NIPPIES on-line magazine - Issue 18
September 9, 2004 - October 29, 2004

Welcome to NIPPIES - since 1999! We take little "nippies" out of every subject.

VIP = (Very Important Person).

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Nippies especially delights in reporting on the darker sides of Cut-and-Paste-America, to coin a phrase, which many call Big Business!


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October 29th, 2004

Ray Charles Was Amazin'
While listening to National Public Radio this morning (http://www.npr.org), we learned something about Ray Charles we never knew....he had sight until age 7, when he developed the glaucoma that blinded him forever.

Ray Charles was an amazing man. Think of the obstacles he had to overcome to achieve stardom and his legendary status: he was born dirt poor, according to the National Public Radio profile. That alone is enough to thwart most ambitions. But Ray was also blind and born black at a time when the Civil Rights Movement was still many decades away. Still, he persevered with his love of music and we all know the rest of the story.

Ray Charles's life should be an inspiration to everyone- no matter what your handicap. He kept on doing what he loved, and he became beloved for it.


Delta Airlines Trying to Avoid Chapter 11
Delta Airlines management is asking employees to help them prevent a Chapter 11 filing by participating in a major belt-tightening overhaul. Pilots, who make between $70,000 to $280,000 per year, are being asked to take a 43% cut in salary- plus a "change" in retirement plans.

Delta Airlines is currently losing $5 MILLION DOLLARS A DAY. Much of the loss is due to skyrocketing fuel costs.

Delta Airlines also has the highest paid pilots in the airline industry. Let's hope that Delta is able to turn things around.


October 28th, 2004

The Los Angeles County Jail Makeover
After pleading no contest to charges of kicking his then-wife Pamela Lee (Pamela Anderson), Tommy Lee, of the band Motley Crue, was sentenced to serve four months in the LA County Jail by Judge Lawrence Mira. He also was placedon three years probation. He did his time, which was largely spent in an isolation-type jail, due to his celebrity status. Once a week or so, usually on a Thursday, he was taken up the the roof for a bit of sunshine and exercise.

Well, after seeing Tommy Lee on Larry King Live the other night, and after hearing him speak, one has to wonder if jail didn't do him a bit of good. He's never looked healthier, nor been more well-behaved.

We at NIPPIES caught only the last half hour of the show. But we couldn't believe good Tommy looked- even compared to photos which were flashed on the screen from 1998. His face looks fuller and smoother. He seems composed and calm. And he didn't have a really bad word to say about his ex-wives. Could this be bad boy Tommy Lee?

Whatever the reason for the transformation, Tommy Lee appears to be a changed man. Maybe going to the lock-up wasn't such a bad thing for Martha Stewart, who is reportedly cooking for her fellow sentence-servers and making the most of her sentence. She might emerge from her sentence looking years younger. Surely she will come out with a greater appreciation of freedom.


The Atkins Diet Backlash
The Chicago Tribune reports that there has been a lawsuit filed which alleges The Atkins Diet poses a heart risk.

The October 27th story, by Missy Stoddard of the Tribune newspaper the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, states that Jody Gorran of Delray Beach was a huge fan of the Atkins Diet for about 30 months...until October of 2003. It was then that Gorran felt chest pains. Tests revealed that one of his arteries was 99 percent blocked and heh had to undergo lifesaving angioplasty. Tests also revealed that Jody Gorran's cholesterol count had gone from 146 to 230.

According to the Sun Sentinel story, the basis of the lawsuit against the promotors of the Atkins Diet is that they failed to warn consumers about the risks associated with the low-carb, high fat and protein regimen.

Lawyers for Atkins Nutritionals have tried to have the lawsuit dismissed, claiming that Mr. Gorran's heart woes are the result of poor food choices and a family history of heart disease. The Atkins' lawyer, Martin Reeder, claims that Jody Gorran consumed foods, such as pastrami and cheesecake, which are not approved on the Atkins diet. He also cited a "very significant family history of heart disease." Attorney Reeder also claims that diet creator Dr. Robert Atkins warned followers of his diet - in his books and on a web site - "that the diet was not a substitue for the advice of a personal physician." (Chicago Tribune story)

The attorney for the plaintiff, Daniel Kinburn, referred to the Atkins diet as "quackery", and claimed that at least a third of the people who follow the Atkins diet are at risk for heart disease. He and his client want warning labels to be placed on the diet instructions.

Palm Beach County Judge Susan Lubitz has not yet ruled whether the lawsuit can proceed. But you can be sure that, if allowed to go further, this lawsuit will open the floodgates for many more lawsuits, whether there is merit or not. There are literally millions of people on the Atkins Diet. At least some of them are going to develope heart disease, whether it is caused or not caused by the Atkins Diet. And chances are some of them will blame the diet. However, one has to wonder how anyone could ever prove that they stuck to the diet meticulously. Dieters have been known to cheat on any diet.


October 27th, 2004

Total Eclipse of the Moon at 10:23 PM!
Hurry up outside, if you just stopped in. At 10:23 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, you can see a total eclipse of the moon. This won't happen again until March 3, 2007. And the way the world is going now, who know if we'll all be around to see it.

Heartburn or Pneumonia....Some Choice! According to a report on Reuters Health, "people who take medication to reduce stomach acid seem to be at increased risk for developing pneumonia, the results of a population-based study suggest."

Medications such as Nexium (www.purplepill.com) and Prevacid, for contain proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). Other popular antacid medications such as Pepcid and Zantac contain H2-receptor antagonists. Both types of prescription medications are instrumental and highly effective in supressing stomach acid and in the treatment of acid reflux disease. However, like all drugs, they do more than that. The drawbacks, according to investigators who wrote about the antacid medications in this week's JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), are that the acid-supressive drugs seem to cause an increased incidence of pneumonia: 2.45 per 100 persons per year developed pneumonia when they used the medications, and only 0.6 per cent of the non-users developed pneumonia.

The users of PPIs (Nexium and Prevacid) had, when factors were adjusted for various reasons, an 89 per cent greater risk for developing pneumonia, while the users of H2-receptor antagonists (Pepcid and Zantac) had a 63 per cent greater risk of developing the serious respiratory disease.

"The increased risk for pneumonia is a problem for patients who are at increased risk for infection, especially because community-acquired pneumonia is potentially dangerous," Laheij and colleagues, who conducted the study, noted.

The results of this study are "noteworthy," writes Dr. James C. Gregor from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada, in an editorial.

"If acid suppression causes some cases of pneumonia, it is reassuring that the risk is relatively small and that the complication in most cases is usually amenable to therapy," he contends.

Nonetheless, Gregor reminds doctors that "concerns for patient safety should guide initial prescribing and perhaps more importantly, chronic use of even the most apparently benign drugs."

SOURCE : Journal of the American Medical Association, October 27, 2004, and Reuters News.


Watch the Ashlee Simpson (Ashley Simpson) Lip Sync Video:
No, we at NIPPIES were NOT at the SNL (Saturday Night Live) taping of the Ashley Simpson debaucle. But, like the rest of the nation, we've seen the video clip and heard the talk.

Hey, these things happen. That's showbiz, and what happened on Saturday Night Live is one of the main reasons that you don't see live television anymore. It's just too easy to be wiped out with embarassment without the opportunity to edit at your fingertips. With canned laughter to cover-up bad jokes and even 7-second delays to smooth out the rough edges of "live" telecasts, few mistakes get past the producers of shows.

How do we at NIPPIES feel about what happened to Ashlee Simpson. Well, we have a loved one in showbiz. So we are biased. But the fact is, we really felt rather sorry for Ashlee Simpson the first time we saw the video, and still do. She did look rather ridiculous doing her cover-up dance. But we bet she will never again repeat that experience- she'll learn to take control of the situation the next time this, God forbid, happens to her.

Anyway, if you want to watch a little snip of Ashlee's reaction to this very embarassing situation, visit EBAUMSWORLD.com. It's a silent clip, but who needs sound with this?

If you've watched the clip and returned, which we at NIPPIES doubt because once you enter EBAUMSWORLD, you sorta get caught up in looking at all sort of funny and strange clips, you might want to hear the official explanation for the lip syncing on SNL. The official excuse was given to the media by Ashlee's father: Ashley Simpson has acid reflux. It was acting up that day, and her vocal cords were a bit swollen. And one of her band members "hit the wrong button."

Ashlee is now doing well, according to reports, after a specialist treated her swollen pipes.


Julia Roberts - Premature Labor Reports
According to news reports, Julia Roberts, who is married to Danny Moder, as we all know, is not due to deliver until January. (Gee, it seems like she's been pregnant forever.) But she has been admitted to a Los Angeles hospital after experiencing early contractions, People magazine reported on Tuesday.

Julia is doing well, People said. But, as a precaution, she will remain hospitalized and under observation for the awhile. (Wasn't she always under observation?) At 36 and now, with a history of premature contractions, we are sure that Ms. Roberts will be resting aplenty and staying away from high profile appearances. Julia is expecting twins, if you didn't already know that.

We will, most likely, not be seeing Julia Roberts out and about in public until after the January birth. But you can see her a little earlier than than. She has two movies scheduled for release during the Christmas season: Closer, a romantic comedy/drama, and Ocean's Twelve, which is, of course, the sequel/crime caper to the remake of Ocean's Eleven.

Ocean's Twelve, directed by Steven Soderbergh, also stars, and co-stars:

George Clooney
Brad Pitt
Matt Damon
Catherine-Zeta Jones
Andy Garcia (yum!)
Don Cheadle
Bernie Mac
Casey Affleck (bro of Ben)
Roy Avigdori
Scott Caan (son of James)
Peter Fonda
Stephon Fuller
Elliott Gould

Lindsay Lohan - It's True. She is or was in the hospital...
Lindsay Lohan, another very popular teen, as we all know, had a 103 degree temperature and has been hospitalized. She is, according to all reports, doing well. Sounds like a precaution- the hospitalization, that is. Unless there is more to it than we are being told. Because normally you don't get hospitalized for 103 temperatures. Unless you are a star.
Great Mews for Cat Lovers with Allergies!
On National Public Radio this morning: there is now hope for cat lovers who have allergies to the feline family: a Los Angeles company has genetically engineered a cat which is reported to be "nearly free" from the proteins which cause mose allergic reactions.

Allerca Incorporated expects to perfect the cats by 2007. The process used by the company involves silencing the gene in cats which produces the irritating protein, which passes through the cats saliva and skin.

According to AP reports, Allerca Inc. is now "accepting $350 deposits for the British Short Hair breed of cats". Interested parties will be asked to pluck down another $3,150 dollars, for a total of $3,500, for the biotechnically enhanced kitties. Japanese buyers can expect to pay $10,000.

