Monthly Archives: November 2014

New Study Finds that Laser Tattoo Removal Can Help Reduce Acne Scars

Beautiful young woman face.

Laser tattoo removal is often associated with youthful mistakes, unskilled body art, and memories perhaps better forgotten. But as tattoos become increasingly accepted in many cultures, the future of this technology may extend into new areas. For example, a new study has found that one popular form of laser acne treatment is also effective as a treatment for acne scarring.

 

Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting 40 million to 50 million Americans around the country. However, even after the disorder clears, many patients see evidence of their skin problems linger in the form of scars, which are often caused by repeated breakouts on one stretch of skin. Currently, acne scars are treated with fractional ablative lasers, but the procedure has its drawbacks: while patients will typically require only one treatment, the skin will take as long as a month to heal after the procedure, and even one treatment can be quite costly.

However, new research could offer some patients a preferable alternative: researchers at the Laser and Skin Surgery Center of New York found that a tool commonly used in laser tattoo removal, called a picosecond pulse duration laser, also had a significant impact on acne scars. After the study’s authors noticed that a patient undergoing a tattoo removal experienced a noticeable change in her stretch marks and scars, they tested the procedure on 17 patients with facial acne scars. The patients received six procedures that lasted between 10 and 15 minutes, with each session scheduled four to eight weeks apart. The study found that the patients’ scars had improved by 25 to 50% after their last treatment, with the results maintained three months after three months had passed. Moreover, the study reported that even the patients with extremely deep scars were satisfied or very satisfied with the effects of the treatment.

Despite the promise of the study, however, there is some question about the impartiality of its intentions. Cynosure, the company that makes the laser, was involved with the design of the study and also made payments to the two doctors, Jeremy A. Bauer and Roy G. Geronemus. Additionally, Geronemus sits on Cynosure’s medical advisory board. However, the company reportedly did not participate in the process of the research or collect, manage or interpret the data. Therefore, there is at least some reason to believe that the evidence has not been compromised.

While the dermatologists have cautioned that the picosecond pulse duration laser will not be the right option for all patients, they have suggested that it could be a helpful alternative for patients interested in a shorter healing time and a more gradual revitalization process. The picosecond pulse duration laser has also been shown to improve the texture and pigmentation of a patient’s skin, unlike fractional ablative laser treatment, which requires careful attention to ensure that the condition of the skin does not worsen. But ultimately, a doctor’s choice of treatment will depend on the patient, their skin type, their scars, and finally, their preferences. Fortunately, cost will likely not be a deciding factor between the two options: while individual treatments of picosecond pulse duration lasers cost less than fractional ablative laser treatments, the former will require several more treatments, which the researchers speculate will even out the different prices.

Picosecond pulse duration lasers do have some side effects: patients in the study reported some redness and swelling, which lasted from a few hours to two days after each application. However, the participants reported that the pain of the treatment only reached a 3 on a scale of 0-10, a promising detail given the famed discomfort of tattoo removal. Because of these benefits, Cynosure has reportedly submitted their treatment to the FDA to be approved as a treatment for acne scars. If you have this common skin ailment, picosecond pulse duration therapy could be a treatment option in your future.

Early Buffalo Lake Effect Snowstorm Closes Thruway, Leaves Area Residents Homebound

Art Hauret

Residents of the Buffalo area are accustomed to large amounts of snow and strong winds; however, this latest storm shook the region to its core.

A violent lake effect snow storm, dubbed the “Knife,” tore through the region earlier this week, leaving the area buried under several feet of snow. The storm wreaked havoc on the area, coming in so fast and with such ferocity that 150 vehicles, including a bus carrying Niagara University’s women’s basketball team, were trapped along a 132-mile stretch of the New York State Thruway.

Cars, trucks, and buses were stranded in nearly four feet of snow along a four-mile section near Buffalo. Some motorists were trapped in the paralyzing ordeal for over 20 hours — some up to 35 — waiting for help to come, but even emergency vehicles had difficulty navigating through the storm.

According to the State Department of Transportation, the Thruway may remain closed until at least Friday, while local officials continue to work with National Guard in order to coordinate disaster relief. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is expected to visit the area in order to survey the damage.

