Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Most Smokers Make Multiple Quit Attempts Before They Quit Smoking for Good

/PRNewswire/ -- The American Lung Association is launching a new smoking cessation campaign, "Quitter in You," designed to highlight the need to change the way Americans look at quitting. A new survey from the organization found that 6 out of 10 former smokers were not able to successfully quit on their first try and required multiple attempts to quit smoking for good.

Anyone who has tried to quit smoking knows it does not always happen on the first try. But what many smokers don't realize is that they are not alone in their failed quit attempts. The Quitter in You campaign acknowledges that multiple quit attempts are normal and are necessary steps along the way to quitting for good.

"This new research shows that most people aren't successful the first time they try to quit smoking," said American Lung Association President and CEO Charles D. Connor. "But each time you try, you learn a little more about the quitter in you. You become a little wiser about what to do and not do the next time. With each attempt, the American Lung Association is here to provide expert support and proven resources that have helped more than one million people quit smoking for good."

The campaign features a new Web site called quitterinyou.org, public service announcements, and a wealth of personalized tools and support from the American Lung Association's "Freedom From Smoking" program to help smokers at each step in the journey toward quitting. Working through traditional and non traditional partners, the campaign is launching this fall in five pilot cities (Harrisburg, Pa.; Richmond, Va.; St. Louis, Mo.; Milwaukee, Wis.; and Tucson, Ariz.) and will be expanded in coming months through local American Lung Associations across the country.

Unsuccessful attempts to quit can leave smokers feeling alienated and discouraged. Health care professionals - often the source of information and support - understand this and recognize the need to support their patients' quit attempts. A companion survey among health care providers found that nearly 100 percent think it takes multiple attempts for the average person to quit smoking. A quit attempt is defined as not smoking for at least one day with the intent of not starting again.

The Quitter in You campaign is made possible though funding from Pfizer Inc. "Stopping smoking is a goal for our society to work toward, one accomplished through each smoker's courage to quit," said Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, Pfizer's chief medical officer. "The American Lung Association is working to provide greater support for people who want to quit. We're proud to support its efforts."

Helping more Americans quit smoking remains a top public health priority for the American Lung Association. According to the latest figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 43 million American adults are current smokers. Smoking-related diseases claim an estimated 443,000 lives each year, including those affected indirectly, such as babies born prematurely due to prenatal maternal smoking and victims of "secondhand" exposure to tobacco's carcinogens. Smoking cost the United States over $193 billion in 2004, including $97 billion in lost productivity and $96 billion in direct health care expenditures, or an average of $4,446 per adult smoker.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

GSU scientists investigate a type of soil’s ability to absorb byproduct of nuclear reactions

Georgia State University researchers, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy and the Georgia Tech Research Institute, are investigating whether a type of soil might absorb a radioactive isotope, perhaps leading to better ways of remediating a byproduct of nuclear reactions.

W. Crawford Elliott, chair of the Department of Geosciences, is the lead investigator on a project to evaluate the absorption of cesium-137 by a soil commonly found in the Piedmont regions of the South at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, near Augusta, Ga. The research has been funded with a $149,477 grant from the Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research.

Cesium-137 is a byproduct nuclear fission with uranium-235. The fission releases energy that can be used in nuclear reactors to produce power.

The Savannah River Site, located in Aiken and Barnwell counties in South Carolina was the home of production for elements of nuclear weapons during the Cold War, but much of the work performed there now involves mitigation of the legacies of nuclear reactions.

Cesium-137, which has a half-life of about 30 years, emits both beta particles and gamma radiation. It has been found in the environment as a result of nuclear waste and accidental releases.

One hypothesis is that a common soil mineral in Piedmont regions, called hydroxy interstratified vermiculite, might absorb the cesium, and researchers will first test the soil using natural, non-radioactive cesium-133.

“We think that there’s a special place in the hydroxy interstratified vermiculite lattice that favors the uptake of cesium, and if that's the case, we’re first going to study these soils to see how much natural cesium is being taken up,” Elliott said.

The next step is to take cesium-137 and pour it through the soil to see what kind of exchange happens.

“We have a good hypothesis that these soils sequester natural cesium on their own, as much and maybe more so than other micas or other kinds of minerals,” Elliott said.

The work might lead scientists to a better understanding of how to mitigate the radioactive element.

“The project would certainly give us some of the best knowledge about the role of soils in the process and how they could naturally attenuate the cesium," he said.

A side project will investigate a byproduct of kaolin processing — a clear, shiny mica that is sorted out from kaolin and sold to paint companies and others. The mica might be able to absorb and mitigate cesium-137.

“You might be able to make into a permeable barrier, or even make it into a material similar to what’s used at a grocery store to clean up a spill,” Elliott said.

Elliott is working on the project with Seth Rose and Eirik Krogstad, associate professors of geosciences at Georgia State; Marion Wampler, adjunct associate professor in geosciences; Bernd Kahn and Robert Rosson of the Georgia Tech Research Institute; and Daniel Kaplan of the U.S. Department of Energy.

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Court Orders Fur False Advertising Case to Proceed Against Major Retailers

The District of Columbia Superior Court issued a long-awaited ruling clearing the way for a lawsuit accusing several of the nation's largest retailers — including Lord & Taylor, Macy's, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue — of engaging in false advertising and mislabeling of fur garments. The suit was filed in 2008 by The Humane Society of the United States, arguing that these deceptive practices mislead consumers into unknowingly purchasing animal fur products and increase consumer confusion over the type and origin of fur used on clothing.

