Our Common Good

Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) sunk to a new low when he suggested at a campaign stop that the family members of asbestos victims who were in a campaign commercial for Elizabeth Warren were actually paid actors:

During a question and answer session, one firefighter commented that both campaigns are publishing advertisements featuring family members of victims of asbestos-related illness. He asked Brown how Warren gets the victims’ family members to go on her commercial. “A lot of them are paid,” Brown said. “We hear that maybe they pay actors. Listen, you can get surrogates and go out and say your thing. We have regular people in our commercials. No one is paid. They are regular folks that reach out to us and say she is full of it.”

Guess what? They aren’t actors. And they’re pretty damn offended too.

One of the ads, titled “Ashamed,” features Kingston resident Ginny Jackson, whose husband died of mesothelioma after working at a Quincy shipyard that was filled with asbestos.

Reached through the Warren campaign, Jackson responded to Brown’s comments, calling them offensive.

"What Scott Brown said today is so offensive to me and my family after what we went through," Jackson said. "He’s sunk to a new low."

Jackson said going through her husband Sam’s sickness and death from mesothelioma was one of the most difficult situations she ever endured.

"Sam and I were childhood sweethearts and we had been together since I was 15 years old," Jackson said. "I came forward in this campaign because Massachusetts voters need to know the truth about what Elizabeth Warren did to help families like mine who were affected by asbestos poisoning, rather than Sen. Brown’s misleading attacks."

Yeah, that’s bad form to insult a grieving widow. Scott Brown later recanted and apologized, admitting he jumped to conclusions. That’s all fine and good, but it’s a little too little, a little too late. How many people heard the apology vs. heard the original false accusation?


An emotional Debbie Wasserman Schultz recounted the story of how she overcame breast cancer to illustrate how Obamacare’s provisions banning insurance discrimination for pre-existing conditions will affect her. 

“In 2007, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2008, right before the convention, I had one of seven surgeries that year,” she said. “I was fortunate. I had good insurance and great doctors. Today, I stand before you as a survivor! But like every breast cancer survivor, I now have a pre-existing condition.”

H/T: TPM LiveWire

If you’re still skeptical that a tan can be dangerous, consider this: Scientists have found that wild fish are getting skin cancer from ultraviolet radiation. Approximately 15% of coral trout in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef had cancerous lesions on their scales. In that regard, they resemble Australians who live on land — 2 in 3 people who live down under will be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70, the highest rate in the world. It’s probably no coincidence that Australia is under the Earth’s biggest hole in the ozone layer.
Reporter Jon Bardin, writing in the Los Angeles Times: Fish getting skin cancer from UV radiation, scientists say - latimes.com (via atlampa)

Esperanza, a teenage girl with acute leukemia living in the Dominican Republic, will die if she doesn’t start chemotherapy treatments as soon as possible. But she’s nine weeks pregnant, and her country banned abortion even in cases where the mother’s life is in danger back in 2010.

Engineers at UCLA, led by Bahram Jalali and Dino Di Carlo, have developed a camera that can take 36.7 million frames per second, with a shutter speed of 27 picoseconds. By far the fastest and most sensitive camera in the world — it is some 100 times faster than existing optical microscopes, and it has a false-positive rate of just one in a million — it is hoped, among other applications, that the device will massively improve our ability to diagnose early-stage and pre-metastatic cancer.


Jack Andraka (center), a 15-year-old student from Maryland, came up with a paper sensor that detects pancreatic cancer 168 times faster than current tests. It’s also 90% accurate, 400 times more sensitive, and 26,000 times less expensive than today’s methods. In short: It’s a lot better.
Andraka was inspired to focus on pancreatic cancer because a friend’s brother was killed by the disease. “I became interested in early detection, did a ton of research, and came up with this idea,” he says.
A Cheap, Accurate Cancer Sensor, Created By A 15-Year-Old


Jack Andraka (center), a 15-year-old student from Maryland, came up with a paper sensor that detects pancreatic cancer 168 times faster than current tests. It’s also 90% accurate, 400 times more sensitive, and 26,000 times less expensive than today’s methods. In short: It’s a lot better.

