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September 12, 2011 | Death

We buried Mom’s ashes last weekend and got to spend the day with family, aunts, uncles and cousins. It was a good ending.

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | 2 Comments  

Books: Food Lover’s Companion

January 16, 2010 | Books,Death,Food

When I was putting together my mother-in-law’s recipe for fish soup, I discovered that the author of one of the most-used books in my kitchen had died. Three years ago this month. Sharon Tyler Herbst, who wrote the Food Lover’s Companion (among many other food books), died in January 2007 after fighting ovarian cancer.

Posted by Becky @ 4:03 pm | Comments  

Mammogram guidelines

November 19, 2009 | Benefits,Breast cancer,Death,Economics,Ethics,Health,Medical,MSM,Politics,PR,Research,Statistics,U.S. government

Women should now get mammograms starting at age 50, not 40.

Who says?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. It recently published its recommendations in the Nov. 17, 2009, issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, published 24 times a year by the American College of Physicians.

Who is the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force?

It’s a panel of 16 people from the medical community and 14 “evidence-based practice centers,” which includes medical-research universities and institutions and — at the top of the list — Blue Cross Blue Shield.

(Blue Cross Blue Shield started a site called Get Health Reform Right earlier this year to express the insurance industry’s wishes regarding health-care reform, such as, “Creating a new government plan would cause the employer-provided health insurance system that 160 million Americans rely on today to unravel.”)

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius released a statement Nov. 18, saying, “I would be very surprised if any private insurance company changed its mammography coverage decisions as a result of this action.” Anyone who says the task force doesn’t influence what private insurance companies do regarding mammograms needs to read the task force’s Web site, which explains that one of its goals is to inform and develop coverage decisions.

The EPCs review all relevant scientific literature on clinical, behavioral, and organization and financing topics to produce evidence reports and technology assessments. These reports are used for informing and developing coverage decisions, quality measures, educational materials and tools, guidelines, and research agendas. The EPCs also conduct research on methodology of systematic reviews. [Emphasis added is mine.]

Besides, where do they think the current mammogram guidelines come from?

To come up with this most recent recommendation, the task force looked at research done in China and Russia.

The research in China (“Randomized Trial of Breast Self-Examination in Shanghai: Final Results,” published Oct. 2, 2002, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Oxford University Press) found that “the efficacy of breast self-examination for decreasing breast cancer mortality is unproven,” based on 266 breast-cancer deaths (135 in the main group and 131 in the control group) over 10 years. The study was conducted from October 1989 to October 1991, and women were followed through December 2000. The task force apparently took the difference of only four breast-cancer deaths to show that breast self-examination plays no part in saving women’s lives from breast cancer.

However, the authors of that study also said, “This was a trial of the teaching of BSE, not the practice of BSE.” They went on to say:

It should not be inferred from the results of this study that there would be no reduction in risk of dying from breast cancer if women practiced BSE competently and frequently. It is possible that highly motivated women could be taught to detect cancers that develop between regular screenings, and that the diligent practice of BSE would enhance the benefit of a screening program.

Yet, the task force recommends that physicians stop teaching patients how to do breast self-examinations.

The articles about the research in Russia are all published in Russian. Unless someone on the task force can read and understand Russian, or unless the task force had the articles translated, it’s fair to say that nobody on the task force read anything other than abstracts on Medline, which provide incredibly limited information, except for dates of publication.

Others weigh in

Posted by Becky @ 7:53 pm | 5 Comments  

What can heal the U.S. health-care system?

August 14, 2009 | Barack Obama,Benefits,Death,Economics,Ethics,Getting sick,Health,Medical,Nancy Pelosi,Pharma,Pharmaceuticals,Politics,U.S. government

I really don’t know. But David Goldhill has some smart things to say in “How American Health Care Killed My Father” in the September 2009 issue of The Atlantic.

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | 1 Comment  

State Department grants*** Blackwater immunity

October 30, 2007 | Blackwater,Death,Defense industry,Ethics,FEMA,George Bush,Iraq,Military,MSM,PR,U.S. government


But it apparently didn’t tell FBI agents before sending them to Baghdad to investigate the Sept. 16, 2007, incident that left 17 Iraqis dead.

The investigative misstep comes in the wake of already-strained relations between the United States and Iraq, which is demanding the right to launch its own prosecution of the Blackwater bodyguards.

Misstep? The U.S. State Department can’t seem to get a grasp on oversight. The U.S. embassy offers to pay Iraqi families $12,500 for each Blackwater victim. Who’s running this joint? FEMA?

Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell declined comment about the U.S. investigation.

Well. Duh.

It’s not clear why the Diplomatic Security investigators agreed to give immunity to the bodyguards, or who authorized doing so.

Of course not.

Bureau of Diplomatic Security chief Richard Griffin last week announced his resignation, effective Thursday. Senior State Department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said his departure was directly related to his oversight of Blackwater contractors.

But Blackwater branches out and expands its contracts, even though it was accused of stealing Iraqi airplanes, smuggling and illegally selling weapons, almost killing a U.S. soldier and evading taxes.

