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Awakening IT: Green Information Technology

From The Academy of Natural Sciences:

When: October 20, 2009, 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm

Featuring:

Joe Tait, CIO of NMS Labs
Quiet Riot: Bill and Dave Mettler

The performance troupe Quiet Riot www.quietriot.org will set an entertaining ontext for action with a joyride through the milennia of human inventions that led up to information technology.

Joe Tait, CIO of NMS Labs in Willow Grove, PA will present a true green information technology success story. What began at NMS as a modest initiative to turn off lab workstations when not in use quickly became a company-wide campaign. Throughout his career, Mr. Tait has built effective teams, turned around operations, spearheaded start ups, integrated IT functions in mergers, and forged cost-effective, highly motivated business and information technology organizations in support of business operations in a range of industries.

Green information technology/IT primarily means:

1) using information technology to reduce negative environmental impacts of business activities by helping organizations and enterprises to operate more efficiently and effectively

2) reducing the negative environmental impact of information technoloigy – by managing information in a way that reduces the resources needed, by managing equipment and processes to use fewer resources, and by managing supplies and equipment for safe disposal and re-use.

Posted: 9/27/2009 10:38:00 AM

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Vitamin D Improves Cancer Survival

From Laboratory Equipment:

Researchers at the Univ. of Leeds have shown that higher levels of vitamin D may help improve survival for bowel and skin cancer patients.

The results of two studies published in the British Journal of Cancer and Journal of Clinical Oncology found people with higher levels of vitamin D--at the time they were diagnosed--were more likely to survive.

In the first study researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute monitored 1,017 bowel cancer patients for nine years.

Using information about UV-B and sunlight exposure, skin type, body-mass index, and vitamin D intake from food and supplements they estimated the amount of vitamin D in patients' blood at the time of diagnosis.

The results showed that those with higher vitamin D scores after being diagnosed with cancer were 50% less likely to die from the disease--compared to those with lower vitamin D scores.

"Our study shows that levels of vitamin D after colorectal cancer diagnosis may be important for survival," says Kimmie Ng, study author. "We're planning further research in patients with bowel cancer to see if vitamin D has the same effect, and to investigate how vitamin D works with molecular and genetic pathways in the cell to fight cancer."

The second study found that malignant melanoma patients with the lowest levels of vitamin D in their blood at the time they were diagnosed were 30% more likely to relapse from the disease than those with the highest levels.

The researchers from Leeds also found that patients who have higher levels of vitamin D at diagnosis have thinner tumors at diagnosis.

"It's common for the general public to have low levels of vitamin D in many countries," says Julia Newton Bishop, study author. "Melanoma patients tend to avoid the sun as sunburn is known to increase the risk of melanoma. We use sunshine to make vitamin D in the skin, so melanoma patients' levels of vitamin D may be especially low. Our results suggest that melanoma patients may need to get vitamin D by eating fatty fish or by taking supplements to ensure they have normal levels. But we're continuing to carry out research to find out the optimum level of vitamin D. There's some evidence from other health studies that high levels of vitamin D are also harmful--so we should aim for a normal level rather than a very high one."

Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, says, "Both these studies support the theory that higher levels of vitamin D can improve the chance of surviving cancer. The key is to get the right balance between the amount of time spent in the sun and the levels of vitamin D needed for good health."

Posted: 9/25/2009 9:44:00 AM

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LSD Returns--For Psychotherapeutics

From Scientific American:

Albert Hofmann, the discoverer of LSD, lambasted the countercultural movement for marginalizing a chemical that he asserted had potential benefits as an invaluable supplement to psychotherapy and spiritual practices such as meditation. “This joy at having fathered LSD was tarnished after more than ten years of uninterrupted scientific research and medicinal use when LSD was swept up in the huge wave of an inebriant mania that began to spread over the Western world, above all the United States, at the end of the 1950s,” Hofmann groused in his 1979 memoir LSD: My Problem Child.

For just that reason, Hofmann was jubilant in the months before his death last year, at the age of 102, when he learned that the first scientific research on LSD in decades was just beginning in his native Switzerland. “He was very happy that, as he said, ‘a long wish finally became true,’ ” remarks Peter Gasser, the physician leading the clinical trial. “He said that the substance must be in the hands of medical doctors again.”

