Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson

Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books—-her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Category: Health/Medicine Page 1 of 2

Hearing Test Leads to Information on North Korea’s Plight

WARNING: Explicit Language Contained in the Above Trailer

 I decided to go have a hearing test, because my EYE doctor, way back in December in the Quad Cities, before we left town for Texas, clicked something 3 times on each side of my head. I did not hear the final click on the right ear side. He then said I could “go see our audiologist in Rock Island” if I wanted to know if I had any hearing loss.

I was not aware of any hearing loss, but every single teacher friend I have who taught as long as I did talks LOUDLY and, in Silvis, where I taught, the second-hand cheapie heater system they bought when they built the “new” junior high school (in 1969-1970) was horrible. It was LOUD and it threw crap into the air and it leaked gas. So,when I saw that a local business (NewSound Hearing Centers) would give me a complete hearing test with a video microscope and all the trimmings for FREE, I drove myself over there at 2 p.m. and had the whole schmear.

First, they showed me the inside of my ear canals magnified 150 times. (Ugh). One of the comments in the article was that you can have hearing loss simply from waxy build-up. Although the technician pronounced my waxy build-up to NOT be that severe, it looked gross, especially when he was fishing it out with a long instrument. (Double ugh).

Next, we moved to a small room where sounds were played and I was to push the button when I heard the various sounds. My tester was on the other side of the glass of the soundproof booth. I thought I was doing pretty well. Later, I learned I was doing “okay” but everybody has some hearing loss as they age. Mine seemed minimal, as my ear drums were not punctured, but, funny thing, my right ear was doing much better than my left ear, but it was the right ear that I could not hear the top “clicking” sound in December. I was not surprised that my right ear is doing most of the real work. My right eye is, too. My vision when I (finally) had lasik surgery some years ago was 20/70 in my right eye and only 20/200 (legally blind) in my left. After lasik, my vision in my “good” right eye was 20/15 and the vision in my “bad” left eye was 20/20.

At one point, as he set up to read my scores of words which I was to repeat back to him, I found myself  waiting for him and began reading the article next to the ad in the local “Austin American Statesman” newspaper, and I have to say, it turned out to be interesting. (*On the “repeat these words” tests, I scored 96% with each ear, missing only the word “dime”—I heard “dine”—-and “lock” when I heard “locked.”) These small miscues did not strike me as something to worry about, but I was glad to have a baseline hearing test for my impending deafness (!) and I left without any  hearing aids.

However, while I was waiting for the testing person to set up one test, I read the article NEXT to the free ad in the “Austin Statesman” and it was actually pretty interesting. Here are the salient facts in THAT article:


Image result for Jung Gwang il
                           Jung Gwan-il Image (from Wikipedia)

That was the heading and I learned that a former North Korean prisoner, Jung Gwang-il, has taken it upon himself to send bottles into North Korea from South Korea. He does this two times a month, when the tides are right. He and his helpers toss hundreds of bottles into the Han River to be carried downstream, hoping that the bottles will end up in the hands of some of the North Koreans, who are hungry for both food AND information.

So, what goes in these bottles? This is where it got interesting, for me.

A flash drive is put in the bottles , and on the USB sticks is a video of “The Wall,” a movie about a North Korean poet by an Irish director and, quite interestingly, the Seth Rogen film “The Interview,” a low-brow comedy in which Rogen and James Franco attempt to assassinate Kim Jong Un. To say that this movie was low humor is putting it mildly. “The Interview” was so hard on Kim Jung Un that it is thought the computer hack of Sony was caused by the dictator’s anger about the movie. (After all, he has cut the heads off relatives for far less, including a half brother’s!)

The Kim Jung Un family has been in power for over 7 decades and, in addition to the 2 films mentioned above, there is video of a North Korean musical group’s performance in Seoul in February. There were also micro-SD cards that can be put into phones.

When escapees from North Korea were interviewed in 2015, 81% reported having watched foreign media on USB drives while still in the country. The group doing all this is known as No Chain and they join others who have flown balloons over the border carrying information and goods and other illegal methods of smuggling information and food into the extremely poor country that spends all of its money on its military.

 Korean churches donate 3 pounds of rice per bottle, and the Human Rights Foundation in New York donates USBs as part of its “Flashdrives for Freedom” project.

Three pounds of rice is worth about TWO MONTHS’ SALARY for a state worker in North Korea. It’s no wonder that ships have reported seeing the bottles being fished out of the Han River. Let’s hope this and the soon-coming meetings between North and South Korean leaders gives the downtrodden people of North Korea a better life.

