Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Hardest-Drinking Cities in America


Austin tops Forbes' list of hardest-drinking cities in the U.S.
Austin tops Forbes' list of hardest-drinking cities in the U.S.

Austin, Texas, is famous for its parties. People flock from around the world to attend events like the annual South by Southwest film and music festival. And when they get there, chances are they make like the locals and throw back a few cold ones--because Austin may be the hardest-drinking city in America.
Austin ranks high for its drinking habits across the board. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) 2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey, 61.5% of adult residents say they have had at least one drink of alcohol within the past 30 days, and a staggering 20.6% of respondents confess to binge drinking, or having five or more drinks on one occasion.

Some residents attribute those numbers to the city's sizable population of college students. Austin is home to several schools, including the University of Texas at Austin, one of the largest universities in the country.

"I imagine that's probably why the city's on [the list]," says Hunter Darby, manager of Austin's Dog & Duck Pub. "Sixth Street in Austin is like a tiny version of Bourbon Street. It caters a lot to a younger crowd who are right at age 21. They'll just go from bar to bar to bar. ... There are a ton of bars per human being in this town."

Collegiate excess has repercussions far beyond hangovers and missed classes, and should be of concern to members of the surrounding community. "Binge drinking hurts not only the drinker but also others near him," says Henry Wechsler, Ph.D., a lecturer at the Harvard school of Public Health, where he was also the director of the College Alcohol Study, and author of Dying to Drink: Confronting Binge Drinking on College Campuses.

"The binge drinker disturbs the peace, through noise, vandalism and sometimes violence. Like secondhand smoke, binge drinking pollutes the environment."

"The [social] cost of alcohol is in the billions of dollars. Roughly half the total is related to what's called alcohol addiction," says Paul Gruenewald, scientific director of the Prevention Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, which is funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

"The other half is related to other harms that happen to people when drinking; primarily drunk driving, drunk driving crashes, pedestrian injuries, violent assaults, and various criminal behaviors and various injuries," Gruenewald said.

"It's not a pretty picture. It's quite ugly from the public health point of view. It's a much bigger problem than crime related to illegal drugs," he added.

Coming in second on the list is Milwaukee. This city, known as "the nation's watering hole," has a long reputation as a city built on beer. It was once the nation's top beer-producing city, home to four of the world's largest breweries: Schlitz, Pabst, Miller and Blatz. Legendary sitcom characters Laverne and Shirley fixed bottle caps on one of the city's assembly lines. Even the town's baseball team--the Brewers--reflects its boozy past.

Rounding out the top five hardest-drinking cities are San Francisco; Providence, R.I.; and Chicago.

To determine the cities with the highest alcohol consumption, we started by making a list of the 40 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S.--geographic entities defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget for use by federal agencies in collecting, tabulating and publishing statistics.

We then examined data from the CDC's 2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey (BRFSS), a nationwide system that collects information on health risk behaviors, preventive health practices and health care access.

In this survey, the CDC develops a core questionnaire and provides it to state governments, which then perform telephone surveys asking more than 350,000 American adults about their health.

Due to state-by-state variations in the handling of the survey, the BRFSS isn't a perfect way to measure drinking habits. But since its data come directly from citizens, it does provide a good idea of regional variations.

The survey doesn't report results for every city in the nation, so two of our 40 candidate cities were eliminated from the list due to missing data. And because the CDC coordinates the surveys but does not individually manage them, there tend to be differences in sample size and margin of error from city to city. So we removed another five cities from our list because they exhibited unusually large margins of error.

The remaining 33 cities were then ranked based on their residents' responses to three different questions on the BRFSS: whether they had at least one drink of alcohol within the past 30 days; whether men had more than two drinks per day or women one drink per day; and whether they had five or more drinks on one occasion. In each case, higher-ranking cities reported larger percentages of their population answering in the affirmative.

To determine the 15 hardest-drinking cities, we added up the rankings from each category, counting the "five or more drinks on one occasion" question twice, since it most directly addresses the question of problem drinking. We then sorted that sum into our final ranks.

Of course, just because a city ranks high on the list doesn't make it a den of debauchery. A top-drinking town could be populated by health-conscious adults who sip a glass of wine a day in order to keep their hearts healthy. And just downing a few cold ones doesn't make a person irresponsible.

