Monday, April 22, 2013

A New Book; an Old Book; Mere Christianity

A new book is still on trial, and the amateur is not in a position to judge it.... The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity ("mere Christianity" as [Richard] Baxter [the 17th Century pastor] called it), which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective. Such a standard can only be acquired from old books. It is a good rule, after reading a new book never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.

-C.S. Lewis, God is in the Dock, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), pp. 201-20s, as quoted in Foster and Smith, Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals & Groups (San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins, 1993) p. 2.

As to "mere Christianity" and C.S. Lewis, go here.

Friday, April 19, 2013

CDC report: Illnesses linked to poultry, seafood rising.

Mary forwarded this from today's issue of the AMA's "Morning Rounds":

The AP (4/19) reports, "Bacteria commonly linked to raw milk and poultry is causing more and more food poisonings, health officials said." Over the past five years, the number of Campylobacter cases "grew by 14 percent," according to a report (pdf) released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although the report, which the CDC refers to as "the nation's annual food safety report card," was "based on foodborne infections in only 10 states" (about 15% of the US population), it is considered to be a "good indicator of food poisoning trends."

        The Wall Street Journal (4/19, A3, Tomson, Subscription Publication, 2.29M) adds that the report also showed a 43-percent increase over the 2006-2008 rate of infections from Vibrio bacteria. Last July, cases of Vibrio, which has symptoms similar to cholera, prompted the Food and Drug Administration to issue a consumer warning against eating shellfish from Oyster Bay Harbor in Nassau County, New York. The Journal notes that an FDA spokesperson said the agency is accelerating its efforts to gain jurisdiction over how states implement plans to control for Vibrio contamination.

        The Los Angeles Times (4/19, Healy, 692K) "Booster Shots" blog says Vibrio and Campylobacter were "followed distantly by Shigella, Cryptosporidium, Escherichia coli, Vibrio, Yersinia, Listeria and Cyclosporidium," in the report. Of the "15,531 food-borne illnesses reported by the CDC's 10-site surveillance system in 2012, 4,563 resulted in hospitalization and 68 resulted in death." And although "Salmonella killed the largest number of infected patients, Listeria was the most deadly, killing 10.74% of the 121 patients who were infected by it."

        In its coverage of the CDC report, Bloomberg News (4/19, Armour) notes that the "Obama administration has been slow to fully enact the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, which was supposed to be the most sweeping overhaul of US food safety in 70 years." One of the "two regulatory proposals" the FDA released "Jan. 4 to carry out the core of the food safety act would give companies one year to develop a formal plan for preventing the causes of food illness. The second would force produce farms with a 'high risk' of contamination to develop new hygiene, soil and temperature controls."

        The CDC report is also covered by the Denver Post (4/19, Booth, 443K) "Daily Dose" blog, The Packer (4/19, Ohlemeier, 13K), HealthDay (4/19, Preidt), Medscape (4/19, Lewis) and MedPage Today (4/19, Petrochko).
        FDA commissioner requests more funding. Reuters (4/19, Clarke) reports Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD, asked Congress on Thursday for more funding to enable the agency to improve food safety and importation oversight, as well as to design chemical- and biological-threat countermeasures. During her testimony at a budget hearing yesterday, Dr. Hamburg told a Senate appropriations subcommittee that the FDA is reducing the amount of money allocated to travel expenditures and training to weather some $209 million in Federal sequestration cuts the agency faces. She also noted that the agency is funded in part, through taxpayers but that the bulk of the FDA's money is garnered through the user fees that pharmaceutical companies pay to accelerate new product reviews. Reuters quotes Dr. Hamburg as saying, "FDA is a true bargain among federal agencies."

Friday, April 12, 2013

Camillus House Completes its $80 Million Upgrade; the Hon. C. Clyde Atkins; Murray Sams and My First Day in Federal Court (Updated)

The Herald today reports a hopeful advance in the care and rehabilitation of the Homeless in Miami.

Also today, the Herald reports the other side of the story.  The Homeless continue to impose a huge cost on Miami's development, impeding the renaissance of Downtown and near-Downtown.  The Hon. C. Clyde Atkins, US District Judge,  issued 20 years ago a restrictive ruling in response to high-handed police efforts to clear tent cities established by the Homeless.  (It reflected the settlement of a suit brought by the ACLU against the City of Miami.)  Those tent cities were on the doorstep of the cruise-ship terminals.  Now that venerable and even then (perhaps) impractical order is under attack.  Having spent most of my waking hours during that 20 year period working in and about Downtown Miami, I would say that it is very much time to give that order another look.

We should note, however, that Norwegian Cruise Lines is a big contributor to the Camillus House project, according to the first linked article.  One has to ask whether Camillus' success in raising funds and drawing positive attention from the private sector would have occurred without the obstacles that Judge Atkins' order created.

The church where I grew up, Central Baptist, is located across the street from a Federal office building that is part of a complex that includes the Federal Court House.  According to a story told me during the late 1980s - early 1990s by one of the members of that church, Judge Atkins' office was on the north side of that building, directly across the street from the south side of the church and its south-side entrance, which is quite wide.  An architectural feature of that entrance is a portico that extends over the sidewalk.  Because that part of the sidewalk was so well covered, homeless people would camp out there at night.  They made a mess, according to the people at the church, and it took some time each morning to clean up after the campers.