Said Thae Yong Ho, who was North Korea’s deputy ambassador in London until his dramatic escape in 2016:  “We should educate the North Korean people so that they can have their own Korean Spring.”

Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee Experiencing Elder Abuse ?

(Guest Post from Zayin Allen)

Stan Lee by Gage Skidmore 3.jpg

Stan Lee of Marvel Comics in 2014
(Image from Wikipedia)

The sentiments across the internet have been nice and concern has been expressed, but everyone can chill. Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee doesn’t need a hero after reports surfaced last month that he had been a victim of elder abuse.

“Hi, this is Stan Lee, and I’m calling on behalf of myself and my friend Keya Morgan. Now you people have been publishing the most hateful, harmful material about me and about my friend Keya and some others,” the 95-year-old icon said in a video released by TMZ.

Lee continued, “Material which is totally incorrect, totally based on slander, totally the type of thing that I’m going to sue your ass off [for] when I get a chance.”

The Hollywood Reporter published a story saying that no one around Lee was really caring for him after his wife’s untimely death last year. The story was authenticated by ex-attorney Tom Lallas, exposing abusive behavior linked to Lee’s daughter, J.C. Lee, in detail, and accusing others within Lee’s circle of  “bad intentions.”

Following the article’s publication, celebrities have reached out in hopes of helping Lee out of what they believed to be an abusive situation. (*The comment I read said that the director of “Clerks,” Kevin Smith had told Stan Lee he could come live with him. – C.W.)

Having just seen “Black Panther,” old Stan (Dec. 28, 1922) looked okay in the scene that depicted him gambling in a casino, but that is hardly definitive proof that all is well on the home front for the 96-year-old comic book icon.

It is good to know that fans all over the world have Lee’s best interest at heart, but it’s a shame if information is being misrepresented or misconstrued.

Super Bowl Sunday: Not Feeling So Super

I’m posting this before I begin to attempt to clean up and go off to a Super Bowl party.

Being a newcomer to Austin (TX) as a snowbird, I cannot afford to turn down any invitations, but I am in the throes of a head cold that has rendered sleep somewhat peripatetic and caused my nose to run.

Here in Austin, the biggest and closest grocery store is one with the name H.E.B. I have no idea what “H.E.B.” stands for, but “Help! Everything is Bolloxed!” comes to mind. On the bad side, you walk for miles trying to find anything. The store is roughly the size of a Sam’s Super Store in the Quad Cities. On the good side, the prices see far lower for most things (although the quality of the meat is suspect).

Let me be specific: all I wanted was a Coricidin type cold remedy that would staunch the runny nose I am experiencing, which, I think, I may have caught from my son, who also has a cold. I gave son Scott the last of my cold remedy medication from home and the Tylenol thing I bought yesterday does not mention stopping a runny nose. Nor has it done so.

On the bright side, I could breathe in the night, but I turned like a chicken on a spit, tossing and turning as I experienced all the fun drainage of a cold.

Two days ago, it was 83 degrees here, tying a record set in 1963. Then, it dropped about 40 degrees and spit rain. The problem (besides exposure to the virus somewhere) is that I had to go out in the spitting rain 2 days in a row, to secure the necessary vitals for a Saturday night dinner. I also wanted to purchase a painting to put on the wall of the guest bedroom, as the one I had originally seen at a store called “Tuesday Morning” had sold in one day. I like the painting and the son with the cold was going help the husband hang it on the wall of the guest bedroom IF I had it. So, 2 days in a row when I already felt sort of punk and the weather was not ideal I went out in the spitting rain and visited a minimum of 3 stores each time.

Now, I’m paying the price. Oh, well, last year there was no moisture at all in the entire month of February, so hopefully the predicted warm-up will take my cold with it.

On another front, gas here at some stations is $1.83.

As for the Super Bowl, I could care less who wins or who plays, but I would root for the underdog (Atlanta) in any contest and most certainly would do so when it is common knowledge that the Quarterback of the Patriots is a big buddy of the Trumpster. Go Falcons!

Aunt Neva Corcoran (Graves): How Did She Die?

The photo of the sunset was taken the day after Thanksgiving from the deck outside my home in East Moline (IL).


I always knew that my father, John Corcoran, Jr., had 3 brothers (Harold, Edgar and Ervin) and 4 sisters: Neva, Nora, Mabel and Dora.

I actually met all of his brothers, but only 2 of his sisters and only once, in my life, did I meet my paternal grandmother (the only one of my grandparents still alive when I was born). I was told that Nora and Neva “died young,” but I never knew HOW young or when or how or why.

