Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Proposal 1 offers relief, compassion, safeguards for the sickest patients

Dr. George F. Wagoner

Michigan voters will have the opportunity to protect seriously ill patients from the threat of arrest and jail for using their doctor-recommended medicine. Voting "yes" on Proposal 1 is about compassion, common sense and providing a measure of relief for some of our sickest friends, neighbors and loved ones.

Study after study has shown that medical marijuana can be remarkably effective at treating the symptoms of certain debilitating diseases and conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis and HIV/AIDS, as well as countering the side effects of certain treatment regimens themselves. Indeed, medical marijuana often works for patients where conventional drugs fail.

Medical marijuana laws are on the books in 12 other states, and the sky hasn't fallen. These compassionate programs protect patients who use medical marijuana under the recommendation of a licensed physician and are largely operating without the range of unintended consequences opponents of Proposal 1 like to invoke. What's more, Michigan has learned from these other states' experiences and has safeguards that are included under Proposal 1.

For instance, unlike some of the earliest medical marijuana laws like California's, Proposal 1 requires a statewide registry of patients and ID cards so law enforcement can easily tell who is a legitimate patient. It also provides for steep penalties for fraudulent cards and false statements so that the law does exactly what it's intended to do: provide legal protection for the seriously ill while guarding against abuse.

Also, unlike California, Proposal 1 does not allow for dispensaries, so the opposition's overheated rhetoric about "pot shops" is without basis.

In addition, the existing medical marijuana states have not shown increases in teen use -- in fact, use has declined in many of them since the passage of their laws. Proposal 1 in no way affects existing regulations against public use, restrictions on employees or laws against driving under the influence.

These objections are scare tactics meant to distract voters from the central issue: compassion for the sick and dying.

More than 1,200 medical professionals in Michigan, as well as prominent groups like the Michigan Nurses Association, have publicly endorsed Proposal 1. The American College of Physicians, the largest specialty physician group in the country, has acknowledged and supported the efficacy and medical applications of marijuana, as have the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the American Public Health Association and many others.

It's time we listened to these expert voices and exhibited real compassion for the seriously ill. If a physician feels medical marijuana is appropriate for a patient, the law shouldn't stand in the way. And for a limited number of suffering Michiganders, medical marijuana will provide safe and effective relief to the symptoms of hideous illnesses.

We owe it to these most vulnerable members of our communities to vote "yes" to Proposal 1 on Nov. 4.

Dr. George F. Wagoner is a retired obstetrician-gynecologist in Manistee.

Original here

Dallas hospital bills woman who waited 19 hours and never saw a doctor

DALLAS — A woman says she waited 19 hours at Parkland Memorial Hospital's emergency department for treatment of a broken leg and never did get to see a doctor — but still got a bill for $162.

Amber Joy Milbrodt, who said she broke a bone in her leg while playing volleyball, received the bill two weeks after her Sept. 24 visit.

Parkland officials say the bill was appropriate because a nurse spent time checking her vital signs to assess her level of need.

But that's not how Milbrodt sees it. "It should have been more like them paying me for having to sit in the emergency room for 19 hours," she told The Dallas Morning News.

The assessment by the nurse, which lasted a few minutes, established her place in line that night. By that time, Milbrodt said, she had already been waiting about 3 1/2 hours.

She still had not been called more than 15 hours later, so she gave up and went home. She an X-ray taken at a chiropractic school where she is a student had already confirmed that she had a fracture.

"She's not paying for waiting," says Rick Rhine, the hospital's vice president in charge of billing. "She's paying for the assessment she received."

Milbrodt, 29, who has no insurance, said she does not plan to pay. After leaving the ER, she rested at home for a few days and then put her leg in a brace, which she still wears. It seems to be healing, she said.

A few days before Milbrodt's visit, a 58-year-old man who went to the ER with stomach pains also waited 19 hours — and then suffered cardiac arrest and died.

Hospital officials say they need more beds to handle the excessive number of patients who need care. A bond measure on the Nov. 4 ballot would provide funds for a new, larger hospital.

