Just because it's natural doesn't mean it's safe

I woke up to the radio this morning like I do most mornings, and as I was grumbling to myself that I really should have got to bed earlier last night, I heard an advertisement for a supposedly inexpensive “erection enhancement” pill that you could get without a prescription. Annoying, as I’d rather have been listening to music, but whatever. Then I heard this gem of advertising “brilliance”

[Product] is made from all natural ingredients so you know it’s safe.

Um, no. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

There are two fails in this sentence, one of which should be obvious to anyone with a functioning synapse in their skull. Continue reading

A few words on the subject of abortion…or, what do words even mean, anyway?

Humpty_Dumpty_TennielJust the other day I encountered a euphemism for abortion that I hadn’t seen before: “the death penalty for accidental trespassing.” But honestly, I had no earthly idea what that meant. Is the fetus “accidentally trespassing,” i.e., didn’t mean to be there, but, voila, there it is anyway? That’s the only thing I could come up with, considering it’s the fetus that gets the “death penalty.”

As it turns out, in searching for that exact phrase using Google, I located precious few references to it. One was to the comment on a blog article by Russ Wellen here at Scholars & Rogues where I first spotted it (see comment #4 by one Tangle Eye Blues). Another was to a CBS News article about Sarah Palin (where the phrase does not actually occur, alas, not some cranky Palin-ism). A third was to the comments page for that CBS News article, where the phrase actually appearsContinue reading

CBO's overlooked caution: 'ObamaCare' impact on deficit 'highly uncertain'

I don’t think anyone in this town believes that repealing ObamaCare is going to increase the deficit.

John Boehner, speaker of the House, Jan. 6, 2011, at his first press conference as speaker.

The Congressional Budget Office, in response to a request from John Boehner, opined Tuesday in a letter to the speaker that GOP-sought repeal of the Affordable Care Act would increase the nation’s federal spending deficit, adding $109 billion from 2013-2022.

And, as might be expected following the release of the CBO’s letter, partisan voices are either assailing the nonpartisan CBO estimate as illusory or using it as a cudgel against the health care law’s opponents.

Virtually all miss the nuances of the CBO’s letter regarding the fiscal impact of H.R. 6079, the Repeal of Obamacare Act. No one really knows if the deficit will increase or decrease whether the ACA survives or is repealed.
Continue reading

When is an epidemic really an epidemic? Or not? Just let the media tell you

My search for evidence to support the claim began with this tweet sent 9 minutes after midnight:

CBS Radio News ‏@CBSRadioNews

US appears headed for its worst year for whooping cough in 50 years with the number of cases rising at an epidemic rate http://bit.ly/cbsnewscast

Step 1: Click on the provided link. It led to the current newscast. All Aurora shootings; nothing on whooping cough.

Step 2: Google “whooping cough.” Story number one from Reuters:

SEATTLE (Reuters) – The number of U.S. whooping cough cases has risen to around 18,000 in an outbreak that is on track to become the most severe in over a half century and could in part stem from possible waning vaccine protection, health officials said on Thursday.

Continue reading

Roundtable: What do Americans really "deserve"?

Scrogues ConverseEverybody else’s job seems easy. The guy at the gym is certain he has a simple herbal remedy that will cure almost anything. Doctors think it would be a few minutes’ work to sort out the tax code. And engineers have quick and easy solutions for the most difficult social problems. People understand that what they do is complicated—no doctor would entertain the premise that ginseng will cure anything nor would any engineer ever suggest that designing a bridge is simple or quick, but things other people do, now that’s a snap.

Blogging is no exception. If you don’t actually do it, it seems pretty easy. Just sit down, type for awhile, hit “post” and voila. Of course, it’s not at all that easy. Continue reading

Why can't America have better maternity leave laws?

by Kate Lewis Torok

Eight weeks ago, I had a baby. Three weeks from today, I will be returning to work. While my wallet is hurting, my heart is hurting more. It aches, actually. My daughter is still a tiny peanut, working on her neck muscles so she can hold her head up to see this world like the rest of us. It hardly seems fair that in just 21 days, work will come between us. I am the one she has come to know so well over the last 11 months – from my womb to my arms. Continue reading

Anderson Cooper and Rachel Maddow: forecast calls for a deluge of teabagger human kindness. Or not.