The preliminary study picks up where investigators left off. It explores the possible therapeutic effects of the drug on the intense anxiety experienced by patients with life-threatening disease, such as cancer. A number of the hundreds of studies conducted on lysergic acid diethylamide-25 from the 1940s into the 1970s (many of poor quality by contemporary standards) delved into the personal insights the drug supplied that enabled patients to reconcile themselves with their own mortality. In recent years some researchers have studied psilocybin (the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms”) and MDMA (Ecstasy), among others, as possible treatments for this “existential anxiety,” but not LSD.

Gasser, head of the Swiss Medical Society for Psycholytic Therapy, which he joined after his own therapist-administered LSD experience, has only recently begun to discuss his research, revealing the challenges of studying psychedelics. The $190,000 study approved by Swiss medical authorities, was almost entirely funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a U.S. nonprofit that sponsors research toward the goal of making psychedelics and marijuana into prescription drugs. Begun in 2008, the study intends to treat 12 patients (eight who will receive LSD and four a placebo). Finding eligible candidates has been difficult—after 18 months only five patients had been recruited, and just four had gone through the trial’s regimen of a pair of all-day sessions. “Because LSD is not a usual treatment, an oncologist will not recommend it to a patient,” Gasser laments.

The patients who received the drug found the experience aided them emotionally, and none experienced panic reactions or other untoward events. One patient, Udo Schulz, told the German weekly Der Spiegel that the therapy with LSD helped him overcome anxious feelings after being diagnosed with stomach cancer, and the experience with the drug aided his reentry into the workplace.

The trials follow a strict protocol—“all LSD treatment sessions will begin at 11 a.m.”—and the researchers are scrupulous about avoiding mistakes that, at times, occurred during older psychedelic trials, when investigators would leave subjects alone during a drug session. Both Gasser and a female co-therapist are present throughout the eight-hour sessions that take place in quiet, darkened rooms, with emergency medical equipment close at hand. Before receiving LSD, subjects have to undergo psychological testing and preliminary psychotherapy sessions.

Another group is also pursuing LSD research. The British-based Beckley Foundation is funding and collaborating on a 12-person pilot study at the University of California, Berkeley, that is assessing how the drug may foster creativity and what changes in neural activity go along with altered conscious experience induced by the chemical. Whether LSD will one day become the drug of choice for psychedelic psychotherapy remains in question because there may be better solutions.

Posted: 9/24/2009 1:42:00 PM

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Las Vegas woman accused of Web drug sale scheme

From the Las Vegas Sun:

A Las Vegas woman was arrested Monday morning on federal fraud charges for false advertising and distributing on her Web site an "herbal" alternative to street drugs.

That alternative was actually an active ingredient in cough syrup and a known drug of abuse among teenagers and young adults, said U.S. Attorney Greg Brower of Nevada.

Authorities arrested 34-year-old Yamila Abraham at her home, Brower said. She is charged in a criminal indictment with seven counts of mail fraud, one count of misbranding a drug, one count of introducing goods into domestic commerce by means of false statement and criminal forfeiture.

From about January 2004 to August 2006, Abraham is alleged to have operated a Web site called www.Pleasureherbs.com, which offered for sale "herbal" alternatives to recreational street drugs, including a product known as "Snurf."

On her site, Abraham said that "Snurf" is "the long awaited pill form of 10X extractions of Fevizia, Palenzia and De la Amazon. Each tablet contains 500 mg of these herbal extracts per pill."

In reality, "Snurf" contained no herbal supplements, but it exclusively contained dextromethorphan hydrobromide (DXM), which is a stimulant and the active ingredient in over-the-counter cough suppressants, the government said.

The amounts of DXM in "Snurf" far exceeded the Food and Drug Administration's recommended dosage for cough suppression. The indictment alleges that the labeling of the "Snurf" was false and misleading and did not have adequate directions for use or adequate warnings.

Abraham bought DXM in bulk from sources around the country and had it repackaged in capsules for sale as "Snurf," the government said.

The indictment alleges that on May 25, 2005, Abraham said that roughly 20,000 tablets containing DXM were actually 20,000 tablets of vitamin B-12. Between Nov. 22, 2005 and May 1, 2006, Abraham mailed seven packages of "Snurf" from Las Vegas to several places in California, Springfield, Ill., and Indianapolis.

If convicted, Abraham faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each mail fraud count, up to one year in prison and a $250,000 fine on drug misbranding, and up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine on introducing goods into commerce by false statements, Brower said.

