Most expensive case of food poisoning

Posted in Bioterrorism at 11:10 am by George Smith

An Ohio State University study estimates the cost of foodborne illness in the US at $77 billion/year. The study also breaks out which microorganisms cost the most and which are the most expensive per person.

At the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy:

Although the estimated annual toll of foodborne illnesses and deaths in the United States was revised sharply downward by federal officials in 2010, foodborne disease still costs the nation up to $77.7 billion a year, according to a new study in the Journal of Food Protection.

The study, by Robert L. Scharff of Ohio State University, is based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) December 2010 estimate that the nation has 48 million cases of foodborne illness with 3,000 deaths annually.

According to the [new] model, the most expensive foodborne diseases are associated with Salmonella, at $11.39 billion per year …

On a per-case basis, the most costly foodborne disease by far is Vibrio vulnificus infection, at $2.79 million, according to the enhanced model. Other highly expensive ones are Clostridium botulinum (botulism), $1.68 million, and L monocytogenes, $1.28 million …

Vibrio vulnficus, with which I am personally familiar, is costly because it is catastrophic. It takes an extraordinary effort to save people, if they can be, when a systemic infection takes hold. When people aren’t killed by it, or just acquire it fishing or in shellfish handling, they are maimed in some ugly way, left with disease-caused injury that must be coped with forever.

This unsettling page, calling the disease Marsh Death, makes the case for me.

And why can Vibrio vulnificus cause such horrid injuries?

Because it produces enzymes which degrade the body’s connective tissue, chief among them a collagenase — which catalyzes the dissolution of collagen.

And discovering that was my contribution to science and medicine/health.

The paper describing it was brief but elegant, something of which I am still proud.

Note the citation index for it here.

The paper is free on the web, courtesy of PubMed Central, and easily readable to laymen.

“Collagenolytic activity of Vibrio vulnificus: potential contribution to its invasiveness.” Nice title, if I do say so myself. Perfectly descriptive.

However, American science can be very shortsighted. In 1982 there was virtually no interest in Vibrio vulnificus even though now it has a much higher profile in the nation’s consciousness.

Vibrio vulnificus is why there is currently government regulation and continuing work on “post-harvesting processing” and sanitizing raw oysters.

When I left Lehigh University there was no opportunity to work on further characterization of the microbe’s protein chemistry anywhere.
There was no funding for it. And so I wound up doing someone else’s uninteresting basic vanity science, at — paradoxically — Penn State’s medical school in Hershey, PA.

After that, I’d had enough of lab research.

Here is a pdf of statistics compiled from the national Vibrio surveillance program, first instituted in 1988, six years after I published on V. vulnificus. It notes vulnificus causes the majority of Vibrio illnesses reported in the southern states covered by the program.

Poverty, race and the US class system

Posted in Decline and Fall at 9:16 am by George Smith

A week or so ago the census released information on the ten poorest counties in the country.

I’m posting them with the way they voted in 2008. They’re very sparsely populated and all in red states.

Order, poorest at bottom:

Allendale County, S.C. — Obama, 75 percent for Obama
Corson County, S.D. — Corson, 60 percent Obama
Holmes County, Miss. — Obama, 82 percent for Obama
Sioux County, N.D. — Obama, 83 percent for Obama
Washington County, Miss. — Obama, 67 percent for Obama
Humphreys County, Miss. — Obama, 70 percent for Obama
Issaquena County, Miss. — Obama, 61 percent for Obama
Shannon County, S.D. — Obama, 89 percent for Obama
Todd County, S.D. — Obama, 78 percent for Obama
Ziebach County, S.D. — Obama, 62 percent for Obama, 242 votes cast overall

The statistics, unsurprisingly, show extreme poverty to be linked with race. And in this country that also now equals class. This is, obviously, not the entire picture. For example, whites make up the majority of those on food stamps. And, over the months, this blog has discussed other linked issues affecting everyone.

In any case, the counties in South Dakota and North Dakota on the list are places where native Americans are the chief demographic. Those in the south, are almost entirely African American. For instance, the counties in Mississippi are all along or clustered near the river.

Today Krugman writes about inequality and it’s relationship to race, anchored to Martin Luther King day:

… American society being what it is, there are racial implications to the way our incomes have been pulling apart. And in any case, King — who was campaigning for higher wages when he was assassinated — would surely have considered soaring inequality an evil to be opposed.

