Man posed as doctor for 30 years

Police in Japan’s Chiba prefecture said they have arrested a man who allegedly posed as a medical doctor for about 30 years.

Yukio Hasegawa, 65, was arrested on suspicion of practicing medicine without a license under the assumed name of a real doctor…

Hasegawa allegedly told police he learned about medical treatment in 1978 by reading patients’ charts while he was working as an X-ray vehicle driver in Tokyo.

Is this a cautionary tale on reading skills or mediocre doctors?

The biggest danger driving behind a truckload of chickens?


Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have found evidence of a novel pathway for potential human exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria from intensively raised poultry—driving behind the trucks transporting broiler chickens from farm to slaughterhouse…

Typically, broiler chickens are transported in open crates on the back of flatbed trucks with no effective barrier to prevent release of pathogens into the environment. Previous studies have reported that these crates become contaminated with feces and bacteria.

The new study was conducted on the Delmarva Peninsula—a coastal region shared by Maryland, Delaware and Virginia, which has one of the highest densities of broiler chickens per acre in the United States. Researchers…collected air and surface samples from cars driving two to three car lengths behind the poultry trucks for a distance of 17 miles. The cars were driven with both air conditioners and fans turned off and with the windows fully opened. Air samples collected inside the cars, showed increased concentrations of bacteria (including antibiotic-resistant strains) that could be inhaled. The same bacteria were also found deposited on a soda can inside the car and on the outside door handle, where they could potentially be touched…

The strains of bacteria collected were found to be resistant to three antimicrobial drugs widely used to treat bacterial infections in people. [Of course]…these drugs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use as feed additives for broiler poultry.

Ain’t the first time I’ve said it: the FDA is the FEMA of public health.

Ancient and modern plagues have common threads

In 430 B.C., a new and deadly disease—its cause remains a mystery—swept into Athens. The walled Greek city-state was teeming with citizens, soldiers and refugees of the war then raging between Athens and Sparta. As streets filled with corpses, social order broke down. Over the next three years, the illness returned twice and Athens lost a third of its population. It lost the war too. The Plague of Athens marked the beginning of the end of the Golden Age of Greece.

The Plague of Athens is one of 10 historically notable outbreaks described in an article in The Lancet Infectious Diseases by authors from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The phenomenon of widespread, socially disruptive disease outbreaks has a long history prior to HIV/AIDS, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), H5N1 avian influenza and other emerging diseases of the modern era, note the authors.

“There appear to be common determinants of disease emergence that transcend time, place and human progress,” says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., one of the study authors. For example, international trade and troop movement during wartime played a role in both the emergence of the Plague of Athens as well as in the spread of influenza during the pandemic of 1918-19. Other factors underlying many instances of emergent diseases are poverty, lack of political will, and changes in climate, ecosystems and land use, the authors contend. “A better understanding of these determinants is essential for our preparedness for the next emerging or re-emerging disease that will inevitably confront us,” says Dr. Fauci.

Worthwhile, interesting, thought-provoking article. In this era of fears about Bird Flu or some mutating reinvention of the Spanish Flu, they would rocket about our planet faster than any comparable plague in our past.

Governments, populations can’t and won’t prepare without knowledge of previous disasters.

Moped driver texting before crash?

A fatal moped accident occurred Sunday night, and police believe that the driver was text messaging minutes before the crash. Douglas Flores, 41, was killed when his moped crashed into a telephone pole. Flores’ vehicle was seen driving off of the road before the crash at around 9:00 p.m. Sunday.

Witnesses also told deputies that he may have been trying to text message while driving the scooter.

The sheriff’s office said that the investigation may include looking at Flores’ cell phone records at the time of the accident.

Right now, the sheriff’s department has not been able to locate his cell phone at the scene of the crash.

I imagine that cellphone traveled a pretty fair distance before landing. The telephone pole didn’t move at all.

Oh, one TV report said he wasn’t wearing a helmet, either.

How to get charged-up over your cemetery?

Daylife/AP Photo by Manu Fernandez

A Spanish city has found an unusual place to generate renewable energy – the local cemetery. Santa Coloma de Gramanet, near Barcelona, has placed 462 solar panels over its multi-storey mausoleums.