"Consumers have a right to know what they're buying, but many major retailers keep selling 'faux fur' jackets that turn out to be real animal fur," said Jonathan R. Lovvorn, vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation for The HSUS. "Macy's, Saks, Neiman Marcus and Lord & Taylor just don't seem to care if consumers are deceived, even though real fur is something many consumers are determined to avoid."

Over the last three years, The HSUS has identified dozens of falsely advertised or falsely labeled fur garments across the retail industry. Although many of these garments were advertised or labeled as "faux fur," they were often fur from raccoon dogs, a member of the canine family native to parts of Asia, who have been documented to be skinned alive in China.

The lawsuit — filed under the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act — alleges that the companies "misrepresent" the characteristics of the fur-trimmed garments by (1) advertising and labeling products as "faux fur," when they are, in fact, derived from real animal fur or (2) advertising and labeling products as common raccoon, fox or rabbit fur when they are, in fact, made from the wholly distinct species of raccoon dog — a member of the dog family. The complaint also alleges violations of the federal Fur Products Labeling Act and Federal Trade Commission Act, which also prohibit the false advertising and mislabeling of any fur product.

To view the complaint, learn about raccoon dogs and their mistreatment, and more, visit humanesociety.org/furfree.

Examples of Defendants' Deceptive Ads and Labels:

In December 2008, Lord & Taylor sold jackets labeled as "polyester" fur at its retail store in Kensington, Md. Testing found that this purportedly faux fur garment was actually made from real raccoon dog and rabbit.
Macy's – through its retail division, Bloomingdale's – advertised and sold a "faux fur" jacket on its online store in 2007 and again in 2008. However, both of these jackets contained animal fur.
In November 2008, Neiman Marcus sold a coat on its Web site, that although advertised as "faux fur," was genuine rabbit fur. Neiman Marcus also sold a jacket labeled as fake "polyester" fur at its retail store in McLean, Va. Testing later found this jacket to be made from real raccoon dog.
In December 2007, Saks Fifth Avenue advertised and sold a "faux fur" jacket through its online store that was later determined to be genuine rabbit fur.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

U.S. Supreme Court to Consider Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Death Penalty Case

/PRNewswire/ -- Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, the nation's leading preventable cause of mental retardation, will be front and center when the Supreme Court opens its new term this week. Tomorrow, on Tuesday, September 29, the court will consider whether to take up Holmes v. Louisiana, the case of Brandy Holmes, a 29-year-old woman with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome currently on death row in Louisiana. She and a codefendant were convicted of a 2003 murder in Louisiana. Brandy's lead attorney is noted Harvard Professor Charles Ogletree.

The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) submitted a friend of the court brief arguing that Brandy's prenatal alcohol induced brain damage and deficits should be seen as mitigating factors in keeping with previous court rulings.

"Brandy has a hallmark case of FAS. Her mother testified that she drank throughout her pregnancy, and in fact named her daughter after her favorite drink," states NOFAS President Tom Donaldson. "Thirty-three states and the federal government don't execute persons with mental retardation - 16 more than only ten years ago. Evolving standards of decency place Brandy's case squarely within the precedent established by the court and society with regard to intellectual disabilities and the ultimate punishment."

Donaldson argues that there needs to be a renewed emphasis on public health messages about the risk of alcohol during pregnancy, "It's time to stop playing Russian roulette when it comes to alcohol and pregnancy."

Prenatal alcohol exposure is the leading known preventable cause of intellectual disabilities and neurobehavioral disorders in the developed world affecting as many as 40,000 newborns each year in the United States alone, more cases annually than autism or other commonly known birth defects such as Downs syndrome, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida and sudden infant death syndrome, COMBINED.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

CarMax Advises How to Avoid Flood-Damaged Cars

TT Note: It's always good to review the tips on how not to purchase a flood damaged car. Thought this was a good reminder.

(BUSINESS WIRE)--In the wake of recent flooding, CarMax, Inc., (NYSE: KMX), the nation’s largest retailer of used cars, is advising consumers on how to avoid purchasing flood-damaged vehicles.

“Consumers should be aware that some businesses and individuals may try to sell salvaged and flood-damaged cars without revealing the vehicle history,” said Jason Day, Atlanta region vice president of purchasing for CarMax. “Flood-damaged cars that are not structurally or mechanically sound could be repaired, re-titled, and sold to unsuspecting buyers.”

CarMax’s purchasing team offers these ten tips for identifying a vehicle with possible flood damage. If any of these signs are identified, ask further questions to determine if flood damage occurred:

1) Check for a moldy smell inside the car and feel the carpet for dampness

2) Be suspicious of an older car with a brand new interior or carpeting

3) Check for rust under the brake or gas pedals

4) Look for dirt or rust under the dashboard and floor mats

5) Inspect the bolts and screws under the seats for evidence of rust

6) Check the undercarriage for excessive rust

7) Check inside the trunk under the carpet and in the spare tire well area for rust, dirt or sand

8) Look for corrosion, water marks, or a thin brown line on the exterior of the vehicle

9) Check to see if the electrical system works

10) Check the VIN number with AutoCheck or Carfax to see whether a flood claim has been filed or a salvage title has been issued on the vehicle

CarMax provides a free AutoCheck vehicle history report for every used vehicle. CarMax’s nationwide team of more than 800 car-buyers is trained to detect whether a car has flood damage or has been in a major accident. CarMax will not retail any car that has flood or frame damage or an odometer or title discrepancy.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

U.S. Chemical Safety Board Again Fails to Stand for Better Safety Rules for America's Workers

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Several international unions representing hundreds of thousands of chemical and food industry workers today again criticized the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) for not recommending strong standards to prevent deadly explosions in factories handling combustible dusts, despite the board’s prior endorsement of such a step.