But around 1980 the relative economic position of blacks in America stopped improving. Why? An important part of the answer, surely, is that circa 1980 income disparities in the United States began to widen dramatically, turning us into a society more unequal than at any time since the 1920s

Last week Alan Krueger, chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, gave an important speech about income inequality, presenting a relationship he dubbed the “Great Gatsby Curve.??? Highly unequal countries, he showed, have low mobility: the more unequal a society is, the greater the extent to which an individual’s economic status is determined by his or her parents’ status. And as Mr. Krueger pointed out, this relationship suggests that America in the year 2035 will have even less mobility than it has now, that it will be a place in which the economic prospects of children largely reflect the class into which they were born.

If you have been reading Krugman’s blog, over the weekend you saw him post the actual “Great Gatsby Curve.”

It is here.

“As [it] shows, America is both especially unequal and has especially low mobility,” he added.

The masters of the universe, on the other hand, are all “corporate suits.”


Career Bilker

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall at 10:02 am by George Smith

You’d want to shoot yourself if you had to write stories like this one, at Career Bilker, every week. In examining trends from the economy that makes zip you must come up with fake-enthusiastic crap about where up-and-comers need to go.

The answer, to everyone’s misfortune, is into services.

And the hardest services are the worst for compensation, so to make a list which dresses this up, there must be a comparison with other jobs based on expressing their annual gains relative to themselves — by percentage.

To whit, the worst paying jobs, listed as the third best in “gains,” below the federal poverty level for anyone with a family in the US, but given parity in the story with a computer network engineer who earns three times as much (because the percentage gain from last year to this was the same):

3. Customer account representative: Manages orders primarily for large and repeat customers. Provides service and support to customers, providing information on products, orders in process and other information.
Annual salary: $25,000
Increase: 7 percent

9. Customer service adviser: Handles and resolves complex customer queries, complaints, special orders or in-store returns via email, telephone and/or in-person contact.
Annual salary: $26,000
Increase: 6 percent

12. Home health aide: Assists in providing simple or uncomplicated patient care in caring for elderly, convalescent or disabled people in a patient’s home.
Annual salary: $25,000
Increase: 5 percent

The piece is odious on so many levels it’s difficult to know where to begin in the castigation of it.

For example, just above the “home health aide’s” gain of 5 percent in earnings is “top information technology officer” with a net annual gain, 6 percent, deemed comparable.

The latter makes over six times the former, at $160,000.

Only a moron could make such a list/comparison. Or an entity that’s part of the rip-off services economy turning out worthless content packaged as career guidance.

The list of jobs — twenty deep — is evidence of a broken economy, one that produces nothing of any substantial worth to most of its members. It’s also intelligence-insulting deceit using trivial statistics.

The highest paid jobs are in insurance, process management, finance or degree’d shoeshining in maintenance of computer networks and software for the 1 percent.

The lowest paid jobs are those that provide much more in terms of basic human needs — home health aides and physical therapists.

During my friend Don’s final days he relied on hospice care. And home health aides and physical therapists are part of that. They did the finest work daily and, in this country, they are not paid nearly enough.

“Justin Thompson is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz,” reads the tagline. “He researches and writes about job search strategy …” in the rentier capitalist economy*.

* — Marxism joke.

The President’s weekly address and a tacit admission: ” … we’ll be able to rebuild an economy that’s not known for paper profits and financial speculation, but for making products like these, products made in America.”

A good speech but having more American businessmen to the Whitehouse to discuss how to make stuff here rather than in ha ha ha China won’t fix it. The pickings, on display, are too slim: “a padlock, a pair of boots, a candle and a pair of socks … “

The work would take a decade, at least.

And in case you missed it — the Mitt Romney Blues — one from the album you damn well better rush out and buy right now: Vulture Capitalism — the Greatest Hits.


Mitt Romney Blues

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Phlogiston, Rock 'n' Roll at 3:49 pm by George Smith

I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.

A mash-up of Mitt Romney’s “greatest hits” and Mose Allison’s Young Man Blues. — altered a bit to fit tone of national discussion on greed and vulture capitalism.

And, yeah, it’s funny. So laugh already.

Mitt Romney Blues.

The Empire’s Dog Feces: A Dolphin Tale

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 10:19 am by George Smith

The Atlantic’s blogs are IQ tests for people who believe themselves smart but lacking observable evidence to back up such confidence. They’re intelligence exams, very simple, and they work like this: If you read or take them seriously, you flunk.