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Simon Blint, Director of Visitor Relations at the SF MOMA, Yeah You Asshole, Photography is Not a Crime

Simon Blint, Director of Visitor Relations at the SF MOMA, Yeah You Asshole, Photography is Not a Crime

Simon Blint, Director of Visitor Relations at the SF MOMA is a first rate asshole.

Recently I blogged about my excitement regarding the San Francisco MOMA's decision to begin allowing photography in their permanent collection after years of maintaining a closed no photography policy. Directly because of this change in policy, I decided to purchase a family membership in order to support the museum, both with my artistic energy and financially. I was excited to begin spending regular time exploring and documenting the museum.

Unfortunately, I should have known better than to really believe that the San Francisco MOMA was serious about opening up the art and architecture entrusted to them to the general public.

After purchasing my family membership and visiting the museum today I was forcibly thrown out of the museum by two museum security guards at the direction of the Director of Visitor Relations Simon Blint.

My crime? Taking a photograph from the second floor stairs in the SFMOMA's atrium (an area where the SF MOMA's own website explicitly says photography is allowed).

You can see the photograph that I took when I was thrown out at the top of this post.

During the course of my interaction with Blint I told him that:

1. I was a new member of the museum and that I'd been in contact with Thea Stein in the Marketing and Communications Department of the museum who had confirmed the recent change in museum policy with me personally regarding photography in the museum.

2. That the SF MOMA's own website explicitly allows photography in the atrium.

3. That I would be blogging my forcible eviction from the MOMA.

Simon Blint, Director of Visitor Relations at the SF MOMA, Yeah You Asshole, Photography is Not a Crime

Blint told me that "he did not care" and that he needed to "protect" his employees -- employees that might appear in my photographs. I was not shooting with a tripod. I was not shooting with a flash. I was being quiet and respectful of the area and the other patrons.

Blint on the other hand was hostile, accusatory and refused to even examine my photographs or allow me to share with him what I was doing with my art. He accused me of using a "telephoto" lens to spy on his staff from the public staircase on the second floor. Blint obviously knows nothing of photography because the 14mm ultra wide angle lens on my camera body was about the furthest thing possible from a telephoto lens. He refused to discuss this, refused to examine my photographs, refused to consider it at all and simply had me ejected with two security guards.

Ironically Blint also tried to eject my friend torbakhopper who was hanging out with me at the museum today and he wasn't even taking photographs. He finally relented on his case and told him that he could stay if he wanted but that I was going to be forcibly ejected.

Blint refused to escalate the situation to a superior even though I told him I'd been in contact with museum personnel. He was on his own personal power trip and misused and abused the authority entrusted to him for the public benefit to harass, humiliate and embarrass a paying member of the museum. Photography is not a crime

I believe that I was very much targeted in this case because I was using a digital SLR. There were plenty of people taking photographs of the atrium using point and shoots that Simon did not target, but I think that it was the fact that I was using a larger DSLR that made me a target. Rather than try to understand what I and my art were about Simon felt the smarter way to deal with the situation was simply to kick me out of his museum.

While I might be able to understand if my ejection from the museum had been at the hand of an overzealous security guard who was simply uninformed about the SF MOMA's change in policy regarding photography in their museum, when this ejection came directly from the Director of Visitor Relations I find this to be unacceptable.

If the museum has a photography allowed policy in their atrium as explicitly expressed on their website and someone identifies themselves as a photographer, artist and paying and supporting member of museum I would expect less hostility, aggression and harassment. Photography is an art and those of us who choose to practice the great art of street photography ought not be targeted by bullies like Blint. Many of the great artists, artists being shown in the SF MOMA itself were practitioners of street photography. It is ironic that the great Cartier-Bresson, who took thousands of photographs of unsuspecting people in his work, hangs in the museum while a photographer practicing the same type of work gets ejected by a power-trippy asshole. It's hypocritical and disappointing.

It is unfortunate that one of my first experiences as a paying member of the SF MOMA had to be full of hatred, bitterness and harassment.

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Breast-Feeding: The Stress Buster That Lasts for Years

By Serena Gordon, HealthDay Reporter

Breast-feeding offers a host of benefits to both mother and baby, including a stronger immune system for the baby and faster weight loss for mom. There are even some known psychological benefits from breast-feeding, such as a stronger parent-child bond.

