Monthly Archives: October 2016

Black Man With Traumatic Brain Injury Shot and Killed by Charlotte Police

cop-in-mirrorMany people have now seen the video footage of the Charlotte police officer shooting and killing Keith Lamont Scott on September 20. The video, recorded by Scott’s wife, was shared widely on social media and sparked days of protests against police brutality.

What the police officers did not know at the time was that Scott suffered a traumatic brain injury in a motorcycle accident last year. His injury and medications made him confused, impulsive, and slow to respond.

Motor-vehicle crashes are the second most common cause of traumatic brain injury, accounting for 20% of all TBIs.

According to police, during Scott’s final moments, he ignored commands to drop his weapon. However, the victim’s wife can be heard in the video, shouting to the officers that her husband “doesn’t have a gun, he has a TBI.”

Video footage does not conclusively show whether or not Scott was pointing a gun at the police, though the weapon was recovered from the victim’s car.

Neurologists have confirmed that a person with a severe traumatic brain injury would have a hard time following instructions and would be slow to respond, especially when confronted with hostility.

“They don’t do well in stressful situations,” said Dr. David Brody, a professor of neurology at Washington University in St. Louis. “They often make poor choices or impulsive decisions under stress.”

Scott had to completely relearn how to walk and talk after his motorcycle accident. Jeffrey S. Kutcher, national director of The Sports Neurology Clinic at The CORE Institute, explained that a brain injury of this severity “can lead to devastating changes in behavior, impulse control and really, any cognitive function.”

Scott’s family eventually stopped responding to the media’s inquiries about the victim’s past and his condition. His brother-in-law, Ray Dotch, refused to comment on Scott’s criminal background, saying that they shouldn’t have to “humanize him in order for him to be treated fairly.”

“What we know and what you should know about him is that he was an American citizen who deserved better,” said Dotch.

Studies Suggests Reducing Obesity May Also Reduce Workplace Injuries

Workplace injuries and illnesses can present a huge problem for both employers and employees. Not only can these job site incidents pose a significant cost for companies, but they often result in missed work days — and therefore, missed wages — for employees. In 2013, there were 917,100 occupational injuries and illnesses that culminated in missed days of work. Businesses are required to uphold certain safety standards to reduce the risk of workplace injuries — and these measures often do their job — but recent studies have shown that workers also play a part in reducing their risk of injury.

Research is now suggesting that obese and overweight individuals are not only at risk for chronic health conditions like heart disease and other conditions, but they also have a higher risk of sustaining workplace injuries that result in missing work days.

Although the legitimacy of the body mass index (BMI) has been called into question by some sources in recent years, it’s still the most commonly used tool to determine obesity range. An individual’s BMI is determined by dividing that person’s weight (in kilograms) by their height, squared (in meters). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that a BMI below 18.5 is underweight, a range of 18.5 to 24.9 is within normal parameters, the 25 to 29.9 range indicates the subject is overweight, and a BMI over 30 is considered to be obese.

High BMIs — generally accepted as 25 to 30 — have been connected with other poor health conditions like high cholesterol, osteoporosis, and sleep apnea. Sleep apnea prevents an especially significant health risk to those with high BMIs, as approximately one out of every 50 individuals with the condition goes undiagnosed. Other health concerns include mental conditions like anxiety and depression.

But now high BMIs have also been linked to an increased risk for traumatic injury in the workplace. A recent study out of Johns Hopkins found that 85% of workers at eight different aluminum manufacturing plants were overweight or obese. Of the 7,690 workers who participated in the study, 34% had BMIs over 40. 29% of those “most obese” workers sustained an injury during the study, and 92% of all injuries suffered during the study period were sustained by overweight or obsese workers.

Other studies have also shown that high-risk jobs like nursing and firefighting had distinct correlations between BMI rates and injury risks. Nurses with the highest BMIs were shown to have twice the number of injury claims of nurses who had normal-range BMIs, and firefighters with higher BMIs were reported to have higher rates of lost work-time injuries than firefighters whose BMIs were lower.