The unions reacted to the CSB’s new report on the deadly sugar dust explosion on Feb. 7, 2008, at the Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, Georgia. The explosion killed fourteen people, injured scores of others and severely damaged the plant.

“The Imperial Sugar tragedy is compelling evidence of the need for stricter OSHA regulation on combustible dust,” said Steve Sallman, Health and Safety Specialist from the United Steelworkers (USW). “Without a regulation, upper management will typically not commit the resources needed to achieve compliance, or, more importantly, to protect their employees.”

“As recently as 2006, the CSB recommended to the Congress that OSHA adopt a comprehensive new standard on combustible dust, but today they let that ball drop,” said Eric Frumin, Health and Safety Coordinator, Change to Win.

"The CSB’s leadership is a remnant of the Bush administration’s dangerous legacy for America’s workers," said Jackie Nowell, Occupational Safety and Health Director for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). “If the Board continues to ignore its obligation to oversee the scope of our safety regulations, it will require new leadership to assure that its mission is accomplished.”

In a November 2006 report, the CSB pointed out serious deficiencies in OSHA’s various standards on combustible dust hazards. That report identified hundreds of combustible dust incidents over the last 25 years, causing nearly 120 deaths and hundreds more injuries.

On Feb. 19, 2008, immediately following the Imperial Sugar explosion, the UFCW and International Brotherhood of Teamsters petitioned the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to immediately issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for combustible dust in general industry noting that “workers who are employed in facilities where uncontrolled combustible dust emissions are present face ‘grave danger’ of experiencing fatalities or serious injuries as a result of dust explosions and resultant fires.” To this date, no standard has been set to protect America’s workers.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Children Prescribed Tamiflu Could Get Wrong Dose

TT Note: It seems like so many parents are rushing to the doctor with children who are exhibiting flu like symptoms. Please be aware that the dosing for Tamiflu could be wrong. Be sure to double check everything with your pharmacist.

Medical and public health officials should be alerted to the serious potential for dosing errors in children prescribed Tamiflu® due to confusion when trying to follow the medication label and using the prepackaged dosing syringe, warns Emory University health literacy researcher Ruth Parker, MD, in the Sept. 23 online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Parker, lead author of the special article and professor of medicine in the Emory School of Medicine, and colleagues say parents and caregivers may face difficulty calculating the correct dosage of Tamiflu® (oseltamivir) Oral Suspension to administer to their children because of misaligned instructions on the pharmacy label, the manufacturer's printed label, the accompanying Consumer Medication Information and the dosing syringe packaged with the Tamiflu®.

In the article, Parker, Kara Jacobson, MPH, of Emory's Rollins School of Public Health, and colleagues provide the example of a 6-year-old recently prescribed Tamiflu® for H1N1 influenza. While the medication bottle specified dosage in volume units (¾ of a teaspoon twice a day), the syringe prepackaged with the medication was marked in mass units (milligrams). It required a complex calculation for the parents to convert teaspoons to milligrams to determine just how much medication the child should receive.

"It is critical that immediate steps are taken to improve the prescribing instructions for this drug in children to ensure its safe use," says Parker. "We recommend that all pharmacies are instructed to ensure that the label instructions for use are in the same dosing units as those on the measurement device dispensed with Tamiflu® (oseltamivir)."

Tamiflu® is an antiviral medication prescribed to help stop the spread of the flu virus inside the body. It is typically given within a couple of days of a patient experiencing flu-like symptoms. It also can be used to prevent flu in someone who may have been exposed to the virus but is not yet displaying symptoms.

Parker says there is a need to improve instructions on medication labels beyond Tamiflu® Oral Suspension. She and colleagues suggest that all medication-measuring devices for children be changed to include volumetric dosage markings (milliliters or teaspoon). In addition, all materials (e.g. package insert, Consumer Medication Information, package label, and stick-on container label dosing instructions) should contain clear, consistent information that patients can understand and follow for safe and effective medication use.

"We view this as an issue at the intersection of patient safety and health literacy," says Parker.

In addition to Parker and Jacobson, study authors were: Michael S. Wolf, PhD, MPH, of the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University; and Alastair J.J. Wood, MD, of Symphony Capital LLC and Weil Cornell School of Medicine.

The article, "Serious Risk of Confusion in Dosing Tamiflu Oral Suspension in Children," published online Sept. 23 by the New England Journal of Medicine, can be viewed at www.nejm.org and h1n1.nejm.org. It will be published in print at a later date.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cap and Trade Legislation Would Increase Uninsured by Millions

/PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Senate can increase the number of Americans with health insurance by tens of millions -- at zero cost to taxpayers -- by rejecting cap-and-trade legislation passed by the U.S. House, according to an analysis just released by The National Center for Public Policy Research.