However, Buffalonians are a hearty people, and they banded together to weather the storm. In South Buffalo, Brian Krzeminski watched as foot after foot of snow piled up in front of his convenience store. Working overnight, he served free coffee to pedestrians and motorists who in came in seeking warmth and protection from the storm. “There are people that came out to get a few things. We had some people who came in just to get a 30-pack of beer, which is kind of odd,” he said. “We’ve had EMTs whose ambulance got stuck. I’m constantly seeing cars get stuck.” 

Residents were encouraged to check on their elderly neighbors, and to bring them food if necessary, as Meals on Wheels was closed due to poor road conditions.

The storm has already claimed at least six lives, three of which were attributed to heart attacks. In the Buffalo suburb of Hamburg, firefighters had to carry a patient by foot 10 blocks to South Buffalo Mercy Hospital. Due to the several feet of snow that fell in South Buffalo, it was not possible to reach or leave the hospital by vehicle.

While it’s common to see a surge in emergency room patients during natural disasters and severe storms, urgent care centers often experience the same influx of patients. Urgent care has continued to play an essential role in the American healthcare system, with some facilities offering many of the same services as hospital emergency departments, but at a lower cost, since the average emergency room visit costs an average of $1,500, while the average cost of treatment at an urgent care center is under $150. 

Patients who are experiencing life-threatening health conditions, such as a heart attack due to overexertion while shoveling out from under a big storm, should still seek out emergency care.

Reports Show That November is Still the Worst Month for Deer Collisions — Here’s What Drivers Can Do

deer

With shortened daylight hours, inclement weather, and increased activity in the animal population, November sees the highest number of car collisions with deer. This year in Indiana, numbers are down just a bit, but car repair shops are still getting a good amount of business.

According to The Register-Mail, deer-related crashes decreased by about one percent between 2012 and 2013, from 15,495 to 15,334. About 40 to 50% of crashes that occur during the transition between fall and winter — the months of October, November, and December — are due to collisions with deer.

Though these months see the highest percentage of deer collisions, according to Ozarks First, November is the peak month. Collisions with deer don’t just cause damage to the vehicle and the animal — they cause injuries and deaths as well. According to the National Safety Counsel, there were an estimated 35,200 auto-related deaths in 2013 — six of them in Indiana were the result of colliding with a deer.

“We’re already seeing signs,” Michelle Terpening, an estimator at a collision center in Indiana told the Register-Mail, confirming the IDOT report. “We get [deer-related wrecks] all year long, but they’re more common in the fall and close to winter.”

There are some things that drivers can do to decrease their chances of hitting deer:

  • Reducing speed when driving near heavily wooded areas, water, and farm fields.
  • Being more attentive during twilight hours when deer are more active.
  • Avoiding swerving to keep from hitting a deer.
  • Knowing that deer travel in groups; where there is one, it’s likely that more are following close behind.
  • Making sure to look at both sides of the road when approaching areas where deer may cross.

Before an accident does occur, drivers should make sure to call their insurance agencies to see if damage from a deer-related accident is covered, since repairs can be very costly — with the cheapest repair jobs still running about $1,000.

Despite Childhood Warnings Not to Let Them Bite, Bed Bugs Are on the Rise

bed bug

The good news: Pinellas County has had a booming year in tourism, making a record $35 million in bed taxes. The bad news: it also had the most bed bug complaints in the entire state.

“I started studying bedbugs in 2004 and we have seen nothing but increases,” said Dini Miller, a Virginia Tech entomologist. “Mammoth increases.”

However, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation database’s tally of official complaints is still limited, so despite the epic number of alleged sightings, the official count of bedbug complaints in 2014 is only at 40.

If personal accounts are to be believed, things could be a lot worse. George Lawson, a tourist from Tennessee, stayed at the Sun Island Motel, which had seven infestations confirmed by state inspectors between April and September, and said that he’d seen “a bug run across my bed and I jumped up. Simultaneously, my daughter came and knocked on my door and said there was bedbugs — they were seeing them — all over the wall in their room.”

Another of the official complaints logged by DPBR claims that the bedbugs “were coming out of the walls and light sockets.”

Despite clear records indicating that the motel had a bedbug problem, owner Thang P. Bui dismissed WFLA news when they tried to ask him a couple questions.

“I don’t have any problem,” Bui said. “So don’t come here and make up this story.”

In his defense, records do show that he paid a $200 fine back in August, and has yet to have any recurring bedbug problems since September.

