Thursday, December 29, 2005

Congrats to Jack and Rachel

Heading to Paducah for the wedding of the Yaleys, Jack and Rachel. I was recently upgraded to groomsman as Rumsfeld personally stopped the French guy from getting into the country because of some wacky chip that wasn't in his passport. Here's to their genius babies who will cure cancer, AIDS, and Lyme disease, and reduce the Theory of Everything to no more than five variables.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Update: 1984: time to change your thesis topic

I posted this a few days ago, but in the spirit of proper disclosure, apparently the whole event was a big hoax, and the kid admitted it today:

So a senior at UMass Dartmouth got a visit by some federal agents at his home because he requested the Peking version of Mao's "Little Red Book" on interlibrary loan to finish his history thesis on communism.

So yeah, we believe you when you say that the NSA spying on Americans without warrants is all on the up and up, legal and constitutional and all that. Right.

Evil Empire: what a sweet company

What other kind of company would demand this sort of litigation:

A California jury on Thursday awarded $172 million to thousands of employees at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. who claimed they were illegally denied lunch breaks.

Politics: good things come in twelves

While most of the time I take Media Matters with a grain of salt since the overzealous interns seem to be the ones doing most of the work nowadays, their top 12 myths about the Bush administration spying scandal appears remarkably well-researched and seemingly pretty darn accurate, especially with regards to claims that Clinton and Carter were involved with similar methods against American citizens, which appears to be categorically untrue.

And as a holiday bonus, some dude has spent a zillion hours researching the Twelve Days of Christmas, and figured out that somewhere along the line, the Church probably changed the order of the pagan theme to reduce the degree to which it refers to the sexual life cycle:

To go through Ray's "real" order, he believes the gifts of a partridge, two turtle doves, and three French hens are increasingly extravagant romantic gifts exchanged between lovers.

The four calling birds have been changed from the original wording of Colly birds, a nickname for a Raven, which represents the passion of women and is also a symbol of both life and death.

Ray believes the five gold rings represent sexual union and the conception of the baby is represented by the six geese laying eggs.

He added the seven swimming swans were metaphors for the foetus swimming in its mother's womb.

"In medieval times, people only believed that you became human when you were born, that's why the animal metaphors are used, '' he explained.

"The maids milking is about breastfeeding and the 'drummers drumming' represents the heartbeat of the baby as it grows.''

The pipers are the voices of the gods awakening the young person to a sexual life, which leads to the 11 ladies dancing in an attempt to seduce the male.

"That's the seductive part, '' Ray said. "Then the final stage of the cycle is the 12 Lords leaping, which is the men after they have again enjoyed the act of love-making.''

He said the song was originally intended to have been sung at any time of the year, particularly at the changing of the seasons.
Gotta love them pagan carols.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Medicine/Politics: Zombie Claus attack documented by Maynard group in Ann Arbor

Dr. Yaroch of the Dept of Psych here at the U details the incredibly disturbing recent zombie attack and the string of worrisome activity as the NSA has followed and attempted to suppress information related to the event.But don't take my word for it. Read these post-of-the-decade worthy accounts at the Corpus Callosum and Mark Maynard (with many fabulous zombie pictures). Mark has a series of posts dated 12/13/05-12/18/05 which I will not link individually, but which are all worth viewing.

Like seriously, these guys are my new superheroes.

I explained my greatest worry on a comment at Corpus Callosum, as I explained to Dr. Joe my own zombie tracking experience:

Obviously the most concerning issue here is that a gene and a prion have been suggested as an etiology for zombie disease. Given that previous isolates of the virus Solarum have dominated prior zombie pathophysiology, I think we'll all have a lot to talk about at the 765th Zombie conference next fall (Atlanta, GA, Oct. 14-18 2006).

Of note, the past 21 zombie conferences have been conducted as seminars associated with the Society for Neuroscience annual meetings. I gave up my invertebrate neurophysiologic research in 2002 after attending the Orlando conference. I am spending next year studying zombie behavioral patterns under the guise of an MPH program in Behavior and Education dept of the SPH. While they claim to study race, class, and gender issues in health care, the race, class, and gender to which they refer are races of zombies, zombie classes, and zombie gender (which is a PARTICULARLY hot topic of debate).
This is the point where I point out that if you haven't read the Zombie Survival Guide, from which the "blades don't need reloading" tagline below our main title is derived, then you are not prepared for outbreaks such as the Maynard street incident. Preparation is everything.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Science and Religion: I Heart Doonesbury

I don't think I can really add anything to this one.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Literature: Slate's books of the year

The Sparky recs from the list:

Ian McEwan's Saturday
the first two Modern Library editions of Philip Roth's works (1 and 2)
Peter Green's new translation of The Poems of Catullus
Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go
Marilynn Robinson's Gilead

Several of the editors absolutely gush over Saturday, which surprises me. McEwan's weave of post 9/11 neurosurgical paranoia was so much less heavy than, say, Atonement. It was more readable, but somehow felt less important. But that's probably just because literary writing about history as it is happening is almost impossible to do. Unless you're Afghani, then you can write The Kite Runner and get away with it. Hosseni knew something about Afghanistan that I didn't, and he could teach me. But McEwan doesn't seem to know anything about being alive post 9/11 that the rest of us don't know. Luckily, he knows everything about his characters and their language; he even negotiates surgical vocabulary with amazing ease. In essence, the novel has limitations. But there's enough that's done brilliantly that you can ignore those limitations happily.

Cats: a season saved

Rondo, Cats knock off No. 4 Cards.

And Crawford's dunk over two red shirts was strangely reminiscent of UNC's David Noel's similar move against the Cats two weeks ago at Rupp. Except for it was on them, instead of on us, this time.

WebService: Online DVD rental rankings

A concise review of the major rental services, ranking Netflix bar none #1, Blockbuster #2, and a bunch of weird ones I've never heard of behind those. Seems like some of the "plan" information isn't quite up to date, but it does claim to be "2006" rankings. I'm not really sure if there were "2005" or "2004" rankings, but so it goes.
So, I'm stealing a blogging strategy from the great ninja Ming over at WNLReason, who steals random pictures from Flickr that are just cool and generally unrelated to anything. Enjoy the meerkats!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Science: Wikipedia as accurate as Brittanica in peer-reviewed study of 42 scientific topics

As bashing Wikipedia has become fashionable lately, Nature observes:

Two weeks ago prominent journalist John Seigenthaler, the former publisher of the Tennessean newspaper and founding editorial director of USA Today, revealed that
a Wikipedia entry that ran for four months had incorrectly named him as a longtime suspect in the assassinations of president John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert.

Such errors appear to be the exception rather than the rule, Nature said in Wednesday's article, which the scientific journal said was the first to use peer review to compare Wikipedia to Britannica. Based on 42 articles reviewed by experts, the average scientific entry in Wikipedia contained four errors or omissions, while Britannica had three.

Of eight "serious errors" the reviewers found -- including misinterpretations of important concepts -- four came from each source, the journal reported.
"We're very pleased with the results and we're hoping it will focus people's attention on the overall level of our work, which is pretty good," said Jimmy Wales, who founded St. Petersburg, Florida-based Wikipedia in 2001.
If you're dumb enough to use Wikipedia as your primary source on a controversial topic about which the as-close-to-objective truth is essential, then you deserve to get duped by whatever jerk out there is manipulating articles for fun or bias. For an up-to-date quick reference to augment your cultural literacy (not your research paper or government intelligence report, mind you), there will probably never be a better resource.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Cats: Morris reinstated Jan 10 against Vandy (SEC opener)

Whether that will make UK not suck or suck even more remains to be seen.