Allerca officials haven't had any interference yet from federal regulators and, "as long as people don't start eating cats and they don't enter the food chain, then we should be handled like the GloFish,", a reference to the pet fish which glow.


October 25, 2004

Philip Roth's The Human Stain Worth Renting
There wasn't much noise made about the movie The Human Stain, a 2003 film staring Nicold Kidman, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris and Jacinda Barrett. As a matter of fact, we'd never even heard of it until we saw it sitting on the video store shelf. (The fact that Blockbuster only had two copies was revealing in itself.)

We at NIPPIES love Sinese, Harris, Hopkins and Kidman. There's a talent pool! So we plucked it off the shelf and brought it home to take a look at later in the evening. We were hooked immediately.

The movie opens with a haunting melody playing as we watch an SUV, being driven by Sir Anthony who is embracing a sleeping Kidman with his right arm while driving with his left, navigate slowly through a snowpacked, lonely country road. A country road edged by steep cliffs. There is a horrible accident in the very beginning of the movie involving a mysterious red pick-up truck.

Flashback to 1998 and Athena College, where Cornelius Silk (Hopkins), one of the first "Jewish professors of the classics", is seen strolling contentedly through the campus. Silk, in his thirty-five year career at Athena, has transformed the status of college - "kicking and screaming" - from one of mediocrity to that of academic excellence. Professor Silk is happily married, well respected, powerful in his own little corner of humanity, and is the Dean of Faculty. All is well with his world. But something goes terribly wrong on this fine fall day. And nothing will ever be the same again in Dean Silk's life.

The blurb on the back of the DVD box makes much of the secret that Dean Silk has long lugged about and through his life. And indeed this is true- there is a shocking secret which is revealed about half-way though the movie. But a closer look at the movie might make the viewer decide that Philip Roth wrote The Human Stain not to tantalize us with a secret, but rather to make us realize just how ridiculous - and harsh - the enforcement of political correctness has become. Sanctions against those who make a misstep - no matter how unintentional - can be life altering to the politically clumsy and, in some cases, can totally destroy an innocent life. In our efforts to enforce the tolerance of all, we have become prisoners of political correctness. Like most other movements, Americans never know where the optimal stopping place is in any idea or concept. Isn't that how we ended up with Prohibition and many other extremist movements and laws?

At any rate, the movie The Human Stain, like most movies based on Philip Roth novels, is great. Well worth renting the DVD. You might also want to pay attention to the blond girl of "Danish Islandic" descent who is young Coleman Silk's first serious love. "Steena" is played by Jacinda Barrett. You will be seeing a lot more of Jacinda Barrett in the months and years to come: she received second billing to Renee Zellweger in the sequel to Bridget Jones' Diary. In the much anticipated sequel, Bridget Jones Diary: The Edge of Reason, Jacinda Barrett, an Australian native, plays "Rebecca".


Gold Buyers Beware
Now that the price of gold has skyrocketed (a check at 9:29 a.m. EST, today showed this price - Bid/Ask 428.60 - 429.10 - on a gold price web site - people out there who are looking to "strike it rich" in the gold market should be very careful.

We at NIPPIES saw a full page ad the other day, advertising $5 gold pieces. The price of the gold pieces was high, but there was NO mention of how many ounces of gold that each piece contained. If the mention was there, we couldn't find it. Which means that if you buy one of these $5.00 gold pieces you just might be getting royally ripped off.

Also in the sales pitch was the opinion of "many experts" that gold might go up to $1500.00 per ounce. Yes, of course it might. It might also go down, as it has been doing on and off for the past year or so. Gold, a few months ago, was up to over $430 a troy ounce, then plummeted for months. It's just now really recovering from that high.

So, buy gold if you like. It really does seem like a very good investment (this is NOT a recommendation - only an opinion and observation). But it is ONLY a good investment if you buy it at the lowest possible price and don't pay more than the market value. Numismatic values are risky. (Numismatic value pertains to the value with the price of the precious metal AND the value of the coin added together.)

About 17 years ago, one of our friends got caught up in coin collecting. Each week he would take his hard earned money and visit the coin/baseball card/curiosity shoppe of a new acquaintance. And each week he would buy many of the coins which were rated and placed in plastic cases which were attached to white cards. He had unquestionable faith in the bearded, kindly looking ex-professor in the worn and faded plaid shirt who ran the little store and who also rated the coins. One week our friend was estatic to find a new gold coin, freshly minted, which had a price tag of $700.00 on it. He asked "Henry" to hold the coin for him and promised to return in a day or two with the money, which he did.

Unfortunately, that coin even today is not worth what he paid for it back in 1987. So his investment of $700.00, for a coin that was considerable overpriced even then, did not only NOT grow - it shrank. Had he invested the money in CDs (certificates of deposit), it would be worth at least double. At least. Even worse, it dawned on our friend after a few more weeks of coin buying that he was the only one buying all these coins every week, and they were all over-priced. Henry would put them out weekly in anticipation of the coin buyer's visit. Everyone else was buying baseball cards- another dubious investment.

We at NIPPIES are NOT telling you that coin collecting is not a very good and possible lucrative hobby. Not at all. All we are saying is that you should get a good book at your local book store which has the price of coins listed in it. Educate yourself on coins and precious metals in every way you can BEFORE you pluck down your hard earned money.


October 22nd, 2004

Gas Prices Cheaper in NJ than PA...why? On our recent trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey we noticed a considerable difference in the price of gasoline in the "Garden State" compared to the price of gas in Pennsylvania. We don't know why this is. Perhaps someone out there has the answer.

In Pennsylvania, the cheapest gas now goes for over $2 per gallon. In New Jersey the cheapest gas runs about $1.87. That is a big difference. And this was a shocking discovery. Perhaps the difference is due to taxes placed on gasoline by the Pennsylvania legislature?

God knows that PA legislators are famous for slapping taxes on everything used by the little guy. For instance, in response to the "medical malpractice crisis" faced by physicians trying to pay for their MCare coverage, Governor Rendell engineered a .35 per pack tax on cigarettes. Twenty five cents of that tax goes to pay for the PA doctors medical malpractice insurance. Physicians in PA who practice high risk medicine (neurologists, ob/gyn, orthopedic, etc.) now have a 100 per cent abatement. In other words, they don't pay at all, folks. ALL other physicians pay only 50%. The money comes from the cigarette tax.

Now, don't get us wrong. We don't condone smoking. But everyone knows - including the legislature in PA - that cigarettes are the little man's pleasure. And slapping a tax on them is NOT going to get everyone to quit- or even most people. So, most people will keep on smoking, keep on paying more. And therefore have less for the necessities of life- including health insurance.

Why not share the burden of paying for the doctors' MCare? Why not place an additional tax on expensive cigars, fine scotch, luxury cars, homes that cost more than the average cost of a home in PA? No, that would have caused an uproar among the rich.

If Pennsylvania residents have to be forced to pitch in and help the physicians pay for their medical malpractice insurance, why not tap into the newly legislated slot machines which are set to hit the Pennsylvania scene soon? Did you know that part of the legislation recently passed by Pennsylvania legislators includes a little provision that gives sole authority for obtaining and supplying slot machines to Pennsylvania distributors? And, currently, there are NOT Pennsylvania distributors, and that it is expected that slot machine costs will be pushed up by having to import the machines into distributors from other states, thereby creating a middleman?

Oh, but here is the beautiful part. The potential revenur for Pennsylvania distributors is $72 million dollars, or $2,400 per machine multiplied by 30,000 machines. And guess who gets to own up to 1% of the distributorships? You guessed it. The Pennsylvania legislature made it legal for each of the legislators to own a 1% share. One per-cent of $72 million is $720,000.00

Hey, why is this money going to the legislators? Shouldn't it go to the PEOPLE? That would not only help off-set medical malpractice, but, better yet, help to pay for the health insurance for Pennsylvanians who cannot afford it. And you'd better believe that there are a LOT of people in Pennsylvania who cannot afford health insurance, and the number is growing daily.

These same Pennsylvania legislators made sure that, in 1995, they also fixed the embarassing little problem of voting themselves a pay raise every year. Every time they gave themselves a little 2-3% raise, it hit the newspapers, and the people cried out in protest because THEY weren't getting raises. So, those clever little senators and representatives from PA simply came up with the solution of voting to give themselves an AUTOMATIC pay raise ever year- to the tune of 2.4 percent. That way the little pay raise gets put into their paychecks right under the noses of their constituents.

So, you say, they deserve a pay raise. Right? Well, sure they do- once in awhile. But every year? With a nice pay of $66,189 (oops, forgot...they get another $1600 this year...make it about $68,000.00 now). AND the members of the Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representaties also make $126 per DAY per diems. PER DAY! We at NIPPIES will save you the time of figuring that out. It's nearly $16.00 per hour based on an eight hour day, or $630 per week. This along with benefits and other perks.

Let us also point out that the Pennsylvania legislature has NOT raised the minimum wage in seven years. So the little guy in an unskilled job is still oftentimes starting at $5.15 per hour. Less than a third per hour of what these guys are getting per diem.

Representative Kevin Blaum, a Democrat from Wilkes-Barre, was asked about the automatic pay raise that he voted for. He stated, "It jsut seemed to be a reasonable way to go about it. There is no popular way to deal with compensation for the General Assembly. Yet, it is very important to deal with it." We think it's important to see that unskilled workers are fairly compensated, too, but the $5.15 minimum wage in Pennsylvania doesn't seem to do it.

Blaum further defended his salary. "In Pennsylvania, this is a full-time job, or it should be. I don't know how anybody could hold another job in addition to this...". Well, Rep. Blaum certainly seems to have time to have his hand in everything that goes on at the Wachovia Arena in Wilkes-Barre Township. That is almost like a full-time job. (Blaum pushed for the Arena and it was constructed over the objections of taxpayers who voted NO back in 1998.)And to serve on the board of the Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre.

So, back to our original subject. Why is the cigarette smoker in Pennsylvania bearing the brunt of the doctors' medical malpractice insurance payments. Why not spread the responsibility around to the gamblers, the cigar smokers, the purchasers of other luxury items and services. Why? Because it's just easier, and more politically correct, to dump on the little guys who go out and buy a pack of cigarettes every day. That's why.

If Governor Rendell really wanted to help the cigarette smokers quit, and, more importantly, keep the teen smokers from starting, why doesn't he get after the Pennsylvania legislature to make the legal age for smoking cigarettes 21 instead of 18? Everyone knows that high-school juniors and seniors can be 18. In some cases, there are sophomores who are 18. And they get the cigarettes for their younger friends. The 18 year old age is a joke, and everyone knows it.