In June, the House of Representatives approved the American Clean Energy and Security Act, commonly referred to as the Waxman-Markey bill, which seeks to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80 percent by 2050.

The National Center for Public Policy Research contends Waxman-Markey would increase energy prices, slow the economy and result in higher unemployment. This, in turn, the group says, would increase the number of uninsured.

"For every one percentage point increase in unemployment, 1.1 million Americans lose their health insurance coverage," said David A. Ridenour, Vice President of The National Center for Public Policy Research. "With the Waxman-Markey legislation projected to cost an average of 1.15 million jobs annually between 2012 and 2030, this could translate into tens of millions of Americans losing their health insurance coverage. The best health care reform is doing nothing at all - at least on cap-and-trade."

Loss of health insurance coverage is only one of the negative health consequences that would result from a Waxman-Markey-style bill, according to Ridenour.

"The stress and loss of self-esteem that accompanies job loss can lead to unhealthy lifestyles, including substance abuse and poor eating habits," said Ridenour. "The unemployed are more likely to be diagnosed for hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and stroke, and because discretionary income drops with the loss of a job, so too do routine screenings that might prevent late-stage diseases."

Ridenour cites a study by Kate Strully of the State University of New York at Albany showing that involuntarily unemployed factory workers are 83 percent more likely to develop a new health problem than those who keep their job.

Ridenour's analysis is available at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA577.html.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

What is Sexting? Why is it a Problem? What Parents and Teens Need to Know

/PRNewswire/ -- Two years ago, the word "sexting" did not even exist in the English language. Today it is a term that is much discussed and debated by parents, students, educators, law enforcement leaders and policy makers across America. It is widely misunderstood.

"Sexting" refers to youth sending sexually explicit messages or sexually explicit photos of themselves or others to their peers. Today, many teens are using cell phones, computers, web cams, digital cameras, and/or certain video game systems to take and distribute sexually explicit photographs of themselves or others.

Is "sexting" merely an example of "kids being kids," or is it a more serious societal concern that in some cases requires criminal sanctions? In an effort to provide a better framework for policy discussion and to better inform the public, today the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) is releasing a policy statement on "sexting." This statement is a product of extensive dialogue with leaders in the field, and was developed with the strong involvement of the American Bar Association's Center on Children and the Law.

"There has been much concern that teens engaged in 'sexting' would be criminally prosecuted and required to register as sex offenders," said Ernie Allen, President of NCMEC. "That isn't happening. Yet, 'sexting' is a large problem that we have to come to grips with as a nation. Some of these incidents are minor. Some are very serious. Through this new policy statement on 'sexting,' we hope to provide greater understanding and perspective as we strive to cope more effectively with this difficult new phenomenon."

"Sexting" is a complex issue that covers a wide range of severity. NCMEC believes that the primary response to "sexting" must be positive, empowering educational messages directed to parents and teens. Parents must become more involved in their children's lives, be more aware of what they are doing, and set limits. Teens must become better informed about the implications and repercussions of their acts.

Two years ago, before the word "sexting" was invented, NCMEC launched a public service advertising campaign in partnership with the Ad Council. The message was "Think Before You Post." The campaign sought to alert teens to the risks associated with "sexting" and other online communications. Once the images are out there, you can't get them back. They can affect a teen's future, impact his or her ability to be admitted to college, be hired for jobs, and much more.

Yet, NCMEC also believes that in some instances, "sexting" entails serious criminal acts requiring investigation by law enforcement and action by authorities. The vast majority of these cases should be handled through the juvenile justice system with its rehabilitative ideal. But in some instances, more severe sanctions may be necessary.

A survey conducted for NCMEC by Cox Communications and released in June 2009 found that 19% of teens surveyed had sent, received, or forwarded sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude photos through text message or e-mail. Of the teens surveyed who had engaged in "sexting," 60% sent the photos to a boyfriend/girlfriend and 11% sent them to someone they did not know.

NCMEC knows about "sexting" firsthand. NCMEC's Child Victim Identification Program has reviewed and analyzed 27 million child pornography images and videos since 2003, 9 million in the past year alone. Of the children successfully identified and rescued, 10% of the images were self-produced. Another 14% were produced as a result of online enticement by another party who persuaded or extorted youth into taking and sending explicit photos.

A copy of the new Policy Statement on Sexting issued by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children can be found on the organization's Web site www.missingkids.com.

Additional resources for parents include: Safety tips for cell phone use can be found at www.NetSmartz411.org. Parents can locate an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in their area at www.icactraining.org. Suspected child sexual exploitation can be reported at www.cybertipline.com.

This year the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children observes its 25th anniversary. NCMEC has played a role in the recovery of more than 142,000 children. Today more children come home safely than any other year in the organization's 25-year history, raising the recovery rate from 62% in 1990 to 97% today. And more of those who prey on children are identified and prosecuted. Yet too many children are still missing and too many are still the victims of sexual exploitation. There is much more that needs to be done.