Andraka was inspired to focus on pancreatic cancer because a friend’s brother was killed by the disease. “I became interested in early detection, did a ton of research, and came up with this idea,” he says.

A Cheap, Accurate Cancer Sensor, Created By A 15-Year-Old

THREE and a half years ago, on my 62nd birthday, doctors discovered a mass on my pancreas. It turned out to be Stage 3 pancreatic cancer. I was told I would be dead in four to six months. Today I am in that rare coterie of people who have survived this long with the disease. But I did not foresee that after having dedicated myself for 40 years to a life of the law, including more than two decades as a New York State judge, my quest for ameliorative and palliative care would lead me to marijuana.


Inhaled marijuana is the only medicine that gives me some relief from nausea, stimulates my appetite, and makes it easier to fall asleep. The oral synthetic substitute, Marinol, prescribed by my doctors, was useless. Rather than watch the agony of my suffering, friends have chosen, at some personal risk, to provide the substance. I find a few puffs of marijuana before dinner gives me ammunition in the battle to eat. A few more puffs at bedtime permits desperately needed sleep.

This is not a law-and-order issue; it is a medical and a human rights issue. Being treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, I am receiving the absolute gold standard of medical care. But doctors cannot be expected to do what the law prohibits, even when they know it is in the best interests of their patients. When palliative care is understood as a fundamental human and medical right, marijuana for medical use should be beyond controversy.

My friend Wendy ran through what her insurance company would pay for chemo, then ran through her own life savings, and another $10,000 from her mother.

However, it was ovarian cancer, which returns usually within three years — Wendy got 5 years, but was considered uninsurable because of that “pre-existing condition.”

After 15 years with the same firm, it folded, and the only work Wendy could get didn’t offer group health insurance.

Because of circumstances too long to go through here, Wendy fell between the cracks: couldn’t get chemo through an insurance company, wasn’t poverty-stricken enough for government care.

But the doctors agreed: If she’d gotten the chemo in time, Wendy probably would have lived.

Her daughter is 14 and Wendy only wanted to be able to see her daughter through high school graduation. But by the time she was poverty stricken enough to get government aid for chemo, it was too late.

Wendy suffered through four bouts of chemo (government paid) just hoping against hope she’d make it another four years for Esme’s sake.

We, the taxpayers, could have saved the expense of three of those chemos — and saved Wendy’s life and Esme’s mother — if the U.S. system of healthcare wasn’t such a hellish patchwork.

Wendy died in February, a single mother, who left an orphaned daughter.

Wendy didn’t roll the dice: the health insurance companies did. They, and the Republicans, and the Blue Dogs, gambled with her life and Wendy paid for their gambling debts.

Now the Social Security Administration is paying to raise Esme with our taxpayer dollars.

Wendy would have rather saved the taxpayers, and done it herself.

Here’s yet another irony: Wendy had been a vegetarian since she was 16 — she could, and did, buy broccoli by the truckload.

No matter a Supreme Court Judge’s specious argument: what Wendy couldn’t buy was healthcare in this country.

Fuck you, Scalia. Big time.

The patient in the emergency department smelled of advanced cancer. It is the smell of rotting flesh, but even more pungent. You only ever have to smell it once.


She hadn’t gone to the doctor because she had no health insurance. The only kind of work she could get in a struggling rural community was without benefits. Her coat and shoes beside the gurney were worn and her purse from another decade. She could never afford to buy it on her own. She didn’t qualify for Medicaid, the local doctor only took insurance, and there was no Planned Parenthood or County Clinic nearby.

So nothing was done about the bleeding until she passed out at work and someone called an ambulance. She required a couple of units of blood at the local hospital before they sent her by ambulance to our emergency department.


She needed a biopsy to confirm the type of cancer and a CT scan to see if the tumor had spread beyond the cervix. If she were lucky, she would have a some combination of a hysterectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation with a 50-65% chance of survival. If the cancer had spread, she would have radiation and chemotherapy with about a 25% chance of surviving.