What’s more, Bui may also have been going about taking care of the bedbugs wrong, too. Chemical bed bug solutions often take three or more treatments before an area is successfully exterminated. After all, about 76% of pest control professionals said that bedbugs were the most difficult pest to treat — more so than cockroaches, ants, and termites — according to the 2013 Bugs Without Borders Survey.

Luckily, there are alternative ways of treating bed bugs that have been proven to be more effective. Specifically, heat treatments. Bedbugs are hardy parasites, able to withstand temperatures ranging from nearly freezing to a whopping 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat treatments beat the bedbugs with 130 or 140 degree temperatures for a few hours, effectively killing them all in one go.

Ultimately, the bad news is that bedbugs are on the rise, but the good news is that although they’re tough to kill, there’s still an effective way out there to handle them.

Is It Discrimination to Refuse to Hire a Medical Marijuana Patient?

Marijuana
When Christine Callaghan, a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island working toward her master’s degree in textiles, applied for a summer internship at Darlington Fabrics Corp., she had every indication she would be accepted for the position.

Yet when she met with Darlington Fabrics’ human resources department to work out the details of her paid, for-credit internship, she revealed that she legally takes medical marijuana to help treat her “frequent, debilitating” migraine headaches. She said she wouldn’t bring the drug to work with her or use it before working.

A few days later, Callaghan got a call from Darlington Fabrics, telling her “they could not employ Callaghan because of her status as a medical marijuana patient.”

Now Callaghan is suing Darlington Fabrics and its parent, the Moore Company, for discrimination, and is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Rhode Island, ABC News reports.

Callaghan’s lawsuit has sparked an important debate in states that allow legal use of marijuana for medical reasons. Should an employer be allowed to refuse to hire someone — or even fire them — because they use marijuana to treat their health problems?

Darlington Fabrics seems to think so. Timothy Cavazza, one of Darlington Fabrics’ attorneys, told ABC News that the company’s actions fall within state and federal law.

Yet if the courts side with Darlington Fabrics, a troubling precedent could be set, one that discriminates against people with health conditions they can’t control. Medical marijuana contains THC and CBD, two cannabinoids that help alleviate the negative effects of chemotherapy on cancer patients. Medical marijuana is also used to treat anxiety, muscle spasms and pain.

Having a court dismiss Callaghan’s lawsuit would also contradict popular opinion on medical marijuana use. The most recent polls show that approximately 83% of Americans support giving doctors the ability to prescribe marijuana to patients who need it.

At press time, Darlington Fabrics hasn’t yet been served with Callaghan’s lawsuit — so it may be some time before a decision is even made.

“People with disabilities simply cannot be denied equal employment opportunities on the basis of the type of medication required to treat their particular condition,” said Carly Iafrate, the ACLU attorney who filed Callaghan’s lawsuit for her.

U.S. Postal Service Becomes Latest Business to Fall Victim to Data Breach

Old School Retro Metal Mailbox Full

The U.S. Postal Service recently experienced a cyber attack that may have exposed the private information of its over 800,000 employees — and the countless customers who made calls to its call center throughout the first eight months of 2014.

According to a Nov. 10 Reuters article, the Postal Service said in a statement that its employees’ compromised information could include “dates of birth, Social Security numbers, addresses, beginning and end dates of employment and emergency contact information.”

“The intrusion is limited in scope and all operations of the Postal Service are functioning normally,” USPS spokesman David Partenheimer said of the data breach in a statement. Partenheimer also said the Postal Service will offer credit monitoring services to its employees at no charge for a year.

The Postal Service joins major retail entities like Target and the Home Depot, which have both fallen victim to similar wide-reaching data breaches that have impacted tens of millions of people in 2014. Small businesses are also becoming more common targets of cyber attacks, with a telling 57% of them reporting cyber breaches over the last few years.

Partenheimer explained in his statement that the breach was executed by a “sophisticated actor” who isn’t interested in identity theft or credit card fraud, while experts agreed that the Postal Service, which serves nearly all Americans and delivers billions of letters annually, made an attractive target, Reuters reports.

And because cyber breaches like this, in which employee data is compromised, typically serve as a precursor to a broader data attack that involves customers, it’s possible that this attack won’t be the last of its kind to affect the Postal Service.

The U.S. government has sought out more information on the attack to help the Postal Service prepare against the possibility of another data breach, according to Reuters, with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) asking Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe for more information on the specifics of the breach.