About the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Since it was established by Congress in 1984, the organization has operated the toll-free 24-hour national missing children's hotline which has handled nearly 2,400,000 calls. It has assisted law enforcement in the recovery of more than 142,000 children. The organization's CyberTipline has handled more than 731,000 reports of child sexual exploitation and its Child Victim Identification Program has reviewed and analyzed more than 26,847,700 child pornography images and videos. The organization works in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. To learn more about NCMEC, call its toll-free hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST or visit its Web site at www.missingkids.com.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Statement of Deneen Borelli on Allegations of Racism Against Critics of Obama Policies

TT Note: Seems to me like the only color objection the majority of Americans have to Obama is his overuse of "green." By the way, that would be wanting my "green" to belong to the federal government and not to me.

/PRNewswire/ -- This statement was issued today by Deneen Borelli of the national black leadership network Project 21:

"There they go again. Now Jimmy Carter has joined House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel, Texas Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, New York Governor David Paterson, MSNBC's Chris Matthews, the New York Times' Maureen Dowd and others on the left in claiming racism is behind criticism of President Obama's big-spending policies.

The public is outraged about the president's policies -- the spending, the budget, the deficit -- not his skin color.

President Obama was not elected only with black votes. Are those who cry 'racism' saying the American people suddenly woke up and said, 'oh, he's black so I don't like him anymore?' That makes no sense. The criticism of Obama's policies is about the policies -- the stimulus, the growth of government, cap-and-trade, the health care bills, the overspending.

It's easier for the left to play the race card than address the public's legitimate concerns, but what the left and the media are doing is damaging and dangerous.

It's damaging because when everything is racist, then nothing is. Those who cry racism without evidence will cause people to tune out in cases in which there is evidence.

It's dangerous also to send a message that racism is behind everything. What does that tell young black men and women? It tells them they will never get a fair shake and that white people who have never met them dislike them. With a message like that, its no surprise we're seeing apparently racial incidents like the widely-circulated video of a young white student being beaten up on a school bus by black students while other black students cheer. What message have those black students internalized from liberal leaders like Rangel, Johnson, Paterson, Matthews and Dowd and now former President Carter? That white people are their enemy.

If this continues -- if not already -- the left will literally have blood on its hands, and all because it was too dishonest and too cowardly to have a fair debate with the American people on policy."

Project 21, established in 1992, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (http://www.nationalcenter.org/).

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Seniors in Medicare Advantage Receive Higher Quality Care, New Reports Show

TT Note: And this is the plan the current health care reform bill will cut? What's wrong with this picture?

/PRNewswire/ -- Seniors in Medicare Advantage spent fewer days in a hospital, were subject to fewer hospital re-admissions, and were less likely to have "potentially avoidable" admissions, for common conditions ranging from uncontrolled diabetes to dehydration, according to a new analysis of publicly available AHRQ data released today by America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).

The new study echoes the findings of an earlier analysis of AHIP member data showing that seniors in Medicare health plans can receive higher quality care compared to fee-for-service (FFS) Medicare.

"Medicare Advantage plans coordinate care, help seniors manage chronic conditions, and focus on prevention to help seniors stay healthy in the first place," said Karen Ignagni, President and CEO of AHIP.

Instead of focusing almost exclusively on treating beneficiaries when they are sick, Medicare Advantage plans place a strong emphasis on preventive health care services that detect diseases at an early stage and disease management programs for seniors with chronic illnesses to help them keep their conditions under control. These programs are working to help keep patients out of the hospital and avoid potentially harmful complications.

The new study analyzed statewide datasets on hospital admissions in California and Nevada compiled by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The unique data in these states allows for direct comparisons of utilization rates among enrollees in Medicare Advantage plans and in FFS Medicare. These comparisons were adjusted for health status using the Medicare risk score process for age, sex, and 70 Hierarchical Condition Categories that are used as a basis for Medicare risk adjustment. Key findings from the report include:

-- Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in California spent 30 percent fewer
days in the hospitals than patients with FFS Medicare, and in Nevada,
seniors in Medicare Advantage plans spent 23 percent fewer days in the
hospital.
-- Medicare Advantage enrollees were re-admitted to the hospital in the
same quarter for the same condition 15 percent less often in
California and 33 percent less often in Nevada compared to FFS
Medicare.
-- In both California and Nevada, seniors in Medicare Advantage were 6
percent less likely than seniors in FFS Medicare to be admitted to the
hospital for conditions described by AHRQ as "potentially avoidable,"
such as dehydration, urinary tract infection, or uncontrolled
diabetes.

The new analysis follows a previous AHIP study comparing utilization rates among patients in eight Medicare health plans compared to seniors in FFS Medicare. This study among seniors with certain chronic conditions in California and Nevada also found that:

-- Medicare Advantage beneficiaries spent an average of 18 percent fewer
days in the hospital than seniors in FFS Medicare.
-- Seniors in Medicare Advantage had an average of 27 percent fewer
visits to the emergency room than those seniors in traditional
Medicare.
-- Seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage health plans also experienced a
42 percent lower rate of hospital re-admissions than those seniors in
FFS Medicare.
-- Avoidable admissions to the hospital were 13 percent lower among
seniors in Medicare Advantage plans than those in traditional
Medicare.

Policymakers and stakeholders recognize that reducing preventable hospital admissions and readmissions are important steps towards improving the quality and safety of patient care and helping to put our health care system on a more sustainable path. These studies demonstrate that the programs Medicare Advantage plans have implemented provide a model for how this can be accomplished.