But British researchers have recently discovered another mental bonus -- children who are breast-fed seem to cope with stress and anxiety more effectively when they reach school age.

In a group of almost 9,000 children between the ages of 5 and 10, children who weren't breast-fed and whose parents were getting divorced or separated were 9.4 times more likely to be highly anxious when compared to other children. But, children who were breast-fed as infants whose parents were getting divorced were only 2.2 times as likely to be highly anxious, the study found.

"Breast-feeding is associated with resilience against the psychosocial stress linked with parental divorce/separation," the study's authors concluded in a recent issue of the Archives of Diseases in Childhood.

The authors theorized that the physical contact between mother and child in the first few days of life could help form certain neural and hormonal pathways that affect a person's ability to cope with stress later in life.

Breast-feeding experts have long been aware of the mother-baby bond that occurs during breast-feeding. "There's a lot less verbal communication, but lots of tactile communication and eye contact that promotes positive physiological responses," said Liz Maseth, an outpatient lactation consultant at Akron's Children's Hospital in Ohio.

"Breast-feeding does seem to suppress stress responses in babies, and it does seem that there's a protective effect," she said.

"In terms of the biological possibility, breast milk is pretty amazing stuff, and the tactile interaction that goes along with breast-feeding does have an influence on the development of neurons," explained Judy Hopkinson, an associate professor of pediatrics in the section of nutrition at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Hopkinson added that babies who aren't breast-fed may be able to reap similar benefits with lots of holding and touching.

The study authors also suggested that the bond created during breast-feeding might affect the way the child and the mother interact, and that effect might be long-lasting.

Hopkinson pointed out that mothers who are successful at breast-feeding often have a supportive social network, which could also help lessen a child's stress in times of crisis.

Whatever the reason for the association, it was clear that children who had been breast-fed were less stressed.

Both Maseth and Hopkinson said it's very important to try to begin breast-feeding as soon as possible after birth -- no more than one hour. Maseth said this is because the breasts contain glands that release the same scent as amniotic fluid, a scent that babies will recognize.

"For most mothers, breast-feeding doesn't come naturally. If the baby doesn't latch on, it can lead to feelings of failure and concern about whether or not the baby is getting enough milk. Women need lots of encouragement and education," Maseth said.

"Don't give up, though, seek help" she advised, adding that your baby's pediatrician will likely have information on what local breast-feeding resources are available.

"Breast-feeding is something for mothers and babies to enjoy. A time for them to cherish and nurture each other," said Hopkinson. For women who can't breast-feed, she said, that skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby can also help build a similar bond.

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Are cell phones the next cigarettes?

By BusinessWeek

Why can't we get a definitive answer about cell phones and health?

Mobile phones have been around for more than 20 years, and they're now used by more than 3 billion people. Yet questions linger over whether mobile phones can contribute to health problems, including cancer.

The most recent alarm came from the director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, who warned school employees to limit their cell phone use based on early unpublished data from scientific studies.

"Although the evidence is still controversial, I am convinced that there are sufficient data to warrant issuing an advisory to share some precautionary advice on cell-phone use," Ronald Herberman wrote in a memo to 3,000 faculty and staff members in late July.

To be clear, many studies have presented evidence that cell phones are safe. Major players in the wireless industry, including Nokia, Motorola, Verizon and AT&T, say there is no cause for concern.

"The overwhelming majority of studies that have been published in scientific journals around the globe show that wireless phones do not pose a health risk," according to a press release from the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association issued in response to Herberman's memo.

But definitive scientific proof is tough to come by.

One key reason is that people use their cell phones, by definition, in ways that make them hard to study. We make phone calls on the go, from the grocery store or in our cars. That makes it difficult to reap the precise details important to scientific study, such as how long we use the phone or which side of the head it is pressed against.

The topic also falls between areas of scientific study, with doctors expert in the human body on one side and engineers well-versed in radio technology on the other.

Finally, time is an issue. While cell phones have been around a while, they've been mainstream products for only 10 years or so, and it may take much longer than that for adverse effects to show up.

"The most difficult thing to resolve is whether there is an effect with long-term mobile-phone use," says Rodney Croft, executive director at the Australian Center for Radio Frequency Bioeffects Research.