I was looking through an old trunk of my mother’s, looking for Christmas sweaters, actually. This was just before Thanksgiving. I found this clipping in a very old, yellowed envelope, with a mailing date of Sept. 12, 1931. The return address was L.G. Meyer, County Superintendent, West Union, Iowa, and it bore my mother’s name (Sadie A. Monson), with an address of 202 2nd Street S.E. Oelwein, Iowa.

Inside was a VERY young picture of my father (looking very thin) and this obituary:

Mrs. Walter Graves, 29, 935 Third Street West, died at 6 p.m. Wednesday in a local hospital of complications following an operation for appendicitis, Monday.  She had been a resident here for approximately two years.

Neva M. Corcoran, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Corcoran, was born in Fairbank, IA, Jan. 27, 1902.  She was graduated from Immaculate Conception School at Fairbank and Gates Business College, Waterloo. On Nov. 4, 1930, she was married to Walter Graves at Fairbank, after which they made Waterloo their home.

Mrs. Graves (my deceased Aunt Neva Corcoran) is survived by her husband, parents, four brothers (Edgar, John, Irvin and Harold Corcoran, Fairbank and two sisters, Mrs. F. P. Schuck, West Point, Iowa (Mabel), and Mrs. Charles L. Duffy (Dora), 2027 Third Street West, Waterloo.

Funeral services will be held at the home of her parents at Fairbank on Saturday at 9:30 a.m.  Burial will be in Fairbank.

End of Obituary, with no actual date on the tiny slip of paper, but, given the statement of her age as 29 and her birth year as 1902, I’m guessing that the year was, indeed, 1931 (although the envelope seemed to have no bearing on the sad news of the clipping inside).  My father, John’s birthday, was October 28, 1902, which means he was born nearly 9 months, to the day, after this older sister—if I am correct. He would have been nearly the same age as Neva, much as my daughter, Stacey,  (born 07/09/87) is about the same age as her cousin, Matt Wilson, who was born in June of 1987.

I find this stuff fascinating, not because it is interesting to anyone else, but because there was so little ever told me about anyone on the Corcoran side of my family, and I also know very little about the Dutch/Norwegian side of my family (the Monsons).

Many people write entire memoirs about their families of origin. I doubt that this will ever occur with me, the writer, because I always feel that (a) my life is not that interesting to anyone else and (b) I barely know any of the facts or details of these phantom figures who peopled my parents’ lives, so it would be difficult for anyone else to re-construct my Irish or Norwegian/Dutch ancestors.

It is awful to think of an adult  nearly 30 years of age dying of appendicitis, but it sounds like that is what happened. What a way to go!
RIP, Aunt Neva.

The 2012 Presidential Campaign & How It’s Being Financed: Read It and Weep

As Yeats wrote

The closest I’ve come to meeting Barack Obama (DNC, 2008)

, “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”

Let me immediately give credit where credit is due and say that this information comes from the newest issue of “Vanity Fair,” which did not hit newsstands until today. It is a capsule “Cliff Notes,” if you will, summarizing the article “Boss Rove” that runs in the newest issue (Craig Unger, pp. 228-234). If you have issues with the content, take it up with “Vanity Fair,” which has done the nation a service by tracking down the unfettered spending that is going on in the 2012 presidential election and ferreting out who is behind this massive spending spree. I thought I’d save all of you a bit of time and shorten the essential facts, so read on, if you dare.

In this unsettling issue, you will learn to what extent Pillsbury Doughboy Karl Rove—once known as “Bush’s Brain—-is involved in this year’s Republican presidential race. As former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently said on one of the late-night talk shows where she was a guest, “Democrats are the party of the many—not the party of the money.” (Ain’t it the truth?)

I’m going to excerpt just a few startling facts from “Boss Rove” so you will at least be aware of them, in regards to the astounding amounts of money being spent this election season (by both parties.) First the article (which begins on page 228 of the September issue) re

Rush Limbaugh & Sandra Fluke,
whom Limbaugh insulted during her Senate testimony.

Pillsbury Doughboy (aka Turd Blossom)

I saw Karl Rove in person once. He came out on a balcony in Denver in 2004 at the Coors Amphitheater with the woman from Texas named “Karen” who was “W’s” other big favorite.  Rove, DID, indeed, look like the Pillsbury Doughboy. In fact, George W. Bush, himself, who was a fan of giving everyone a demeaning nickname, called him ‘Turd Blossom.” Aptly named.