The health care reform proposals currently being considered in Congress include significant cuts to the Medicare Advantage program that would risk the health security of millions of seniors across the country. Seniors would face higher premiums, reduced benefits, and, in some parts of the country, would lose access to their Medicare Advantage plan altogether.

"The entire Medicare program, including Medicare Advantage, should be carefully evaluated as part of comprehensive health care reform. However, seniors in Medicare Advantage should not be forced to fund a disproportionate share of the costs to reform the health care system," said Ignagni.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Watchdog Group: GM Money-Back Guarantee Paid for With Tax Dollars

TT Note: They couldn't pay their creditors, but they can offer a 60 day money back guarantee? Shouldn't that money go back to the taxpayers in the form of repaying their bailout funds? Just wondering.

/PRNewswire/ -- General Motors' new 60-day money back guarantee campaign seems to offer something for everyone -- except taxpayers, the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU) pointed out today. NTU Vice President for Policy and Communications Pete Sepp offered the following statement about the program:

This Sunday, General Motors launched a new marketing campaign, 'May the Best Car Win,' and will offer car buyers a 60-day money-back guarantee. Perhaps a more fitting slogan is 'Taxpayers, You Lose.'

Normally a strategy like this would be a bold move to compete in the marketplace - one that consumers and shareholders ultimately decide to reward or punish. Unfortunately, with this 60 percent government-owned company, taxpayers don't have the option of 'pulling out' of GM and putting their investments elsewhere; unless, of course, they'd like to be prosecuted by the IRS and spend a few years in jail. As a pro-market organization, we would applaud GM's gutsy approach - if only GM hadn't rigged the market in the first place.

Given that rigged market, it's no wonder GM can afford to offer money-back guarantees. After all, it's got $50 billion in bailout money. And it's probably not going to pay it back, according to a report last week from a Congressional Oversight Panel.

Since the federal government owns 60 percent of GM, maybe it ought to consider offering a money-back guarantee to the taxpayers as well. Instead, with this money-back guarantee GM continues to flaunt the enormous taxpayer investment in it.

According to the State of New York Banking Department, a new car loses up to 20 percent of its value the second it drives off a dealer's lot. Should taxpayers be footing this bill for GM's Zipcar-like incentive program?

If GM has money to burn on this type of program, perhaps it doesn't really need the $50 billion it received from the Treasury.

NTU is a nonpartisan, nonprofit citizen organization founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, accountability from public officials, and economic freedom at all levels. In 2008 and 2009, the group actively opposed both the automaker bailout by mobilizing its members in email alerts, conducting talk radio interviews, issuing vote alerts to lawmakers, and lobbying Congressional staff face-to-face. Note: For further information, visit www.ntu.org.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

HPV Vaccine Study Shows Why Few Women Getting Shots

TT Note: Gotta admit it. The massive advertising did encourage questions in my mind, but it was advertising.

/PRNewswire/ -- Sales of Merck's HPV vaccine, Gardasil, declined by a third this year, and three years after the FDA approved the drug an estimated three out of four women remain unvaccinated -- despite millions spent on advertising and lobbying for government mandates. A recent marketing study offers a reason.

Michelle Steward, assistant professor of marketing at Wake Forest University, and several colleagues conducted an experiment with women, ages 18 to 30, and found that they were more likely to consider being vaccinated for HPV after participating in a survey than as a result of commercial advertising or a government mandate.

"The educational cues in the survey are the least coercive and appear to prompt more thinking about the risks of not being vaccinated than laws, which may produce a negative backlash or advertisements, of which consumers might be skeptical," said Steward.

"The results would suggest that Merck's money may be best spent engaging people through a survey on relevant health topics to get the consumer to think about their own risks. There's nothing to suggest that there would be any difference in males' reactions. If Merck gains FDA approval to market Gardasil for boys, the advantages of surveys versus mandates or advertising would remain the same.

"Determining how best to move consumers from hearing about a drug or vaccination to actually using the product should rival R&D in importance to a firm," Steward said.

The study, "The Influence of Different Types of Cues-to-Action on Vaccination Behavior: An Exploratory Study," will be published in the spring edition of the Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Misleading the Public on Health Care with Spoken Words

TT Note: Perhaps the public and Congress should read the bill. Then, we would know when someone is trying to mislead us with eloquent words. Listening to the words last night makes one wonder what bill has he seen? Certainly, it's one that no one else has!

President Obama Misleads Public on Health Care for Illegal Aliens; Illegal Aliens Would Benefit Under H.R. 3200

/PRNewswire/ -- "The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally," President Obama said in a carefully worded statement to a Joint Session of Congress and the American public last night. The problem, notes the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), is that the health care reforms proposed in H.R. 3200, America's Affordable Health Care Act of 2009, clearly would benefit illegal aliens.

"Perhaps the reforms that President Obama advocates would not cover illegal aliens, but those are not the reforms currently under consideration by Congress," commented Dan Stein, president of FAIR. "H.R. 3200, the legislation that the House will be voting on, would allow illegal aliens to benefit from the government-financed public option, and includes no verification provisions to prevent illegal aliens from receiving taxpayer subsidies to purchase private health insurance."

President Obama's assertion that illegal alien would not be covered under AAHCA is directly contradicted by an August 25 report, Treatment of Noncitizens in H.R. 3200, issued by the Congressional Research Service. The nonpartisan research arm of Congress concluded, "H.R. 3200 does not contain any restrictions on noncitizens - whether legally or illegal present, or in the United States temporarily or permanently - participating in the [Health Insurance] Exchange."

