father’s day, millions of fathers and grandfathers are struggling to find jobs, and data show that the older the man, the longer he is likely to remain unemployed. Long-term unemployment lasting more than six months has reached record levels during the current jobs crisis. Among male workers age 20 to 24, close to one-third are long-term unemployed. That share increases progressively with age. Among unemployed men age 55 to 64, close to half – 49.7% -- have been out of work for more than six months.

----- (skipping)

Across all age groups, 39.9% of unemployed men are long-term unemployed. Many of them have exhausted or are at risk of soon exhausting their unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. Unemployed workers are typically eligible for 26 weeks of unemployment insurance, but during the Great Recession, Congress extended that for up to 99 weeks in order to stimulate the economy and strengthen the safety net for millions of long-term unemployed. That extension expired last month, and although the House of Representatives voted in May to maintain extended UI benefits beyond the standard 26 weeks, the Senate has not yet voted on the extension. As a result, by the end of June, well over one million jobless workers will have lost their unemployment insurance coverage.

Unemployed workers outnumbered job openings five-to-one in April

Lawrence Mishel
June 8, 2010

This morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the April report from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), showing that job openings grew sharply by 293,000 to 3.08 million in April. The upward revision to the March data showing an additional 91,000 openings was also welcome news. From the Current Population Survey, we know that the number of unemployed workers increased by 255,000 in April to 15.3 million. This means that in April, the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings was 5.0-to-one. This was an improvement from the March ratio of 5.4-to-one and the lowest ratio since March 2009 when the unemployment rate was 8.6%. However, the scarcity of jobs is still extreme: Today’s ratio of unemployed workers to job openings is still substantially higher than at the worst point in the last recession when the ratio never went above 2.8 unemployed workers for every job opening.

In 2007, before the recession started, the ratio averaged 1.5-to-one. Now, with 5.0 unemployed workers per available job, people who find themselves out of work can be expected to remain unemployed for extremely long periods. Currently, 46.0% of this country’s unemployed workers have been unemployed for over six months, the highest share of the current downturn and 20 percentage points above the previous high of 26.0%, set in the summer of 1983.

----- (skipping)


Jail for Unpaid Debt a Reality in Six States

Monday, June 14, 2010

On Friday, I put up a short post alerting readers to a PR campaign apparently just getting off the runway to impress the average American of his moral obligation to honor his debts. The rise of strategic defaults (and perhaps even more important, the increasingly positive coverage it is getting in the media and the blogosphere) is generating heartburn among the banking classes.

One of the tidbits we pointed to was a YouTube snippet of Peterson Institute spokesman David Walker speaking fondly of debtors’ prison and the need to “hold people accountable when they do imprudent things.” A couple of readers complained that I was being unfair, while others said they’d be happy to see the return of debtors’ prison as long at the executives at the TBTF banks were at the head of the queue.

Be careful what you wish for. Reader bill clued us in that people who fall behind on debt payments are being incarcerated in six states. While this is generally short-term, it is nevertheless a troubling development, since these are all involve private contracts and look to be an abuse of the court system. From the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune:

It’s not a crime to owe money, and debtors’ prisons were abolished in the United States in the 19th century. But people are routinely being thrown in jail for failing to pay debts. In Minnesota, which has some of the most creditor-friendly laws in the country, the use of arrest warrants against debtors has jumped 60 percent over the past four years, with 845 cases in 2009, a Star Tribune analysis of state court data has found.

Not every warrant results in an arrest, but in Minnesota many debtors spend up to 48 hours in cells with criminals. Consumer attorneys say such arrests are increasing in many states, including Arkansas, Arizona and Washington, driven by a bad economy, high consumer debt and a growing industry that buys bad debts and employs every means available to collect.

----- (skipping)

Taxpayers foot the bill for arresting and jailing debtors. In many cases, Minnesota judges set bail at the amount owed.

In Minnesota, judges have issued arrest warrants for people who owe as little as $85 — less than half the cost of housing an inmate overnight. Debtors targeted for arrest owed a median of $3,512 in 2009, up from $2,201 five years ago.

Those jailed for debts may be the least able to pay

----- (skipping)

One afternoon last spring, Deborah Poplawski, 38, of Minneapolis was digging in her purse for coins to feed a downtown parking meter when she saw the flashing lights of a Minneapolis police squad car behind her. Poplawski, a restaurant cook, assumed she had parked illegally. Instead, she was headed to jail over a $250 credit card debt.

Less than a month earlier, she learned by chance from an employment counselor that she had an outstanding warrant. Debt Equities, a Golden Valley debt buyer, had sued her, but she says nobody served her with court documents. Thanks to interest and fees, Poplawski was now on the hook for $1,138….

She spent nearly 25 hours at the Hennepin County jail….

The next day, Poplawski appeared before a Hennepin County district judge. He told her to fill out the form listing her assets and bank account, and released her. Several weeks later, Debt Equities used this information to seize funds from her bank account. The firm didn’t return repeated calls seeking a comment.

“We hear every day about how there’s no money for public services,” Poplawski said. “But it seems like the collectors have found a way to get the police to do their work.”

Yves here. The story has many examples of people who were jailed, and more detail on the debt collectors.