Rove left public view briefly in 2007 under a cloud and barely escaped indictment, as the article states ( page 229.) The president he served (George W. Bush) left office with the lowest rating in the history of the presidency (22%).  The Supreme Court, in December 2000, handed down the notorious decision placing George W. Bush in the White House (“Bush v. Gore). Then, the Supreme Court appointees of our least favorite president of all time (Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito) joined forces on “Citizens United” recently to allow the electoral process to be subverted forever by allowing corporations to donate unlimited amounts of money, much of it anonymous and untraceable. It overthrew the previous campaign finance bill, McCain-Feingold, which was actually known as the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.

  In American elections now, anything goes. Money talks (and bullshit walks). And don’t let those complete commercial misstatements about how Obama doesn’t think people receiving welfare should work bother you, either; both the “New York Times” and the “Washington Post” completely debunked the ad that is running non-stop in swing states (and on TV Channel 6 in the Quad Cities of IA/IL).

So, Karl Rove (aka “Bush’s Brain”) immediately met with Ed Gillespie, the former Republican National Committee Chairperson (who had also served in the Bush administration) and they became a dynamic duo, with Gillespie eventually sent over to work with Romney’s people.  One wag said, “Ed’s got the better rap and Karl’s got the better Rolodex,” referencing Rove’s prodigious fund-raising ability.

Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, a longtime donor to Rove’s causes was recruited. Within three weeks of the Supreme Courts’ controversial decision in “Citizens United,” American Crossroads, a new 527 advocacy group, had a web-site up and running. Very shortly after its inception, the group had commitments of $30 million, which was 4 times what the RNC had on hand. Four OTHER groups were formed:  American Action Network, the American Action Forum, Resurgent Republican and the Republican State Leadership Committee. None of these groups had to disclose the identity of their contributors because they were nonprofits. American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS planned to spend $300 million to help GOP congressional candidates in battleground states like Florida, Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Iowa. Their anti-Democratic ads would run thousands of times and “Under the new laws, all of this could take place with virtually no oversight.” (p. 230).

The war chest the GOP amassed now approaches $1 billion.  John McCain spent only $370 million on his entire presidential campaign in 2008. American Crossroads was considered to be an alternative to the RNC, which more-or-less collapsed under the leadership of its token black leader, Michael Steele.

A telling quote:  “The center of energy will always be where the money is.  Karl is playing for control of the party.  That’s where the power and the money are.” WABC radio host John Batchelor (a Republican) is quoted this way: “American is a two-party state.  There are the Democrats. Then, there’s Karl Rove.”

All of us, by now, are aware that Rove turned up on Fox News and “The Wall Street Journal” also gave him a bully pulpit.

Mitt Romney on the campaign trail in Davenport, IA.

On April 5th, Ed Gillespie left American Crossroads and joined the Mitt Romney campaign as a senior adviser. This was well before Romney had locked up the nomination. Through Gillespie, Rove now had oversight of Romney’s campaign for the presidency of the United States. Rove became the gatekeeper over who would contribute how much to whom.  Quote from Wayne Slater, (reporter for the “Dallas Morning News”):  “When Karl put his imprimatur on you, it was clear that the money was going to go to you.”

Here’s a sobering paragraph from page 232:  “The only way Romney can get back into the race quickly will be through the expenditures of substantial Super PAC dollars,” said Doug Schoen in “Forbes” magazine.  “Specifically, the key actors in this process will be Karl Rove, whose Super PAC American Crossroads has raised $300 million, as well as the pro-Romney Super PAC, Restore Our Future. But make no mistake about it: the 2012 campaign now is not Obama versus Romney. It is Obama versus Karl Rove, American Crossroads, and Restore Our Future.”

And so, goes the article on page 232, “The great consolidation began between Rove’s super-PACS and Romney’s operation.” Beth Myers, who was so close to her boss that “The Washington Post” called her his “office wife” would be in charge of the selection of Paul Ryan as VP.

Rove then began bringing in those who had strayed from the cause, like Sheldon Adelson, the seventh-richest man in America ($24.9 billion) who had given $21.5 million to Newt Gingrich’s book tour-cum-campaign. After some hemming and hawing, Adelson gave $10 million to Restore Our Future” and said, “He (Rove ) is going to be the Republican Party’s 800-pound gorilla in defeating Barack Obama.” (this from an Adelson friend to CNN.)

Then there are the multi-billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, who recently threw so much money into keeping Wisconsin’s Scott Walker in office as Governor when he began dismantling all unions and faced a recall.  By early spring, Marc Short, a Koch operative, had begun attending the Weaver Terrace gatherings of Romney’s people.  They had initially planned to steer $200 million to conservative groups and causes in 2012, but they doubled that to $400 million. Former “W” consultants” put that figure in context:  “Think the $$ political system is screwed up?  Koch brothers alone are planning to spend more money than McCain’s entire presidential budget.”