Consumers and scientists had hoped that an ambitious research project, due out later this year, would overcome these limitations. The effort, called Interphone, is a decade-long study involving 13 countries. "It's time for the Interphone to come out. It's a public health issue," says Louis Slesin, author of Microwave News, a newsletter that tracks research in non-ionizing radiation, the type cell phones emit.

Still, the slices of Interphone research that have been published recently (while the final report is being prepared) suggest that it won't be the definitive word either. Interphone's research coordinator, Elisabeth Cardis, warns that "the interpretation of the data is not very clear."

Slesin says: "Interphone will not be the last word. It is more a progress report."

In February, Japanese scientists participating in Interphone published partial findings, based on their research, in the British Journal of Cancer. They "observed no increase in overall risk of (tumors) in relation to regular mobile-phone use among our Japanese subjects."

While some experts hailed the research as providing evidence that mobile phones do not cause cancer, others dispute the conclusion. Bruce Hocking, an Australian doctor who specializes in occupational and environmental medicine, argues that the Japanese study had key flaws.

In a letter to the Journal, Hocking said the Japanese gathered data that relied on people's ability to remember "cumulative length of use and cumulative call time," which "may be associated with random errors, leading to overestimation or underestimation of true usage." This is referred to as recall bias.

"It is hard for people to recall, accurately, their phone use over a 10-year period. Researchers want mobile-use records, but they are challenged by privacy rules," Hocking says. "The best way to research it is, prospectively, off billing data."

But new studies on health and cell phones are tough to get going. In the United States, most research on the topic was discontinued at the beginning of the decade, largely because industry groups and government considered the questions resolved and haven't been willing to finance new studies.

"The U.S. had been the leading country in the research on radio-frequency radiation from the 1960s to the 1990s," says Henry Lai, a professor at the University of Washington who has studied research funding of the issue. Over time, however, "most labs in the U.S. that did research on electromagnetic fields closed down."

'There can always be surprises'

But scientists are concerned that cutting off studies could be a mistake.

"It was 15, 20 years after people began smoking that we saw concerns associated with it," says Michael Kelsh, principle scientist and epidemiologist for Exponent, a scientific consulting firm. "Down the road, the same could happen with phones."

Kelsh says that studying cell phone usage requires time because the latency period for brain tumors can be 10 to 15 years.

Michael Thun, vice president of epidemiology and surveillance research for the American Cancer Society, agrees that time is a concern, particularly with children using cell phones. "We haven't had long-term exposure with kids. There can always be surprises. We cannot say with 100% certainty that it is safe. It is just not clear yet."

Despite the ongoing concerns, Slesin cautions that people need not live in fear. "People should wear wired earpieces," he says. "I don't think people should stop using cell phones. I think people need to be aware that there is a risk."

This article was reported and written by Jay Yarow for BusinessWeek.

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How Light Deprivation Causes Depression

The association between darkness and depression is well established. Now a March 25 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals for the first time the profound changes that light deprivation causes in the brain.

Neuroscientists at the University of Pennsylvania kept rats in the dark for six weeks. The animals not only exhibited depressive behavior but also suffered damage in brain regions known to be underactive in humans during depression. The researchers observed neurons that produce norepi­nephrine, dopamine and serotonin—common neurotransmitters involved in emotion, pleasure and cognition—in the process of dying. This neuronal death, which was accompanied in some areas by compromised synaptic connections, may be the mechanism underlying the darkness-related blues of seasonal affective disorder.

Principal investigator Gary Aston-Jones, now at the Medical University of South Carolina, speculates that the dark-induced effects stem from a disruption of the body’s clock. “When the circadian system is not receiving normal light, that in turn might lead to changes in brain systems that regulate mood,” he says.

Treating the rats with an antidepressant significantly ameliorated brain damage and depressive behaviors. “Our study provides a new animal system for antidepressant devel­opment. Many existing animal models depend on stress. Our model is a stress-free means of producing a depression. It might be parti­cularly relevant to seasonal affective disorder, but we think that it is relevant to depression overall,” Aston-Jones says.

Editor's Note: This story was originally printed with the title "Down in the Dark"

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Medicinal Marijuana Eases Neuropathic Pain In HIV Patients

Oh, so this is why the Feds do everything they can to discourage any investigation into the safety and efficacy of inhaled cannabis.