Fort Worth's large public hospital, John Peter Smith, shares Parkland's policy of charging for a triage assessment. But other hospitals in Dallas, such as Baylor University Medical Center, don't charge if the person never sees a doctor.

Original here

Morning has broken me

Alice Wignall

Woman in bed turns off alarm clock

Early risers don't recoil as the alarm clock whirrs into life. Photo: Matt Gray/Getty

If I loathe anyone on the planet it is individuals who self-identify as "morning people". I was forcefully reminded of this antipathy while watching footage of a day-in-the-life of Gary Rhodes on Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two. (This was, obviously, before the voting public decided it could take no more of his heartbreakingly enthusiastic galumphing round the dance floor and voted him off the programme; a relief to fans of human dignity, not to mention good dancing, everywhere.)

Now, you may think it's quite a feat to be able to pinpoint the single-most annoying fact about Gary Rhodes from among the general forcefield of annoyingness that is the hedgehog-impersonating celebrity chef (I know - how mean! And yet how true), but I found it remarkably easy.

It was the way he flung open his door to the awaiting camera crew, bright-eyed and bushy-haired, eager for the day to begin. At 4.30am. AM! In case you didn't know, that stands for Ah My-god-what-time-is-it? I don't know at what precise point late night segues into early morning, but I am here to declare that at 4.30am we have not yet passed it. He's always up that early, he said, while heading off to his home gym: "I love it!"

Now, of course, the real niggle about morning people is that they are also the type of people who get stuff done. I'd like to think this is a coincidence, but possibly it's not. I suppose I am, by default if nothing else, an evening person, but evenings are a rubbish time to do anything constructive. There's too much good telly on, for one thing, and you're allowed to drink alcohol without people thinking you've got a problem.

And even if you did do something, so what? So you caught up on some reading and baked a cake last night, did you? Excuse me while I give you an extra-sarcastic round of applause. Oh, wait, what's that? You did those things this morning? Before work? Oh clever you …

I'm not saying I hate mornings. I'm not saying I want to ban mornings. I'm just saying that if someone else did then: a) I wouldn't be organising any protest marches, and b) I probably wouldn't notice that much.

Naturally, nowhere is this more evident than in a work setting. I am useless for half a day, whereas the people who've already been larking around for hours are raring to go. This isn't fair. If there was a competition to see who was up and at 'em at 1am, who would win? That's right: I would! But, oh no, nobody is interested in that, are they? Nobody cares about who is the best at post-midnight performance.

Apparently the only thing these small-minded bureaucrats give a stuff about is how you're doing during actual working hours. Isn't this discrimination? I am pretty sure that it's been proved by science (or was it a quiz in Cosmo? One or the other, anyway) that you're either a morning person or you're not. So, is it not the vilest discrimination to ask you to go against your essential nature? I know: it's almost like I am a lone voice of sanity. On this issue, I am basically Gandhi.

But what these morning people don't understand is that ultimately we will have the last laugh, because if there's one thing people on my side of the divide can cope with it is staying up late.

Early risers with a late night on their hands, on the other hand, are stuffed. They go to bed late, try to get up early and wander around in a fug of sleeplessness all day. Or, to put in another way, generally experience life as the rest of us live it. Welcome to our world, early birds! Things start to look better about 10pm - though you'll probably be in bed again by then.

Original here

Sweetener 'makes you fat and could dampen the effect of some medicines'

By Sean Poulter


Splenda, a sweetener used as a sugar replacement, has been linked to weight gain

The effectiveness of calorie-free sweetener Splenda is in question after a controversial study linked it to weight gain.

There are also suggestions that it could dampen the effect of some medicines.

The sweetener, known generically as sucralose, is the preferred sugar alternative of millions of dieters while top brands use it to create diet versions of popular products.

Splenda has an advantage over other artificial sweeteners because
it is made from sugar, which gives it a natural appeal.