Between 2004 and 2012, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health looked at work-related injuries from 1,120 workers. The most common injuries were found in the back, the knees, and the fingers, and common types included sprains, strains, twists, cuts, and fractures. NIOSH found that overweight and obese employees were 25% – 68% more likely to sustain these injuries than workers who were of a normal weight.

Although it is unfair to definitively determine causation from these statistics, it is fair to say that America’s obesity epidemic has one more reason to cause concern. Employers should not discriminate on a basis of weight or BMI. Even so, NIOSH has recommended that employers implement programs for weight management and reduction, especially for overweight and obese employees. Although weight reduction could possibly help reduce workplace injuries, this might cross a line for many industries and workers. It’s entirely possible that these noted correlations could be attributed to other causes, and many employers and workers would find such tactics inappropriate, if weight generally has no bearing upon job performance and ability. Instead of mandating weight loss, employers should ensure proper education and safety training as a key component in protecting employees from injury.

Donald Trump Believes More Military Spending is Necessary, Proposes New Plan

The Republican nominee for President, Donald Trump, proposed more defense and military spending in Philadelphia this September.

Trump, if elected in November, would be the first president in the modern era without government or military experience, but he believes that spending $550 billion more on the nation’s military would benefit the country greatly.

However, the military’s current budget is not small. The Department of Defense (DoD) has a base budget that accounts for roughly 83% of military spending, which equals out to approximately $496 billion.

“President Obama and Hillary Clinton have also overseen deep cuts in our military, which only invite more aggression from our adversaries,” said Trump. “Our adversaries are chomping at the bit.”

Trump also stated that he plans on pursuing NATO countries to force them to pay their bills. He also wants to press the nations that aren’t putting two percent of their GDP towards military defense to raise their efforts. He believes that they can afford to do so, but that they aren’t, because these countries — he feels — don’t respect the U.S. or the current leadership.

Trump specifically called upon South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Germany to pay the U.S. more for the security it provides.

The details of his military proposal would have an active Army of roughly 540,000, 36 battalions in the Marine corps, a Navy with 350 submarines and ships, and an Air Force with approximately 1,200 aircraft.

According to NBC news, Trump outlined ways to trim government inefficiencies, but did not state how much his proposal would cost.

“History shows that when America is not prepared is when the danger is greatest,” Trump added. “We want to deter, avoid, and prevent conflict through our unquestioned military dominance.”

CNN reports that Trump believes his proposal would significantly increase global military presence but would also cost less.

“It’s gonna be so strong, nobody’s gonna mess with us,” Trump said. “But you know what? We can do it for a lot less.”

Connecticut Hospital Patients Fall Victim to Identity Theft

By YNHHEditor (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By YNHHEditor (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

According to federal investigators, two Connecticut women are facing charges of identity theft after stealing personal information from hospital patients.

One of the suspects, Jamila Williams-Stevenson, was working at Yale-New Haven Hospital as a companion or sitter. Authorities believe that she used her position at the hospital to steal personal information for the purpose of identity fraud.

Donna Walker, one of the women’s alleged victims, had suffered from a brain injury and was not expected to live.

“It was people that was expected to die,” said Walker about the 20 targeted victims. “I really believe that.”

Once Williams-Stevenson and her partner, Loretta Coburn, got their hands on the information they needed, they changed their victims’ addresses, took their mail, and then gained access to their finances.

“They had my social security number,” said Walker. “I got a notice from the post office that said that my address had been changed. I find out that they have been applying for credit cards.”

Willy Amply, another alleged victim, said that his daughter was also a patient at Yale New Haven Hospital. He told authorities that someone claiming to be from the hospital called him saying that they needed information. He gave them his and his daughter’s information.

“They had made an insurance policy out on my daughter while she was in the hospital,” he said.

Williams-Stevenson is no longer employed at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and she is facing charges of Bank Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft. Coburn has been charged with Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud.