Politics: Boston Globe ripping Romney for decision not to seek reelection

Romney's justification, per the AP article announcing the news, is that he has accomplished everything in his almost-three years in office that he set out to do, and he could do no more in a second term.

To which we all scream a resounding BULLSHIT. Oh yes, so what happens in Massachussetts for the next four years isn't important, Mr. Romney? So the fact that decisions will need to be made is irrelevant, because you've left the state is such a ray of sunshine?

BULLSHIT.

And the Globe thinks so too, and calls for the Mitt's resignation:

"By thumbing his nose at Massachusetts after less than three-quarters of one term as its chief executive, Mitt Romney Wednesday surrendered his clout and squandered his legitimacy. If, as it appears, his heart and mind are no longer in Massachusetts, he should resign," the paper writes.

The Globe blasts Romney's record: "Romney's claim Wednesday night that 'I've got the job done I set out to do' is not credible.' He touts his success in closing a large budget deficit without raising taxes. But the facts are that the economic recovery was largely national; that he has forced regressive fees and property taxes to skyrocket; and that many state functions, including higher education, environmental protection, housing, and human services, still operate below 2000 levels.

"Romney has every right to seek the presidency," the Globe says in conclusion. "But if his goal is the Potomac, let him swim in presidential waters if he can, and not linger on the Massachusetts stepping stone."

Strategically, Romney doesn't have to worry about losing his second term, or trying to be a governor with his attention divided as he runs in 2008, fueling criticism during a presidential run.

LGBT: BC students speak up for equality

Nearly 500 Boston College students, faculty and staff braved the cold and snow on Friday to rally in support of gay rights on campus and to protest the school's decision to nix a planned AIDS benefit gala that had been slated to take place that evening.
Good for them - teach the Catholic church to open it's eyes a little bit and recognize that people are people first and foremost and they ALL deserve love and respect!

LGTB: A third option?

One Brazilian city has decided a third options is necessary:

A bill passed by the Nova Iguacu city council on Tuesday would require night clubs, shopping malls, movie theaters and large restaurants to provide a third type of bathroom for transvestites. Mayor Lindberg Farias will decide whether to make it a law.
How convenient, not only for transvestives but also for those who may need a little privacy to get the stream going :)

Web: I can actually make out my house this time...

Google Earth is cool and all, but maybe Windows Live is even better!

If somebody can figure out how to save a screen shot on this thing, I'd be very interested in knowing. I figure Firefox can probably pull it off, but I'm on an IE computer in the 5th floor VA call room waiting to go vampire up a patient here in a few minutes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

2005 Golden Globe Nominations

So no nominations for Jake Gyllenhaal despite Jarhead and Brokeback Mountain? I guess he didn't eat enough pudding while he was playing the gay cowboy.

Medicine: Doctors denied artificial insemination because of religion

The latest in the saga. Fundamentally, the question arises about whether a doctor can treat based on his or her own religious beliefs. Which is sticky.

The biggest crock of shit is that these docs waste eleven months and who knows how much out-of-pocket cash, only to say, "Woops! We can't inseminate you, because you're a piece of shit lesbian and we think you having a child is evil. Sorry we didn't mention this back before you cashed in your life's savings, but ya know, the church needed a new charter bus to take old people to craft festivals. I'm sure you understand."

Not that I particularly think that a doc should have to treat someone against their religious beliefs. But the way of dealing with the issue is not to discriminate against patients, or to deny standard of care procedures and medications. The way to deal with this issue is to tell doctors that if they can't do a job because of their religious beliefs, they should go do something else. If you're a fertility doc, and you can't do your job because Pastor Bob says you're bad if you do what medically you're obligated to do, then you better not be a fertility doc.

If that means that there aren't any Christian or Islamic or Jewish fertility docs, then tough shit. I'm sure the pagans and feminists can hold down the fort just fine.

FireFox: extension wet dreams

CNET's top ten list of Firefox extensions, for nerds like me who like to be able to make duplicate tabs and find dictionary definitions without switching windows.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Medicine: Prejudice an Illness?

Mental health practitioners say they regularly confront extreme forms of racism, homophobia and other prejudice in the course of therapy, and that some patients are disabled by these beliefs. As doctors increasingly weigh the effects of race and culture on mental illness, some are asking whether pathological bias ought to be an official psychiatric diagnosis.
The bold text is the key, as it is the disability that separates psychiatric illness from just normal variation among rational individuals. The article demonstrates the point through illustrations of patients who were so racist or homophobic that they were unable to hold jobs or unable to leave their houses.

The article addresses quite a few issues surrounding the pathologizing of bias, most notably that an addition to the next DSM would inevitably lead to conseques with regards to litigation. Now the redneck who ran over the queer with his pick-up truck could get off for just being sick.

Hate crime could be made immune to prosecution.

So the bottomline seems to be that clinicians already know about disorders in which people rigidly hold onto false beliefs. If post-partum depression doesn't have a separate DSM code from plain ole depression, then I can't see why prejudice and hate should be distinguished from other forms of paranoia.

But simply recognizing that hate is paranoia, that hate is fundamentally pathologic, seems like a step forward. Now to just avoid letting loopholes eradicate the small amount of protection that hate-crime laws afford minorities.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

DS: As if Mario Kart wasn't enough to get you off


Lapis the cartoon bunny teaches how to reach orgasm by simulating the affect of pleasurable sensation.

Medicine: England freaking out over the fact that they've never heard of Vanco

So a gentamicin-resistant MRSA has popped up in a few British ICUs, prompting a big "so-what" from me. The article notes that gent is one of the first line MRSA drugs in England. So if anybody can explain to me why the British use a gram-negative ototoxic drug to treat a gram-positive resistant strain still sensitive to vanco and, heaven forbid, linezolid, I'd appreciate the ID lesson.

Medicine: second-hand cancer

Those crazy Canadians and their anti-smoking propaganda, I mean, er, rigorous statistical analysis.

Long-term regular exposure to passive smoking was associated with an overall 27-percent increased risk of breast cancer among women who had never smoked.

"More importantly, among the studies that collected the most complete measures of passive smoking, the observed breast cancer risk was increased by 90 percent," Johnson said in an interview with Reuters Health. "Studies with less complete second-hand smoke measures only observed an eight-percent increase in risk."

"The relationship with premenopausal breast cancer risk was stronger -- elevated 68 percent with long-term regular passive smoking exposure among life-long non-smokers based on 14 studies," Dr. Johnson explained. "The premenopausal risk was up 119 percent for the five studies with more complete second-hand smoke measures."

Compared with women with neither active nor regular passive smoke exposure, those who smoked had a 46-percent increased risk of breast cancer. The risk was raised 108 percent in studies with more complete passive exposure assessment. For studies with less complete passive exposure assessment, the risk was increased by 15 percent.
No studies yet assessing second hand smoke exposure while yelling that you have a bomb on an airplane.

Gag?: Coca Mocha

Coke introducing Coca Cola Blak. Since alterring the spelling of black makes it cool and not gag you.

Friday, December 2, 2005

Computing: New ways to sort inbox e-mail

Microsoft has released a tool to help you sort your e-mails based on how often you correspond with them, which they think will help rank e-mails in your box based on how socially important the e-mail is. I wonder if Microsoft built in spyware to check on who you talk to, sort of like Sony. But the concept sounds cool. I wonder, though, if you get a lot of spam from the same source, will it sort those to the top?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Medicine: Problems for Fat Asses

We all know that obesity is bad for you. It kills your joints, stresses your pancreas and wreaks havoc on your heart. But now doctors have discovered a new problem with obese people: they don't get full doses from intramuscular injections. Yes, it turns out that the fattening of America means doctors need longer needles to give an injection.