Medicinal Marijuana Eases Neuropathic Pain in HIV
via The Washington Post

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 6 (HealthDay News) — Medicinal marijuana helps relieve neuropathic pain in people with HIV, says a University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine study.

It included 28 HIV patients with neuropathic pain that wasn’t adequately controlled by opiates or other pain relievers. The researchers found that 46 percent of patients who smoked medicinal marijuana reported clinically meaningful pain relief, compared with 18 percent of those who smoked a placebo.

The study, published online Aug. 6 in Neuropsychopharmacology, was sponsored by the University of California Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR).

“Neuropathy is a chronic and significant problem in HIV patients as there are few existing treatments that offer adequate pain management to sufferers,” study leader Dr. Ronald J. Ellis, an associate professor of neurosciences, said in an UCSD news release. “We found that smoked cannabis was generally well-tolerated and effective when added to the patient’s existing pain medication, resulting in increased pain relief.”

The findings are consistent with and extend other recent CMCR-sponsored research supporting the short-term effectiveness of medicinal marijuana in treating neuropathic pain.

“This study adds to a growing body of evidence that indicates that cannabis is effective, in the short-term at least, in the management of neuropathic pain,” Dr. Igor Grant, a professor of psychiatry and director of the CMCR, said in the UCSD news release.

By my count, this is the third clinical trial published in just over a year to conclude that inhaling cannabis significantly reduces neuropathic pain. (Read about the others here and here.) And that’s not even including this study that found that low doses of inhaled cannabis are more therapeutic for HIV-positive patients than Marinol (oral synthetic THC).

Kudos to The Washington Post for publicizing this important story. And an extra ’shout out’ to the Post’s editors for highlighting that this trial was sponsored by California’s Center for Medical Cannabis Research and not by the US government.

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Most Americans Want Health Care Reform

By Steven Reinberg, HealthDay Reporter

(HealthDay News) -- The vast majority of Americans are dissatisfied with the U.S. health care system, and 82 percent think it needs to be overhauled, a new survey found.

"There is a broad view by the public that our health care system needs a full overhaul, either to be totally rebuilt or reformed," said Cathy Schoen, senior vice president for research and evaluation at The Commonwealth Fund, which commissioned the survey.

The survey, titled Public Views on U.S. Health Care System Organization: A Call for New Directions, questioned 1,004 adults on their views of the U.S. health care system.

The frustration with the current system stems from a shared experience of inefficient and time-consuming care, Schoen said. "Often paperwork doesn't arrive, or your records aren't available when you show up. There are also concerns about getting timely access to care," she said.

Schoen thinks the survey clearly indicates that Americans want better organized care. "Also, having a regular doctor who is available to see you, getting timely referrals, and having more affordable care are important to people," she said.

Nine out of 10 people surveyed said the presidential candidates should propose reforms that would improve the quality of health care, ensure that all Americans have affordable care, and reduce the number of uninsured.

Eight in 10 people said they supported efforts to improve health care performance, access, quality and cost. For example, one in three said their doctors ordered tests that had already been done or recommended unnecessary treatment.

Most of the people surveyed expressed frustration with the way their health care was managed. For instance, 47 percent said their health care was poorly coordinated; this lack of coordination included not being informed about test results and having to make several calls to get the results.

In addition, survey respondents felt that important medical information wasn't shared between doctors and nurses or communicated between their doctor and specialists.

Nine of 10 people said it was important that they have one place or one doctor responsible for their primary care and coordination of all their care. And, nine of 10 wanted easier access to their medical records.

Seventy-three percent said they had difficulty getting a doctor appointment, phone advice, or after-hours care without going to the emergency department. Among insured patients, 26 percent said it was hard to get same- or next-day appointments when they were sick, and 39 percent said it was difficult to reach their doctors by phone when they needed them.

Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program, thinks Americans are being ill served, given the amount of money spent on health care in the United States.

"We now spend twice per capita what other developed nations spend on care, yet we die younger, have worse access to care, and are even behind on medical computerization," Woolhandler said. "These survey results are a clarion call for the health financing mechanism used elsewhere -- nonprofit national health insurance."