Once in the Exchange, participants are free to enroll in the government run health insurance program. This public option, established under H.R. 3200, would be heavily or entirely subsidized by the American taxpayers. While illegal aliens are barred from receiving "affordability credits" to help pay for private insurance, CRS noted the absence of any mechanism in the bill to verify citizenship or legal residency.

"There is no reason why the controversy over whether illegal aliens will be eligible for massive health care subsidies should persist," said Stein. "The president, congressional leaders, and the public all agree they should not. The authors of H.R. 3200 can easily remove the ambiguities from the House bill, and Senate leaders can include specific language barring illegal aliens from all nonemergency benefits in the bill that is being written in that chamber.

"President Obama himself can also play an important role in seeing to it that his wishes are carried out by publicly urging leaders of both houses to include clear, unambiguous language in their legislation that would preclude illegal aliens from coverage under his health care reform proposal," Stein continued. "FAIR stands ready to work with the White House and congressional leaders to develop legislative language that would make sure that President Obama's pledge to the American people is fulfilled."

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

American Life League: Bishops Must Choose Between Christ-Centered Care and Obamacare

/PRNewswire/ -- As Obama prepares to address the nation Wednesday on his health care plan, American Life League challenged the nation's Catholic bishops to be prepared to shut down Catholic health care and make it clear that they prefer this action to compromising with the intrinsic evils currently contained in various Obamacare proposals.

"Obama speaks tonight. Christ speaks always. When it comes to health care reform which road will our Catholic bishops take?" the group asked in a Washington Times ad.

The ad highlighted six principled positions Catholic-supported health care must include: opposition to abortion, contraception, sterilization, human embryonic stem cell therapy, euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Judie Brown, president of American Life League, the country's largest grassroots Catholic pro-life organization, said the ad addressed a critical question from the nation's lay Catholic faithful: Why are the bishops largely remaining silent in opposition to the deadly provisions contained in Obamacare proposals?

"The president has laid before us a government mandate to subsidize a culture of death and impose it on Catholic health care," Brown said. "We desperately need our bishops to lead the fight against this plan so diametrically opposed to the Faith - yet their silence speaks their approval."

The ad quotes Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) who in 1997 said:

"The words of the Bible and of the Church fathers rang in my ears, those sharp condemnations of shepherds who are like mute dogs; in order to avoid conflicts, they let the poison spread. Peace is not the first civic duty, and a bishop whose only concern is not to have any problems and to gloss over as many conflicts as possible is an image I find repulsive."

"For the American bishops, the choice is simple," Brown said. "Embrace Obamacare and sell the soul of the Church to government bureaucrats and politicians or embrace the Faith and be prepared to shut down Catholic health care rather than participate in intrinsic evil. We ask the bishops to unite behind Christ and His teachings now while there is still time to have a positive effect on the road ahead."

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Schools Failing When It Comes to Bullying, Violence Prevention

/PRNewswire/ -- Key to a child's successful education is an environment in which he or she can learn safely. According to a report released today by the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, only 26 percent of parents would give their child's high school an "A" for preventing bullying and school violence, and 38 percent of parents would give their child's elementary or junior high an "A."

"Children who are victims of bullying can have serious health effects, including physical injuries and emotional problems such as depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts and actions," says Matthew Davis, M.D., director of the poll and associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the U-M Medical School. "Unfortunately, in the United States, we've seen some tragedies in the past few years regarding episodes of school violence that have gotten a lot of media coverage and upset many parents."

In the U.S., an estimated 160,000 children miss school every day out of fear of attack or intimidation by other students, according to the National Education Association. Since 1992, there have been 250 violent deaths in schools, and bullying has been a factor in many school shootings.

"What this poll shows is that parents are still very concerned about bullying in their schools. About three-quarters of states nationwide have implemented bullying prevention laws that are designed to encourage, and in some cases force schools to present and deliver bullying prevention curriculum to students," says Davis, who is also an associate professor of public policy at the U-M Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. "But based on these findings, it doesn't appear that those curricula or programs are working effectively."

The poll asked 1,087 parents across the U.S. in May 2009 to assign their child's school an A through F grade in five categories: overall safety, building security, bullying and school violence prevention, keeping students safe during a school-wide emergency, and keeping parents informed in the event of a school-wide emergency.

Parents grades for other school safety concerns:

-- Overall safety: 59 percent of parents would give their child's primary
school an "A," while 33 percent of parents would give their child's
secondary school an "A."
-- Keeping parents informed in a school-wide emergency: 64 percent of
parents would give their child's primary school an "A," while 46
percent of parents would give their child's secondary school an "A."
-- Keeping their child safe during a school-wide emergency: 62 percent of
parents would give their child's primary school an "A," while 36
percent of parents would give their child's secondary school an "A."
-- Building security: 49 percent of parents would give their child's
primary school an "A," while 33 percent of parents would give their
child's secondary school an "A."

What parents can do

Parents who have concerns about bullying in their child's school can get involved in a few ways. Davis suggests parents become active in local safe school and safe community programs where bullying and violence prevention programs already exist.

In the few states where bullying prevention programs do not exist, Davis suggests parents get involved in the legislative process by advocating for bullying programs to be put in place using other states as examples.