In addition, if convicted, the government seeks forfeiture of properties from Abraham from the proceeds of the crimes up to $186,680, as well as 20,000 tablets of DXM and any equipment used by her to make counterfeit drugs, Brower said.

Posted: 9/23/2009 10:28:00 AM

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Results of Barkus blood analysis on way back to Montana

From The Montana Standard:

The forensic analysis of state Sen. Greg Barkus' blood samples was completed Wednesday by an out-of-state lab and should arrive in Flathead County by the end of this week, said Judy Beck, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office.

The sample was submitted to a private lab in Willow Grove, Pa., to avoid any appearance of conflict within the State Crime Lab in Missoula, which is run by state Rep. Dave McAlpin, D-Missoula, who served with Barkus in the Legislature.

The lab, National Medical Services, sent the findings back to Missoula for an administrative review, Beck said, and the results were then postmarked in certified mail and sent to the Flathead County sheriff and county attorney.

Authorities are investigating whether or not Barkus had been drinking the night of Aug. 27, when he crashed his speedboat into the rocky shore along Flathead Lake.

The accident seriously injured all five on board, including U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg and two of his top staff members.

Barkus and his wife, Kathy, were also injured.

Posted: 9/21/2009 2:45:00 PM

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FDA issues tissue damage warning for Promethazine

From Forbes:

The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday makers of the antihistamine and anti-nausea drug promethazine have to warn consumers over the potential risk of tissue injuries including gangrene if the injectable drug is administered incorrectly.

The FDA is requiring companies to include a warning on the drug's label to state that it should not be administered into an artery or under the skin because of the risk. There is also a risk that the drug can leach out from the vein during intravenous administration and cause serious damage to the surrounding tissue, the agency said.

The drug should be injected deep into a muscle.

Also, a requested revision to the label proposes that if health care professionals choose to administer promethazine intravenously, they should limit the drug's concentration and rate of administration.

Companies making the drug are required to submit safety label changes to the FDA within 30 days or provide a reason why they feel changes are not necessary.

Promethazine was previously sold under the brand name Phenergan by Wyeth ( WYE - news - people ), but the company discontinued the formulation. Several generic drug developers now make formulations of the injectable drug. The drug first hit the market in 1956 and prior warnings over potential tissue injuries have been stated, but have not been required to be included in a box warning.

Posted: 9/18/2009 12:15:00 PM

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Forensic toxicology expert to give talk

From The Centre Daily Times:

A leading authority on forensic toxicology will give a free public lecture at 12:10 p.m. Monday in 111 Wartik Laboratory on the Penn State campus.

Barry K. Logan, director of toxicological and forensic services at NMS Labs in Willow Grove, has interests in postmortem toxicology and alcohol- impaired and drug-impaired drivers. His lecture is titled “The Art and Science of Forensic Toxicology.”

Posted: 9/17/2009 1:53:00 PM

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FDA Panel Votes to Eliminate Percocet, Vicodin

From WJLA News:

Government experts say prescription drugs like Vicodin and Percocet that combine a popular painkiller with stronger narcotics should be eliminated because of their role in deadly overdoses.
A Food and Drug Administration panel on Tuesday voted 20-17 that prescription drugs that combine acetaminophen with other painkilling ingredients should be pulled off the market.

The FDA has assembled a group of experts to vote on ways to reduce liver damage associated with acetaminophen, one of the most widely used drugs in the U.S.

Despite years of educational campaigns and other federal actions, acetaminophen remains the leading cause of liver failure in the U.S., according to the FDA.

Panelists cited FDA data indicating 60 percent of acetaminophen-related deaths are related to prescription products. Acetaminophen is also found in popular over-the-counter medications like Tylenol and Excedrin.

"We're here because there are inadvertent overdoses with this drug that are fatal and this is the one opportunity we have to do something that will have a big impact," said Dr. Judith Kramer of Duke University Medical Center.

But many panelists opposed a sweeping withdraw of products that are so widely used to control severe, chronic pain.

After two tours of duty in Vietnam, O'Donnald Parker depends on acetaminophen -- through Percocet and Tylenol -- to manage his pain.

In the mid-1990s he was diagnosed with severe liver damage. Parker's doctor said the medication may partly be to blame.

"I have to take it in moderation," he said. "I have to be real careful with it. I only take it when I absolutely need it."