When the media gets focused on war it cranks out crap on all the allegedly wonderful things the US military will bring to bear. The professional bootlicking takes the form of reporting on the many and fine capabilities the armed forces will use to cover any contingency.

Back at the beginning of the Iraq disaster I came up with a column at the Village Voice called Weapon of the Week which worked off this. The idea was to unleash a counter-balancing superciliousness.

And it was well-conceived, perfect for what would unfold. Shock and Awe. Bugsplat — the bombing software that would save lives. The Thermobaric Bomb.

All bullshit, all glorified in the mainstream media as miraculous things.

And there was even Zak the Sea Lion, part of the Navy’s mammalian warriors program.

Zak and various dolphins were going to smite Saddam Hussein’s frogmen — did he even have any (?) — and help sweep mines and stuff.

Today at the Atlantic, some miscellaneous sack of fancy shit premium journalist informs:

If Iran closes the Strait of Hormuz, the U.S. Navy has a backup plan to save one-fifth of the world’s daily oil trade: send in the dolphins …

Iran could block the strait with any assortment of mines, armed speed boats or anti-ship cruise missiles but according to Michael Connell at the Center for Naval Analysis, “The immediate issue [for the U.S. military] is to get the mines.??? To solve that problem, the Navy has a solution that isn’t heavily-advertised but has a time-tested success rate: mine-detecting dolphins …

The invasion of Iraq was the last time the minesweeping capability of dolphins were widely-touted. “Dolphins – – which possess sonar so keen they can discern a quarter from a dime when blindfolded and spot a 3-inch metal sphere from 370 feet away — are invaluable minesweepers,” reported The San Francisco Chronicle. In 2010, the Seattle Times reported that the Navy has 80 bottlenose dolphins in the San Diego Bay alone …

And when was the last time you heard of a mine sinking a navy vessel in San Diego harbor, USA? Never! So those dolphins musta been doin’ a heckuva job, Brownie!

From NPR, more of the same stenography:

The surveillance includes sophisticated drone aircraft — and a sophisticated mammal.

“We’ve got dolphins. … They are astounding in their ability to detect underwater objects,” he says.

The U.S. Navy sent dolphins to the Persian Gulf as part of the American invasion force in Iraq. Keating confirms they were “present in the theater,” but he declines to talk about whether the animals were used or not.

Keywords, DD blog: See The Green Pantywaists

Corporate swineocracy

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Made in China at 8:58 am by George Smith

Krugman, on Mitt Romney’s assertions that the US ought to run something like Bain Capital:

But there’s a deeper problem in the whole notion that what this nation needs is a successful businessman as president: America is not, in fact, a corporation …

Consider what happens when a business engages in ruthless cost-cutting. From the point of view of the firm’s owners (though not its workers), the more costs that are cut, the better. Any dollars taken off the cost side of the balance sheet are added to the bottom line.

But the story is very different when a government slashes spending in the face of a depressed economy. Look at Greece, Spain, and Ireland, all of which have adopted harsh austerity policies. In each case, unemployment soared, because cuts in government spending mainly hit domestic producers. And, in each case, the reduction in budget deficits was much less than expected, because tax receipts fell as output and employment collapsed …

America certainly needs better economic policies than it has right now — and while most of the blame for poor policies belongs to Republicans and their scorched-earth opposition to anything constructive, the president has made some important mistakes. But we’re not going to get better policies if the man sitting in the Oval Office next year sees his job as being that of engineering a leveraged buyout of America Inc.

“America is not, in fact, a corporation.” A remarkable sentence to have run in the New York Times since the ideology that it is is held by many more than Mitt Romney. America has, in fact, been run like a predatory corporation for the benefit of those running the world’s other predatory corporations for the last decade, at least.

And the corporate motto, as ably shown in this old video, has been: Go fuck yourself.


The Green Pantywaists (a series)

Posted in Crazy Weapons, Imminent Catastrophe at 10:18 am by George Smith

Note pleasure-seeker motorboat in background at 51 seconds. H-o-o-o-nk!

Nugent: Motivational Speaker

Posted in Extremism, Ted Nugent at 9:19 am by George Smith

Ted Nugent is a busy guy. Ever since he became an accidental hot-selling author (I’m not gonna call him a writer; anyone who has read Nugent’s bits excerpted here knows he has no talent there), Howard has worked it to cultivate his image as a motivational speaker for the extreme right.