By Patrick Vecchio

I am waiting to see if—no, make it how—the Tea party and other way-right-leaning Republicans react to this week’s barely-qualifies-as-news that TV journalist/personality Anderson Cooper admitted he is gay. (Details here)

Another story from this week also has me worried about the backlash, but first, Cooper:

I have no idea how much courage it takes for a public figure like Cooper to come out. Nor do I have any idea about the extent and tone of the flak that will be fired at him and how he’ll deal with it. Continue reading

Q: Was the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare a victory or a defeat? A: Yes, it was.

Depending on your perspective, Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling upholding the “Obamacare” program was either a thumping victory for progressives everywhere or a clever corporatist / conservative flanking maneuver that makes it even less likely American citizens will ever enjoy the kind of basic access to healthcare that the rest of the developed world takes for granted.

I’ve been harshly critical of the president on the healthcare issue because I see it as something that helps a few people here and there, but that’s mainly designed as a gravy train for private health insurance interests. Many of Mr. Obama’s … I know I should say “supporters” here, but part of me is dying to use “apologists” instead … argue that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is an important foot in the door. In their view, this may be a small victory, but it paves the way for ever greater incremental reforms that lead us ultimately to a single-payor system (or at least a robust public option). Continue reading

Good week in the courts for the Obama Administration

It’s been a good week in the federal courts for the Obama Administration.

On Tuesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Environmental Protection Agency – and against a legion of state Attorneys General and industry groups – on the EPA’s greenhouse gas Endangerment Finding. The states and industry groups had asked the appeals court to overturn the Endangerment Finding based on a host of arguments ranging from “there’s too much uncertainty in the science” to “the EPA abused its authority” to “the EPA misread the Clean Air Act.” The court disagreed, emphatically and occasionally sardonically, and dismissed every one of 26 separate petitions that the various states and industry groups had filed. S&R is analyzing the 82 page opinion in detail and will be publishing several posts about it in the coming weeks.

And today, a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional. Continue reading

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: photographer seeks support in fundraising efforts

Editor’s Note: S&R recently published a photoessay from Sarah Allegra, who suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Allegra’s struggle with this condition is ongoing, obviously, and she recently contacted us about her efforts on behalf of the CFIDS Association of America. We’re pleased to provide her the space to share this initiative with our readers and we encourage you to help out however you can.
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by Sarah Allegra

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is an illness which is still an enigma. This sly disease is characterized by a persistent, heavy fatigue which rest does not lift, muscle and joint pain, insomnia, migraines along with a scattering of other hanger-on physical symptoms. Continue reading

Three reasons not to get kidney stones. You know, in case you were considering it.

By Patrick Vecchio

I visited my local hospital’s emergency room in the middle of the night back in March because a kidney stone had barged into my urinary tract. It woke me from my deep, pharmaceutically induced slumber with a pain best described as being stabbed with a knitting needle — from the inside. The stone is still causing pain, but not of the physical variety. But first, what’s a kidney stone story without a description of the physical pain?

In the wee hours of that March night, the stabbing pain attacked my back midway between my last rib and my hip. Here’s how my sleepy brain figured out what was going on: Man-that-hurts-like-hell-did-I-pull-a-muscle-doing-the-yard-work-today? Let-me-feel-around-back-there-it-doesn’t-feel-like-a-pulled-muscle-OH-FCK-IT’S-A-FCKNG-KIDNEY-STONE. Continue reading

Nature publishes instructions on how to make a Frankenstein monster

My doctoral dissertation addressed what I called the “Frankenstein Complex.” So guess why this story bothers me.

Today, a scientific journal published a study that some people thought might never be made public at all.

The paper describes experiments that suggest just a few genetic changes could potentially make a bird flu virus capable of becoming contagious in humans, and causing a dangerous pandemic. Continue reading

When doctors follow the rules, are they violating the Hippocratic Oath?

- I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.