So, we have Grover Norquist’s “Americans for Tax Reform;’’ the National Right to Life committee; Ralph Reed’s “Faith & Freedom Coalition,” the National Rifle Association and the “American Future Fund,” all allied to spend money on Tea Party candidates and against Obama.  Peter Stone (journalist) wrote:  “By spreading their wealth throughout the conservative ecosystem the Kochs can exploit trusted brands with passionate followings that reach beyond the Tea Party base,” while at the same time leaving no trace of their involvement.

Romney now has a total of $1.8 billion dollars, with the RNC commanding another $800 million.  In Virginia, Tim Kaine who was running for the Senate, was outspent 3 to 1.  On Kaine’s behalf, as of late March, 380 ads ran, while Crossroads GPS and the Chamber of Commerce aired 1,980 attack ads against him. And it was a well-known fact that the Wisconsin recall effort was funded by the Koch Brothers and outspent those who wanted a new Governor about 4 to 1. Fox News, always glad to air an attack ad against the president, aired an attack ad on no fewer than 7 separate news shows in one 24-hour period, which means, as RNC strategist Brad Blakeman said, “Karl has gotten more earned media than the amount he invested in the ad.”

With Wall Street deserting Obama over some presidential feeble attempts to rein in the circumstances that caused the near-collapse of the country (no banker has yet gone to jail), Brent Budowsky wrote in “The Hill:”

“The inability of the Democrats to play in the same league as Karl Rove financially is a humiliating debacle that might be unprecedented, (measured by comparing wealthy donors of one party to wealthy donors of the other), in the history of presidential politics. The president and Democrats seem befuddled by how to react to the Citizens United decision, while Karl Rove understands with crystal clarity.  Rove mobilizes his army, rallies his wealthy, organizes his ventures and puts his money in the bank.”

In 2008, more than 550,000 people gave more than $200 to Obama. In so doing they created the longest list of individual donors in American political history. According to BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith & Rebecca Elliott, at this point in 2012, nearly 90% of people had NOT come back to donate that amount again. Bush is gone and so are the donors Barack Obama needs to defeat the Mittster. Furthermore, the Democratic Super PACS are feeble. By mid-April, 4 of the biggest and 2 allied nonprofits had only $8.3 million on hand. Bill Maher and James H. Simons were responsible for a million each.  Meanwhile, Rove’s groups had spent more than $11 million on attack ads against Obama.

George Soros.

At this point, George Soros, the famously liberal Democratic donor, tried to put together a strategy to combat Rove’s onslaught. He prepared to invest $100 million in Democratic super PACS and nonprofits, focusing on grassroots organizing, voter registration and turn out, rather than negative advertising. As Michael Vachon (a Soros adviser) told the “Huffington Post,” “Culturally, the left doesn’t do Swift Boat. It’s not what we do well.”

Rove’s strategy with all that cash is this:  All Romney has to do is take 3 states: Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia—states that McCain and Palin lost in 2008, and recapture 2 big battleground states that Bush won in 2004 (Ohio and Florida) and—beyond that—-win just ONE swing state. It could be Iowa, where both Obama (his 13th visit) and Romney are visiting repeatedly. Rove wrote it up this way:  “The self-portrait the president has painted is of a weak liberal, buffeted by events.  That will make this election more like 1980 when Ronald Reagan defeated an ineffectual Jimmy Carter than like 2004.”

Said Roger Stone:  “No one else can construct a power center like he (Rove) can.” Rove has been the brains behind one of—if not THE—-worst presidents in U.S. history, who started 2 horribly expensive wars and, having inherited a booming economy from Clinton, left the nation in near economic collapse. But now that the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson have fallen into line, Rove has consolidated the warring factions within the Republican Party and is in command, with complete control.

Running for the Republicans is a team (Romney/Ryan) with the thinnest foreign policy background since 1944 (Dewey/Bricker) and the man who wants to dismantle Medicare and deny all abortions, even for rape and incest, and deny women many basic health care needs,, (Paul Ryan), the VP candidate. Ryan spent 14 years in Congress and never ran anything other than his House office.  Ryan’s slashing of Medicaid (by $800 billion over 10 years) would reward the strong and abandon the needy, balancing the budget on the backs of the middle class while the rich are spared and protected. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, in “Time’s” August 27th issue, called Ryan’ budget “an uncompromising right-wing Tea Party manifesto that provides big tax breaks to wealthy Americans at the expense of everyone and everything else.” Said the “Time” article (“Ryan’s Hope”), “Ryan is to budget math what Carl Sagan was to the science of the cosmos.” Said Joe Klein in the same issue, “Mitt Romney has effectively outsourced his job as intellectual leader of the ticket to his occasionally specific junior partner” (which Romney once called “marvelous.”)