“The increased frequency and sophistication of cyber-attacks upon both public and private entities highlights the need for greater collaboration to improve data security,” Cummings, the senior Democrat of the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote in a letter to Donahoe.

#IntegrateSF Aims to Encourage Bitcoin Adoption in San Fransisco

bitcoin

Bitcoin is a fairly new form of digital currency that’s had some trouble catching on with a wider base of consumers. But that may be about to change in San Francisco thanks to a Bitcoin payment solutions provider called SnapCard.

Last week, SnapCard announced its month-long #IntegrateSF campaign, which will provide 500 San Francisco merchants with resources and incentives to accept Bitcoin payments.

Participating merchants will be given free tablet-based point-of-sale systems in November if they agree to take bitcoins. Businesses benefit greatly from modern POS systems, which allow them to reduce pricing errors and speed up transactions. Now, they’ll also expand currency options.

The merchants who sign on will also receive permanent free transaction services for participating in the program. SnapCard also plans to provide merchants with marketing support and promotional materials to get the word out to consumers and a bonus of $20 in bitcoins to people who refer merchants to SnapCard services.

By offering resources and incentives to adopt Bitcoin, SnapCard hopes to transform the San Francisco Bay area into the world center for digital currency. According to a blog post by SnapCard Operations Manager Jack Jia, San Francisco’s strong association with digital currency start-ups was one of the main factors for creating in integration campaign there.

“SnapCard is headquartered in San Francisco” he wrote, “And with thousands of local ‘bitcoiners’ and millions of international visitors flocking into San Francisco, we feel that starting locally is the best first step for us as we embark on a campaign to increase international awareness of digital currencies.”

SnapCard is also requesting that Bitcoin users and supporters shop at the businesses and share their experience on Twitter under the #IntegrateSF hashtag.

Since Bitcoin has yet to be widely adopted, many organizations like SnapCard are looking to nurture regions and neighborhoods into adopting the payment method on a local level. Both the Netherlands and Spain have launched similar programs, with varying degrees of success.

Promotional Video for Pinup Calendar Is Released; Much to the Surprise of Utah National Guard, It Takes Place on Their Property

Laptop with reel

The Utah National Guard base at Camp Williams in Salt Lake Valley reportedly saw some action this past May, according to a video recently released online, and it wasn’t the type of action that the National Guard wants to be known for.

A promotional video has recently been published online for a U.K.-based organization called “Hot Shots,” which produces a pinup calendar every year and sends the proceeds to veterans’ funds (according to its website). This year’s calendar featured women clad in camouflage bikinis, riding in military vehicles, and firing high-powered weapons.

Ever since the conventional military pattern became popular in mainstream American clothing styles in the 1980s, camouflage has been used for every non-traditional purpose possible; from wedding dresses to bed sheets, Americans have seen it all, and it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that a military-themed pinup calendar would feature clothing (or a lack thereof) with a camo pattern.

Not only is the shoot rather offensive to women (who happen to wear the same clothing as men when performing their duties as soldiers, surprisingly enough), but the shoot appears to have been extremely dangerous. In fact, the entire Camp Williams video shoot was completely unauthorized. Not only did the models have access to deadly weapons, but five different vehicles, including at least one moving tank, and one National Guard boat were also used as “props” throughout the shoot.

According to Guard Lt. Col. Steven Fairbourn, who spoke as a representative for the Utah National Guard, the four soldiers who were directly involved in the affair are being punished, although the names of the soldiers are being withheld. Two additional members of the Utah state SWAT team have allegedly appeared (in uniform) in the video as well, and the Department of Public Safety has stated that these two members also face punishment, although it’s unknown what that punishment will entail.

One soldier, a 19th Special Forces non-commissioned officer, reportedly gave the other three National Guard soldiers (who were under his command) permission to shoot the video. These three soldiers are being given smaller punishments, including counselling and paying back the $200 worth of fuel that was used during the shoot; the senior officer, on the other hand, has been relieved of his duties and is being forced into early retirement.

While there appears to be no official word on whether or not this incident will affect the release of the calendar itself, Fairbourn has explicitly stated that the Utah Guard now has measures in place to make sure that nothing of this nature happens again. Perhaps in the future, fake artillery and scenery can be substituted in lieu of the real thing, without jeopardizing the appeal of the calendar.