However, the results of the latest study in the U.S. have raised questions over its effectiveness as an aid to weight loss.

Researchers who fed rats different doses of Splenda over 12 weeks found the animals put on more weight than a control group not given the sweetener.

The team also found 'significant reductions' in so-called beneficial bacteria in the rats' gut. Other changes to the gut were likely to diminish the body's ability to absorb medicines.

McNeil Nutritionals, which markets Splenda, has rejected the study, pointing out that it was part-funded by the Sugar Association - which is involved in a U.S. lawsuit critical of Splenda's marketing claims. The association initially took action against McNeil regarding Splenda's old slogan of 'Made like sugar, so it tastes like sugar'.

It claimed this misled consumers into believing that Splenda was a no-calorie natural sugar product.

Enlarge Splenda graphic

Millions of dieters use Splenda as an alternative to sugar

This was denied by McNeil, which launched a countersuit arguing that the Sugar Association and others 'knowingly and intentionally made false claims about Splenda'.
The judge in the case has refused to accept the study, carried out at Duke University in North Carolina, into evidence for the trial, which is due to start in January.

He argued that it was not relevant because it involved rats and could not be applied to humans.

But the man who led the research, Professor Mohammed Abou-Donia, argued that the initial safety data used to approve Splenda was also based on rat studies.

McNeil insisted the product could be safely used 'as part of a healthy diet'.

A spokesman said: 'Splenda is suitable for everyone - it's undergone a thorough safety evaluation as required by regulatory agencies around the world. They all agree sucralose is safe.'

Splenda is 600 times as sweet as table sugar and twice as sweet as saccharin.

It boasts a 62 per cent share of the low-calorie sweetener market on both sides of the Atlantic.

It is available in granulated form in jars and as tablets in a carry pack.

Original here

Halloween Treats Guaranteed to Earn a Trick

By: Vicki Santillano

Who didn’t love Halloween as a kid? Not only did we play dress up and stay out a little later, but we were rewarded with free candy! I loved dumping my candy booty on the living room floor and making careful piles of “keeps,” “sorta likes,” and “give to Dad.”

Now that I’m older (and my attempts to score free chocolate are less socially acceptable), I try to buy the best treats for my Halloween visitors because, let’s face it—few things are more disappointing to kids during the sugar holiday of the year than stale hard candies or chalky, Tums-like wafers. To avoid potential nasty tricks played by vengeful, costumed kids, I asked around to find the most unpopular candy choices among trick-or-treaters. Let’s keep these unappetizing treats out of our candy baskets!

Brach’s Starlight Peppermints
These usually come with a receipt at the end of the meal, which already leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth. They may be a good choice after a garlic-heavy dinner, but not so much on Halloween. It’s only slightly above toothbrushes and raisins as one of the most boring treats to hand out.

Chalky, vaguely-flavored, and leaves an odd aftertaste—not unlike the stomach-calming tablets I’d have to take the morning after Halloween from eating too much good candy. Smarties are usually reserved for throwing at siblings when parents’ backs are turned, so save parents some trouble and invest in a yummier candy, like Skittles.

Candy Corn
After much research, I’ve reached this conclusion: you either love or hate candy corn—no in-betweens. Most of the people I polled lean toward the latter spectrum. Besides, even if kids do like it, the “kernels” just fall to the bottom of candy bags and become a sticky, inedible mess anyway.

Good & Plenty
How many among us could appreciate the taste of black licorice when we were younger? Frankly, I thought it tasted like bitter, chewy bark. A safer bet would be red licorice, which offers the same fun chewiness with that artificial fruit flavor kids are more likely to accept.

Mounds Bar
The problem with candies and chocolates infused with coconut is similar to the Good & Plenty situation—young, relatively undeveloped palates usually find coconut (particularly its texture) weird and gross. If you’re looking for a more appealing gooey center, try caramel, peanut butter, and more chocolate—keep it standard and simple.

