News Capsules (July/August
Linear No Threshold Hypothesis
U.S. Senator Pete Domenici has asked the General Accounting Office (GAO) to update a 1994 study on radiation protection in the United States, pointing out that the agency should examine the validity of standards on which current policies are based.
Sen. Domenici made the request in a letter to the GAO, citing his concerns about the cost impact of the so-called linear no threshold hypothesis (LNTH), as it is applied to radiation protection standards in the United States. The LNTH assumes that any amount of radiation, regardless of how small, can cause health effects such as cancer (and ignoring the accumulating body of evidence for radiation hormesis). This theory forms the basis of all radiation protection standards, and results in regulations that limit radiation to people to very low levels.
"The linear no threshold hypothesis is now questioned by many scientists and health professionals, who assert radiation doses below certain levels, a threshold, may have no deleterious health effects at all. If radiation protection standards are unnecessarily restrictive, the impact on the costs of high level waste disposal --- such as Yucca Mountain, low-level waste disposal, power plant decommissioning and decontamination, and DOE's environmental cleanup could be huge," he said.
The Congress approved $12 million to begin determining the cellular and biological effects of low-level radiation --- the sort nuclear power plant and clean-up workers are exposed to --- in order to develop appropriate radiation protection standards. (Source: http://www.senate.gov/~domenici/press.)
One of the foremost critics of the LNTH and unnecessary restrictive radiation protection standards is Prof. Bernard Cohen of the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh, who spoke at the Doctor for Disaster Preparedness (DDP) meeting in Seattle, Washington last year.
More Canadian News
Last fall, the Provincial government of Manitoba, Canada went down to embarrassing defeat not only because of the handling of health care, but also because of "re-thermalized" hospital food being served to hospitalized patients. Writing in Ideas on Liberty (March 2000), Lawrence Reed, chairman of the Foundation for Economic Education's Board of Trustees, explains that unhappy patients of Manitoba's hospitals have complained for months about this unappetizing victuals served in Manitoba hospitals. Bureaucrats in Toronto decided that "re-thermalized" food, cut rate meals prepared in far away Toronto (1,300 miles away), which had been frozen and then shipped to Manitoba, reheated and served was to be a cost saving innovation for serving hospital food. Central planner bureaucrats came up with the idea this could save money to their system of socialized medicine. Reed writes, "How does a hospital food become a political issue? The same way anything --- from the important to utterly inconsequential --- becomes a political issue: socialize it. Take any matter that people normally resolve quickly, peacefully, and privately by their own choices and initiatives, turn it over to government, and watch what happens. Factions arise. Conflict ensues. Problems appear...Life is too short to waste precious time politicking about hospital food. Across Canada, hospital food is the least of their problems. Socialized medicine is in trouble as we discussed in the May/June 2000 issue of the Medical Sentinel.
Origin of AIDS
A new study reports that HIV-1 most likely originated from chimpanzees transmitted to humans in the 1930s in Africa. The findings were reported at the 7th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections held in San Francisco. Betty Corber, PhD, of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico analyzing the genetic sequences of variants of HIV-1, used one of the world's most powerful super computers utilized by physicist at Los Alamos. HIV has a rapid mutation rate, which makes it difficult for a vaccine to be effective and resistance to antiviral medication.
Using advanced mathematical modeling techniques
her team was able to extrapolate the various strains of the virus and predict
at which point they converged back to a common origin. How the virus jumped
from chimpanzees to humans is still not understood, but scientists suspect
that the infection could have occurred as a result of close contact during
hunting, trapping, butchering, or eating of the animals. These findings
make it much less likely there is a connection between the oral polio vaccine
and a controversial theory that the AIDS epidemic began in the 1950s from
contaminated specimens. (John Stevenson, PhD, JAMA 2000;283(10).)
Oral Sex and HIV Transmission
At the 7th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, data was also presented revealing that "up to 8 percent of new HIV infections appear to result from unprotected oral sex, a behavior many people perceive as relatively low risk."
The study, by researchers at the CDC, San Francisco General Hospital, and the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), interviewed 102 recently infected gay and bisexual men and out of this group, 8 individuals who had "no risky behaviors other than practicing oral sex on other men without protection" were found to have contracted the disease by the oral route.
"What we think is happening is that there
is probably a lot less unprotected anal sex than there was a few years ago,
but there hasn't been the same kind of reduction in oral sex," said
Frederick Hedge, M.D., of UCSF. "Patients need to be aware that oral
sex isn't safe sex. While it is lower risk [than unprotected anal or vaginal
sex] they cannot count on it to be 100 percent." (John Stevenson,
PhD, JAMA 2000;283(10).)
Medical Ecology and Environment Update
Over 600 scientists from around the world signed a declaration supporting agricultural biotechnology, calling recombinant DNA techniques and other biotech developments "powerful and safe."
The statement as reported in the March 2000 issue of Environment & Climate News declares "that recombinant DNA techniques constitute powerful and safe means for the modification of organisms and can contribute substantially in enhancing quality of life by improving agriculture, health care, and the environment.
More than 370 medical researchers, including three Nobel laureates, in 57 countries have urged the United Nations not to ban DDT, saying such action "unacceptably endangers health in countries with malaria."