President Bush, Does THIS "Doctor" Deserve the $250,000.00 Cap Protection?

George W. Bush, who makes it a habit to pander to the rich and to big business, including the AMA and the pharmaceutical companies, was at it again recently. We heard his speech yesterday on National Public Radio. Again, he is harping about how the cost of medical malpractice lawsuits is driving up the cost of health insurance/health care across the country. And again we say that there are no good guys here. In this particular battle, the lawyers are not the good guys. The doctors are not the good guys. Only the patients, who are being used like pawns to try and help the doctors get the near immunity from large lawsuits just like the lawyers in Pennsylvania now have, are going to suffer if medical malpractice caps are placed on lawsuits in Pennsylvania and across the nation. One thing is for very certain. Not ALL doctors deserve this blanket immunity which they will get if George W. Bush - and the AMA - gets his way.

Case in point? A Pennsylvania doctor was recently charged with nine counts of violating Pennsylvania's controlled substance act and one count each of money laundering and unlicensed treatment of drug addition. The Attorney General of Pennsylvania alleges that this infamous doc sold narcotics, including Vicodin, Valium and Darvocet, to patients directly from his office after performing minimal, if at all, examinations. And that he saw up to 100 patients per day.

This particular doctor has loooong had a reputation for handing out addictive painkillers, amphetimines for weight loss, and other prescription drugs to anyone who passed through is waiting room- often without even an cursory exam. We at NIPPIES were working 60 miles away from his office over two decades ago when a woman in our office told us she was making a special trip to see Dr. Feelgood to get weigh-loss pills.

Eventually, this man graduated from pushing speed for weight-loss to harder prescription medications. Authorities has said that some of the doctor's patients were heroin addicts who went ot him on the false belief that he could cure their addition.

A few years ago, this same physician was the largest purchaser of Tylenol with codiene in the entire United States. Indeed, the doctor, who lived in a posh neighborhood and had his office in his home, had over 190,000 pills in his possession when his office was raided recently by government agents after a more than two year investigation in which more than 100 of the physician's patients were interviewed. (The case was taken to a statewide Grand Jury, which recommended the charges.)

No one is saying if there is a connection, but the physician's own daughter, a 37-year-old attorney, was nearly 8 months pregnant when she died six years ago from an overdose of painkillers and tranquilizers. Here baby was stillborn.

Is THIS Pennsylvania doctor worthy of a medical malpractice cap? We at NIPPIES hardly think so.

Even scarier? A check of this physician's credentials on the Pennsylvania public records data base shows that he is "in good standing". According to the Pennsylvania Attorney General Gerald Pappert, the FDA has stripped the doctors ability to prescribe controlled substances, but his medical license is still intact. If a Grand Jury found enough evidence to bring this case to trial, why is this so?
(brief references and quotes in the above article were taken from the Times Leader newspaper.)


October 20th, 2004

Atlantic City Workers Continue to Strike

We at NIPPIES had the opportunity to spend some time in Atlantic City this week, where there is no room service at the Tropicana and several other Atlantic City casinos have been forced to curtail services. The reason for the shortage of available restaurant and other workers in the great gambling mecca of the Northeast is because a majority of Local 54 Union members are on strike.

The 10,000 strikers, who can be heard chanting and banging on various instruments of noise outside the casinos, went on strike three weeks ago. The casino workers saw their contract run out on September 15th, and walked out on the job in early October. Local 54 represents about 17,000 Atlantic City workers in total.

We talked to many of the striking workers who, like American workers everywhere, are concerned about their future. They are demanding a three-year contract, protection against the use of nonunion restaurant workers, and casino-funded health care. Some had signs indicating that they were making two dollars an hour more in 1999 than they would make with the new contract. This may or may not have to do with the threat to cut health benefits.

Many of the executives in the casinos have been forced to take over menial jobs. It was most likely an executive who went with us to get our car as we waited outside the Tropicana. When we asked him about the cut in health benefits and pay, he denied that this was true. The man stated that the workers wanted a three-year contract and not the five-year contract that the casinos wanted.

We cannot say for sure who is telling the exact truth here. Somehow, however, we think it might be the workers. And there was another interesting outcome to our trip: just about every worker we spoke with said George W. Bush must go...that he has made the plight of the middle-class American worker nearly unbearable.

The strikers of Local 54 in Atlantic City, New Jersey have been passing out pamphlets on the Atlantic City Boardwalk:


UNITEHERE!

LOCAL 54 UNION MEMBERS

ON STRIKE


We urge you not to patronize these casinos where workers are on strike:

Harrahs, Showboat, Resorts, Ballys, Claridge, Caesars, Tropicana, and the Hilton.

We are on strike for a fair contract that includes:

Please go to Trump Marina, Trump Taj Mahal, Trump Plaza, Borgata, or Sands - where workers are on the job with a good contract!"


So, if you are headed to Atlantic City, be aware of the inconvenience, and be socially aware of the issues- then decide for yourself. If you already had reservations (as did we), you may not want to cancel them, of course. But at least let management know how you feel.

We talked to the strikers- and to other workers in the casinos and along the boardwalk in the little shops, and decided to print this for them, so you know whose side NIPPIES is on.

Click here for an update on the ATLANTIC CITY STRIKE UPDATE FROM LAS VEGAS SUN



Flu Vaccines Coming from Aventis Pasteur
The United States Department of Health and Human Services issued a press release on October 19th regarding the flu vaccine shortage, and below is an excerpt:

PRESS RELEASE...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2004
Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

HHS Says Supply of Flu Vaccines, Medicines Will Help Keep People Safe During Coming Flu Season Department Stockpiles Medicine, Coordinates Flu Response, Invests in New Technology

HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said today that about 60 million doses of influenza vaccine combined with an ample supply of antiviral medicines -- potentially enough for more than 40 million people during the flu season -- puts America in a strong position to keep people safe during the upcoming flu season.

Secretary Thompson said the nation's cache of vaccine and medicines includes an additional 2.6 million doses of influenza vaccine that Aventis said today it will make available in January. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also issued today interim guidance on the use of antiviral medicines for preventing and treating the flu. In addition, the formalization of a federal government task force will help ensure an ongoing coordinated effort to manage the supply of medicine and prevent price gouging.

"In addition to the 60 million doses of influenza vaccine, we have healthy supplies of antiviral medicines to help keep you safe from the flu," Secretary Thompson said. "While we don't have as much flu vaccine as we planned for, the combination of existing vaccine and antiviral medicines gives us the ability to stave off any harsh effects of the flu."

Secretary Thompson said the combined supply of influenza vaccine and antiviral medications precludes the need for seniors and others to stand in long lines waiting for vaccine. In addition, about 24 million doses of this influenza vaccine supply has yet to be distributed and will be steered toward the people and places who need it the most. He advised seniors seeking vaccine to be patient and persistent, keeping in contact with their doctors and public health departments."
END OF PRESS RELEASE

In the meantime, while we wait for the shipment of Aventis-Pasteur vaccines, many Americans are crossing the border into Canada to get their flu vaccines. According to an Associated Press story which appeared on Yahoo! News today, Canadian clinics are vaccinating up to 100 Americans a day at about $40 a vaccine. However, Americans must wait in line behind Canadians who are higher up on the Canadian priority list.

Canada is not experiencing a flu vaccine shortage because, unlike America, they did not order their vaccines from the British (Liverpool) laboratory of Chiron, a California based pharmaceutical company like the United States was. Chiron, through their Liverpool laboratory, was to supply about half of the flu vaccines to the U.S. until British authorities discovered that the vaccination batch was contaminated and pulled the plug on the shipment to the U.S.

Many are asking the obvious question: why was the United States allowing the vaccine to be produced, by Chiron, overseas in the first place?? Haven't we been told over and over that it's dangerous to import drugs?


October 15th, 2004

GlaxoSmithKline Wins Against Minnesota Attorney General
Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch thought the public should know that he has documents pertaining to GlaxoSmithKline's efforts to stem the flow of prescription medications from Canada. He also wanted to release those documents to the general public. Earlier this year, Attorney General Hatch stated that he hoped the documents would indicate that drug companies got together to punish Canadian pharmacies that allowed customers from the United States to purchase their medications at the cheaper Canadian rate.

However, his efforts to allow the public to read the documents and decide what GlaxoSmithKline and other pharmaceutical companies were up to have been stopped by a Minnesota judge, who has denied the request for public disclosure.

GlaxoSmithKline has said it believes it is following the law.

Another example of LEGAL does not necessarily mean MORAL.

Attorney General Mike Hatch was celebrating last May. It was at that time that a ruling by Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Albrecht ordered GSK executives to "produce any corespondence between Glaxo and other drug company executives, the Food and Drug Administration, company lobbyists and and any pharmaceutical trade organizations. The judge also ordered documents it sent to Canadian pharmacies over reimportation", according to a Minnesota Public Radio report by Tom Scheck (May 10, 2004).

At that time, Scheck reported that Nancy Pekarek, of GlaxoSmithKline's Philadelphia office, stated that GKS would appeal the ruling. And apparently they did- and now they have won.

She also stated at the time that GKS was working with the FDA to ensure that the illegal activity of "border crossing sales" was prevented.

Again, BIG BUSINESS wins in America. The gag order on the GSK papers is a prime example. GlaxoSmithKline led the other pharmaceutical companies in preventing the reimportation of cheaper prescription medications. Their stance at first was that they were concerned about the safety of the medications. That did NOT hold water with the American public. Now, they are simply taking the stance, it appears, that they are within their legal rights.