Officials say the scheme was initially greeted with derision, but families who use the cemetery eventually supported the idea following a public campaign.

There are now plans to erect more panels at the cemetery and triple the amount of electricity generated.

The cemetery was chosen for the project because it is one of only a few open, sunny places in the crowded city, which has a population of 124,000 crammed into 4 sq km.

RTFA. Local response ranges from reason and science to irrational fears.

Fortunately, reason prevailed.

Can GM save the world? No – not the car company.

I’ve spent the last six months travelling around the world to investigate GM crops. I wanted to find out if they had a role to play in our agricultural systems or whether the environmental and health concerns make it too risky.

The first thing I found was that much of the rest of the world does not share Europe’s concerns about GM technology.

GM crops were planted on over 100 million hectares last year – that’s about 10% of the world’s crops which are now genetically modified. And it really seems to be working for the farmers.

I visited Argentina where they’ve adopted GM technology in a big way. Every year they plant an area larger than Britain with GM soya beans.

The beans are much more profitable to grow than conventional beans and they have become the country’s biggest export. They almost single-handedly rescued Argentina from economic meltdown when they were introduced in the late 1990s.

But there have been downsides. The GM production system works best when grown on a large scale and many smaller farmers have been squeezed off their land by the expansion of the mega-farms and huge areas of natural forest are being cleared to make way for more soya.

Which, of course, doesn’t have a damned thing to do with crops being GM or not. Agri-business lurches ahead with monopolization no matter what the crop.

Continue reading

Microsoft fails to block Ballmer’s subpoena in “Vista Capable” lawsuit

A federal judge has ordered Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to testify in the “Vista Capable” class-action lawsuit, rejecting the company’s contention that Ballmer knew nothing about loosening hardware requirements for the marketing program…

Last month, Microsoft tried to block Ballmer’s deposition by arguing that he had no unique knowledge of the Vista Capable program, which the company ran in 2006 to tout then-current PCs as being able to run the operating system when it was later released.

In a declaration, Ballmer echoed that stance. “I was not involved in any of the operational decisions about the Windows Vista Capable program,” he said. “I was not involved in establishing the requirements computers must satisfy to qualify for the Windows Vista Capable program. I was not involved in formulating any marketing strategy or any public messaging surrounding the Windows Vista Capable program.”

Plaintiffs have met their burden in demonstrating Mr. Ballmer may have relevant, unique personal knowledge of relevant facts,” Pechman wrote in her order.

Key to the judge’s ruling was Ballmer was in frequent contact with those in charge of liason with Intel at Microsoft – and he met with Intel on his own at least once to discuss progress.

Face it – claiming Ballmer didn’t know what was going on was baloney! Only lawyers appreciate lies like that.

If you happen to be in London for the holidaze…

The season of turkey, goodwill and consumerism might seem to be a long way off yet, but a December performance of “Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People” that includes a turn by Richard Dawkins and the Guardian’s own Ben Goldacre has already sold out.

Have no fear though, the Bloomsbury Theatre in London, which is hosting the event on December 19, has now added another date on December 18 – but hurry up, tickets go on sale today and are expected to sell out fast.

The show is a spin-off of comedian Robin Ince’s regular show The School for Gifted Children and is being produced with the help of the folks at the New Humanist magazine. It is billed as, “a night of music and comedy to celebrate the rational and scientific and debunk Winterval myths spouted by religious and media ninnies.”

They’re featuring one musical group I haven’t been able to download [yet] from iTunes: the Martin White mini fax machine orchestra.

Mystery piano in woods perplexes police

Was it a theft? A prank? A roundabout effort to bring some holiday cheer to the police? Authorities in Harwich, Massachusetts, are probing the mysterious appearance of a piano, in good working condition, in the middle of the woods.

Discovered by a woman who was walking a trail, the Baldwin Acrosonic piano, model number 987, is intact — and, apparently, in tune.

Sgt. Adam Hutton of the Harwich Police Department said information has been broadcast to all the other police departments in the Cape Cod area in hopes of drumming up a clue, however minor it may be.

But so far, the investigation is flat.

This sort of piano investigation used to be my forte.