Sounds to me like the solution isn't a longer needle, but better effort and strategies for teaching our patients healthy living. But hey, why try to help patients live better when we can just keep building things bigger?

"BEEFCAKE!"

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Too Much to Blog: and no time to blog it

Internal medicine and Thanksgiving break mean my heart is elsewhere at the moment.

For those of you who don't understand the arbitrary nature of medical school evaluations, in the past week, I have received my absolute best and absolute worst evaluations from attendings during the same month. Somebody's being too nice. Somebody's being too mean. And they're all being incredibly arbitrary.

Surprise! Raising the Florida minimum wage didn't lead to massive job cuts!

Camden, NJ is the most dangerous city in the nation. Poor Detroit can't even win THAT distinction, coming in at a competitive #2.

Jerry Falwell's douchery now includes suing companies that don't wish you a Merry Christmas. Btw, My Cats play Falwell U next Friday. Having spent two summers in my youth at a brainwash Baptist camp at Liberty, this makes me sorta shudder.

Hospitals are getting noisier. If the patients would quit frigging breathing, maybe their IV wouldn't keep beeping all the damn time! Oh wait, yes it would.

And Medicare D just muddies the picture for seniors trying to get their drugs, as Barry Schwartz writes, because behavioral economics research demonstrates very clearly that having too many choices without clear distinctions can lead to market paralysis, rather than freedom.

And oh yeah, after eight years of being vegetarian, I just tried my first Tofurkey. It's absolutely amazing.

Monday, November 21, 2005

And if the drug doesn't work

Related to Garrett's previous post about the PT-141... If the drug doesn't work on you, try looking at billboards of semi-naked models. They drive British drivers to distraction.

How to die in horror movies

So, it's a bit after Halloween, but it's funny anyway...
FamilyMediaGuide.com reviewed lots of movies and saw that impaling is the most common way people die in horror flicks. Just so you know to avoid sharp objects.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Medicine: Hey baby, take a sniff

The aphrodisiac pill. And, apparently, it works on women as well as men. As if Long Island Iced Tea didn't already have that distinction.

Right now it has one of those stupid drug names: PT-141. And PT probably doesn't even stand for something cool like "penile tumescer" or something like that. And it works on melanocortan receptors. In fact, the drug's effects were discovered while working on a tanning pill, but nobody could notice if they were getting tanned or not, because they were all running to the bedroom.

This discovery falls somewhere between parlor trick and Nobel prize winner.

For the science nerds and skeptics among us (and you know that's you), here's a decent Wikipedia article on the drug and some of its pharmacologics.

And even better, here's a PDF-file FAQ from the manufacturer. Not for the consumer, mind you, but for us nerds who follow stage 2 clinical trials, this is exactly what we want to see.

And here's some lame sex psychobabble voodoo crap from the manufacturer himself:

"Sexuality isn't just a physical thing," Katz said. "In many cases, there are some underlying emotional or psychological issues, and this shouldn't be used as a Band-aid. It's something that might mask relationship problems and shouldn't be used as a shortcut."
Now, when I say this is psychobabble, I don't mean he isn't absolutely correct. Of course he is. But he's terribly simplifying the equation and being pretty dishonest about sexuality itself.

Most people, at least married people, want to be sexual. But just because they want to be sexual, doesn't mean that their bodies are going to comply in the 21st century. Lives are busy, and stresses are high. And a lack of sexual desire is probably one strong component of the 'underlying emotional and psychological issues' in a lot of otherwise healthy couples, if you allow that all couples are going to have some of these underlying issues. It's pretty hard to have a fully functioning relationship in the context of asexuality.

So PT-141 might be an abused Band-Aid? Well sure, maybe. But let's not forget this scenario:

Partner A and B have a healthy relationship, but life has been getting more stressful because, ya know, people have jobs and car payments and kids and crap like that.

Partner A starts to resent partner B because partner B is too busy and worn out to have any sexual desire. Partner A stops being as loving and supporting a partner because Partner A is really sick about the raw deal he's getting in the sex department, where Partner A's desire has not been as fully diminished by the stresses of life, seeing as this is obviously an individualized response.

Partner B recognizes the problem, feels bad about it, and wishes that there were 28 hours in the day, so there'd be time to do all the things people have to do and still have a little time to do what they want to do. Partner B feels guilty. Partner B can't turn to Partner A, who is the normal source of support.

Partner A and Partner B don't feel as close, and the relationship deteriorates. And all because our physiology was designed for the 21st century BCE, and not for the 21st century CE.

Sometimes, low sexual desire is someone's fault. And sometimes, it sure as hell isn't. Some people just don't have such strong wires between their head and their crotch as others. As all disease seems to be, its an issue of a vulnerable population exposed to environmental stressor which results in varying responses, some of which are deemed pathologic when quality of life is lowered due to the response.

Low sexual desire is not simply the product of dysfunctional relationships, although it can be.

With the exception of pedophiles whose sexual desires require the exploitation of innocense, people should be pretty free to be whatever they want to be sexually. And while the past hundred years of progressive movements have placed emphasis on demystifying the promiscuous, we shouldn't forget that the opposite end of the spectrum exists as well, often to the chagrin of the individual who would like to have greater desire. And sometimes not.

Asexuality is perfectly fine, if the partner agrees. If not, conflict ensues. Most low-desire people do not have the luxury of falling in love with other low-desire people.

And a stressor (an often unanticipated one, given our society's artificial emphasis on limiting sexual activity before commitment) is borne.

If we continue to ignore individual differences of sexual desire, we disservice individuals who could live more fulfilled lives through appropriate therapies.

So PT-141? Bring it on. But name it something better than that. And make the bottle pretty, so its presence on the night-stand beside the Astroglide doesn't feel so pharmy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Politics: Chuck Hagel, bipartisan hero

While it's certainly not the first time, Chuck Hagel demonstrates his anti-douchery by calling out the Bushies for being fascists. Hurrah!

The Iraq war should not be debated in the United States on a partisan political platform. This debases our country, trivializes the seriousness of war and cheapens the service and sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. War is not a Republican or Democrat issue. The casualties of war are from both parties. The Bush Administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them. Suggesting that to challenge or criticize policy is undermining and hurting our troops is not democracy nor what this country has stood for, for over 200 years. The Democrats have an obligation to challenge in a serious and responsible manner, offering solutions and alternatives to the Administration’s policies.

Fall 2005: One of the Gayest Movie Seasons Ever

This was from an article at AOL. He's not trying to say that the 2005 season will be lame (the 5th-grade homophobic-before-you-really-know-what-homophobic-is definition of gay), but is actually commenting on the large number of films with gay characters or story lines.

What's really big are the "big movies" in EW's fall preview, though -- and the big stars who play gay for pay. Hollywood is taking some risks with gay and lesbian subject matter, and not always in tired, negative or stereotypical ways. Filmmakers and studios are banking on the public's interest in movies like 'Rent,' an adaptation of the award-winning Broadway musical (watch for the lesbian love song 'Take Me or Leave Me'); 'Capote,' with the incredibly talented Philip Seymour Hoffman; and 'TransAmerica,' starring Felicity Huffman ('Desperate Housewives') as a transgendered woman.