"To act ethically, we must know with the greatest of certainty that DDT is unnecessary before we ban it," they added.
Although DDT is banned in the United States, it remains the most effective
pesticide in preventing the spread of malaria which kills nearly 3 million
people a year. The U.S. banned DDT 27 years ago. (The Heartland Institute,
19 S. LaSalle St, #903, Chicago, IL 60603, http://www.heartlandinstitute.org.)
Welfare State Continues to Grow Despite Reform
When President Lyndon B. Johnson launched the War on Poverty in the mid-1960s, he announced it was an investment that would repay its cost to society many times over. Since that time, the United States has "invested" $7.95 trillion (in 1999 dollars) in programs that provide cash, food, housing, and medical and social services to poor and low-income Americans.
By contrast, the cost to the United States of fighting World War II was $3.2 trillion (also in 1999 dollars). The cost of the War on Poverty has been more than twice the price tag for defeating Germany and Japan in World War II, after adjusting for inflation.
Robert Rector and David Muhlhausen write that even though President Clinton pledged to "end welfare as we know it," he steadily expanded welfare programs so that by 1995 welfare spending reached $379 billion and comprised 5.2 percent of the GDP.
President Reagan's defense buildup of the 1980s was actually one-third smaller than the growth of welfare in the 1990s.
We must closely follow the effect of welfare reform to watch for signs
of a true reversal.
Health Illiteracy --- Dangerous to Your
Public education and government schools, which have given us grim statistics in American education, have given us health illiteracy, "the inability to read, understand, and act correctly on health information."
In "Why the Decline in American Education and Morals" (Medical Sentinel 1997;2(1):14-15), we wrote that the goals of education have been perverted so that standards have been diminished to the lowest common denominator...academic excellence is no longer pursued for fear of defending the sensitivities and 'hurting the self-esteem' of underachieving youngsters." As we like to say, the chickens have come home to roost.
The 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey found that 21 percent of Americans are functionally illiterate while an additional 27 percent are only marginally literate. This means they are either reading at or below a fifth grade level or they are having difficulty with reading comprehension and/or computational skills.
Among the findings of the study: 27 percent of English speaking patients
at public hospitals could not read their appointment slips and 42 percent
did not understand the information on their prescription bottles. Studies
were also cited that demonstrate that "low health" literacy skills
cost the U.S. health care system approximately $73 billion annually in unnecessary
doctor visits, hospitalizations, and longer hospital stays." (AMNews,
March 20, 2000)
A Reflection of Our Declining Mental
and Moral Health
Oscar Recap: "And the Oscar goes to ...
* Best Supporting Actress --- Angelina Jolly, for her role as a drug addict.
* Best Supporting Actor --- Michael Caine, for his role as a pro-abortion doctor.
* Best Actress --- Hillary Swank, as a lesbian.
* Best Actor --- Kevin Spacey, for his role as an unrealistic suburban idiot.
And the Oscar for Best Picture?
* American Beauty, where Spacey's character quits his job, drools over a 16-year-old girl, and french kisses Frank, his neighbor, forging a theme of adultery, drug use, rebellion, suicide, disrespect, disillusionment, and masturbation.
It must be election time. Hollywood is selling
liberal misery to America again. Geeusually we only get this stuff on CNN!"
(Columnist Tom Adkins, The Common Conservative, 04/01/00.)
Did Those Fingers Have Trigger Locks?
"A few weeks ago, a quartet of five-year-old boys was suspended from an elementary school in Sayreville, New Jersey. The little boys were playing cops and robbers at recess, small hands poised like guns and big voices full of bravado. 'Boom, one of the diminutive perpetrators reportedly hollered at a classmate. 'I have a bazooka, and I'm gonna shoot you.' The classmate told a teacher, the teacher told Wilson School Principal Georgia Baumann, and she in turn phoned the local school superintendent. They determined the school yard offense worthy of suspension. Mrs. Baumann told the boys they couldn't come to school for three days." (Washington Times National Weekly Edition, 4/16/00)
The Original Extremists
"Those crazy Miami Cubans. Did you see them on CNN? Screaming, yelling, waving flags, stomping around and actually getting angry. They're almost frothing at the mouth, crying real tears, ranting and raving about America, freedom and all that stuff. They sound almost like [like] Patrick Henry. Or Ben Franklin. Or Thomas Jefferson. Or any one of those nut cases who signed the Declaration of Independence and told King George to take a flying leap. Those guys were absolutely fanatical about their freedom. No wonder Democrats hate them." (Columnist Tom Adkins, The Common Conservative, 5/1/00.)
We regret inadvertent errors that somehow creep into the final product, one such typo occurred on page 81 in the May/June 2000 issue. The word "succeeds" should have been "succeed."
Also in the January/February 2000 issue, the caption on Table 1 on page
60 of that issue had four asterisks missing. The corrected copy is posted
on our website at http://www.haciendapub.com/article36.html.--- Eds.
This edition of News Capsules was compiled by Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the Medical Sentinel of the AAPS. It appeared in the Medical Sentinel 2000;5(4):118-120. Copyright©2000 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.