Just in case you are a little peeved at GlaxoSmithKline and want to know which products they produce, here is a partial list:

GlaxoSmithKline Products - Should YOU buy them?
PLEASE NOTE: FOR THE SAKE OF BREVITY, WE HAVE PLACED THE (tm)TRADEMARK SIGN ON THE PRODUCTS. ALL PRODUCTS ARE TRADEMARKED, WHETHER REGISTERED ® or UNREGISTERED (tm) by GLAXOSMITHKLINE.
Not all products listed below may be available in the United States

Abreva(tm) - dermatological
Abtei(tm) - vitamins and naturals
Alluna(tm) - vitamins and naturals
Aquafresh(tm) - oral healthcare
Astriginsol(tm) - oral healthcare
Binaca(tm)/Corsodyl/Iodosan - oral healthcare
Cetebe(tm) - vitamins and naturals
Citrucel(tm) gastrointestinal
Committed Quitters(tm) - nicotine replacement therapy
Contac(tm) - analgesics and respiratory tract
Dr. Best(tm) - oral healthcare
Ecotrin(tm) - analgesics and respiratory tract
Eno(tm) - gastrointestinal
Eunova(tm) - vitamins and naturals
Fenbid (tm)- analgesics and respiratory tract
Gaviscon(tm) - gastrointestinal
Hinds(tm) - dermatological
Horlicks(tm) - nutritional healthcare
Lactacyd(tm) - dermatological
Lucozade(tm) - nutritional healthcare
Macleans(tm) - oral healthcare
NiQuitin (tm)- nicotine replacement
CQ/Nicoderm CQ(tm) - nicotine replacement
Nicabate(tm)
- nicotine replacement
Nicorette(tm) nicotine replacement therapy
Odol(tm) - oral healthcare
Oscal(tm) - vitamins and naturals
Oxy(tm) - dermatological
Panadol(tm) - analgesics and respiratory tract
Paxil(tm> - antidepressant
Polident 5 Minute(tm) - oral healthcare
Poligrip Ultra(tm) - oral healthcare
Ribena(tm) - nutritional healthcare
Scott's Emulsion(tm) - vitamins and naturals
Sensodyne(tm) - oral healthcare
Solpadeine(tm) - analgesics and respiratory tract
Tagamet(tm) - gastrointestinal
Tums(tm) - gastrointestinal
Zovirax (tm)- dermatological

GlaxoSmithKline is a leader in the worldwide consumer healthcare market.

With nearly $5 billion in sales, over ten $100 million brands and present in 130 markets, the consumer healthcare business gives GlaxoSmithKline the power it needs to call shots.

GSK produces nine billion tablets to relieve stomach upsets, six billion tablets for pain relief tablets and 600 million tubes of toothpaste.

GlaxoSmithKline has, according to company information, four consumer healthcare research and development centers. This is commendable, but when the results of that R&D is to put a pricetag on medicines and products that are far out of reach of average citizens, well, the good done is undone..

But what else has GlaxoSmithKline and the other pharmaceutical giants been up to not only in the United States, but in Italy as well? Follow the link below to see...you'll be shocked:

GSK ACCUSED OF BRIBING DOCTORS IN ITALY TO PRESCRIBE PAXIL(tm)

If you would like to know, GSK has given a LOT of money to President Bush. There are a number of other companies who have given a LOT of money to President George W. Bush, and you can find a partial list of them here:
www.BOYCOTT4PEACE.org

The listing of the above site does NOT imply a recommendation or endorsement by NIPPIES on-line magazine of the philosophy held on the web site, but is given for informational purposes ONLY.


October 12th, 2004

Dubya & Arnold & Drug Money...
The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) recently revealed that "no other U.S. governor or federal official appears to have raised more money than Governor Schwarzenegger from the pharmaceutical industry over the last year other than President Bush." That line was taken from a U.S. Newswire press release (by the FTCR) on September 30th.

If that is true, it is easy to understand why George W. Bush pushed so hard to get the 2003 prescription Medicare drug law passed this year. It took away the threat faced by the drug companies of having to sell their prescription meds to Americans for a lower price. It also reinforced the ban on re-importation of cheaper meds from Canada. (Doctors and the AMA also considered it a victory, because prior to the passage of the Medicare Bill, they were facing a 4% decrease in payments, and instead, got a 1 1/2 percent increase.)

Now, according to teh September 30th article, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to veto four proposals providing for prescription drug bulk purchasing and importation from Canada, according to the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

"According to an analysis by FTCR, Governor Schwarzenegger has received over $337,200 in campaign contributions from pharmaceutical companies in about 1 year. Under pressure from the pharmaceutical industry, President Bush - who has received $870,000 from pharmaceutical companies since the 2000 election - also opposed bulk purchasing and importation in the 2003 Medicare prescription drug law which banned the Medicare program from negotiating discounts with pharmaceutical companies and continued a ban on drug importation. Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry has raised $349,312 from drug companies since 2000. While Senator Kerry has supported changes to the Medicare drug law to allow bulk discounting, neither presidential candidate has supported a program that would allow any American to participate regardless of age."

The FTCR will run an "Rx Express" from October 11th to October 14th. The train will pick up passengers in Georgia, Florida, N. Carolina, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York on its way to Toronto, Canada, where passengers will have the opportunity to buy much cheaper prescription medications from a Toronto pharmacy.

For more information on the Rx Express visit: http://www.RxExpressCanada.org

For more information on the FTCR, contact Jerry Flanagan at: 310-392-0522 ext. 319 or 415-497-1710 (cell);
Web: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org


October 11, 2004

Interesting Flu Vaccine Item
We at NIPPIES came across an interesting article by Jennifer Corbett Dooren on the Dow Jones Newswire today (which appeared on Smartmoney.com). The piece, dated September 28th, 2004, noted that some of the flu vaccine doses may have sterility problems, but that expectations were that the millions of doses due to be shipped to the United States would be on their way soon. Here is part of what the article stated:

In testimony Tuesday before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, Howard Pien, Chiron's chief executive, said, "We profoundly regret we've caused any uncertainties about this year's vaccine supply."

He said it remains his expectation that the company will ship 46 to 48 million Fluvirin vaccine doses, which is down from the initial estimate of 50 million doses made in July.

After Chiron, which is based in Emeryville, California, found a "small number of lots that did not meet product-sterility specifications," the company delayed all of its flu-vaccine shipments until further testing could be done, Pien said. Chiron had planned to begin shipping its flu vaccine in late August. He also stressed that Chiron hasn't shipped any vaccine, which was produced in its Liverpool facility.

Obviously, further testing by the British health inspectors showed the batch to be unsuitable. The other major producer of flu vaccines used in the United States is Aventis-Pasteur.


Actor Chris Reeve Has Died
Because we were up very early, NIPPIES was one of the first group of Americans to learn that actor Christopher Reeve had died. He passed away Sunday night from the complications of a massive systemic infection, which was the result of a pressure wound. Pressure wounds are, according to experts, common among those with paralysis.

As CNN is mentioning on its early reports on the death of the actor, most people will remember Chris Reeve best for his role as Superman.

John Kerry mentioned his friendship with Chris Reeve during the last televised Presidential debate, which was held in St. Louis. He mentioned that his "friend", Chris Reeve, exercised every day to keep in shape for the day he would walk again. Kerry supports stem cell research because of the hopes of Christopher Reeve and others like him who believe that stem cell research will someday lead to a variety of cures for paralysis, Parkinson's desease, and more.

The first time we ever saw Christopher Reeve was in the soap opera "Love of Life." He had curly hair and was tall and thin, and just plain gorgeous. He was also on his way up. Chris played the cruel and selfish bigamist Ben Harper, but that didn't deter us developing a crush on him. We rushed home every day to catch a glimpse of that face on our parents' RCA color television.

He disappeared from the popular soap one day, and we moved on to other things as well. But then Chris Reeve resurfaced a few years later as Clark Kent on the big screen. We at NIPPIES were shocked. Chris Reeve had transformed himself and his willowy body. He was a mass of muscles, his face had matured a bit- but those eyes were unforgettable. We recognized him immediately and became a fan of Chris Reeve as Clark/Superman, although never of the movie or its sequels. And we thought Gae Exton, with whom he lived for many years and the mother of Reeve's two eldest children, was extremely blessed. The pair never married, and in interviews at the time, we remember Reeve explaining his reluctance to tie the knot to his own parents' divorce many years earlier.

Our favorite Christopher Reeve movie was and is Somewhere in Time (1981), a supremely romantic movie in which Chris's character travels back in time to rejoin his beloved. Jane Seymour played the female lead, and the chemistry in the movie was perfect. So was the movie. We watch it every time it comes on television.

Our sympathy goes out to Christopher Reeve's family: his brother, his parents, his wife, Dana Morosini, and his now 11-year-old son, Will.


October 9th, 2004

THE DRAFT Rumors Refuse to Die...
If you read our entry from October 7th (see below), you know that we at NIPPIES put in a call to the Public Affairs Office of the Selective Service to see if the Selective Service System has had their full-time active duty military personnel increased, or their budget of approximately $25,000,000. The answer to both, we were told by a return phone call from a Mr. Schuback, is NO.

Rumors that THE DRAFT is being reinstated have been flying fast and furious of late. A good part of the reason for the DRAFT rumors, aside from the obvious ones (Iraq), is due to the fact that Representative Charles Rangel, a Democrat from New York, introduced a bill to revive the draft. The House Republican leadership was not pleased at the mischief caused by this bill, H.R. 163. Many Republicans charge that the Democratic representatives introduced the bill to prey on the fears of draft-age, and voting age - youngsters and their parents. Who would vote for the Republican President, George W. Bush, who got us into Iraq if THE DRAFT is looming over the heads of every kid 18-25.

The Republicans attempted to stop the rumors by legislating the rumor out of existence. The House Republican leadership suddenly called up the draft bill and put it to a vote. H.R. 163 was soundly - and quickly - defeated by a vote of 402 - 2.

Still, the rumor will, to some degree, persist. Many will see the efforts put forth to squash the rumor simply as a design to stop the rumor- and not THE DRAFT.

Interestingly enough, even Rangel voted NO.


Flu Vaccine Shortage - Who Should Come First?
There is an apparent shortage of this year's influenza vaccine. As most of us have heard by now, British officials of the Medicine and Health Care Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) decided to shut down a major flu vaccine supplier (Chiron Corporation) due to contamination discovered in the Liverpool facilities where the vaccine is made. That shutdown caused the 46 million doses of the flu vaccine, called Fluvirin® that would have been imported to be discarded, leaving only 54 million doese of flu vaccine available for the entire United States, according to a Associated Press reports.

What to do? Well, here are the guidelines issued by one city health department on who should get first priority:
Children from ages 6 to 23 months old
Adults 65 and older
People between the ages of 2 and 64 with chronic medical conditions
Pregnant women
Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities
Health care workers involved with direct patient care, out-of-home care givers, and household contacts of children less than 6 months old
Children between the ages of 6 months and 18 years on aspirin therapy

In the meantime, the most important steps the rest of us non-vaccined people can do to prevent catching the flu involve using common sense.

"Taking care of yourself from a health standpoint is probably the best thing you can do," said Dr. R. Michael Gallagher, a family physician and dean of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey's School of Osteopathic Medicine. "People who are run down, they're overworked, not getting proper rest or proper nutrition, these people increase their risk" of illness, he said.", according to an Associated Press article (Linda A. Johnson) appearing on the Yahoo! front page today.

You can read the rest of the AP article, which encourages "good hygiene" for influenza prevention, here:
Experts: Good Hygiene Can Ward Off Flu

In other words, the article states, mother was right: wash your hands, eat your vegetables, and go to bed early if you want to increase your chances of staying healthy during the 2004-2005 flu season.