The biggest fortune seems to be riding on Ang Lee's 'Brokeback Mountain.' Two of Hollywood's sexiest men are in a true-blue gay love story packed with so much passion that one of the guys was injured during shooting. Jake Gyllenhaal said, "Heath almost broke my nose in (a kissing) scene. He grabs me and he slams me up against the wall and kisses me. And then I grab him and I slam him up against the wall and I kiss him."

Monday, November 14, 2005

Here Comes the Science: being cold might actually lead to more colds

Proving that common sense (and your mama) may not be as dumb as EBM wants to make it (or her) seem:

Claire Johnson and Professor Ron Eccles, from Cardiff University's Common Cold Center, recruited 180 volunteers, half of whom they got to immerse their feet in ice and cold water for 20 minutes.

The other 90 in tests during the common cold "season" sat with their feet in an empty bowl.

During the next four or five days, almost a third (29 percent) of the chilled volunteers developed cold symptoms -- compared to just 9 percent in the control group, the scientists said.

Professor Eccles said there was a simple explanation as to why chilly feet could lead to the development of cold virus symptoms.

"When colds are circulating in the community many people are mildly infected but show no symptoms," he said, according to the UK's Press Association.

"If they become chilled this causes a pronounced constriction of the blood vessels in the nose and shuts off the warm blood that supplies the white cells that fight infection.

"The reduced defences in the nose allow the virus to get stronger and common cold symptoms develop.

"Although the chilled subject believes they have `caught a cold' what has in fact happened is that the dormant infection has taken hold."
Because obviously a zillion years worth of people noticing, "hey, my nose is sniffly more often when I'm stuck out in the pouring freezing rain" wasn't good enough for us "scientists."

Next study: vegetable soup (sorry, chicken noodle fans) beats Tamiflu.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Medicine: birth control patch dosing drowning you in estrogen

A little behind on this one, but ya know:

The warning from Johnson and Johnson subsidiary Ortho McNeil, makers of Ortho Evra, says women using the patch will be exposed to about 60 percent more estrogen than those using typical birth-control pills because hormones from patches get into the bloodstream and are removed from the body differently than those from pills.

Thursday's warning comes four months after reports that patch users die and suffer blood clots at a rate three times higher than women taking the pill.
So yeah, time for birth control the old-fashioned way: pills and shots and oral sex.

General Willy Wonka, Sir: (Everlasting?) Combat Chewing Gum

This sounds like a pretty viable civilian consumer product as well. And think about all the people in Britain with rotten teeth.

The gum, described at the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists convention this week in Nashville, would contain a special bacteria-fighting agent to prevent plaque, cavities and gum disease.

Soldiers in the field often lack the necessary time and means to brush and floss. Compounding the problem is the stress of combat, which can encourage bacterial growth in the mouth, said Col. Dennis Runyan, commander of the Army Dental and Trauma Research Detachment in Great Lakes, Illinois.

Gum was considered an ideal solution because the Army already issues gum to soldiers in their field rations.

Dr. Patrick DeLuca, a University of Kentucky drug product developer, is working to perfect the prototype, trying to make it taste better and ensure that it retains its flavor and bacteria-fighting ability for 30 minutes to an hour.
Okay, there just had to be somebody from UK working on the everlasting gum. This might be the best development out of Lexington on the horizon short of the rumored Viagra nasal spray.

Go Cats!

Medicine: Curing HIV or just a False Positive?

This article tells of a man who was previously diagnosed with HIV, but had just been named clean from any virus present in his body. Is this a real case of someone curing themselves from HIV or just one of the very few false positives from testing? Either way, I hope we learn something from this... either how to test better or how to start fighting this nasty little bugger!

Friday, November 11, 2005

TORCH: Toxo link to schizophrenia?

So it's nothing new that we've been wondering if some sort of in utero infectious particle exposure may have a hand in the development of schizophrenia. Of course, that theory has always implicated an unknown virus.

But hell, now a UW psychiatrist thinks it's toxoplasmosis!

Proving that cat owner's are nuts (or at least have nutty children).

Cats suck. Cats suck. Cats suck. Dogs rule!

Update: I wrongly assumed he was affiliated with UW, although it looks like they'd be happy to have Fuller Torrey, given the impressive resume.

Santorum: You said that irony was the shackles of youth, uh-huh

Time to be sensationalistic!

Apparently the wife of Sen. ManOnDog, R-Pa, champion of screwing patients through tort reform, sued a chiropractor for 500K and got 330K of it. For those of you who did poorly on the comparison portion of the SAT (if that still exists), 500K > 330K > 250K cap proposed by Santorum and his cronies for a tort cap.

In other news, Sen. ManOnDog's wife went to a chiropractor!!!

Anyway, should anybody be able to sue a chiropractor at all? I mean, you pay them to screw with your back, not to do anything that's ever been shown to actually be helpful for anything. So should you be able to sue them for screwing your back up, when that's what you paid them to do in the first place, just because you aren't happy with the results?

Kalamazoo: Universal Higher Education Had To Start Somewhere

The scholarship program — called the Kalamazoo Promise — will cover 100 percent of tuition and mandatory fees for children who have been enrolled in KPS since kindergarten and whose parents live in the district.

A partial scholarship will be given to students who enter after kindergarten. For instance, a child who transfers to KPS in third grade would receive a scholarship covering 90 percent of tuition, while a student who transfers in ninth grade would receive a 65-percent scholarship.

The scholarship must be used at a publicly funded institution in Michigan, and includes community colleges.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Politics: Buchanan Takes Aim at Shrub

Isn't it the first sign of the apocalypse when Pat Buchanan is the voice of reason? Or perhaps it just shows how badly this adminstration has screwed up when even a deluded idealogue like Buchanan knows Bush is a failure.

My favorite part (outside of his dead-on call about the war in Iraq):

Under Bush II, social spending has exploded to levels LBJ might envy, foreign aid has been doubled, pork-at-every-meal has become the GOP diet of choice, surpluses have vanished, and the deficit is soaring back toward 5% of GDP. Bill Clinton is starting to look like Barry Goldwater.
Now granted, I don't agree with a lot of where Buchanan would rather see this country head. But when even the crazies are saying W is leading us to disaster, maybe it's time the leaders started listening.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Health News (not so Surprising): Trauma centers ill-prepared for disaster

Emergency care is expensive, un-profitable, unpredictable, and absolutely essential. I particularly enjoyed the last part about stocking Tamiflu but not funding programs to change how ED's operate. American's trust expensive drugs over systems based clinical solutions any day. Granted I know it's no suprise that ED physicans argue they are underpaid and underresourced but they are also the first responders for any sort of mass casualty situation. When was the last time you saw Dermatologists begging for more government funding?

Trauma centers and emergency departments similarly are strained in many U.S. cities, experts say. . . "Trauma systems are never more than a couple of minor incidents from being overwhelmed," said Larry Gage, president of the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems.

Trauma and emergency care is a money loser, serving many patients without health insurance. It's also expensive to maintain a round-the-clock staff of specialized surgeons and trauma-care medical workers.

In Atlanta, hospitals often pay subspecialists around $1,000 per day to take calls for trauma care. For those reasons, many hospitals have gotten out of trauma care, increasing the load on those that have stayed in that business, industry experts say.
In September, emergency physicians from across the country gathered in Washington to rally for additional government support. More than 3,000 physicians attended and spoke in favor of a measure that would increase Medicare payments to emergency doctors and hospitals by 10 percent. But the bill so far has only two sponsors. Emergency physicians say they are amazed that the Bush administration is willing to spend billions to stockpile Tamiflu for a possible super-flu outbreak -- even though it's not clear the medicine would be effective -- while showing disinterest in aiding emergency hospitals that would have to handle flu cases.