More than 17 million Americans fall victim to identity theft each year. Here are three of the most important ways to protect yourself:

  • Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams, like the one Williams-Stevenson and Coburn used to gain personal information from Willy Amply, come from a third party claiming to be a trustworthy entity like your bank, the police, or the hospital. They ask you for your social security number, account numbers, or passwords by email or over the phone. Remember, trustworthy companies or organizations won’t request personal information via email. If you receive this request in a phone call, make sure to verify that the person you’re talking to is truly who they say they are.
  • Keep sensitive documents secure. If you keep personal and financial information on your computer, make sure you install a firewall and secure your wireless network. If you keep hard copies of this information, make sure you shred them and dispose of them in a secure location or use a document shredding service to ensure that your paperwork is properly destroyed. Credit card statements should be shredded after 45 days. Medical records and bills should be kept for at least one year.
  • Check your credit report. Check your credit at least once a year in order to catch any errors. More and more children are becoming victims of identity theft because fraudulent activity can go unnoticed for years until the victim turns 18 or opens up a bank account. This means that you should check your children’s credit as well.

If you believe that your identity has been stolen or any of your personal information has been compromised, it is critical that you put a hold on all bank and credit accounts, change your passwords, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

Study Raises Concerns About Revolving Door Between FDA and Pharma Companies

pillsIn the U.S. alone, there are upwards of 60,000 different compounds produced for industrial and agricultural use that undergo no safety testing. This is simply a symptom of the revolving door between the FDA and the pharma companies it regulates, a concern that’s been raised by several new studies.

In a study published at the end of September that studied the careers of FDA medical reviewers, researchers found that over half of the hematology-oncology assessors who reviewed drugs between 2001 and 2010 went on to work for the biopharmaceutical industry.

Dr. Vinay Prasad, senior author on the paper and assistant professor of medicine at Oregon Health and Science University, said that the numbers were extremely high, which is a concern for many.

He said that when dealing with such toxic drugs, good judgement takes priority over all else.

He also said that the revolving door raises concerns in that exact area, stating that a person with an employment opportunity may make things easier on the company they receive the offer from.

More than anything, this raises moral concerns, both about the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry.

Despite the overwhelming amount of evidence that the revolving door exists and is perpetuated by both pharma companies and the FDA, officials are still claiming that it is damaging and is being looked into.

FDA spokesman Jason Young said that the FDA employs a strict set of rules and regulations to ensure that their staff members are working solely for the public good and not for their own gain or for other companies.

Former FDA Chief Dr. Margaret Hamburg, who left the administration last year, reported that she would wait to enter the industry in a new position to ease concerns over the revolving door issue.

She said the concern about the “perception of the revolving door is damaging to everyone” and that she would not consider “any boards of any company big or small that was regulated by the FDA for a couple of years.”

While it may be reassuring, the revolving door is still a major concern for many.

Prasad is still not convinced that there’s no conflict of interest, as is evident by his research.

Baltimore to Vote on New Affordable Housing Trust Fund

This November, residents of Baltimore will be asked to vote on whether to establish a new trust fund that would provide affordable housing for some of the city’s lowest-income residents.

The Affordable Housing Trust Fund proposal recently gained 18,100 signatures of preliminary support, well in excess of the 10,000 required to put the measure on the election ballot. The fund would provide ongoing support for the planning and development of affordable housing spaces, as well as education programs to help low-income residents on a path to eventual home ownership. Some 59% of homeowners, for example, say they wish they understood the terms of their mortgage better.

Affordable housing has been a hot-button issue in Baltimore for some time, where the crisis is not so much about the number of livable spaces — as it is in other cities like San Francisco or Boston — as it is about the affordability gap between residential income and the price of rent.

“A lot of renters are really struggling, and a lot of people are living in substandard conditions or living on the street,” said Todd Cherkis, an organizer for anti-poverty group United Workers, who helped organize the signature collection for the fund. “We have to make sure this is a priority.”

The public vote will only decide on the creation of the trust fund, and not about how the money for that fund will be sourced. Odette Ramos, director of the Community Development Network of Maryland, said that they will consider a number of private and public funding sources, including a potential tax on short-term vacation home rental properties, similar to the current hotel tax.