By the way, we at NIPPIES reported back in August of this year (NIPPIES - Issue 17) that Chiron received the U.S. government contract to develope a vaccine for the avian influenza, or the bird flu as it is commonly called. The loss on nearly half of the flu vaccine supply because of Chiron's contamination problem has called health officials to strongly urge that the United States not depend on only a few vaccine suppliers. Many drug companies, however, do not like to be involved in making the vaccines because it is not a profitable business and also because the demand for flu vaccines fluctuates from year to year. Last year's shortage, combined with the fear of a pandemic, caused a shortage and a greater awareness and demand for this flu season.

The other major supplier of flu vaccines in the Unites States is Aventis.


October 7th, 2004

Will THE DRAFT be reinstated? Officially, NOT YET..
No one with any political savvy thinks The Draft will be reinstated before the presidential election in November. Probably not before the inauguration balls in January, either. But if you go to the official Selective Service web site (http://www.sss.gov), you will see that it has been completely redesigned in a slick, modern way. It has also been updated, polished, and has an ominous announcement on the front page meant to calm our fears. It states:

NOTICE

On October 5, 2004, the House of Representatives voted 402 - 2 to defeat H.R. 163, the bill cited as proof that the Selective Service was preparing to reinstate a military draft. The vote made official what has been a reality since January 7, 2003, when H.R. 163 was introduced despite nearly total opposition in Congress to restoring the draft. Without Congressional support, the draft cannot be reinstated. A similar bill languishes in the Senate.

Both President George W. Bush and Senator John F. Kerry have stated for the record that they oppose a draft. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also has opposed the draft on numerous occasions.

Since 1980, the Selective Service System has discharged it's mission of preparing to manage a draft if and when Congress and the President so direct. The House action proves that the Selective Service has gotten no such direction. That being the case, the Agency will maintain its readiness as required by law, and to register young men between the ages of 18 and 25. That mission has been reaffirmed frequently by successive Administrations and by Congress under the leadership of both parties.
END OF NOTICE ON SSS.GOV SITE

On September 27th, 2002, we at NIPPIES wrote an article on "The Draft" entitled, Sunrise, Sunset. In the piece, we stated:

"There are only, now get this, 165 full-time active duty military personnel working for the Selective Service System. The remainder of SSS employees are part-time and many of those are volunteers. We at Nippies suppose a good way of finding out if our country has any intention of reinstating THE DRAFT, and we at Nippies pray with all our might that they do NOT, is to keep checking back at the SSS.gov site and see if there is a surge upwards of employees. The annual budget for the SSS is $25,003,000.00. (We at Nippies wonder why they threw the extra "3" in there?) By the way, checking this budget is another way to see what plans our government might have regarding THE DRAFT. If it suddenly jumps up to, say, $100,000,000 there will be a lot of nervous parents and 18-25-year-olds out there." .

Just to be on the safe side, we have put a call into the Selective Service's Public Affairs Office to see if there has been a significant increase in the number of full-time active duty military personnel working for the Selective Service System. No one answered the phone. Rather, a man's voice, surrounded by static, instructed us to leave a message, which we did. There was no name attached to the voice.

We've also left a message asking about increases in the budget.

The number for the Public Affairs Office of the Selective Service System is 703-605-4105, in case you'd like to check for yourself. And if you find out before we at NIPPIES do about the status of the SSS, please let us know!


Bejing, China & Home Grown Baseball
For those of you who don't already know, Bejing, China will play host to the 2008 Summer Olympics. Right now, the Chinese government is busy laying out the first of the nearly $7Billion in expenditures it is estimated it will cost to host the games.

As the host country, China is eligible to participate in every event. Even in those for which they don't have a team. Like baseball! So, do you think they are going to step back and let a little thing like not having a team stop them? No way.

China does not have baseball woven throughout its culture. There are no little league teames, no high school teams, nothing, according to an NPR report broadcast October 6th. But that is not going to keep China from trying for the gold in 2008. They have put together a home-grown team of 25 men, and they are going to hone their innate skills by visiting Phoenix, Arizona, where they will be taught by professionals.

Then, for the next four years, we suppose, they will do their best to acquire the skills that Americans spend a lifetime, from childhood up, honing: pitching, batting, catching- and the whole baseball lot.

This is going to be very interesting. We at NIPPIES aren't big baseball fans, we are sorry to say. But we are big fans of the human spirit. And it will be interesting to see if determination, and the Chinese baseball Olympic hopefuls certainly have it, can outweigh a the handicap of more than a decade of inexperience. Somehow we have the feeling it can. And while certainly don't want the Chinese to defeat the American team, it would be really nice to see the Chinese do relatively well in competition.

FBI Searches Vacant Lot in Queens: Suspected Mob Graveyard

Scott Favara's father disappeared in July 1980. The disappearance of John Favara, described as a clean-living, married father of two with no links to the mob, just four months after he acidentally ran over John Gotti's twelve-year-old son, Frank, with his car.

Now, Favara's family is hoping that FBI agents can help them to lay their father to rest. The agents are digging in an around a suspected mob graveyard in the Queens borough of New York City.

"We just want closure, to have a proper funeral for my father. He deserves it," Favara, 42, told the Daily News yesterday, as FBI agents searched for his father's body in a suspected mob graveyard in Queens. This was the first time that Scott Favara has spoken out about his father's disappearance.

John Favara had been planning on moving his family out of the neighborhood shortly before he disappeared. Friends and family had urged him to make the move- fearing retaliation against him for the March 1980 accidental killing of the Gotti child.

"Police said John Favara bore no blame for hitting Frank Gotti on 157th Ave. in Howard Beach, Queens. Frank darted into the street on a minibike. Favara couldn't stop his car in time," the New York Daily News wrote in their October 6, 2004 article about the Feds attempt to locate Favara's body.

FBI agents began excavating the Queens lot on Ruby Street in Ozone Park on Monday, October 4 after receiving a tip from an informer. In addition to John Favara's body, federal agents, who spent Monday and Tuesday this week digging at times by hand and sometimes with the help of a backhoe, hope to find other bodies: those of Philip (Phil Lucky) Giaccone and Dominick (Big Trin) Trinchera. A third mobster, Alphonse (Sonny Red) Indelicato was killed with them, and his body was found a few weeks after the hit by children playing in the lot.

One of those children, Joseph Amico, is now 37. He pointed out to FBI agents the approximate area where he and some friends found a man rolled up in a yellow rug and buried in a shallow grave located in the lot.

In the meantime, the Favara family waits. John Favara's widow, Janet, died a few years ago without ever knowing where he husband's final resting place was located. Now, Scott Favara and his family wait and hope.

"We'd like to put him with my mother," Scott Favara told reporters Tracy Connor and Tamer El-Ghobashy. "We want to give my father a proper funeral and burial."


October 6th, 2004

Today's DON'T MISS:
Fresh Air - with Terry Gross - on National Public Radio

Wednesday

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Donald Bartlett and James Steel. Their new book examines the state of health care in the United States. It's called
Critical Condition: How Health Care in America Became Big Business, and Bad Medicine

They Go in Threes...
We were saddened but not shocked by the passing of Janet Leigh on October 3rd, 2004. Janet, the mother of Jamie Lee Curtis and Kelly Curtis, was 77 years old and suffered from vasculitis. We were saddened because we lost a film icon. But not shocked because the tabloids had been printing their usual "death watch" stories for weeks, as is their custom. (This is when the rag writers write an ambivalent story where by the star could already be dead or near death- you can't tell by reading it. That way, in case the star dies between the time the story is written and the papers hit the newsstands, the tabloid has their fanny covered.)

Janet Leigh could be beloved just for giving us Jamie Lee. Who doesn't like Jamie Lee?? But she has also entertained us with her many film roles. The most famous is, of course, that of the shower victim in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. But that is not NIPPIES' personal favorite. Our favorite is Holiday Affair, with Robert Mitchum. Being a baby boomer, it's hard not to love that movie. Janet was 22 years old and breathtakingly beautiful. Mitchum was gorgeous. But there was a hominess, a coziness to that movie that makes us want to watch it again and again. We weren't even born when it was made, but the movie- the apartment, the characters, the cars, the Christmas magic, the old-fashioned values - make us nostalgic for the simpler, post-World War II era.

If you haven't read Janet's biographies, you might not know a few surprising facts about her. Tony Curtis was not Janet's first husband, but her third. Janet, who finished high school at 15, was also married at about the same time. The marriage was annulled. Then, a few year later, she married again. This marriage ended in divorce. Then came Tony Curtis, with whom she had two children, Kelly and Jamie Lee.

Janet's last marriage was apparently very happy. She married Robert Brandt in 1962 at age 35, and remained married until her death this week. Robert was a writer on the film classic, West Side Story.

Our sympathy goes out to Janet Leigh's family. She will be missed, but not forgotten.

The same goes for that funnyman we all love to disrespect- Rodney Dangerfield. We at NIPPIES were again saddened, but not surprised, at his passing. Rodney, born Jacob Cohen in Babylon, New York nearly 83 years ago, had been in ill health for the past few years. During his last television appearance, he was brought on stage in a golf-cart type vehicle. Rodney would not have done that had he been able to navigate onto the stage himself.

Rodney was married with two kids, and working as a aluminum siding salesman in New Jersey, when he decided to go full-time into comedy. A divorce soon followed, but, after making it in show-biz, Rodney opened his famous Dangerfield's, a comedy club, in Manhattan to be closer to his family.

Many do not know that Rodney Dangerfield suffered from clinical depression for most of his life, according to his imdb.com bio. Rodney never let on. He kept us laughing throughout the decades. His early performances on The Ed Sullivan Show were great. Those who were lucky enough to see his performances in Las Vegas and Atlantic City have a treasured memory. We at NIPPIES were never fortunate enough to see a live Rodney performance, but we enjoyed his television specials and his movies. Our personal favorite was Easy Money, where he had to give up all of his many vices (smoking, gambling, drinking, over-eating) to inherit money from his beloved wife's family. Watching Rodney try to abstain was hilarious, but, of course, in the end he was victorious.

We'll miss you, Rodney. But we are sure you have them rolling in those heavenly aisles.

We hope that the old adage, "They go in threes", turns out not to be true. Losing Janet Leigh and Rodney Dangerfield was more than enough. NPR Reviews the Cheney-Edwards Debate If you listened to NPR radio this morning, you heard an analysis of the Dick Cheney - John Edwards debate. It was quite interesting, as NPR compared what claims were made by the two vice-presidential candidates to fact. If you didn't catch it, go to NPR.org and listen.