Emergency departments are the perfect cauldrons for a dangerous strain of flu to spread through large numbers of immune-compromised people, said Kellermann, the Grady physician. Emergency centers should be expanded to have respiratory isolation areas and other services, he argued.

"We're worried about a flu pandemic and we're parking patients cheek to cheek," he said. "That's just mind-bogglingly stupid."

Monday, November 7, 2005

Politics: Tom Coburn, MD/clairvoyant

Apparently Tom Coburn can read people's mind due to his medical training:

SEN. COBURN on Roberts: I've tried to use my medical skills of observation of body language to ascertain your uncomfortableness and ill at ease with questions and responses. I will tell you that I am very pleased both in my observational capabilities as a physician to know that your answers have been honest and forthright as I watch the rest of your body respond to the stress that you're under.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe as a physician you can tell whether a candidate for the Supreme Court is telling the truth?

SEN. COBURN: Mm-hm, I certainly have.

MR. RUSSERT: Has any--have you ever detected someone lying?

SEN. COBURN: Uh-huh, lots of times.
Wikipedia says Coburn graduated from OK State, but doesn't specify whether it means undergrad or medical school. A quick survey of the OK State medical curriculum does not reveal classes in lie detection. Maybe he did an away rotation. Or maybe this valuable educational asset was lost in subsequent curriculum revisions. Or maybe Coburn went to Voodoo Medical School in the Caribbean or something.

Geez, as if the rest of his resume wasn't already a sufficient disgrace to medicine and humanity.

Update: Coburn's Senate.gov page reveals he was a business major at OK State, but went to med school at OU, followed by a gen surg residency in Oklahoma and a family med residency in Arkansas. So basically, Tom Coburn has about the least impressive medical resume you could fathom for someone elected to national public office.

Terror: America's Secret Prisons

The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement, the Washington Post reported.
Read it all at the Washington Post if you haven't yet. Thanks to Real Live Preacher for the tip.

Six days after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush signed a sweeping finding that gave the CIA broad authorization to disrupt terrorist activity, including permission to kill, capture and detain members of al Qaeda anywhere in the world.

It could not be determined whether Bush approved a separate finding for the black-sites program, but the consensus among current and former intelligence and other government officials interviewed for this article is that he did not have to.

Rather, they believe that the CIA general counsel's office acted within the parameters of the Sept. 17 finding. The black-site program was approved by a small circle of White House and Justice Department lawyers and officials, according to several former and current U.S. government and intelligence officials.

This is how democratic, enlightened nations protect themselves? Try these people and give them life sentences if you will, but there is never a valid reason for "interrogations" that occur in complete secrecy and without accountability.

Time to e-mail some congresspersons...

Sunday, November 6, 2005

Television: Santos for president!!!

Okay, so the live West Wing debate totally kicked unadulterated ass.

Alan Alda is a genius. Alda, a lifelong liberal democrat playing a conservative on live, unscripted television, wove a much better case for the conservative agenda than the Bush administration could ever dream. Oh wait, maybe because the Bush administration only follows a conservative agenda when its convenient, and a neo-conservative agenda when it knows no one is paying attention.

You totally cannot access the nbc.com West Wing link right now. Awesome.

For background on the whole live debate thing, here's the CNN article explaining what was going down.

Vatican: Don't Knock Science

A Vatican cardinal said Thursday the faithful should listen to what secular modern science has to offer, warning that religion risks turning into "fundamentalism" if it ignores scientific reason.

Cardinal Paul Poupard, who heads the Pontifical Council for Culture, made the comments at a news conference on a Vatican project to help end the "mutual prejudice" between religion and science that has long bedeviled the Roman Catholic Church and is part of the evolution debate in the United States.

The Vatican project was inspired by Pope John Paul II's 1992 declaration that the church's 17th-century denunciation of Galileo was an error resulting from "tragic mutual incomprehension." Galileo was condemned for supporting Nicolaus Copernicus' discovery that the Earth revolved around the sun; church teaching at the time placed Earth at the center of the universe.

"The permanent lesson that the Galileo case represents pushes us to keep alive the dialogue between the various disciplines, and in particular between theology and the natural sciences, if we want to prevent similar episodes from repeating themselves in the future," Poupard said.
Very cool. You religious fanatics all hear that? Oh, most of you don't trust the Pope either, well, okay. I should note that this wasn't as great a statement as it sounds as it was followed with this:
But he said science, too, should listen to religion.
Damn, damn, damn. You just never win with these people.

Friday, November 4, 2005

Onion News: Hanukkah Decorations Being Defaced Earlier Every Year

November 2, 2005 | Issue 41•44

NEW YORK—A report released Monday by the Anti-Defamation League confirmed the widely held perception that Hanukkah decorations are being vandalized earlier every season. "Today, we're seeing Stars of David spray-painted with swastikas before the leaves have even fallen," said ADL spokesman Avi Mendenhall. "Our research shows that, even as recently as a decade ago, a menorah wouldn't be toppled over until well after Thanksgiving." The report noted that many shopping malls have, in recent years, begun playing anti-Semitic carols just days after Halloween.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Politics: Can You Say... Hypocrisy?

1) Conservative Republicans who have bashed Democrats for not giving candidate's a fair up-and-down vote, but who all but booted Miers out of contention for the Supreme Court, who now call on Democrats to accept Alito and give him a "fair" vote. So, do you want all of "our president's" nominations , of whom we should trust because "our president" nominated them, to get an up and down vote, or can Democrats follow suit and bitch and whine about a candidate for once without being called babies?

2) Conservative Republicans who condemn Democrats who have a "litmus" test for a supreme court judge. How many times did I have to listen to the crazy Christian right gab on and on about how Mier's views on abortion and other subjects were not known, and how we had to be sure she was anti-abortion before conservative Christians could accept her nomination. So...having a litmus test for a judge to be pro-choice is wrong, but we can have a litmus test to have judge who is pro-life. Hmmn.....

3) Always my biggest rant and rave that I always air here (and on the bumper of my car): Conservative Christian Republicans who fuss and fume about abortion, yet lack the compassion to care enough about babies after they are born, by cutting social programs for the poor, war-mongering, being the bitches of the gun lobby, polluting our earth for the sake of industry and personal wealth, and (this is always the clencher for me) steadfastly enforcing the death penalty. I thought an eye-for-an-eye was more of an Old Testament kind of virtue, and that we Christians had moved on to the part of the Bible that had Jesus loving all people, not just the ones who are in women's bellies.

I guess I'm not surprised by all of this in politics, but I just have not heard enough commentators on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, etc take people to point on the about-face in rhetoric that has been going on during the Supreme Court nomination (and Plamegate) fiasco.

Regarding my views on Alito - I don't know enough to be happy or sad about this nomination (and unlike my other left-of-left friends, keeping abortion legal is not one of my top priorities), but as I've said before, if James Dobson is happy about a nomination, I'm automatically VERY skeptical (hence my lack of enthusiasm for John Roberts, even though he seems like a qualified judge and not a right-wing whack job).

Politics: Scalia-lite

So consistently conservative, Alito has been dubbed "Scalito" or "Scalia-lite" by some lawyers because his judicial philosophy invites comparisons to conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. But while Scalia is outspoken and is known to badger lawyers, Alito is polite, reserved and even-tempered.
Well, at least he'll be smiling and saying 'please' and 'thank you' as he terminates a woman's right to choose.

The nightmares keep coming.