Even worse, many of Ryan’s most prized ideas have already been tried and have already failed. The drastic cutting of taxes was tried under Reagan and did not work. Even the stupidest American can understand that, when bills are mounting, it is necessary to get more money. Maybe the average American takes a second job, but he or she tries to get more money to pay the mounting bills, and the nation needs to get more money to pay both our horrendous debt (Thanks, “W”!) and to pay for social programs like Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid and such things as infrastructure improvements.

In Ryan’s plan (quote from “Time”) “Average folks are taxed because they haven’t had the good sense to become wealthy.” Ryan’s budget is balanced on the backs of the poor and elderly. It would eviscerate medical help for the elderly poor and force those who are addled, decrepit and elderly to wade through the complicated market choices of private insurance, as their benefits would almost certainly not cover their medical needs under Ryan’s “voucher” plan.

What the Democrats have going for them, at this point, is a candidate who is genuinely likeable and not just a Gumby doll, some signs that economic unrest is at least under control for the moment in Europe (as well as somewhat stable in the Middle East, save for Syria), and a slowly improving economy.  Obama was in Ohio today, but Mitt will be hitting the Quad Cities again tomorrow, at 12:30 p.m., while Ryan is going to Pennsylvania.

(Gallup Poll of 8/21): Twenty-two% of registered voter s like Ryan; 23% say they don’t like Ryan. 54% say it doesn’t make any difference in their vote, if they are registered Republicans.

Now if Barack Obama only had an educated, informed electorate that read, he’d be home free! But I’m watching an attack ad right now, paid for by Americans for Prosperity and, during Obama’s recent visit, the ratio of Republican ads to Democratic ads was 4 to 1. There’s one running right now, as I write this, which claims, quite ridiculously, that the Romney/Ryan plan will “protect Medicare,” when the opposite is the truth,.

But do people read these articles  and know this?

“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”

Prostate-Cancer Sniffing Dogs May Be Next Medical Advance

belgian-malinoisFrench researchers, using Belgian Malinois dogs, have discovered that that breed of dog can correctly pick out a man suffering from prostate cancer from sniffing the urine of the victims. The dogs, in 66 tests, sniffed out the sick individual’s urine from a field of 5 corectly 63 times out of 66. This accuracy is far higher than the standard PSA tests, which often given false positives.

Dogs can be trained to detect the characteristic odor of unique chemicals released into urine by prostate tumors according to Dr. Jean-Nicolas  Cornu.

This new discovery could very well signal a new way to detect prostate cancer, as there were only 3 false positives and no false negatives when using the trained canines, far lower than PSA tests.

Chicago News and Views

    A quick look at Chicago’s news, where I now report from, tells me that there are some issues in Chicago that have not made the local Quad City newspapers. For instance, there was a shooting near the Taste of Chicago, which Mayor Daley is trying to play down as having had anything to do with that massive annual event. The cab talk is all about whether it will have a negative effect on Chicago’s bid for the Olympics. If the shooting outside Grant Park and off the Festival site doesn’t do it, then will the 10.25% sales tax deter visitors to this fair city?


     Another city vignette: a newborn baby boy was found abandoned in the courtyard of an Uptown apartment building at about 2:00 a.m. The 5 lb. Baby boy left in the 4600 block of North Beacon Street inside a grocery bag amid shrubbery was crying to save his life (which it did) in the 70-degree temperature. His body temperature had dropped to 86 degrees in the cool night air and he might not have survived if one of the apartment’s residents had not gone outside to investigate, found the child, and taken it to a nearby fire station. The child had cried for at least two hours before anyone thought to investigate, but it was after 2 in the morning.