Some of the topics covered by NPR: Cheney's claim that Edwards has largely been absent from Senate sessions during his term. Cheney, as vice-president, claims he know this because his office involves Senate involvement. Well, NPR said that the fact is that Cheney is largely absent from Senate involvement himself. His main appearances there have been for Republican lunches.

On the other hand, John Edwards has, for the past two years (he started seriously campaigning for the presidency two years ago) been absent a significant amount of time.

John Edwards claimed that, since Bush began his term as President, over 1.6 million jobs in the private sector have been lost. This, according the NPR's experts, is and isn't true. While private sector jobs have been lost (and those of us who know people who have lost jobs to outsourcing know this to be quite true), government on the city, state and federal level have been hiring. So, all in all, there is, according to NPR, a more accurate figure of 900,000 job losses.

Like many Americans, we are totally without a full resolve about who we want to be president. We were Bush people last time, having been sold on his morality. But now, with the Iraq war, the threat of the re-instatement of the draft (which we are sure will come about after the election), the failure of President Bush to stop the outsourcing of jobs, the favoring of medical malpractice caps so that doctors can have basic immunity from serious and often well-warranted lawsuits, the selling-out to the pharmaceutical companies, and other issues where the little guy in this country has been sold out- well, Bush is definitely out with us.

If all of the above listed reasons weren't enough, we read in the newspaper that he is coming to our area again and will be seen by "invitation only". But what is he coming to discuss? Unbelievably, he was originally slated to discuss the "medical malpractice" issue. Again. He came here less than two years ago to do the same thing. So, we suppose it was physicians and health care big shots who had most of the tickets to see him talk. We at NIPPIES wonder if the three Blue Cross executives who have country club memberships which have cost subscribers six-figures are there. Probably. Now, due to the way his campaign is going, "W" has changed his agenda. The official theme of his stop is terrorism.

BUSH LIVE IN SMALLTOWN PENNSYLVANIA (forgive the typos...we are typing this as he speaks)

We are watching him speak now. He's addressing the people of this area as people who love their families, who work hard, and who love to hunt and fish. He knows the area's reputation, in other words. Not an area with a high level of professionals. Few people come to the area to work: they mainly stay out of family loyalty. Hunting and fishing are big here. There are few jobs unless you are in government, teaching, healthccare, or work for a utility such as gas, electric, water, etc. Unless you are working in one of those fields, are a highly skilled laborer (such as a mason, carpenter, or mechanic- jobs that can't really be outsourced), or own an already established service business, or are a professional such as an lawyer or accountant, you are probably working hard for wages which provide a sub-standard income.

Laura Bush is not with him.

"When Laura speaks, people see a compassionate, decent, STRONG first lady."

The crowd of less than 3000 is cheering wildly. Bush is appearing in a semi-small theatre.

Laura sends her best, Bush says. Now he is mentioning Tom Ridge, Homeland Security Chief. Tom Ridge is the former governor of Pennsylvania, a job now held by Ed Rendell.

President Bush is thanking everyone, including politicians and grassroots activists. He says "there is no doubt in my mind we will carry Pennsylvania" if all the plugs are pulled out and calls are made, etc.

The subject is now turned towards the vice-presidential debate last night, and he got a laugh when he referred to the two different hair-dos (Cheney's lack thereof, and Edwards thick mane.)

The warm-up is over, and now President Bush is telling us that when he took office in 2001, the bubble of the economy had burst. Nearly 1 million jobs were lost, he said, due to 911. He acted, he says. He called on Congress to pass historic tax relief, and he did it without Kerry's yes vote. The tax relief "was the fuel that got our economy growing again."

America is now creating jobs once again, Bush claims. "We have built a broad and solid record of accomplishment. In the past year the U.S. has added 1.7 million new jobs...more than Germany, Japan, Great Britain, Canada and France conbined." (Large cheer). "Real tax, real after-tax income, that's the money in your pocket...is up more than 10% since I took office."

President Bush should talk to the nearly 700 workers who lost their manufacturing jobs to outsourcing two months ago.

Home-ownership is at an alltime high in America. Farm income is up, small businesses are flourishing....ours is a record of accomplishment. (President Bush should read about the number of foreclosures popping up in this county.) Math and scores are increasing in our public schools. (Not in the school district were we pay taxes. Only thing up is teachers' salaries.) 10 million students will get a record number of grants and scholarships for college...Soon Medicare will offer prescription coverage to every senior in American...and we are just getting started."

Now, President states that he is running for 4 more years so "people can better realize the dreams of America." (President Bush should drive past Wal-Mart...there are several of them around here. Small businesses drop like flies.) He is going to raise expectations in high schools, and help community colleges...improve Social Security so people can have a hand in their own retirement...a nest egg politicians can never take away...we must make sure America is (the best place) to start a business."

There need to be less regulations on our small businesses, pass an energy plan that makes us less dependent on foreign sources of energy, President Bush says.

Now here it comes - what, no doubt, most in the audience have been waiting for.

"We must do something about these frivilous lawsuits. Trial lawyers shouldn't be getting rich at the expense of our doctors." The cheers have simmered down at this point, but are still quite enthusiastic. Sure, there are a LOT of physicians in the audience, but some are, most likely, not wildly enthusiastic about physicians being granted near-immunity from the lawsuits.

Now he is hitting on Kerry. "He was against all tax relief. Now he's proposing higher taxes on more than 900,000 small business owners. (Could these be the ones who outsource jobs??) My opponent is one of the few candidates in history to campaign on a pledge to raise taxes, and that is the kind of pledge a politician from Massachusetts usually keeps."

There are a few children in the audience. They look bored. We wonder why they aren't in school?

Frivilous lawsuits again. "Lawsuits are driving up healthcare costs...lawsuits are driving good doctors out of practice." (This claim is being investigated in Pennsylvania. Some think the numbers were inflated to scare people into supporting the malpractice caps.) "The senator and I have very different views on health care...health savings accounts, using technology to drive down the cost of healthcare." (President Bush, how are you supposed to put enough in health savings accounts if you don't make enough to live on in the first place?)

Bush is claiming that most people would get health insurance from the federal government under Kerry's plan. Kerry's proposal would put us on the path to "Clintoncare". (He is referring to Hillary's proposal for national medicine, which never got off the ground. The threat of it, however, kept healthcare costs way down. Everyone in the health industry behaved themselves while Hilary was on their tail. Our health insurance, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, remained at about the same rate during Clinton's entire first term, a claim that George W. Bush cannot make. It's gone up about 7-15% every year since "Clintoncare" was no longer a threat. We now pay nearly $1000 per MONTH for health insurance for our family of four...and that does NOT include vision, dental, or the $500 deductable PER family member.)

Well, this is where it is interesting. We at NIPPIES have no doubt that there are a great many physicians and healthcare big shots at this small theatre in Pennsylvania: a group shot just showed cluster of very well-dressed men (a few women) sitting in the audience. They had that doctor-look. Many of these professionals no doubt have a "Diamond" membership at the theatre where he is speaking. A Diamond membership costs $1000.00 a year. For that, you get advance purchase privileges to 10 shows (you still have to pay for the tickets), along with other perks.

Many in this area cannot afford even one show at the beautifully restored theater. We are too busy paying for health insurance.

We've seen enough. What President Bush is NOT talking about is that we've just lost another manufacturing plant in this area. As we mentioned earlier, nearly 700 jobs were lost when the Japanese owners shut down the plant with NO notice, but plenty of warning when over a thousand more were laid off bit by bit. The plant, once one of the largest employers of local fold (several thousand) has shriveled and died over the last few years.

Another plant nearby is now suffering the same fate. 80 people are being laid off- again, due to outsourcing.

President Bush came here two years ago to talk about the medical malpractice "crisis". He went to an area hospital and addressed doctors. Doesn't he realize that doctors are getting enough publicity with their campaign to stop lawsuits? The AMA devotes a large part of their web site to their crusade to enjoy what the lawyers have, and the little guys are the pawns being used to achieve their goals.

What about the uninsured children and self-employed in this country? CHIP (Children Health Insurance Programs) run by the states to cover children of parents with no health insurance have been curtailed, enrollment fees have been initiated, and deductibles are also now common...making health insurance once again difficult to afford for those who need it most.

On the other hand, Kerry isn't exactly in. Is it true that Heinz has a factory in Mexico? We don't know, but there are claims to that effect. Kerry is also getting the NEA (National Education Association) endorsement, which means he is not for school choice. We at NIPPIES are convinced that school choice/vouchers is necessary to keep public schools on their toes and private school options available. He's for abortion and we are not.

Obviously, there is no good candidate for us. This is a first.

John Edwards will take time out from his stumping tomorrow to appear on Live with Regis and Kelly tomorrow, along with Queen Latifah and Drew Carey.

John Edwards and his wife will also be on The View tomorrow, ABC, 11 a.m. EST.


October 5, 2004

The Great Vioxx Tragedy - Should Vioxx® Have Been Pulled Earlier?
On September 30, 2004, Merck, the makers of arthritis prescription medication, Vioxxˊ (a COX-2 inhibitor) announced that it was pulling Vioxx® from off the market worldwide because of concerns that it produces an increased risk of heart attack and strokes. Merck also stated its decision to withdraw Vioxx® is based on new date from a trial called APPROVe (Adenomatous Polyp Prevention on VIOXX) trial. The reason for the trial was to see if Vioxx® 25mg was effective in preventing the recurrence of colon polyps, a known risk factor in colon cancer.

The trial was halted before completion. Why? Because there was an increased risk for heart attacks and strokes, which was first observed after 18 monhts of continuous treatment with Vioxx® compared to placebo.

This is pretty scary stuff.

First of all, Merck, the maker of Vioxx®, reportedly spend a record $176 MILLION dollars in 2001 promoting the medication.

NIPPIES wrote about the this on September 15, 2003, when we reported how the pharmaceutical industry was not spending more on Promotion than on Research and Development: NIPPIES ISSUE 11 in a section entitled, The Dilemma of the Working Middle Class.

Here is what NIPPIES wrote on September 15, 2003:
"The number one reason for the rising cost of healthcare in the United States is, in the opinion of the Nippies staff, and in the opinion of many experts, the enormously high cost of pharmaceuticals. And can anyone doubt that the high cost of pharmaceuticals is due to just plain greed in the pricing of prescription medications AND the monstrous amount of money spent by the pharmaceutical industry on advertising?

According to medvantx.com, the pharmaceutical industry spent a record $19.1 BILLION dollars in 2001 on promotion. Promotional spending surpassed R&D (research and development) spending for the first time.