Update: Emily Bazelon explores Alito's most famous abortion decision, which she says:
Still, Alito's opinion in that case would have limited the right to abortion more severely than Sandra Day O'Connor, whom he will replace if confirmed, has ever been willing to do. And Alito's split with O'Connor involves not only abortion but also marriage. She worried about wives who might be victims of domestic violence. He put first the rights of husbands to know what their wives are doing.

Obvious: Kentucky's #1 cash crop

One official says there's so much pot grown in Kentucky that if every Kentuckian were to smoke a joint an hour, they couldn't use it all.
I've always said Kentucky was the only place on Earth where the BMWs are lined up in front of the double-wide trailers.

Bluegrass.

Sparkgrass.

It's only inevitable!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Medicine: Save the Fat Children!

Podgy children 'face heart risk' from the BBC

Children who are not obese or obviously overweight, but just a little podgy may be harming their hearts, a study says.
Doomed! We're all doomed!

Also, I saw a television commercial here the UK by a health insurer, advertising lower premiums for people who "look after themselves," which they spoke of as comparable to lower rates on auto insurance for fewer incidents, or lower house rates for burgler alarms.

So perhaps I should get a Hamburgler alarm?

What do the med students think about the concept? Not about the alarm, but lower premiums for people who keep and use gym memberships and the like?

The Horror: top 100 horror movie performances

from the fine folks at RetroCrush.

Personal favorites noted: Daveigh Chase in the Ring, Bub the Zombie in Day of the Dead, and that freaky kid from the Grudge. Damn, that kid was freaky.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

SEC: Vols retiring Manning's jersey, Cats debut at #10 on ESPN poll

Peyton's #16 goes where it belongs.

Pretty weak respect for SEC hoops.

Media: closing public schools for Muslim holiday "absurd in a Judeo-Christian country"

if you're Bill O'Reilly.

From the October 27 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

BLAIR: Well, in December of 2004, a gentleman representing the Muslim religion came before the school board and asked if Eid, which I believe is part of Ramadan, be recognized as an official school holiday. That went to a subcommittee, a calendar committee that's comprised of 28 members. Where these members come from, we still don't have the exact answers. I guess they're citizens, friends of the school board members, various people like this. As a matter of fact, I think there's a Jewish representative and a Muslim representative on the board. Of the 28, only 12 showed up, as I understand it. They gave them very little feedback other than the option of taking President's Day and turning it -- they basically gave --

O'REILLY: So a Muslim wanted a Muslim holiday, which is absurd in a Judeo-Christian country. I mean, we can't be having Hindu and Buddha. I mean, come on. I mean, this country is founded on Judeo-Christian traditions.

BLAIR: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: Those traditions have been in play for more than 200 years. Christmas is a federal holiday. You know, somebody walks in and says, "Well, I just moved here and I want, you know, this Shinto shrine." And you're going, "Well, look, this is a traditional American situation that we've done for hundreds of years." But now you knocked it out.

I haven't posted anything from MediaMatters in a long time, because they became a bit of a 'stretch-it-till-it-fits' bomb throwing organization, taking good fact checking and turning into unabashed cheerleading. But sometimes people like O'Reilly just make it too easy.

Wouldn't it make sense to leave school scheduling up to local communities? I can't see a community with no Muslims taking a day off for a Muslim holiday, but in a community where some reasonable portion of the population is Muslim, it certainly makes sense. Granted, federal holidays are based on the Judeo-Christian calendar, and we can't keep adding holidays here there and everywhere, nor does it make much sense to remove them from the calendar when business essentially shut down at those times anyway. In this school district, I don't particularly know what the population breakdown might be, but perhaps there should be some sort of standard that states that holidays should be given if they affect some certain percentage of the target population.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Baseball: coastal bias sucks

The Chicago White Sox's first world championship in 88 years was also the lowest-rated World Series ever.
Typical. If the best of anything in the world dwells in the fly-over country, no one on the ocean gives a shit.

Go Central divisions! Because buying championships (*cough* Red Sox and Yankees are overpaid no-talent assclowns *cough*) just isn't as fun as winning them outright.

Evil Empire: move over, Mel Gibson

Wal-Mart's critics, opening a new front in their war on the retail goliath, are borrowing from actor-director Mel Gibson's promotional playbook.

Producers of a new documentary, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, will show it at about 1,000 churches, synagogues and religious sites nationwide on Nov. 13 in a bid to force changes in Wal-Mart's employment and other practices.

The film, by the director of Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, comes as Wal-Mart mounts a new effort to polish its battered image. The movie is part of a broader campaign by a disparate group of critics who now include ministers asserting Wal-Mart's tactics are a moral as well as economic issue.
Let's give some serious props to the religious right (center, up, down, and left!) for standing up for the unambiguous but oft-ignored moral issues of equality, poverty, and exploitation!

My favorite line from the article:
Wal-Mart has not seen the film, says spokeswoman Christi Gallagher. But, she said, "His video is simply unabashed propaganda."
Similarly, I don't have a degree in economics, but I sure can say that Wal-mart is simply unabashed bullshit.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Medicine: brilliance, or the end of primary care as we know it?

I'd heard rumors about this for a while now, but Solantic has finally struck a deal with Wal-mart to put urgent care clinics in Wal-mart stores.

the good: this might SERIOUSLY reduce costs from unnecessary ED visits depending on how insurances, medicaid, and medicare cover these costs.

the bad: by making 'urgent care' treatment so accessible, will the traditional model of primary care, which emphasizes longitudinal experience, patient-doctor relationship, and preventive medicine, be lost to the market?

the ugly: do you really want to be 'the Wal-mart doctor?' does that mean you got your degree in aisle 19 beside the laundry detergent?

Despite my reservations, I don't see many ways in which the world can be made worse by increasing access to health care.

But with Wal-mart involved, I'm sure they'll figure out something.

I just hope they don't start advertising, 'buy one ZPak, get the second half off!'

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Medicine: One small step for man

So the dude who has spent the last twenty years working on a male contraceptive (currently achieving a promising 92% success rate) just got a 3.6 million dollar grant from NIH. Sweet!

I do have one particular concern, though: will a 'male pill' lower the rate of condom use and increase certain STD rates?

Considering the social dynamic, there's really no shame in asking a guy to put on a condom, because essentially the point is to stop from getting someone pregnant, of which almost every male has the capability. If anything, it is that male's very virility which allows him to impregnate, meaning that, by six degrees, the necessity to put on a condom is to some degree a masculinizing event. Not that every dude sees it way, but its certainly a valid read of the phenomenon.

Picture this:

Dude: I'm on the pill. I ain't plantin' the seed, suga.

Chick: But honey, what if you have the clap?

Dude: What you sayin' 'bout me, bitch? You think I'm dirty or sumpin'?

Chick: No, baby. You can rob the bank as long as you left the deposit slips at home.

Chick proceeds to get the clap AND pregnant, because Dude was a lying asshole and wasn't taking the pill anyway, or he missed a few doses here or there, or was taking some antibiotic (just to steal a problem from the estrogen/progesterone pills), and hell, what's he worried about anyway? It's not like he has to take care of the baby.

Now, don't get me wrong. A product that disperses responsibility for birth control to both genders in a non-invasive matter is a great thing. For monogamous couples to have that extra back-up is great. The pluses far outweigh the minuses. But, before we put the male pill on the market, if Dr. Hall puts that grant to good use, we better consider the social awkwardnesses which it might generate in a generally anti-feminist society, and at least attempt to address those dynamics with education.

Sexx Laws: Kansas high court rejects harsher treatment of illegal gay sex

The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday unanimously struck down a state law that punished underage sex more severely if it involved homosexual acts.