"To make this shift without very clear understanding of the implications on the management of pain would be a huge mistake," said Dr. Robert Kerns of Yale University.

In a separate vote, the panel voted overwhelmingly, 36-1, that if the drugs stay on the market they should carry a black box warning, the most serious safety label available.

The FDA convened the two-day meeting to ask experts to discuss and vote on a slew of proposals to reduce overdoses with acetaminophen. The drug has been on the market for about 50 years and many patients find it easier on the stomach than ibuprofen and aspirin, which can cause ulcers.

Earlier in the day, panelists took aim at safety problems with Tylenol and dozens of other over-the-counter painkillers. In a series of votes, the panel endorsed lowering the maximum dose of those products.

FDA's experts voted 21-16 to lower the current maximum daily dose of nonprescription acetaminophen, which is 4 grams, or eight pills of a medication like Extra Strength Tylenol.

The group was not asked to recommend an alternative maximum daily dose.

The panel also voted 24-13 to limit the maximum single dose of the drug to 650 milligrams. The current single dose of Johnson & Johnson's Extra Strength Tylenol is 1,000 milligrams, or two tablets.

In a third vote, a majority of panelists said the 1,000-milligram dose should only be available by prescription.

However, panelists rejected a proposal to pull certain cold and cough medicines off the market because of their role in overdosing.

The drugs in question, such as Procter & Gamble's NyQuil or Novartis' Theraflu, combine acetaminophen with other ingredients that treat cough and runny nose.

The FDA says patients often pair the cold medications with pure acetaminophen drugs, like Tylenol, exposing themselves to unsafe levels of the drug.

But panelists cited FDA data that said the medications play a minor role in acetaminophen overdoses, with only 10 percent of acetaminophen-related deaths involving a cold and cough product.

The panel voted 24-13 to keep the products on the market.

Posted: 9/17/2009 10:05:00 AM

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New Orleans hospital deaths back in spotlight

From CNN:

The Orleans Parish district attorney said he plans to look into deaths at a New Orleans hospital in the days following Hurricane Katrina, but stopped short of calling it an investigation.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported in a story Saturday that Leon Cannizzaro will interview New Orleans coroner Frank Minyard and possibly other pathologists on the coroner's staff regarding the deaths of Memorial Medical Center patients.

But the newspaper quoted Cannizzaro as saying an investigation would involve convening a grand jury and bringing in witnesses to testify, and he does not at this time have plans to do that. After speaking with the coroner, the district attorney said he would decide whether a more in-depth investigation is necessary.

According to the Times-Picayune, Cannizzaro's conversation with Minyard was prompted by an article in The New York Times last month that quoted two doctors as saying that they gave Memorial patients morphine and other drugs in the days after the hurricane struck, knowing they would die.

Cannizzaro told the newspaper he would be "remiss in his responsibilities" if he did not talk to Minyard about information in the article.

Katrina roared ashore near the Mississippi-Louisiana state line on August 29, 2005, rupturing three of New Orleans' protective levees and putting about three-quarters of the city under water.

Then-Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti Jr. launched an investigation after officials from Lifecare, an acute-care facility operating on the seventh floor of Memorial, reported allegations that several seriously ill, mostly elderly patients had been euthanized by medical staff at Memorial as the floodwater rose around the hospital and conditions inside deteriorated.

In 2006, Foti ordered the arrest of Dr. Anna Pou and two nurses, Lori Budo and Cheri Landry, on preliminary charges of second-degree murder in the deaths of four patients. Former Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan, who under Louisiana law was responsible for prosecuting crimes, gave Budo and Landry immunity in exchange for their testimony. In July 2007, the grand jury refused to indict Pou.

Foti said his investigation revealed that the four patients -- ages 63, 68, 91 and 93 -- were given a "lethal cocktail" of morphine and midazolam hydrochloride, both central nervous system depressants. Pou, Landry and Budo all denied the charges, and their attorneys said they acted heroically, staying to treat patients rather than evacuate.

In an interview with Newsweek magazine in 2007, Pou admitted giving the patients drugs. "If in doing so it hastened their deaths, then that's what happened," she said. "But this was not, 'I'm going to go to the seventh floor and murder some people.' We're here to help patients."

The grand jury never heard testimony from five specialists who advised Foti that the patients were deliberately killed with overdoses of drugs after Katrina struck. All five were brought in by Foti's office to analyze the deaths, and concluded the patients were homicide victims.