Spending will be focused on renters who earn less than 30% or less of the area median income ($26,000 for a family of four) or homeowners who earn 50% or less of the median ($43,350 for a family of four).

Bottom line, Ramos said, housing assistance measures are well overdue in the city.

“There is a housing crisis in Baltimore,” said Ramos. “Doing nothing is not an option.”

After 8 Years, The Flu Vaccine is Set to Get a Makeover This Year

vaccineA 2002 National Center for Education Statistics study found that approximately six percent of all schools surveyed had trash overflowing somewhere on school property. Given that the flu virus can survive on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours, this continues to be a concern for parents and students alike as flu season hurdles ever closer.

Fortunately, the flu vaccine is set to get an update for the first time in eight years this year.

The virus currently found in the vaccine was collected from a sick person in California in 2009, at the height of the H1N1 (swine flu) epidemic.

This week, the World Health Organization recommended that manufacturers of the flu vaccine swap out the old virus for one that is more updated.

In fact, it’s rare to see a virus in one vaccine for as long as the 2009 strain has been in current flu vaccines.

Dr. Danuta Skowronski, an influenza epidemiologist at the British Columbia Center for Disease Control in Vancouver, said that the vaccine currently being used has had a long an successful career, but agrees that it’s time to give it a much needed update.

After all, the flu virus can change from season to season. It’s difficult to think how much could have changed in eight years.

In fact, so much has changed that a group of researchers at the university of Rochester Medical Center recently discovered an improbable mutation in an influenza virus that renders it defenseless against the body’s immune system.

After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped recommending use of the live attenuate flu vaccine earlier this year, a new approach was needed.

The nasal spray may have been effective, but it offered no true protection to the younger age group to whom it was administered. Now, however, that may be able to change.

“There is a need to understand what’s happening with the existing live vaccine and potentially a need to develop a new one,” said Joseph Chamberlain Wilson, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at URMC and author of the study.

The researchers also said that this particular mutation could be used to reformulate the nasal spray and create a better live vaccine.

While researchers at URMC strive to create a better live vaccine, health officials are preparing to release the updated version of the traditional flu vaccine.

The updated vaccine should be ready in time to administer it just before the 2017 winter of the southern hemisphere.

The change should be able to offer better protection to a large portion of the population, namely those over the age of 30 and young children.

Ohio Town Uses Local Gardening to Help Rebuild Community

Community gardening is helping a struggling town in the Northeast rebuild.

Hamilton, a 62,000-person town north of Cincinnati, saw a boom during the first half of the 20th Century, but after many factories were forced to close, the town went from prosperous to struggling.

In 2014, the poverty rate in Hamilton was 22.5% and only 15% of adults had college degrees. For the rest of the country, in 2014, 42 million households — 35% — were growing food in their homes or in community gardens, which was up 17% in the five previous years.

The Hamilton Urban Garden System (HUGS) came along to help bring Hamilton up to speed with the rest of the United States.

According to Civil Eats, although traditionally, urban gardening programs are confined to a single block or group, HUGS is attempting to meet the needs to as many Hamilton residents as possible.

The initiative has a central garden with plenty of volunteers as well as various gardens located in other areas around town, including one at a park and a rooftop garden atop a Hamilton business.

The central garden, called the “Field of Hope,” is located in a struggling neighborhood with few places for food.

“This is the right place for it,” said Alfred Hall, co-founder, along with his wife, Patty Burbacher, of HUGS.

Many of HUGS volunteers are local teens who are in outreach programs or working toward community service hours. Over a 22-week season, HUGS can produce approximately 2,000 pounds of organic food. They give away 25% of their entire product and sell the rest at local famers’ markets, online, and through a vegetable-devilry program.

“When we first came here, people looked at us like we were crazy,” said Burbacher. “They said, ‘Who needs organic food?'”

After the recent success, however, Hamilton residents are much more open to the idea.

“This is just a tool we use to build community,” added Hall.