I went to my doctor a few weeks ago for the first time in months. During the course of conversation about my health and how I was doing, etc., we stumbled onto the question of why I hadn’t been in for a visit in so long. I told him that in the wake of my separation from my wife I had lost my insurance coverage (I was on her work plan) and had been unable to get insurance as a result of my pre-existing condition.  Continue reading

Denver EMS takes 24 minutes to respond to call in downtown; Mayor Hancock, this is NOT acceptable

Welcome to the 5280Earlier this afternoon, while watching the Chelsea/Barcelona Champions League match at the British Bulldog in downtown Denver, a young woman collapsed. It was unclear what happened, but my best guess from what those closer to her were telling me was that it was an epileptic seizure and she may have hit her head on the concrete floor. I immediately dialed 911 and provided the dispatcher with all the information I could. I think some others in the bar were probably also calling, so the message that we had a woman down, nature of the incident unknown, please hurry was clearly communicated.

I noted the time. After about five minutes those around me were getting restless, wondering where the paramedics were. Continue reading

Another heart attack on the pitch: RIP Piermario Morosini

A few weeks back Bolton Wanderers’ Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the field during the team’s FA Cup quarterfinal match against Tottenham Hotspur. He was attended to by emergency staff on the pitch and eventually stretchered off and rushed to a hospital. Despite being “in effect, dead” for 78 minutes Muamba survived and is now recovering.

Today, another elite footballer had a heart attack during a game, and this time the news is tragic: Livorno’s Piermario Morosini died after collapsing early in the Italian Serie B side’s match with Pescara. Continue reading

Pointing out the glaringly obvious to the USDA

by James Boyce

You’d think the USDA would see the flaw of logic in letting the people who make the food inspect the food and decide if it is actually safe to eat.

The USDA has decided in its infinite wisdom, despite pink slime and a few other debacles of the food industry, to test a program allowing chicken companies to check their own livestock and decide whether or not the chickens are safe to eat.

The USDA claims this will save them tens of millions of dollars.

Well, USDA, I can save you even more. Continue reading

Is health insurance an oxymoron? Two really smart guys debate healthcare

Recently a friend of mine, Miles Dean, got into an email discussion around healthcare with John Laxmi. I found it so interesting and understandable, that I thought you might as well. Here goes.

Miles: The Supreme Court is considering the Affordable Health Care Act, and much discussion is on the question of individual mandates and how these requirements infringe on our rights. Why is it OK to mandate auto insurance, but not health insurance? What’s the difference between cost shifting on cars and accidents, and cost shifting on health care? Continue reading

War. On. Everything: the Republican prescription for America isn't safe for anyone

[NSFW WARNING: Graphic content. You do NOT want to see the images here, but I think maybe you should.]

I’ve been wanting to write something deep, something analytical, something based on solid policy on the subject of the Republican war on everything, especially women and the poor, and just haven’t been able to do it. Why? Simple. There’s just too damned much material. I’m only one writer. I have but so many resources. I know only but so much, don’t have the experience, and have a list of excuses longer than Ron Jeremy’s arm. Besides, there are already millions and millions of dollars being poured into generating tons and tons of perfectly rational, articulate reasons why government needs to fund little things like health care for women and the poor, why government needs to regulate everything from what may be pumped into the air we breathe to the rapacious behaviors of bankers and power brokers.

Words. Words. Words. Continue reading

It's not the mandate that's the fatal flaw in the Affordable Care Act

As you’re no doubt aware, the Supreme Court spent the last week debating the legality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) — specifically, the individual mandate, which requires everyone of legal age to buy health insurance (though subsidized to some extent for those who can’t afford it) or be penalized. The mandate’s purpose is to broaden the risk pool and remunerate the health-insurance companies (whether they really need it is another matter) for new costs generated by one of the ACA’s chief selling points: that pre-existing conditions won’t disqualify Americans from health-care coverage.

Coverage for pre-existing conditions would be cause for celebration were it part of a bill that actually did provide affordable care for all. You may be one of those lucky few whose employer pays the bulk of your premium, but that’s increasingly rare for the middle-class. Currently, for most of us, if your employer is providing you with healthcare insurance, you’re likely paying around $850 a month (pre-tax), and at least a couple hundred more if you’re self-insured. In our household that’s known as Second Rent. Continue reading