Kathleen D. Stoll, director of Health Policy at Families USA, thinks the survey reinforces what is already known about Americans' frustration with the current health care system.

"We have seen the number of uninsured rise. We have seen people facing higher out-of-pocket costs. We see layers of complications in terms of billing problems," she said. "All that adds up to an American public that is quite ready for health care reform."

In a separate report titled Organizing the U.S. Health Care System for High Performance, The Commonwealth Fund outlined its strategies for improving the health care system.

Among the recommendations was moving away from fee-for-service payments and paying doctors and hospitals based on the quality of care. In addition, the report recommends patient incentives that reward them for choosing doctors and hospitals that provide the most efficient, highest quality care.

To achieve these goals, the report recommends removing barriers that prevent doctors from sharing essential information; accrediting doctors and hospitals based on quality measures; making patient information more available to doctors at the point of care; and enforcing clear accountability for patient care.

Moreover, doctors and other health care professionals should be trained to work as teams. And, switching to electronic health records should be mandated and supported by the federal government, according to the report.

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Whole Foods Recalls Previously Recalled Meat. What?

Whole Foods apparently never got that June memo to chuck Nebraska Beef contaminated with E. coli. The posh-man's bodega announced yesterday that they are recalling the previously-recalled beef, which Whole Foods sold between June 2 and August 6. The contaminated beef has popped up in 24 states and sickened 49 people. Noted food safety litigator Bill Marler shows us that being a lawyer can be fun by posing six amusingly litigious questions for Whole Foods...

•1) Why was Whole Foods selling meat that was supposed to be recalled?
•2) Why was Whole Foods buying meat from Nebraska Beef Ltd., in the first place?

Whole Foods website is filled with all sorts of promises. Here is one that seemed to be a bit ignored:

Products - Our Quality Standards

We carry natural and organic products because we believe that food in its purest state — unadulterated by artificial additives, sweeteners, colorings, and preservatives — is the best tasting and most nutritious food available.

Our business is to sell the highest quality foods we can find at the most competitive prices possible. We evaluate quality in terms of nutrition, freshness, appearance, and taste. Our search for quality is a never-ending process involving the careful judgment of buyers throughout the company.

Here are some other questions for Whole Foods (after they answer the first two):

  • 1) Were you aware of Nebraska Beef’s litigation history against the USDA in 2003 and a church in upstate Minnesota in 2007?
  • 2) Had you ever reviewed Nebraska Beef’s Non-compliance Reports?
  • 3) Had you ever visited the Nebraska Beef plant?
  • 4) After being linked to an E. coli outbreak in California in 2006, what safety measures did Whole Foods employ?

The bacterial beef was sold in: Alabama, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Washington D. C.

Consumers can return to Whole Foods with a receipt or beef packaging for a full refund. For more information, call (512) 542-0878. While on hold, take a moment to wonder if you ever cook your meat to 160 degrees.

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6 Tips For Saving Fuel and Getting Better Gas Mileage

Barak Obama was all over the news recently, mocked by his opposition for saying we can conserve fuel by simply inflating our tires. Made for a great sound bite for the 24-hour news stations, but the thing is, he's right. According to experts, under-inflated tires can reduce your gas mileage anywhere from 3 to 15 percent.

So what else can you do to help lessen your gas consumption? I spoke with the experts at the NASCAR Technical Institute and, two groups that know a little something about fuel management. Here are their top tips for squeezing out more miles from every gallon.

1 - Check Your Tires
Tire pressure changes with changing temperatures, so it's important to check the pressure after all weather changes. An under-inflated tire not only reduces the life of the tire, but can cause your gas mileage to plummet by as much as 15 percent. (And they recommend rotating tires roughly every 5,000-10,000 miles to extend the tread life. With or without a pit crew.)

2 - Change the Air Filter
Dust and other impurities getting into the combustion chambers of your engine's cylinders results in wasted gas and weaker engine performance. Replacing a clogged filter can improve mileage by as much as 10 percent, which translates into more money in your pocket every gallon. Change the air filter every six months, more often if you live in a dusty location.

3 - Lighten Your Load
For every 100 pounds of extra weight, your mileage goes down by two percent. Take all that unnecessary junk out of the trunk, and while you're back there, check the air pressure on the spare.