Think of him as a really poor man’s Zig Ziglar for an audience of old and paranoid white people who applaud those who tell them they get all ticklish inside seeing student protesters pepper sprayed.

It should be no surprise that there’s an audience for this in the heartland shires of the land. Down through human history there’s always a crowd to enjoy seeing others tied to a post and whipped and those who recommend such treatment as proper. Particularly in hard times.

And now Ted is scheduled to provide the inspiration at a GOP “Lincoln Day” event in Springfield, Illinois.

Some comment, from the State Journal Register newspaper:

In choosing Nugent, organizers will without doubt accomplish their goal of raising money and packing the house. Nugent may be many things, but he is never boring. Given this platform to speak his mind to a friendly audience, Nugent is sure to provide a moment that will endure for years in Springfield’s political lore.

But the local GOP also is taking a risk in making Nugent the voice of one of its most significant annual events.

Right now on the national stage, the GOP is fighting against an image of a seriously splintered party. Twice in 2011, Congress ground to a halt when the House appeared unable to control its most extreme faction.

Nugent clearly is part of at least one of those factions — the gun rights absolutists — and his overall shtick may not play well with more traditional conservatives.

We’ve always enjoyed Nugent’s outspokenness in the newspaper’s direct dealings with him …

Much of what makes Nugent so entertaining is his unwillingness to self-censor.

But that quality also is where the risk comes in for the local party. Some of what Nugent says isn’t so benign …

And that’s a rather large, if gentlemanly, understatement. To its credit, the newspaper links to a column written by one its local pundits, published a earlier.

And that column contains some of of the more odious examples of Ted:

Back in 1990, when the forced-segregation apartheid system was still the law in South Africa, Nugent managed a 40,000-acre ranch used for bow hunting, according to a 1990 Detroit Free Press article.

“(A)partheid isn’t that cut-and-dry,??? he was quoted as saying in that article. “All men are not created equal.

“The preponderance of South Africa is a different breed of man,??? the quote goes on. “I mean that with no disrespect. I say that with great respect. I love them because I’m one of them. They are still people of the earth, but they are different. They still put bones in their noses, they still walk around naked, they wipe their butts with their hands.???

As a columnist for the Washington Times, one Nugent target has been unions.

In a column posted Sept. 2, he wrote, “Labor unions have not sustained labor but rather have destroyed it??? by forcing “unrealistic and unsustainable wages and benefits on businesses.???

If he were to say that in Springfield, he might get some agreement. But many current and retired state workers in the crowd might not love to hear what he wrote about their affiliation.

“Public-sector employees typically enjoy higher pay, more benefits and more time off than private-sector employees,??? he wrote. “This is unconscionable and is yet another example of the fleecing of the taxpayer by our elected officials and labor unions, which are joined at the hip.

“Public-sector employees should be banned from joining a union, paid a wage commensurate with the private sector and provided with the same benefits as their private-sector peers. Only a goon would think otherwise.???

Here, none of this is eye-opening. And readers will no doubt note that Ted is a little late today with the weekly WaTimes Fireball Express of calumnies and slurs on the many internal and external enemies of our nation.

“We wonder if Nugent’s appearance will do more toward bringing new people into the party and shoring up unity or disenfranchising longtime party faithful who already are nervous about where the party — locally and nationally — is headed,” muses the Springfield paper.

It’s one hundred bucks for dinner and Ted. Seventy five for dinner, Ted and a personal handshake in the meet-and-greet line. That’s a joke.


The Long Goodbye

Posted in Cancer at 10:00 am by George Smith

The shields are all destroyed and the battles have been lost. What started as a struggle to buy more livable time against the onslaught of an incurable cancer has been over for awhile and the oblivion presses close.

Like the majority of people cursed by a terminal disease, my friend did not video blog or Facebook his plight. But he was never alone or unloved and I will insist on believing that just a few warm hearts are what everyone needs in their darkest time rather than thousands of likes and empty virtual gestures from passersby.

More later. Or possibly not.


Rock and roll ‘Rumble’ makes the man

Posted in Phlogiston, Rock 'n' Roll at 11:44 am by George Smith

Comic book word balloon funnies, too. Sort of like the old ads to buy stuff that would keep sand from getting kicked in your face at the beach.

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