Last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ordered a series of measures to boost government oversight of the private guards who protect American diplomats in Iraq. They include increased monitoring and explicit rules on when and how they can use deadly force.

Right. Cultural awareness training. Yeah. That’ll fix it. Heckuva job, Condi.

At least the immunity explains why Blackwater CEO Erik Princewelcomes extra oversight,” has employed a new PR campaign and blitzed (blizted with Blizter … get it?) the mediachatting with everyone but Letterman, and asked reporters to contact Congress on Blackwater’s behalf. Sort of his own little “bring ’em on” statement.

***Oh, wait. Blackwater always had immunity.

Dig this.

Oh, that Bush. He’s such a kidder.

Need more laughs?

We believe that Iraq as a market will continue to grow for some time due to the outsourcing by the US government in terms of convoy logistics, in terms of guarding, that will continue. The fact that there are obviously huge oil reserves in Iraq and international companies will go back in once the security situation stabilises a bit more. Patrick Toyne-Sewell, ArmorGroup International, The Independent, Oct. 24, 2007

Here are some of the companies with government contracts in Iraq:

Posted by Becky @ 3:11 pm | Comments  

Freelance journalist killed in Iraq

October 16, 2007 | Death,Iraq,Journalism

Freelance journalist Dhi Abdul-Razak al-Dibo, 32, was shot dead near Kirkuk on Monday, less than 24 hours after a Washington Post correspondent was killed in Baghdad.

According to Reporters sans frontières (Reporters Without Borders): at least 54 journalists and media assistants have been killed in Iraq since the start of the year; 10 worked for foreign news media (Radio Free Europe, Newsweek, ABC, APTN, Reuters, The New York Times and The Washington Post); and 203 media workers have been killed and 83 kidnapped (14 apparently still being held) in Iraq since 2003.

The Freedom Forum Journalists Memorial has a working list, Journalists in Peril.

Posted by Becky @ 9:07 am | Comments  

Washington Post correspondent killed in Baghdad

October 14, 2007 | Death,Iraq,Journalism

Washington Post special correspondent Salih Saif Aldin, 32, was shot to death Sunday in southwest Baghdad while on assignment, the first reporter for the newspaper to be killed during the Iraq war.

At least 118 journalists have been killed in Iraq while on duty, almost 100 of them Iraqis, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Posted by Becky @ 4:38 pm | 2 Comments  

Blackwater testifies before House committee

October 2, 2007 | Afghanistan,Death,Defense industry,Dignitary visits,Ethics,Iraq

Blackwater USA founder and owner Erik Prince testifies today before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, starting at 10 a.m. (streaming live here).

I still want to know: Who were the U.S. diplomats being guarded by Blackwater employees on Sept. 16, 2007, and will they be required to testify before the committee?

Posted by Becky @ 11:00 am | Comments  

Blackwater: Billion-dollar cowboys in Iraq

September 24, 2007 | Death,Defense industry,Dignitary visits,Ethics,Iraq


The headline says that “cowboy” aggression works for Blackwater. For Iraqis? Not so much.

But it is largely accepted that the Pentagon doesn’t have enough troops to fight both the war in Iraq and perform all the tasks contracted out to firms such as Blackwater, including protecting diplomats and other civilians in one of the world’s most dangerous places.

The Pentagon doesn’t have enough troops for protecting diplomats. Here’s a thought. For starters, why not stop the revolving-door dignitary visits by elected officials?

Posted by Becky @ 8:56 pm | 1 Comment  

Lucky ducks survive country’s top ‘mean streets’

September 23, 2007 | Death,Family,Safety,Traffic


I was on my way to pick up my son from preschool on Thursday when traffic came to a complete stop. I looked around, wondering if there had been an accident or if a car stalled. Nothing. Was an ambulance or fire truck coming? Nope. Then I saw it. Lunch-hour traffic had stopped for a duck and a duckling crossing the six-lane highway.

Isn’t that sweet?

This is the city …

  • that topped the list of the Mean Streets 2004 report published by the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership, which said that 3.69 per 100,000 people died in pedestrian accidents here.
  • where children holding hands across the street are killed and put in the hospital by hit-and-run drivers.
  • where students are killed using the crosswalk on the way to school. Or getting off the school bus. Or trying to get to a bus stop.
  • where mothers pushing baby strollers are killed. And killed. (Imagine the aneurysm, heart attack and stroke I had when I learned a visiting relative had been pushing my then-18-month-old son along the highway.)
  • where a pedestrian is hit by not one, not two but five cars.
  • that has almost as many of these


and these


and these


as it does stoplights. It has so many “drive safely” signs and memorials, in fact, that county commissioners approved a policy to standardize them because there are so many and people can’t agree on whether or for how long they should be posted.

This is the city where the woman who killed my dog right in front of my house still screeches around the corner practically on two wheels (with an organ-donation bumper sticker on her car, no less — so many organ-laden pedestrians, so little time?) ignoring this


and this


and must be confused about the big 2 and 5 on that other sign, thinking it means minimum speed limit.

Stop for babies, children, students and mothers? Eh. Not so much.

But ducks? Yeah. We’ll stop for ducks.

Posted by Becky @ 4:11 pm | 1 Comment  

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