      A third interesting story detailed how a Lake Hills man known as Edward F. Bachner IV tried to hire a hit man to kill his wife, after he had taken out a $5 million dollar life insurance policy on her. The odd thing is that the wife didn’t know about the “hit-for-hire” until she found out in court, and the method that the would-be murderer eventually settled on to do her in: Pufferfish.  I just wrote a story entitled “Pufferfish.” Who knew that Pufferfish venom is among the most deadly of poisons? Dr. Frank Paloucek, clinical expert in toxicology, says that the Tetraodontidae family of poisons (specifically, the deadly poisonous pufferfish) “would be a terrible way to die, in my opinion, because you could be very easily conscious at the time you stop breathing. You wouldn’t be feeling that you weren’t breathing, and you would be conscious of it, and you would die because you would pass out. The death is a respiratory death. Your lungs stop working and your brain loses enough oxygen for long enough, and then you’re dead.” Yup. That’ll do it. Stay away from Pufferfish. Edward F. Bachner IV had apparently pretended to be someone who had a legitimate reason for owning pufferfish poison, and he had a bunch of it! He also had 50 knives, garrotes that could be used to choke people to death, a gun, two passports, and a phony CIA badge. Wow! The Pufferfish Conspiracy has made all the papers, and I’m thinking that I was way ahead of THAT learning curve with my little story! Just so you know: “If it was a 220-pound person, you would need one-thousandth of a gram, or one-32,000th of an ounce to kill an adult” with Pufferfish poison. Another wow, there. The reason given? Marine animals have to be far more poisonous than land animals to kill their pretty, because they are operating in 3 dimensions instead of 2. (I’m not sure I understood that last part, but I’m just here to report the news of the day in Chicago by the Lake.)

      There was also a story about a 96-year-old man who has a lot of opinions (Garrison Keillor) and a happy story about a young boy who was lost for hours, but was found unharmed. That, at least, was a “happy” ending.

Ames Professor’s Paper Sparks the Design of the Speedo LZR Racer Swimsuit

Speedo LZR Racer Swimsuit

Speedo LZR Racer Swimsuit

I’m always interested to learn that the Midwest has done itself proud. That would appear to be the case in the very hot topic of the LZR (pronounced “laser” swimsuit designed by Speedo and currently showcased in the June 30, 2008, issue of Newsweek with Cindy McCain on the cover.

The controversy over the swimsuit, made of high-density microfiber and lined with polyurethane panels, which appears to be contributing to a rash of World Records being set by those wearing them, has Iowa roots.

It seems that a professor of physiology at Ames (Iowa State University) named Rick Sharp, a former collegiate swimmer himself, wrote two papers questioning Speedo’s performance claims for the LZR’s predecessor, the Speedo Fastskin suit. Speedo did not take offense at Professor Sharp’s comments, but, instead, called him up in 2004 and invited him to lead a team of outside experts that would design a better suit.

Sharp recalls, in the Newsweek article, “I laughed and said, ‘Have you read my papers?'”

Speedo had, indeed, read Sharp’s papers. They had taken his doubts into consideration and, says Jason Rance, Chief of Speedo’s Aqualab global R&D Center in England, “He was asking all the right questions.”

NASA fluid-mechanics engineer Stephen Wilkinson was also enlisted to use wind tunnels to detect surface friction on spacecraft re-entering Earth’s atmosphere technology to blow air across a variety of fabrics at 63 mph, the simulated speed of a swimmer as fast as Michael Phelps, this year’s American gold medal hopeful.

Samples were stitched together and tried out on Iowa State University swimmers. Says Sharp, “We had one suit that looked great on paper. But then, when we dove into the pool, it ballooned out like a parachute.”

The polyurethane panels that act like a girdle to streamline the swimmers bodies also had to be redesigned so that the girdle structure wasn’t too far up the rib cage, therefore inhibiting swimmers’ breathing.

Whatever the case, the LZR, which had been previously approved for use at the Beijing Olympics, has sparked a storm of protest from competitors, who claim that it constitutes an unfair advantage for other swimmers. The Speedo people, for their part, don’t expect to market many of the $290 a pair men’s jammers nor the $550 full bodysuit. They are meant for true athletes like Phelps and could be considered “the couture version” of Speedo, according to Warnaco Group President Helen McCluskey. The $40 to $78 knock-off versions with stars-and-stripes motifs that will be marketed to little kids: that’s where the market is, with 300,000 kids on swim teams.

Meanwhile, even endorsers of other swimsuits seem to be defecting in droves to the new LZR Suit to get the “rocket” effect that NASA was aiming for. One prominent endorser of a competitor, Olympic medallist Erik Vendt, who previously shilled for TYR, the second-largest U.S. swimwear maker, has switched to the Speedo LZR Racer. A Japanese swimmer under contract to Mizuno just set a world record wearing a LZR. Speedo spent tens of millions developing the LZR Racer over the last four years and, says U.S. swim coach Mark Schubert, “every world record is in jeopardy. The suit is definitely a factor.”

Transfused Blood Over Six Weeks Old May Kill You


     A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine by Dr. Colleen Gorman Koch and Cleveland Clinic colleagues, examined the transfusion records for 6,002 cardiac surgery patients in the wake of several smaller studies that indicate that, if transfused blood is nearing its expiration date (6 weeks), recipients are 64% more likely to die in the hospital.