Sit back and digest that statistic. For the first time, in 2001, the pharmaceutical industry spent more on PROMOTING drugs than on DEVELOPING new ones!!. We at Nippies don't know how you feel about that, but it makes us furious. Last time we checked, there was still no cure for cancer, ALS, sickel-cell anemia, and a whole host of other horrendous diseases.

Another stat from medVantx.com: In 2001, Merck spent $176 million promoting Vioxx. This is more than the Coca-Cola Company spent advertising Coke, adn more than Anheuser-Busch spent advertising Budweiser."

Vioxx® was the 22nd most prescribed drug during that year. And, scariest of all, the significant danger of a higher incidence of heart attacks was already well-known, according to information found on MosbyDrugConsult.com:

Vioxx® and Cardiovascular Effects

Pay special attention to the parts titled "Cardiovascular Effects" AND "Other Safety Findings: Cardiovascular Safety "

Read, in part, what the VIGOR study showed about Vioxx® and "Cardiovascular Effects":

Cardiovascular Effects

The information below should be taken into consideration and caution should be exercised when Vioxx is used in patients with a medical history of ischemic heart disease.

In VIGOR, a study in 8076 patients (mean age 58; Vioxx n=4047, naproxen n=4029) with a median duration of exposure of 9 months, the risk of developing a serious cardiovascular thrombotic event was significantly higher in patients treated with Vioxx 50 mg once daily (n=45) as compared to patients treated with naproxen 500 mg twice daily (n=19). ...(

Apparently, the FDA was aware of the significantly increased risk of cardiac arrest in patients taking Vioxx® compared to placebo, but decided to allow it on the market after "reviewing the results of the VIGOR study...and a consultation with its "Arthritis Advisory Committee in Feb. 2001.. Read this from the FDA information on Vioxx® withdrawal:

In June 2000, Merck submitted to FDA a safety study called VIGOR (Vioxx Gastrointestinal Outcomes Research) that found an increased risk of serious cardiovascular events, including heart attacks and strokes, in patients taking Vioxx compared to patients taking naproxen. After reviewing the results of the VIGOR study and other available data from controlled clinical trials, FDA consulted with its Arthritis Advisory Committee in February 2001 regarding the clinical interpretation of this new safety information. In April 2002, FDA implemented labeling changes to reflect the findings from the VIGOR study. The labeling changes included information about the increase in risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attack and stroke.

You can read the official FDA announcement regarding the April 2002 labeling changes here:
FDA Labeling Changes on Vioxxˊ

And, last but not least, here is an excerpt from a warning letter sent by the Department of Health and Human Services to Merck, accusing Merck of "misleading" the public about the safety of Vioxx® in the fall of 2001, prior to Merck's response and the resultant label changes in April 2002:

"You have engaged in a promotional campaign for Vioxx that minimizes the potentially serious cardiovascular findings that were observed in the Vioxx Gastrointestinal Outcomes Research (VIGOR) study, and thus, misrepresents the safety profile for Vioxx. Specifically, your promotional campaign discounts the fact that in the VIGOR study, patients on Vioxx were observed to have a four to five fold increase in myocardial infarctions (MIs) compared to patients on the comparator non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), Naprosyn (naproxen0"

Read the whole letter here:

FDA Warning Letter to Merck about "misleading" information on Vioxx - Fall, 2001


October 2nd, 2004
Dear Trevor...

NIPPIES doesn't get a lot of Guest Book entries, although we do get many visitors. This is largely due to the fact that we write about a variety of topics.

Usually, the Guest Book entries are pleasant ones. However, we were surprised to find one the other day from "Trevor". Trevor was very insulting. He said the site was a "joke", and that we should allow the "real journalists" do the writing and reporting of news. He also commented on a typo in our Guest Book section, which we have since fixed.

This is our response to Trevor. There simply wasn't enough room in our Guest Book....

Dear Trevor,

Whatever on earth makes you think that we at NIPPIES consider ourselves to be a journalist of any import? On the very top of our page, it says "not important person". We meant that when we wrote it. We know that, in the scheme of things, we are not important to anyone except our immediate family.

To be technical, a "journalist" is anyone who keeps a journal. This web site is written more in a magazine form- when we have the time. But it can also be considered somewhat of a journal, we suppose. Therefore, we are "real journalists". However, we never take ourselves very seriously. And we never thought anyone would be nominating us for a Pulitzer Prize, Trevor.

That said, we do take offense to the "joke" part. We write about some very serious topics, Trevor. And we write the truth as we see it from our reluctant participation in the rat race. Believe me, Trevor, we are not out there leading the pack. Every month is a struggle to keep from being trampled....

TREVOR CONTINUED HERE


September 16th, 2004
Chris Rose Rides Out Ivan

Yesterday I thought about Chris Rose many times, and I fell asleep thinking about him. Funny how he was on my mind all day, because I've never met Chris, and I probably never will. And, after an undertermined amount of time, I'll probably forget about him, too.

Yesterday was when I heard Chris Rose, a columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, give a radio report from his home in The Big Easy. Chris told listeners on National Public Radio (NPR) that he intended to ride out the storm - Ivan the Terrible - because he felt it necessary to protect his home from looters. Seems that Chris's home has no back. It was torn off as part of a renovation process, which is still underway. Everything his family owns is in that backless home. Chris decided to spin the roulette wheel of fate and hope it landed on one of his numbers.

Like most New Orleans residents, Chris had a routine he followed when hurricame warnings saturated the air: he spent the hours preceeding a hurricane on the roof with a glass of his favorite whiskey, enjoying the atmospheric changes. This time was different. Chris said he'd packed up his wife and kids and sent them on an 8-hour trip inland - to safety. Chris stayed behind in the city that is one of only two locations in the United States which are below sea level: New Orleans and Death Valley. This is a fact I had never heard before. He'd sandbagged, boarded, and secured the construction company's (renovations, remember?) Port-O-Potty to the front porch with a garden hose. He wondered and worried about how long his cell phone would last, if the plumbing would hold out, and about other possibilities too dark to put into words. Chris rose was there for the duration, come "hell or high water."

It was amazing to me that Chris Rose, faced with so much potential danger, could give his report with such ease. Surely he had to be scared just a little bit? Surely the fear he must have felt was compounded by the fact that he was alone? So alone that even the favorite pre-hurricane pharmacy, which normally stayed open 24/7 in ordinary hurricane times and where every native headed before the onslaught for the three necessities, "liquor, cigarettes and chips", had also boarded up and closed. So alone that Harrah's Casino had boarded up and employees had fled.

"What does that tell you?" he asked.

When casino executives hightail it out of town, it's really serious, Chris.

And so, during the constant reports last night, I repeatedly checked on New Orleans. I thought of Chris Rose. Because, even though he is a total stranger to me, I felt like I knew a little bit more about him than I know about a lot of other strangers. And I pictured him in his backless home, drinking a scotch and watching and listening. And I wished him well.

This morning, I was relieved to find that New Orleans was not inundated. Chances are very good that Chris Rose is fine, and that, right about now, he's working on hurricane Ivan story for the Times-Picayune.

Sadly, seven people have died from the ferocity of Ivan. I don't know who they are, and news reports aren't telling us right now. And I might forget about Chris Rose by tomorrow, or the next day. But right now I'm just glad that he, and others like him who rode out Ivan the Terrible, didn't have to face what could have been had fate spun a losing number.


Los Angeles, Sadly, Bows to ACLU's Demands to Remove Cross from County Seal
Has the world gone mad?
Our country, once proud of it's Christian heritage, is now being stripped of all reminders of it. And the stripping is being done in the name of fairness to all, and often after the threat of a lawsuit by the ACLU.

Back in June of this year, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, acting upon the threat of a lawsuit from the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), voted 3-2 in favor of removing a small, not very noticeable cross from its official seal. The cross depicts, in the official words of Los Angeles County, "the influence of the church and the missions of California," according to www.Townhall.com writer Dennis Prager. Mr. Prager also points out that "by far the largest object is the Goddess Pomona, the Roman goddess of gardens and fruit trees, who is depicted from top to bottom in the middle of the seal."

Goddess Pomona gets to stay. Only Christian things are offensive these days, you know.

Dennis Prager wrote an article when the threat of a lawsuit from the ACLU first reared its ugly head, and it's worth reading, Mr. Prager, who studied totalarianism, sees the agression by the American Civil Liberties Union as an attempt to rewrite history. Many people do not realize, Dennis Prager writes, what is at stake, but "the ACLU knows what is at stake -- the removal of religion, specifically Christianity, from American history; and the replacing of Judeo-Christian values with leftist ones."

Dennis Prager has stated eloquently what many of us are groping for words to express. Please read the well-written article for yourself: Dennis Prager.


September 9th, 2004
Doctors of Pennsylvania Changing Their Tactics?

Well, first the politically active Pennsylvania physicians were threatening to leave the state because of medical malpractice lawsuits. They wanted caps, caps, caps placed on medical malpractice lawsuits in PA: $250,000.00 in economic damages. Then, they might stay.

So far, they haven't gotten what they wanted. So far. They are still wooing President Bush because he just might encourage a national law placing caps on medical malpractice lawsuits. The AMA appears to be backing Bush big time, as are so many, if not all, medical associations on the state level.

The AMA official web site, www.ama-assn.org, proclaims, right on the top of their front page:


Spotlight on issues
Medical liability reform is AMA's No. 1 legislative priority

And on the special medical liability page the AMA features, they make this claim:

"Fully 72 percent of Americans want Congress to pass a law that limits non-economic damages in medical liability cases, according to a new nationwide poll published by the Health Coalition on Liability and Access (HCLA), which counts the AMA among its members."

Notice that the AMA are among the members of this coalition. Their opinion just might be a little prejudiced towards caps, n'est pas?

The text then goes on to state:

"The results show an even greater majority of Americans (82 percent) think the medical liability crisis is pushing good physicians out of medicine and is threatening the availability of quality medical care."

Now where would Americans get the idea that the "medical liability crisis is pushing good physicians out of medicine" except from the propaganda that we've been fed steadily over the past two years?? During 2002-2003, every single physician's office seemed to have posters, literature, and other informational tools telling us that Pennsylvania is losing good doctors and the only way to stop the loss is to get laws limiting medical malpractice.

Here's another thought: if 82 percent of Americans think the medical liability crisis is pushing good physicians out of medicine, then why are doctors worried about lawsuits? Let the lawsuits come, and let them go to trial. Won't 82 percent of the jury vote against awarding unnecessary economic damages to the injured party if the 82% statistic is true??


The only reason doctors haven't gotten ther caps is, quite possibly, because many of the politicians are walking a fine line when it comes to stepping on lawyers' toes and pleasing the fighting docs: many national and state legislators get campaign contributions from special interest groups (PAC contributions) such as the American Medical Association (AMA)and the American Bar Association.