4 - Check Your Spark Plugs
Spark plugs fire as many as 3 million times every 1,000 miles. That's a lot of heat and wear and tear. Dirty spark plugs cause misfiring, which wastes fuel by as much as 30 percent.

5 - Make Sure Your Cap is Tight
According to NASCAR's Tech Institute, nearly 20 percent of vehicles have gas caps that are damaged, loose or missing altogether, allowing that high-priced octane to vaporize, wasting some 147 million gallons of gas every year.

6 - Don't Be Idle
Obviously, sitting in bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic is a tremendous waste of fuel. recommends using the real-time traffic function available on many newer GPS systems to avoid backups and find clear routes, and updating the system's maps to find the quickest way to your destination.

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Cars of the Candidates: Who Drives What?

With the most important election of our lives closing in quickly, we have to take time to reflect on the facts, to set aside the emotions and rhetoric, and get to the very core of the issues. The most important issue of all, obviously, being what cars these men of power choose to drive.

A note: I despise politicians to my very core. Politics is a game of pandering and lying and using the resources stolen from the many to help the very few who can afford lobbyists. It’s disgusting, but you have to vote for one of the major candidates, right? You wouldn’t want to throw your vote away, right? Ugh.

Anyway, let’s get this over with, here are the cars that these plastic ambition-bots drive:

The Chrysler 300C, Obama’s old car, before he got on the hybrid wave

Goldenboy, aka, the Manchurian Candidate, aka, Barack Obama used to drive a Chrysler 300C, which is actually a respectable choice. It’s a nice car, powerful, good looking, etc. But he made a speech back on May 7th chastising Detroit for failing to anticipate rising oil prices. It included this little tidbit: “While foreign competitors were investing in more fuel-efficient technology for their vehicles, American automakers were spending their time investing in bigger, faster cars. The auto industry is on a path that is unacceptable and unsustainable. And America must take action to make it right.”

The Ford Escape Hybrid, darling of the politicos

Unfortunately, when someone pointed out that he actually drives a bigger, faster, gas guzzling V8 beast, he promptly threw away the 300C and switched to a Ford Escape Hybrid, which is to politics what the Cadillac Escalade is to hip hop. Apparently Al Gore and John Edwards drive the Escape Hybrid too. I can almost picture the meeting where they decided on that car. “Ok, it’s American, it’s a hybrid, and yet, it’s big enough to say you’re strong, you’re no little Prius driver, you won’t fold to Iran, YOU CAN LEAD”. I can’t stress this enough. I hate politics.

As for the old snapping turtle himself, John McCain, he hobbles around in exactly what you’d think a 90 year old curmudgeonly war veteran hobbles around in, a Cadillac CTS sedan. An old man in a Cadillac? It’s almost too perfect, but it’s true. I bet he leaves his blinker on for hours at a time, just in solidarity with the rest of the very very old voters.

Get off my lawn, you damn kids!

Now, say what you will about Ron Paul, but he really was the only one that made any sort of logical sense. Granted, he has his kooky side, and he never had a chance, but the facts are still there, and there’s a reason that people with higher IQs are more likely to be libertarians. Because libertarianism is based on sound economics.

Whatever though, this is about cars, not about the nation of sheep that sets out every 4 years to pick between two colors and pretend like it matters. THIS IS ABOUT CARS. And Ron Paul drives a Buick. All anyone could get out of him was this nondescript quote when asked what he drives: “a Buick while in Washington and a second-hand Lincoln car and Ford truck back home.” That’s all he told anyone, you know why? Because he doesn’t want the gawrd’dang government all up in his business, tracking his car movements with their elec-tro-tronic sat-e-lites and what not. An interesting side note, Ron Paul also says he keeps a 1979 Chevette at home for “sentimental reasons.” I love you Ron.

If you’re wondering what Ralph Nader drives, he actually claims he doesn’t own a car; he just flies around on his broomstick powered by massive amounts of government regulation and virgin blood. It keeps him young. Little known fact: Nader is actually as old as time itself, he was created in the big bang as one of the major universal forces “Governmentium”. He’s the reason government always gets bigger, it’s a law of nature

Grrrrrr, Brains, must eat Brains

Also, Nader is a zombie.

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Daddy's Little Helper


Some yuppie fathers think a weekend drug habit will keep middle age at bay. It won't.