Judge Atkins apparently knew this was going on.  He could see this situation from his office window, according to the person who told me this story.  Judge Atkins called the church office one day and told the receptionist that the church was not to disturb the homeless camping under the portico.  The church did not.

My first appearance in federal court as a lawyer was in 1972.  It was before Judge Atkins and it was unplanned.  I was a green associate at Smathers & Thompson, and one of the partners asked me to review the court file of a case before him.  At that time, the federal judges kept the court files for their cases in their chambers rather than in the clerk's office, the practice in the state court system.  So I went to Judge Atkin's chambers and asked his secretary for permission to review the file. 

She said that the file was not in the office, but with the judge himself who was, at that very moment, conducting a hearing in the case.  I telephoned the partner and told him the situation.  Somehow he had not gotten the word that the judge had convened a hearing.  "Well," the partner said, "Go on in there and take care of this!"

So into the court room I went.  The lawyer on the other side was Murray Sams, Jr., a legendary trial lawyer.  Holy Cow!, I thought.  About the only other thing I remember, other than that it turned out all right that day, is that Murray came up to me just after the hearing.  In his thoroughly charming and gracious way, he introduced himself and welcomed me to federal court.  Then, he proceeded to tell me that my clients were involved with the Mafia and did I know that?  Murray Sams, the consummate advocate.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

China Has Aborted 336 Million Babies since 1971

This, according to that country's own records apparently.

According to World Magazine's Jamie Dean, this number is "equvalent to the U. S. population".  Of course, the U. S. population would be much larger without our country's own abortions, government protected if not government sponsored.

A new estimate published by the National Right to Life Committee indicates there have been an estimated 54,559,615 abortions [in the U.S.] since the Supreme Court handed down its 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision allowing virtually unlimited abortions.

-from a 1/23/12 post in, a post a year old.  So the figure today would be greater.

I would suggest that the collective culpability of our nation is greater than China's, given our cultural and religious history, and the peace, freedom, and prosperity with which God has blessed us for over two centuries.  Think of what China has had to deal with in the last two centuries.  In the 20th Century alone, think of its exploitation by the West, its invasion by Japan, its civil wars, and the Cultural Revolution.  I don't say that to excuse China, because it also had a profound penetration by the Gospel in that century.  I am saying it to elucidate more fully our own moral situation here in the United States.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Controlling the Extravagent Demand for Medical Care

The medical economist Rashi Fein observed in 1986 that there are only three ways to limit the extravagant demand for medical care: "Inconvenience," the practice used in the military, where one must wait interminably for care. "Rules," the third-party approach by which layers of rules and thousands of regulations are devised, most recently in a fool's quest to contain costs under ObamaCare. And "Price." This last option elicits gasps and chest-clutching from bien pensants who insist that all financial impediments to care must be removed. Yet it has one incontestably beneficial attribute: It requires the physician to study the true cost and benefits of a course of action, and then to present that data to the patient. Who is better suited than the patient to assess the value to him of the proposed treatment? Kathleen Sebelius? You gotta be kidding. [Link added]

-from "Reflections of a Medical Ex-Practioner", by Ed Marsh, in yesterday's WSJ.  (Thanks, Carol.)

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Hand Injuries

It has been over a year since Carol and I started the fitness program at CrossFit Downtown Miami.  We feel better and are stronger, and we have enjoyed the process. 

I have fallen three times, however: twice during the box-jump exercises and once while running when I tripped on an uneven sidewalk.  On one of those occasions, I injured my right hand and on another my left hand.  Both of those injuries have healed without any sort of intervention.  In fact, I have learned that aches, pains, and even injuries are not uncommon.  I have also learned that I probably have some osteo-arthritis, definitely in my hands and probably in my feet. 

I visited a hand specialist recently about some pain that persisted in my left hand.  He identified an arthritic bump at the base of the thumb on that hand and said the pain could come from it.  He also said I could simply have stretched some ligaments.  He said that the treatment in either case is the same, and gave me a written “Hand Arthritis Treatment Form.”  This is what the form said to do:
      1.       Heat (e.g. Paraffin Baths)

2.       Medications:  (a)   Tylenol,  (b)  NSAIDs: Ibuprofen (Advil), Alleve, Celebrex,  (c) Glucosamine &  Chondroitin

3.       Foods:   (a)  Cherries,  (b)Blueberries, (c) Pineapple, (d)  Turmeric, Flaxseed (oil)

4.       Creams: Capsaicin, Arnica, Voltaren

5.       Splints: (a very cool site)

6.       Whole Body Exercise (Endorphins)

7.       Cortisone Injections

8.       Surgery

Additional Information on Hand Problems:

Except for 7 and 8, one can treat himself.  With the first injury, when I fell off the box and injured my left hand, the physician's assistant fitted me with a splint (5).  I threw it away after a day's use, and I got better anyway, although possibly slower.  The physician did not encourage 7, because he said it was temporary.  As to 8, he said that doctors like him have all kinds of things they can do, but said it in a way to indicate that I should stay away from surgery if I can.