The court said "moral disapproval" of such conduct is not enough to justify the different treatment...

... The case involved an 18-year-old man, Matthew R. Limon, who was found guilty in 2000 of performing a sex act on a 14-year-old boy and was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Had one of them been a girl, state law would have dictated a maximum sentence of 15 months.
Even in Kansas, there are but the few sane among them.

I'm tempted to launch into my tirade about the sense of underage sex laws, since I don't particularly see why a 14-year old is mature enough to consent to sex with another 14-year-old, but is not mature enough to consent to an 18-year-old.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't particularly think it's a good idea for 14-year-olds to be screwing around with 18-year-olds OR with other 14-year-olds. But, if consensual, should it be illegal? Should a high school senior go to jail for having sex with a freshman partner?

I don't advocate an age-limitless sexual free-for-all. But I do think current laws do, in particular instances, punish people who have not done anything for which the government should be able to hold them accountable.

No one should be punished by the government for having consensual sex with someone who is intellectually capable of giving consent.

Of course, defining such an intellectual capability would be a legal conundrum as long as pricks like Rick Santorum walk the earth who would inevitably demand that only married heterosexuals capable of reproduction are intellectually capable of consenting to woman-on-bottom-only (don't even THINK about a clitoral orgasm) intercourse, and only once a month twenty-four hours before the speculated moment of ovulation.

But in my fantasy bullshitless society, 'intellectual capacity to consent,' seems a pretty reasonable criteria after reasonable precedent has been set.

NB: if you get the category subject heading, Courtney will bake you cookies, I'm sure.

Medicine: props to the Tigers

So LSU med students are living on a ferry and taking lectures in a cinema. You only find that resilience in the SEC. No offense, Tulane.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Medicine: Your Bird Flu Questions Answered

For all of you prophets of doom and gloom out there, CNN has a special article today directed at answering all your bird flu prevention questions. In short, it's not quite time to hide your birdfeeders and give up the Thanksgiving turkey...yet.

Personally, I think we're all screwed anyway once the monkeys take over (which, as Lewis Black points out, could be very soon), so I say bring it on.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Medicine: Don't Bitch to Me...

... about your flu shot. According to the BBC, I'm doomed over here.

Love and kisses,
Captain Sacrament
Oxford

Friday, October 14, 2005

Medicine: the flu shot kicked my ass

The CDC assures me this will just last for 1-2 days, but damn, I feel like somebody to a crowbar to my entire body.

Of course, that's still better than getting the damn flu. (at least, that's what I'm supposed to say, right?)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Medicine: Pacifier Use May Help Prevent SIDS

Letting your baby suck on a pacifier before bed may help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). That's the conclusion of a review of studies done on pacifier use. And the evidence was compelling enough for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to include a recommendation about pacifier use in its updated SIDS guidelines.
Apparently this is pissing off some of the breast feeding advocates since they feel pacifiers may reduce baby's willingness to breast feed.

The real question though is why was this an article in Forbes? Buy stock in pacifier companies.

Medicine: Polio eradicated from the world*

WHO launched the drive in 1988 to eliminate polio by the end of this year. Massive immunizations have reduced the number of cases from 350,000 a year in 1988 to 1,255 cases last year. An outbreak in Nigeria two years ago occurred after Islamic clerics urged parents to boycott the vaccine for fear it was part of an American anti-Muslim plot, eventually spread first to Chad, then to nearby Sudan - and then across the Red Sea into Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Indonesia was also affected.
I remember thinking those people were nuts for thinking the Polio vaccine was a plot to hurt them, but then I read about all the parents who refuse to give their kids shots for fear of autism. The insane ability to blame medicine for the very diseases it treats is something that unifies the Arab and American world.

*except in Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Niger, Afghanistan and Egypt, who don't count.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Medicine: black market developing for misoprostol as primary abortifacient

First, to be clear:

Misoprostol is NOT RU-486; RU-486 is mifepristone, an ENTIRELY different drug that inhibits progesterone receptors. Misoprostol, or Cytotec, is a prostaglandin E1 agonist, commonly used for gastric ulcer prophylaxis, refractory constipation, and cervical ripening. Misoprostol is used as the second drug along with RU-486 in the FDA-approved protocol for pharmacologic abortions, but misoprostol is not the 'abortion pill,' and it certainly isn't the 'morning after pill,' although a pharmacology text written by our right-wing pharmacology professor claims otherwise.

And I say right-wing based on his affinity for Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, the reading list posted on his own website, and the pride which he takes in carrying a concealed weapon.

Plus he is an Ohio State fan.

I refrain from further comment about the professor because you just shouldn't mess with a guy who brags on his site that with his Walther 22, he can "put 10 rounds in a small group in about 5 seconds."

But anyway...

Misoprostol is already well known in poor, immigrant communities in New York and abroad as a cheap and private way to end an unwanted pregnancy.

"There's a black market for it," said Dr. Eric Schaff, professor of Family Medicine at the University of Buffalo. "Women get very desperate with unintended pregnancy. And legal abortions still cost several hundred dollars."

An 800-microgram dose of misoprostol, about four pills, is 60% to 90% effective at ending a pregnancy when taken alone in the first seven weeks, studies show.

Local doctors have been using it legally for years in an FDA-approved regimen that includes the abortion pill mifepristone, popularly known as RU-486.

But unprescribed misoprostol use - which is both dangerous and discouraged by the FDA - is commonplace in Latin American countries where abortion is illegal.
Misoprostol goes for about sixty bucks for sixty pills. That's enough for 15 abortions. So basically, a four dollar abortion that works about 2/3's of the time, and carries a risk of severe consequences for baby and mom.

Abortions cannot be safe, rare, and legal if access to them is so prohibited that women will risk their lives to have an illegal one rather than access channels to obtain the procedure legally. Federally-funded clinics can't even mention abortion, nevermind provide information and proper counseling. Planned Parenthood does a great job, but privacy, cost, and fear can still be a barrier. There's no way in hell Medicaid is going to pay for one. And while I don't particularly think that John Roberts or Harriet Miers is going to change the legality of abortion any time particularly soon, access isn't exactly on the upswing, either.

Coat hangers are not a thing of the past. They're simply now in the form of a hexagonal pill.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Politics: Bill Frist is a "Blind", Psychic, Rich, Dirty Bastard Whom I Despise (Did I Mention He's a Relgious Nut too?)

So you may know that Frist's family owns HCA, which is the nation's largest owner of and provider of healthcare services throughout the nation (sorry, no facilities in Michigan. for you Kentucky folk, HCA owns the Frankfort Regional Medical Center and Greenview Regional Hospital in Bowling Green). HCA made Frist's father, Dr. Thomas Frist Sr, a very rich man. HCA is the epitome of what I vehemently disdain in American medicine - CEOs and other non-care providers making millions of dollars of profit off of patients, while those delivering direct patient care are often undercompensated (especially nurses, medical assistants, and all the other non-doctor types). For example, HCA's top CEO routinely takes in roughly 12 million dollars a year, plus or minus a few million (I'm citing this from memory - the exact figure is in a very excellent book about the cost of health care, Bleeding the Patient: The Consequences of Corporate Health Care). HCA executives have also been involved and cited for defrauding Medicare.