After the grand jury refused to indict Pou, Jordan called the case closed and said he would no longer pursue it.

If Cannizzaro does decide an in-depth investigation is warranted, it could affect the outcome of a lawsuit in which CNN and The Times-Picayune are seeking the release of Foti's investigative file into the deaths. CNN was the first to report the allegations of euthanasia, six weeks after the hurricane.

The case went to the Louisiana Supreme Court, which in July sent it back to the trial court to rule on whether criminal litigation in the case is reasonably anticipated, according to Lori Mince, the New Orleans attorney representing the media organizations.

A reopened investigation could lead the court to rule that criminal charges may be forthcoming.

Hospital workers identified only as John and Jane Doe had sued to block the public release of the file, claiming the records are covered by grand jury secrecy rules, that they should have been considered confidential informants and that releasing the documents would violate their privacy.

Posted: 9/16/2009 11:00:00 AM

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Officers’ New Tool Against D.W.I.: Syringe

From The New York Times:

When Officer Darryll Dowell of the Nampa Police Department is on patrol, he will pull up at a stoplight and start casing the vehicle next to him. Nowadays, his eyes will also focus on the driver’s arms, searching for a plump, bouncy vein.

“I was looking at people’s arms and hands, thinking, ‘I could draw from that,’ ” Officer Dowell said.

The thought stems from training he and a select cadre of officers in Idaho and Texas have received in recent months in drawing blood from people suspected of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The aim of the federal program is to determine if drawing blood by law-enforcement officers can be an effective tool against drunken drivers and aid in their prosecution.

If the results seem promising after a year or two, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will encourage law-enforcement officers nationwide to undergo similar training.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1966 that the police could have blood tests forcibly done on a drunken-driving suspect without a warrant, as long as they were based on a reasonable suspicion that a suspect was intoxicated, and they were done after an arrest and carried out in a medically approved manner.

The practice of law-enforcement officers drawing blood, first done in Arizona in 1995, has raised concerns, though, about safety and the credibility of the evidence.

“I would imagine that a lot of people would be wary of having their blood drawn by an officer on the hood of their police vehicle,” said Steve Oberman, chairman of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ committee on driving while intoxicated.

For years, defense lawyers in Idaho advised clients to always refuse breath tests, Christine Starr, a prosecutor in Ada County, said. When the state toughened the penalties for refusing the tests a few years ago, the problem lessened, but it is still the main reason that drunken-driving cases go to trial in the Boise region, Ms. Starr said.

Idaho had a 20 percent breath test refusal rate in 2005, compared with 22 percent nationally, according to a study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

Ms. Starr said she hoped the new system would cut down on the number of drunken-driving trials.

The officer phlebotomists are generally trained under the same program as other phlebotomists in their state, but under a highly compressed schedule. The officers are trained to take blood from the elbow crease, the forearm and the back of the hand. If none are accessible, they are instructed to take the suspect to a hospital for testing.

Though most legal experts agree that blood tests measure blood alcohol more accurately than breath tests, Mr. Oberman said they could be fraught with problems, too. Vials can be mixed up, preservative levels in the tubes used to collect the blood can be off or the blood can be stored improperly, causing it to ferment and have a higher alcohol content.

Mr. Oberman said law enforcement agencies should also be concerned “about possible malpractice cases over somebody who was not properly trained.”

Alan Haywood, the law enforcement phlebotomy coordinator in Arizona, is directing the training programs in Idaho and Texas. Mr. Haywood said that officers were exposed to some extra on-the-job risk if they drew blood, but that good training and safe practices reduced the concerns.

In Phoenix, Detective Kemp Layden, who oversees drug recognition, phlebotomy and field sobriety, said there were about 120 officers certified to draw blood. Typically, a suspect is brought to a precinct or mobile booking van for the blood draw.

Under the state’s implied consent law, drivers who refuse to voluntarily submit to the test lose their license for a year, so most comply. For the approximately 5 percent who refuse, the officer obtains a search warrant from an on-call judge and the suspect can be restrained if needed to obtain a sample, Detective Layden said.

Between 300 to 400 blood tests are done in an average month in Phoenix, the nation’s fifth-largest city. During holiday months that number can rise to 500, said Detective Layden, who reviews each case to make sure legal procedures were followed.

Posted: 9/14/2009 2:48:00 PM

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