Healthy Foods
Yes, childhood obesity is a problem in the U.S. Yes, kids should incorporate more fruit and healthy snacks into their diets. However, Halloween night is not the time to enforce this standard. Make sure kids eat healthy every other day of the year and let them have their indulgent fun (in moderation, of course). Save the apples, raisins, bananas, and so forth for November 1. Ultimately, parents are responsible for kids’ nutritional choices, so don’t be the neighborhood killjoy!

Circus Peanuts
It doesn’t get much more bland than circus peanuts, which are marshmallows shaped like peanuts and dyed a strange orange color. (One person surveyed likened it to “flesh-colored,” which is even more disturbing.) According to Wikipedia, this candy was created in the 1800s. Since then, many exciting advancements have been made in the sweets industry—step it up a notch and leave circus peanuts in the past.

Malt Balls
The chocolate coating and spherical shape trick many into thinking something delicious lies inside, but one bite past the chocolate coating gives way to … powdered milk. It tastes grainy, slightly tangy, and is usually tossed aside by kids in favor of Milk Duds or Junior Mints. Plus, they’re awfully crunchy and therefore difficult for younger kids to eat.

Sure, kids like toys and they last longer than a piece of chocolate, but the kinds of toys people are prone to freely hand out on Halloween—plastic spider rings, pumpkin-shaped erasers, etc.—aren’t so appropriate to play with once the holiday is over. Most are small enough that they’ll just get lost anyway, and with minimal enjoyment from the kids. Even worse than those things, however, are small handfuls of pennies or assorted loose change—just don’t go there.

Does anyone else think that Jujubes are just a poor man’s gummy bear? They have a tougher texture and tend to stick to teeth more, which alone makes them a bad choice for kids. More importantly (from a child’s perspective), they’re just not that fun to eat. Gummy bears and worms have a similar “fruit” flavor, are softer, and involve more creative shapes. Kids have more fun biting the heads off gummy bears than trying to get Jujube residue out of their molars.

Baked Goods
The intention is admirable (who doesn’t love homemade goodies?), but most paranoid parents won’t let their trick-or-treaters eat anything sans wrapper. Giving kiddies scrumptious-looking cookies or cupcakes that their parents will toss into the trash immediately upon returning home is just cruel. Photo source: StarMama (cc)

Peanut Butter Kisses
Most people know these candies as “that nasty, peanut butter chew in the orange and black wax wrappers.” It took me twenty minutes of Google-ing just to find a description beyond that! These gross, generic-looking candies made almost everyone’s giveaway pile as kids. Even the red and white striped mints might be a better alternative to this candy.

It may seem silly to put so much effort into pleasing youngsters when they come knocking at our doors, demanding something sweet. But try to remember what it was like when we were young and Halloween rolled around—how eager we were to prance around at night and the giddy anticipation of what yummy treats awaited us. (Conversely, let us not forget the toilet paper and egg-filled wrath of some of the angrier kids.) Children only have so many years to be excited by such simple things and to indulge in what makes them happy with none of that pesky, adult-onset guilt to bring them down. So don’t be afraid to go the extra mile just to make someone’s Halloween extra special—it can be a real treat.

Original here

All-Chrome Mercedes McLaren SLR Sets New High Water Mark On Conspicuous Consumption

Obnoxiously over the top is an understated way to describe this Mercedes McLaren SLR dressed head to toe in chrome (including chrome-tinted glass) as it causes a scene outside the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai. Although this driver has a license plate number so high we'd assume it belonged to a pauper, we know it takes some serious scratch to buy an SLR, but can only imagine the price tag necessary to go ahead and chrome the living daylights out of it. But, while this silver-skinned SLR makes the all-chrome Audi and the all-chrome Ferrari look like last week's leftover meat loaf, we hear the owner's first choice may have been an all-chrome Bugatti Veyron Pur Sang. Jeez, the Financiapocalypse is really hitting us all, isn't it?

Does This McLaren SLR Make Me Look Gaudy?

Are Tiny, Gas-Saving Cars Unsafe? Today Mine Saved My Life