But the cancer surgeons were not allowed to offer an uninsured woman a hysterectomy. Every now and then they snuck someone in, claiming to the administrators that the patient was more emergent than they really were. But one surgery doesn’t cure stage 2 or 3 cervical cancer, or even stave it off for long. It takes multiple admissions and week after week of expensive chemotherapy and/or radiation.

The radiation doctors were also not allowed to see uninsured patients. They could not even give a dying women a few weeks of radiation to ease her tumor’s stench while it caused her to bleed to death or killed her another way. They could give her one dose today. A very temporary measure for the bleeding, but only if her blood count was low enough. It wasn’t because she’s had the blood transfusion to get her here.

There was a charity program that paid providers and hospitals pennies on the dollar for cancer care. One hospital had signed up, resigned to the fact that they were seeing those patients anyway so better to get something for the cost of the care than nothing. Our hospital administrators had declined to participate. Better to get no money and keep seeing these uninsured patients over and over in the emergency room, each time providing the same stop-gap care that has no hope of cure or even palliation like a purgatory version of Groundhog Day, than to be inadequately reimbursed for the right care.

I had never encountered this clinical scenario during my training in Canada. I had never seen a woman suffer because she couldn’t afford something as simple as a Pap smear, never mind deal with the indignities of shopping around her sorrow and hard luck to try to patch together what would inevitably be inadequate medical therapy. It is this reality of medical care in America for which I was wholly unprepared. Many times I found the residents comforting me.

I gathered my thoughts before explaining the situation. To get her care through the charity program there was a catch. A set of hoops to jump through and we could jeopardize her eligibility with specific tests. I explained the ins and outs of accessing care through the program, where she needed to go, and what specifically she must say. The Intern printed out the sheet of community resources and advocacy groups that might also be able to help her patch together some kind of treatment.

It’s not health care, not by any stretch. But as long as the Supreme Court finds it constitutional I guess they’ll sleep better than I do.

A Harvard Medical School-led study shows that cancer care provided by the Veterans Health Administration for men 65 years and older is at least as good as, and by some measures better than, Medicare-funded fee-for-service care obtained through the private sector.

Since they were first licensed nearly 50 years ago, birth control pills containing estrogen have prevented some 200,000 cases of ovarian cancer world-wide, estimate the authors of a study published January 26, 2008, in The Lancet. Further, in the absence of having taken oral contraceptives, half of these women would have died of the disease.

The researchers showed that oral contraceptives (OCs) continue to confer protection for years - even decades - after women stop using them. Thus, they surmise, “the number of ovarian cancers prevented [will] rise over the next few decades” to at least 30,000 each year.

These figures emerge from a comprehensive meta-analysis based on prospective and case-control data from 45 epidemiological studies in 21 countries, mostly in Europe and the United States. “These findings set a new standard in prevention for a deadly cancer,” wrote the editors of The Lancet, “and have important public health implications.”

The results showed that women who had ever taken OCs were 27 percent less likely to develop ovarian cancer. The studies included 23,257 women with ovarian cancer, 31 percent of whom had taken OCs; of the 87,303 controls, 37 percent took OCs.

Two trends emerged that were really striking, according to Dr. Beth Karlan, editor-in-chief of the journal Gynecologic Oncology and director of the Gilda Radner Cancer Detection Program at Cedars-Sinai Outpatient Cancer Center in Los Angeles. First, the longer OCs were used, the greater the ovarian cancer risk reduction, decreasing about 20 percent for each five years of use.

The second clear trend was the duration of the protective effects, which lasted long after women had stopped using OCs. For each five years of use, risk of developing ovarian cancer was reduced 29 percent in the first 10 years after stopping. The risk reduction was still significant though smaller (19 percent) for years 10–20, and smaller still (15 percent) 20–29 years after discontinuation.

Another feature of these results is their uniformity. OCs seem to protect against nearly all types of epithelial and nonepithelial tumors, with the possible exception of mucinous ovarian cancer (which accounted for only 12 percent of cases studied in the meta-analysis). The Lancet editorial points out that the results show “the benefits of oral contraceptives are independent of the preparation [estrogen dose], and vary little by ethnic origin, parity, family history of breast cancer, body-mass index, and use of hormone replacement therapy.”