"But right at home, there's a way for parents to make a difference too," he says. "Parents can listen to their kids who are their eyes and ears in the schools, especially about issues of bullying. It can be really hard for children to bring up the topic of bullying so parents may need to ask directly about it and make home a safe place to talk about this important problem."

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Laws? Department of Education Forgot Their Homework

TT Note: Guess the Department of Education forgot to do its own homework when the powers up in the White House decided to provide their controversial classroom assignment on writing letters. Maybe they should take their own advice and do their own homework on the laws of the land.

White House Withdraws Call for Students to 'Help' Obama
FOXNews.com

The Obama administration is rethinking its course recommendations for students ahead of President Obama's address to the the nation's schoolchildren next week, rewriting its suggestions to teachers for student assignments on how to "help the president."

White House aides said the language was supposed to be an inspirational, pro-education message to America's youths, but its unintended consequences were evident......http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/09/03/white-house-withdraws-students-help-obama/

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Consumer and Privacy Groups Urge Congress to Enact Consumer Privacy Guarantees

TT Note: Insidious surveillance. Now there's a topic for discussion. All you have to do is to watch the news and see who lately has been collecting data, such as email addresses, to make you nervous. Yep, protection of our privacy is so very important.

/PRNewswire/ -- A coalition of ten consumer and privacy advocacy organizations today called on Congress to enact legislation to protect consumer privacy in response to threats from the growing practices of online behavioral tracking and targeting.

"Developments in the digital age urgently require the application of Fair Information Practices to new business practices," the groups said. "Today, electronic information from consumers is collected, compiled, and sold; all done without reasonable safeguards."

The groups noted that for the past four decades the foundation of U.S. privacy policies has been based on Fair Information Practices: collection limitation, data quality, purpose specification, use limitation, security safeguards, openness, individual participation, and accountability. They called on Congress to apply those principles in legislation to protect consumer information and privacy.

Behavioral advertising, where a user's online activity is tracked so that ads can be served based on the user's behavior, was cited as a particular concern: "Tracking people's every move online is an invasion of privacy. Online behavioral tracking is even more distressing when consumers aren't aware who is tracking them, that it's happening, or how the information will be used. Often consumers are not asked for their consent and have no meaningful control over the collection and use of their information, often by third parties with which they have no relationships."

The coalition outlined its concerns and recommended principles for consumer information privacy legislation in letters sent to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, its Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection and Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet.

"Consumers must have their privacy protected as they conduct business and personal matters online," explained Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. "Ensuring that our financial, health, and household transactions have adequate safeguards must be a top Congressional priority."

Chairman Rick Boucher (D-Va.) has indicated that the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet will consider consumer privacy legislation this fall. Hearings were held this summer.

"The rise of behavioral tracking has made it possible for consumer information to be almost invisibly tracked, compiled and potentially misused on or offline. It's critical that government enact strong privacy regulations whose protections will remain with consumers as they interact on their home computer, cell phones, PDAs or even at the store down the street. Clear rules will help consumers understand how their information is used, obtained and tracked," said Amina Fazlullah of U.S. Public Interest Research Group. "In the event of abuse of consumer information, this legislation could provide consumers a clear pathway for assistance from government agencies or redress in the courts."

"Respect for human dignity is at the core of our concerns, but we are also worried that online behavioral tracking can be used to target vulnerable consumers for high-price loans, bogus health cures and other potentially harmful products and services," said Susan Grant, director of Consumer Protection at Consumer Federation of America.

"Technological advances have made it far too easy to surreptitiously track individuals online," said Melissa Ngo of Privacy Lives. "Congress needs to step in and enact legislation that will protect consumer privacy rights no matter what technology is used to collect their data."

"When a consumer goes online, they expect that the information collected from the pages they visit will be kept private from companies trolling the Web looking for personal information," said Joel Kelsey, of Consumers Union. "We are setting a very dangerous precedent for American families if we allow advertisers and Internet companies to monitor our every click and analyze our every Web stroke, just to sell our information off without our knowledge."

"Limiting commercial tracking of our online activities may also help protect privacy against the government, which often gets information about us from private companies," said Lee Tien, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"Behavioral ad technology represents the cutting edge of insidious surveillance. It is essential that national policy puts privacy first so that consumers can fully participate online without fear of unfair data collection and use," said Evan Hendricks, editor of Privacy Times.

So far the online industry has argued that self-regulation provides adequate consumer protection. The coalition said formal regulation is necessary.

"The record is clear: industry self-regulation doesn't work," said Beth Givens, Director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse "It is time for Congress to step in and codify the principles into law."

"We've seen in industry after industry what happens when the fox is left to guard the chicken coop -- consumers lose," said John M. Simpson of Consumer Watchdog. "Regulations that can be enforced to hold the industry accountable are essential."

Among the main points that the coalition said should be included in consumer privacy legislation:

-- Sensitive information should not be collected or used for behavioral
tracking or targeting.
-- No behavioral data should be collected or used from anyone under age
18 to the extent that age can be inferred.
-- Web sites and ad networks shouldn't be able to collect or use
behavioral data for more than 24 hours without getting the
individual's affirmative consent.
-- Behavioral data shouldn't be used to unfairly discriminate against
people or in any way that would affect an individual's credit,
education, employment, insurance, or access to government benefits.

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