     In Dr. Koch’s study, 2.8% of those who received old blood died in the hospital, compared to 1.7% who got fresher blood.

    Over 14 million units of blood are transfused into patients across the United States each day.  Blood can be stored and used for as long as six weeks, although evidence exists that the loss of nitric oxide over that six-week period can render the old blood less effective than fresher supplies.  That finding has led other researchers to attempt to rejuvenate the old blood with this critical agent (nitric oxide) for delivering oxygen to tissues.  Nitric oxide has been shown to disappear from the blood after six weeks in storage, in other studies.

     On Wednesday, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) stated, “The New England Journal of Medicine” study is narrow and non-randomized,” and that FDA regulatory action would be “premature.”

     Dr. Ross Herron, medical director for the American Red Cross said, “I don’t know if we would be able to get enough blood donors to offset that (regulatory action by the FDA).”

     Heart surgery patients are among the largest consumers of donor blood.  Some hospitals have already modified their procedures for cardiac surgery to minimize the need for blood transfusions for heart patients.

My Cholesterol Levels on Lipitor, Even Though Nobody Cares

I just knew that all of you were awaiting the results of my latest blood draw. Yes, I can hear you now saying, “I wonder how Connie’s blood is doing, these days.” It is actually the truth that I had to have blood drawn and go in for a routine physical. It was mainly to see what effect, if any, Lipitor has been having on my previously-high (272) cholesterol.

  Mind you, I have been the proud possessor of high cholesterol since my teens, I think. I know I had cholesterol of over 300 at one point, just before I began a diet at a hospital where I ate no solid food whatsoever and my cholesterol dropped from that, alone. I also remember inflating it, artificially, at a nurse’s suggestion once, to qualify for a hospital diet program, by eating tubs of cottage cheese. But nevermind about all that ancient history.  

On March 4th, 2008,  I had blood drawn because my doctor was going to check my liver function (which they check if you are on statins) and, for that reason, I was very careful to take a Lipitor (10 mg) a night every night for a week. My normal pattern is to take one 10 mg. pill every OTHER night, because my John Deere insurance will not pay for my Lipitor at all. They will pay for all kinds of inferior brands that make me physically ill (I tried them all), but that is it. All of the inferior brands were costing me (in addition to my insurance coverage) a minimum of $56, so I figured I might as well pay for the Gold Standard (i.e., Lipitor) and comparison shop it. In other words, I don’t get any insurance coverage for my Lipitor, as I buy it at Sam’s Club, and those little pills are PRICEY! I never get out of the store having paid less than $70 for 30 pills and, lately, I think it has gone up closer to $90. Anyway, because the pills ARE so pricey, and I am absorbing the total cost myself, I asked my doctor (Dr. Mihm), to write the 5 mg. prescription as a 10 mg. prescription, which I would take either cut in half or every-other-day, to keep MY costs down (and it is MY cost, not my insurance carrier, which prefers that I become physically ill on Brands X, Y and Z.).  If you have a 10 mg. pill, it will take you through 2 months on that $70 to $90. Capice? If I were taking a 5 mg. pill daily, I would pay the same price ($70 to $90) but the pills would only last me 30 days. Therefore, I can get my daily cost for my Lipitor (which Dr. Mihm, himself, takes) down to a manageable $1 a day.

  Today, the results of having taken my 10 mg. pill for at least a week (more faithfully than usual, in other words) were revealed to the public, who does not really want to know. My cholesterol has gone from 272 to 133. My HDL has declined from 76 to 51, which my doctor said would be “normal,” since the overall cholesterol has declined so much. My LDL has gone from 185 to 70, which he described as “ideal.” He said he could hardly believe that a broken-down old relic like me now had such “good” cholesterol…that I was “almost an ideal patient”…or words to that effect.  He was almost giddy with excitement, as, I am sure, you are.

 Afterwards, Dr. Mihm and I talked about politics, and I learned that he supports Hillary (!) and I heard about his nice time in Florida. It is always a pleasure to visit Dr. Mihm, who is almost as old as I am old and delivered Stacey 21 years ago. He is truly a Great Guy, and I know his wife Georgia, who used to be on the Davenport School Board. At the end of the meeting, after we had talked about Eliot Spitzer and politics and cholesterol, he said, “Good talking with you,” and I hobbled off into the day, to go shopping and celebrate my wonderful cholesterol levels.   And, as an added bonus, nobody weighed me, this time. (hehehehehehe).  

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