Many ABA members have become quite wealthy during the past few decades from the medical malpractice bonanza. Oh, not because so many of the lawsuits are necessarily unjustified, as the physicians groups would have us believe. It is NOT easy to get a good lawyer to take a medical malpractice case that is not justified. These cases are costly to take to trial. And a good lawyer, a smart lawyer, only cherry-picks the best cases, then charges about 40% - plus costs, which can be add up quickly when you consider the expert witnesses, court fees and other costs that are involved in a medical malpractice case - of what the injuried party is awarded. So, if the cap of $250,000.00 on economic losses, the injured party in a medical malpractice case might end up when a negative balance, or very little money, after the lawyer's cut and costs are deducted. Some injured parties need the money from a medical malpractice lawsuit to live on for the remainder of their lives if the doctor's malpractice has rendered them unable to work.

Yessiree, politicians certainly have to walk a fine line when choosing sides between lawyers and doctors, whose interests of late seem to be diametrically opposed. And let's not forget that many of the legislators are lawyers themselves.

Well, when the claim that doctors were fleeing in Pennsylvania in record numbers came under scrutiny recently (and we at NIPPIES noted with interest that the list of doctors fleeing Pennsylvania has been removed from the web site www.fightingdocs.com), PA doctors must have put their thinking caps back on to come up with another scare tactic to get patients to push their state representatives to put caps on medical malpractice awards. And their thinking has resulted in a new campaign, from what we've heard: caps on medical malpractice awards will help to lower HEALTH INSURANCE costs!

Yes, the newest sound byte is that by placing caps on economic losses in medical malpractice in Pennsylvania, health insurance costs will not go up- might even fall- because doctors will no longer have to practice "defensive medicine". Defensive medicine is ordering more tests than necessary to make sure the doctor crossed all his tees and dotted all his "eyes" so the patient can't come back and sue him later.

When President Bush came to Northeastern Pennsylvania recently, a local radio station reported that there was a delegation of local physicians seated on the stage with him. We at NIPPIES guess we know who is backing Bush in Pennsylvania - the medical associations. That is because George W. Bush has gone on record as saying, in relation to medical malpractice lawsuits, "let's stop suing each other." (Scranton, January 2003, where he was greeted by a committee of physicians.)

Too bad the neurologist who recently was awarded something like $6 million dollars didn't follow that philosophy about not suing each other. This doc was bike riding, went over a dip in the road, was thrown from his bicycle, and - you guessed it - was awarded millions. Sure, he may have had severe injuries. And sure, he had the right to sue. (The town where the accident occured had to pay, and the insurance company which covered the town made up the rest. Aren't we ALL paying for that with increased insurance fees?)

ANY patient who is mangled, incapacitated, or loses their life at the hands of a bad doctor should be entitled to sue for enough money to last them the rest of their lives if their life is ruined. It is just so much arrogance for physicians to want immunity from lawsuits. It's more than that- it's downright scary.

Our questions is this...why should ANY group be immune to huge lawsuits if we aren't ALL immune? If a cap of $250,000.00 is placed on medical malpractice lawsuits, then that should be a cap on ALL lawsuits. In Pennsylvania, the lawyers enjoy near immunity from lawsuits aimed at them by their dissatisfied clients. If you've ever know ANYONE who tried to make their inept lawyer pay for what they did - or didn't do - in a viable lawsuit, you already know that in some states, and expecially in Pennsylvania, lawyers are all but untouchable. Doctors want the same privilege, and, they want to use their patients as pawns in their battle for immunity against greedy lawyers: one web site which tells politically active physicians what to do to further the medical malpractice caps agenda suggests the physicians talk to their patients during office visits to get the patients to call their state reps and push for caps. This, we at NIPPIES think, is the lowest of the low.

Really want to lower health insurance costs?

If Pennysylvania phsicians - and physicians everywhere - really want to lower health insurance costs, let them do this: lobby the AMA to open up the enrollment limits in medical schools. Every year there are many, many young people turned away from medical schools simply because the schools only take so many and no more. And it's not a secret that it sure helps to get into medical school, especially the prestigious ones, if you have a father who's a doctor, or some other relative or family friend pushing for you to get into that school.

We've all heard stories of great kids with great grades who simply could not get into medical school because there was no room and because they had no none of any import pushing for them. But if the enrollment at medical schools was expanded, there would be plenty of doctors in all specialties. There would be no more waiting for 3 months - or longer - for an appointment with a specialist. And doctors would not be overworked or stressed. So why not do this? Instead of calling your state representative about placing caps on medical malpractice, call and complain about the limits in medical schools.

Pharmaceutical Ads Are Costing Us- Fight Back!

Perhaps the biggest thing we could all do to lower health insurance costs is this: push our politicians to make pharmaceutical advertising illegal. It's just costing this county so much money, and driving our health insurance costs through the roof. Our airwaves, newspapers, magazines and just about all media are inundated by commercials for prescription medications. We at NIPPIES read a shocking statement last year: the pharmaceutical industry now spends more on promotion than it does on research and development. What does that mean? Simply that the drug companies spend more money on getting us to buy their old medications than on perfecting new ones to fight the killer diseases such as cancer, ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), etc.

It's the most ridiculous concept, when you think about it. We can't go out and buy this stuff without a prescription, right? So why are the commercials aimed at the general public? Why? So that we can go and bug our doctors for medications we don't need. In turn, they get to bug us about calling our politicians to get them to pass a law which would place caps on our rights to sue if our physician overmedicates us with a prescription drug we saw on television and insisted on having even if we didn't need it.

The next time we at NIPPIES see an ad for a prescription medicine, and we expect that to be in any ten minute window of time when we are watching television, we are going to call the 1-800 number and complain about how much this advertising is costing the American public. We hope you will do the same. If the pharmaceutical industry starts getting these sort of phone calls, maybe they will listen. After all, it will cost them money to take the calls, and money is what they love.

Sheesh. We at NIPPIES are getting a headache just thinking about all this. We think we'll put the television and see what the "drug du jour" is for today. Maybe it's a headache medicine.


Dentyne Ice Mystery Solved by Mick Roberson

Mick Roberson, one of our readers, has been trying to solve the mystery of the identity of the Dentyne Ice subway commercial model for some time. He hit on the brilliant idea of calling the Dentyne people and was justly rewarded: her name is ASHLEY SCOTT!

There have been many, many inquiries to this site about who this model is. Even girls have wanted to know: they want her haircut. Well, now Mick has put our unease to rest.(We were told some time ago by another reader that the model's name was Ashley Scott. But we doubted the veracity of this claim, as the photo on the imdb.com data base doesn't look like the girl in the commercial). And he's told us the name of the bumbling guy in the Dentyne Ice commercial, as well. His name is Greg Vaughan. Yes, Greg is good looking. But anyone who gets befuddled over memorizing a seven-digit phone number, as Greg's character does int he commercial, isn't exactly an Einstein.(Yes, we know...it's only a commercial folks. Greg is probably brilliant- well, maybe.)

Greg Vaughn, for those who want to know, grew up in Dallas, TX. He has been on a coupla soap operas: The Young and the Restless and General Hospital. He's had a coupla movie roles. But before all that- and right after high school- he modeled in Italy: Gianni Versace, Armani, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, etchedera, etchedera, etcherada.

Ashley Scott's star is really rising: she has two movies in post-production. The first movie, Into the Blue (directed by John Stockwell), stars Paul Walker, Dwayne Adway, Jessica ALba, Scott Caan and Josh Brolin. She's billed rather far down on the list on this movie, which should be released sometime this year.

The second movie is entitled Lost, and it, too, is in post-production. But in this movie, Ashley Scott enjoys second billing to Dean Cain. The movie, directed by Darren Lemke, is an action/thriller, and should be released later this year, as well.

Thanks, Mick! Now, we'll try to find out who the girl in the Listerine 30 seconds commerial is...and all will be well with the world.


Erythromycin & Cardiac Arrest

A new study has shown that use of Erythomycin "dramatically increases the risk of cardial arrest, particularly when taken with some popular drugs for infections and high blood pressure," according to an Associated Press article.

According to the study, which was conducted by Wayne A. Ray, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, TN, erythromycin, taken alone, doubled the very low risk of sudden cardiac arrest among patients, but in patients taking other drugs - those that increase erythromycin's concentration in the blood - the risk of cardiac death was five times greater.

The deaths were in patients taking verapamil or diltiazem, both blood pressure drugs sold as generics and also under various brand names: Verelan and Isoptin for verapamil, Cardizem adn Tiazac for diltiazem. Other drugs posing a risk with erythomycin, according to the AP article: antibiotic clarithromycin (Biaxin brand); fluconazole (Diflucan, which is used for vaginal yeast infections), and the antifungal drugs ketoconazole (Nizoral) and itraconazole (Sporanox). Pills and injections of the drugs, but not topical forms, carry the risks.

Please, this is not a medical site. And we don't give medical advice. So if you are prescribed erythromycin by your physician, make SURE you go over the list of medicines which could combine with erythromycin to make a potentially deadly cocktail.

Go back to the TOP of this issue of NIPPIES:


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Read articles from past Nippies issues!

NIPPIES - August 22, 2002 - September 5, 2002: NIPPIES - Issue #1
NIPPIES - October 1, 2002 to September 6th, 2002: NIPPIES - Issue #2
NIPPIES - November 1 to October 3rd, 2002: NIPPIES - Issue #3
NIPPIES - December 11 to October 31st, 2002: NIPPIES - Issue #4
NIPPIES - January 2, 2003 to Dec. 12, 2002 : NIPPIES - Issue #5
NIPPIES - January 25th to January 3rd, 2003: NIPPIES - Issue #6
NIPPIES - February 2nd to January 23rd, 2003: MIPPIES - Issue #7
NIPPIES - March 10th to February 3rd, 2003: NIPPIES - Issue #8
NIPPIES - June 7th to March 11th, 2003: NIPPIES - Issue #9
NIPPIES - June 16th - July 15th, 2003: NIPPIES - Issue #10
NIPPIES - October 16th - August 13th, 2003: NIPPIES - Issue #11
NIPPIES - November 15th - October 18th, 2003: NIPPIES - Issue #12
NIPPIES - December 31st - November 21st, 2003: NIPPIES - Issue #13
NIPPIES - February 6th, - January 1st, 2004: NIPPIES - Issue #14
NIPPIES - March 3rd, - February 9th, 2004: NIPPIES - Issue #15
NIPPIES - May 13th, - March 5th, 2004: NIPPIES - Issue #16
NIPPIES - August 31st - May 13, 2004: NIPPIES - Issue #17

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