So little Fristy-poo, the kind Senate Majority Leader, is himself in a bit of a scandal, as he sold some HCA stock a la Martha Stewart, just before the stock took a substantial plummet. The article linked to this blog describes how Frist has gotten away with owning HCA stock while making KEY medical votes during his Senate tenure. I don't claim to understand these so called "blind trusts" that allow politicians to hold stock in business while allowing them to vote in the Senate/Congress without a conflict of interest, but I am suspicious of how "blind" these stocks really are. If a doctor is not allowed to practice medicine while being in the Senate or Congress (I believe we had a heated blog about this earlier in the year), why do we allow Frist to hold this "blind stock", and form laws that may allow him and his family to continue rip the money out of their patient's (and the government's) pockets. I'm a little biased, as I believe becoming immensely wealthy (i.e. to the tunes of becoming a freaking millionaire) in healthcare is just a bit unethical and a poor use of our healthcare resources, especially when we have over 45 million uninsured persons in this country.

We will have to stay tuned to see if Frist's psychic stock trading and "blind" trust cost our favorite doctor-turned-politician his suspect run for the 2008 Presidency. Probably not though - we seem to like to keep our liars and thieves in Washington.

Literature: and the 2005 Booker goes to...

Irish writer John Banville, for his novel, The Sea, which has been fast-tracked for a November 2005 release in the US.

Smurfs: UNICEF succeeds where Gargamel fails

Bringing whole new meaning to "Won't somebody PLEASE think of the children?!?", UNICEF's latest campaign to draw attention to the plight of ex-child soldiers in Africa is a little, uh, unusual. Apparently they believe that depicting the destruction of beloved childhood memories is an effective way to raise money.

Next up, how the beating death of ALF can help raise AIDS awareness.

Garrett Update: here's a clip.

Video Games: Who needs med school?


Now you too can become a trauma surgeon, while battling a mysterious new illness as a member of a top secret medical organization that has already cured Flu and HIV. No, it's not the new recruitment flier for Michigan Med School. It's a new video game called Trauma Center: Under the Knife available on Nintendo DS.

Medicine: we're all gonna die of bird flu

Corpus Callosum has a great post on US-preparedness for a potential (read: eh, probably not) outbreak of avian flu.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Immigration: Coast guard now twice as effective at keeping out Cuban terrorists

US coastguards intercepted 2,712 Cubans attempting to reach America's shores during the past 12 months, more than double the previous year's figure of 1,225 and the highest number since 1994, when 37,000 crossed the Florida straits. Analysts say worsening economic conditions on the island mean more Cubans were trying to escape to Florida, many in unseaworthy boats. Coastguard patrols have been stepped up. The 1994 migration led the US to adopt a "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy, under which Cubans who reach land are allowed to stay and those intercepted at sea are repatriated.
Maybe, President Bush is right about the many threats terrorists pose and the valiant war our border patrols and coast guard are waging daily. Or maybe we're just telling a bunch of foreigners they have to go back to live in oppressive squalor because they didn't tag US land and scream "Safe".

International Health: Cash plea to fight Africa's forgotten diseases

Medicine and health care prove more complicated than a 30 second sound bite, again. This is an article in the Guardian, but a link to the original journal article may be found at the PLoS Medicine site.

In a paper published today, [scientists] said that a focus by governments and charities on the big three tropical diseases - HIV, malaria and tuberculosis - had left millions of the poorest people in Africa without treatment for a range of illnesses.
The neglected diseases, which include schistosomiasis, river blindness, ascariasis, elephantiasis and trachoma, affect more than 750 million people and kill at least 500,000 every year.

Writing in the open-access journal Public Library of Science, Medicine, the researchers said that treating all of these illnesses with a cocktail of four readily available drugs would cost less than 50 cents (28p) a person a year. They claimed that dealing with the forgotten diseases would reduce susceptibility to malaria and help to make socio-economic improvements for those in poverty, as well as save lives.

"Instead of 95% of money donated going to malaria, HIV and TB, it would only need to be 90% and we could do an awful lot of cost-effective treatment and help towards making poverty history."

Prof Molyneux said that reducing the incidence of worms and parasites would help control more life-threatening diseases. People with intestinal worms are known to be nine times more likely to contract malaria because their immune systems are weakened by the lesser disease. He added that eradicating schistosomiasis would halve the incidence of malaria.

Sunday, October 9, 2005

Politics: Long Live the Empire

As a disclaimer: the following anecdote is an attempt to be funny. I'm not making any arguments about American foreign policy or any serious comment on the intelligence of the US President. And unless we've discussed it in person, I guarantee that you will never guess my actual opinions. If you want to know what Captain Sacrament really thinks about patriotism and the American Empire, look at my blog and the essays listed under Patriotism. The United States is not Christian, merely Christ-haunted, to borrow a phrase...

After wasting the last couple of elections as a Democratic voter, I've decided to throw in the towel. The party will never again regain power in the US; for a start, most of the country is religious, the leadership has never been comfortable with that, and it seems they never will be. They might like the odd Buddhist now and again, but realistically, they don't understand religion, so for the most part fear and even hate religious people.

So since I can't beat them, I'm just going to join them. I want to be an Imperial Administrator. In terms of establishing and maintaining order in a dangerous, unstable world, the American Empire is the best thing since, well, the last thing: the British Empire. As the Pax Americana moves across the Middle East, I want to do my part. I want to be Proconsul of Qatar.

Allow me to make my case. First, it has one of the highest per capita income in the world, and a lot of natural resources. I like having nice things. They are ruled by a monarchy. Frankly, I've always thought I would make an absolutely stellar autocrat. Like many in the region, they're heavily into the autocracy. And finally, according to the entry in the CIA World Factbook, I've been mispronouncing the name of the place for weeks now. Could there be a better match? (And if you think I'm learning Arabic, think again!)

And as I expect that George II will rule as imperator for at least another term or two (to be replaced by JEB I), I do not anticipate much interference from Washington. You see, I'm certain they think a country with such a name is actually located behind the borders of the Klingon Empire.

They'll just give me a couple of Sci-Fi nerds as an ambassadorial staff and leave me be.

Saturday, October 8, 2005

Politics: mock liberal outrage

So it's trendy right now to look at president Bush like a hallucinating schizophrenic over these comments to Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath:

"God would tell me, George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan. And I did, and then God would tell me, George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq... And I did.

"And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East. And by God I'm gonna do it."
Now I guess if you took these comments super-literally and thought that George was just walking down the street and heard voices in his head and decided to do these random invasions, then sure. But come on, kids.

Imagine that, someone who proclaims to be an evangelical Christian (no crime, no problem with that) confirms that, when faced with a big decision, he prays. Oh my gosh, he prays. Oh no. He should be impeached! He should be taught to meditate like all the secularists or he should be thrown into the Potomac.

Get real.

Maybe this is simply an issue of semantics for those who aren't used to the semantics of devoted Christians. And maybe it's just liberals who are too lazy to write about the Tom DeLay indictment, Bill Frist's MarthaStewarting, Harriet Miers cronyism, the Rove-leaking-Plame case, and the no-job-growth month we just had. And maybe some folk are just that anti-Christian that any reference to a man's personal beliefs, however superficial they might be, set off an alarm.

But come on. Bush faces big decision. Bush prays to find out what he should do. Bush comes up with decision, attributes it to his prayer (rightfully or wrongfully). Bush tells folks God told him to do something. NO BIG DEAL!

If anything, this shows us all that Bush at least THINKS about what he's doing before he does it! Prayer, if not a time to commune with God, is at least a time of meditation and contemplation that would benefit rational decision making.

And while we don't think his decisions were necessarily the most rational, we look like morons if we're so out of touch with the majority of Americans that we get upset when we find out that they prayed about a decision instead of creating some mathematical formula to tell them what to do.