-By Karl Taro Greenfeld
-Photograph by John Clark

The world needs grown-ups. Yet we are a generation of fathers who seem to loathe adulthood, desperately clinging to our youth as we skateboard into our child-rearing years. Some of us do that by swaddling our beer bellies in faded concert T-shirts and encasing our collapsing arches in Bathing Apes. Some go so far as to drop into the half-pipe at Buttermilk or go into credit-card debt buying Guitar Hero and Wiis. But there's another type of aging parent, one who takes it a step further. He's the one who gives the middle finger to mortality by doing a little blow at a weeknight cocktail party.

This isn't the guy sneaking out for a joint now and then when his kids are otherwise occupied. (Unless that occasional indulgence devolves into a five-bong-hit-a-day habit, it doesn't usually have a discernible effect on a man's relationship with his children—not counting a greater mutual interest in dessert.) This is the oldest guy at the club.

There's a dad who appears some mornings at my daughter's elementary school for drop-off. Other days he relies on his full-time nanny to deliver the kids. That's often because he was out the night before, doing coke and maybe taking E. Think about what's actually going on here: Just like the crowds of twentysomethings surrounding him, this guy is getting loaded. But unlike those taut-skinned, child-free partiers, he can't go to a 24-hour diner at 6 a.m. for an omelet and then to bed to sleep it off. He has to go home, pay the sitter, drop a 10-milligram Valium, and hope that in the hours his kids are at school he sobers up enough to be a competent parent when they get back.

Dr. Reef Karim, director of psychiatric services at Wonderland Center in Los Angeles and assistant clinical professor at UCLA, is seeing more and more parents who, as he puts it, "are using in their thirties and forties and don't want to give up that lifestyle."

Statistics show drug use creeping into demographics that previously might have just downed a martini or three after work. The 2005 National Survey on Drug Use found that the portion of 30- to 34-year-olds who had used illicit narcotics in the month before being polled was up to 9.6 percent, while drug use among 22-year-olds had actually decreased since the previous year's survey. In 2003, nearly 3 million Americans 35 and older admitted to having done blow in the past year.

Karim recalls a patient who, along with his wife, "would hire babysitters whenever they knew they were going to take drugs. It was a precautionary measure. They would go to Hollywood Hills after-parties, where they would do coke, pop some E's. Is that okay? No. Is that safer than actually doing E and hanging out with your kids? Yeah. But you know they are going to slip up sooner or later."

Forget the obvious horror stories: Renton and Sick Boy standing over the dead baby in Trainspotting; Jerry Stahl in Permanent Midnight slipping away from a board game with his daughter to shoot up in the bathroom; Courtney Love. Being a heavy user of recreational drugs is inherently selfish. And if there's one thing that becoming a parent robs you of, it's the ability to behave in a purely selfish way without consequences.

I once had an acquaintance, a woman in her thirties, who liked to take, as she put it, "half a pill" (of E) every weekend. When her baby was still sling-size, she didn't hesitate to take her to raves. But as her daughter became less portable and less likely to sleep through eight hours of high-decibel trance music, this woman had to make a difficult choice: leave the child with a babysitter or surrender her little indulgence. She kept partying. Though I listened to her lament her miserable Sundays coming down from E while taking care of a child, she never once concluded that perhaps parenting and getting high don't really mix.

Dr. Stephen Gilman, an addiction psychiatrist in New York City, has also seen a growing number of parents in their thirties and forties using drugs more than occasionally. Not surprisingly, he finds it alarming. "There is less margin for a parent using substances, even if they are doing it recreationally," he says. "There are huge risks of the child experiencing the parent acting irrationally, of the child becoming fearful."

I stopped using drugs three years before my oldest daughter, Esmee, was born. That doesn't mean I can't understand how the idea of spending an evening recapturing that wild dissolution of being 24—not giving a fuck, doing a bunch of coke, and hanging out at after-hours clubs—still appeals. But think about the phone call you might get at 7 a.m. from your child, getting ready for school and wondering where Daddy is. Or even worse, the call from the babysitter saying you have to meet her at the hospital because something is terribly wrong with your 3-year-old. When you think about it that way, the idea of a 40-year-old carrying a skateboard may seem sad, but it isn't tragic.

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