Representatives from nearly all of these studies - including Drs. Patricia Hartge, James Lacey, Louise Brinton, and Robert Hoover from the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Program in National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG) - worked together to ensure the integrity of the analysis, forming the Collaborative Group on Epidemiological Studies of Ovarian Cancer, under the leadership of Dr. Valerie Beral and colleagues at Oxford University’s Cancer Research UK Epidemiology Unit.

The absence of proven screening methods for ovarian cancer make these findings all the more welcome. But the issue is not straightforward, because calculating “the net effect on women’s health is fraught with uncertainties,” wrote Drs. Eduardo L. Franco and Eliane Duarte-Franco of McGill University in Montreal in a comment accompanying the article. They went on to list possible side effects of OCs as increased risk of thromboembolism, heart disease, migraine, liver disease, and several other relatively uncommon conditions.

The analyses were not focused on comparing the benefits and risks of OCs, explains DCEG’s Dr. Brinton, but only examined their effect on ovarian cancer risk. In the absence of detailed risk-benefit data, including currently unknown risks, such as cancers in women who have taken OCs and later take long-term hormone replacement therapy, she says, “This meta-analysis does not recommend widespread prescription of OCs as a preventative measure against ovarian cancer.”

Dr. Beral commented that while OCs may pose a slight increased risk of breast and cervical cancer, the effect is small and disappears once the drugs are no longer being used, as contrasted with the ongoing protective effect against ovarian cancer.

Dr. Karlan added, “Ovarian cancer remains a disease with a high mortality due [mainly] to our inability to reliably diagnose it at an early stage. Women are concerned about this risk.” She noted that it is important for women to be aware that OCs reduce that risk when discussing their contraceptive choices with their health care providers.

recent study conducted by a German university found very high concentrations of Glyphosate, a carcinogenic chemical found in herbicides like Monsanto’s Roundup, in all urine samples tested. The amount of glyphosate found in the urine was staggering, with each sample containing concentrations at 5 to 20-fold the limit established for drinking water. This is just one more piece of evidence that herbicides are, at the very least, being sprayed out of control.

Koch famously gave a double fist pump when then-presidential candidate Herman Cain called himself a Koch brother from another mother last fall. The Kochs haven’t endorsed any presidential candidates, but their Americans for Prosperity Foundation is behind millions’ worth of ad buys attacking the policies and leadership of President Obama.

Lately Americans for Prosperity has focused on drawing attention to the administration’s ties to failed green-­energy grantee Solyndra.

Asked about his efforts to sway public opinion, Koch acknowledges his group is hard at work in places such as Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker is facing off with public unions and grappling with a likely recall vote.

"We’re helping him, as we should. We’ve gotten pretty good at this over the years," he says. "We’ve spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We’re going to spend more."

By “we” he says he means Americans for Prosperity, which is spending about $700,000 on an “It’s working” television ad buy in the state. It credits Walker’s public pension and union overhaul with giving school districts the first surpluses they’ve seen in years. The unions and the left see things differently.


"What Scott Walker is doing with the public unions in Wisconsin is critically important. He’s an impressive guy and he’s very courageous," Koch says after a benefit dinner of salmon and white wine. "If the unions win the recall, there will be no stopping union power."


Among the 1.2 million American citizens living in mountaintop removal mining counties in central Appalachia, an additional 60,000 cases of cancer are directly linked to the federally sanctioned strip-mining practice.

That is the damning conclusion in a breakthrough study, released last night in the peer-reviewed Journal of Community Health: The Publication for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Led by West Virginia University researcher Dr. Michael Hendryx, among others, the study entitled “Self-Reported Cancer Rates in Two Rural Areas of West Virginia with and Without Mountaintop Coal Mining” drew from a groundbreaking community-based participatory research survey conducted in Boone County, West Virginia in the spring of 2011, which gathered person-level health data from communities directly impacted by mountaintop mining, and compared to communities without mining.

Click on the link to read the entire article.