Friday, December 1, 2006
This week, in American Council for the Blind v. Paulson, a federal district judge ruled that the U.S. Treasury must make it possible for individuals with visual impairments to distinquish between paper money denominations. According to the AP:
Give blind people a way to tell a $20 bill from a single, says a judge who told the government to change the nation's paper money so it doesn't all feel the same.
Thanks to Joseph A. Hodnicki for the case link!
U.S. District Judge James Robertson on Tuesday ordered the Treasury Department to start working on the problem, leaving it up to government officials to determine the best solution. Possible changes include making bills of differing sizes or adding embossed dots or raised ink.
The government has 10 days to decide whether to appeal the ruling. The Treasury Department had no immediate comment.
Electronic devices are available to help blind people differentiate between bills, but many complain that they are slow, expensive and unreliable. Visually impaired shoppers frequently rely on store clerks to help them.
"It's just frankly unfair that blind people should have to rely on the good faith of people they have never met in knowing whether they've been given the correct change," said Jeffrey A. Lovitky, attorney for the blind plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
WOW! The NewsHour has a terrific segment last night on the Allen Brain Atlas, a new tool for medical research, that "provides a three-dimensional catalog of all the genes active in the brain and has revealed clues to diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Lou Gehrig's, as well as conditions such as autism." You can access the information at AllenBrainAtlas.org. Here is a brief excerpt from last night's show discussing how the Allen Brain Atlas was created.
SUSAN DENTZER: The ideal would be to have an atlas of genes expressed throughout the entire human brain, but that would require dissecting a live brain, an ethical and physical impossibility.
So scientists at the Allen Institute settled for the next best thing: an atlas of the brains of special laboratory-bred, genetically identical mice. It may be surprising, but 90 percent of a mouse's genes are identical to a human's. Assembling the Atlas required the work of nearly 100 scientists, engineers, mathematicians and information experts.
ALLAN JONES: We've got individual microscope slides. Each one of them is bar-coded so we can track all of the information. And there, as you can see here, there are very thin slices of mouse brain on each of these slides.
SUSAN DENTZER: They began by literally slicing apart the brains of several thousand mice. Each slice, just 25 microns thick, or about one-sixth of a human hair, was subjected to special chemical probes to detect the presence of specific genes.
Under sophisticated microscopes, the mouse brain cells with specific genes switched on look like this. Special cameras captured thousands of these images.
ALLAN JONES: We've generated over 600 terabytes of raw data, raw picture data. To put that in context, that would fill over 20,000 iPods.
SUSAN DENTZER: The digital images of the mouse brain cells with genes switched on were assembled into a giant database.
ALLAN JONES: We've assembled a large cluster of computers, which simply grind away and process this information and put it into this three-dimensional framework.
SUSAN DENTZER: The end product is this 3-D catalog. It's freely accessible to all on the Web site AllenBrainAtlas.org. Users can easily click on a brain section and see which genes are active there.
DR. SUSAN SWEDO, National Institute of Mental Health: It is exactly like having a Google for the mouse brain now.
SUSAN DENTZER: One researcher who's used the Allen Brain Atlas is Dr. Susan Swedo. She oversees autism research at the National Institute of Mental Health.
DR. SUSAN SWEDO: To be able to go online and just map various areas of the brain and what genes are being expressed in that area is phenomenal. I, in five minutes, was able to do what used to take a graduate student four years for one tiny, little nerve cell connection, and now they have it for the entire brain.
The fantastic Professor Ross D. Silverman, Associate Professor and Director Program in Law & Health Policy Department of Medical Humanities, SIU School of Medicine provides a link to some additional information on the President's new appointment to the assistant secretary of population affairs within the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Eric Keroack. The article states,
On Monday, (Nov. 20th) the federal office that oversees the nation's family-planning program got a new boss who doesn't believe in birth control. Eric Keroack is a Massachusetts obstetrician-gynecologist who argues that abstinence until marriage is the only healthy choice for women. Until recently, he served as medical director of a pregnancy-counseling organization that runs down contraception and gives out scientifically false health information—for instance, that condoms "offer virtually no protection" against herpes or HPV. Keroack also promotes a wacky piece of pseudoscience: the claim that premarital sex disrupts brain chemistry so as to create a physiological barrier to happy marriage.
I cannot wait to see how he plans to implement policies to prevent the disruption of brain chemistry from premarital sex . . . . if this wasn't an important position, it might be funny.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly.com has a great round-up of recent articles concerning how the new Congress may attempt to reform Medicare Part D. He advocates that new the Congress require that pharmaceutical companies provide Medicare beneficiaries with their lowest prices. He states,
An MFP (most favorable pricing) clause with appropriate exceptions takes care of this, and it's something the federal government already knows how to do since Medicaid currently operates this way. It's not price control, since pharmaceutical companies wouldn't be required to supply drugs at any particular price, but if they did supply them at a price to anyone else — or any other country — then they'd also be required to offer the same deal to Uncle Sam. This is pretty standard practice when you're the biggest buyer in an industry. Just ask Wal-Mart.
And if it turns out that giving Americans the Canadian/French/German/whatever price prevents pharmaceutical companies from making money, then they'll have to raise prices in other countries. But that's OK. There's no reason American taxpayers should be subsidizing healthcare for the rest of the world, after all.
Ezra Klein posts about an interesting idea raised by Andy Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Mr. Stern advocates:
We’re thinking of creating a new organization called My Life that would be mainly focused on 18 to 34 year olds. It would be web-based, and what it would allow people to do is purchase on a national level health care that you can move from job to job. You’d also be able to do things like tweak your resume on file permanently in your personal account. You could access debit cards potentially and start doing some of the new financial transactions like putting money on your cell phone. It would have opportunities for people to network with other people who are doing similar jobs or somewhat of a Craigslist-type function. It would be in some ways what AARP is for seniors: a place that advocates on their behalf. But clearly it’s a different form of organization; whether you call that a union, or an internet community, or an association, I’m not sure. But it has that kind of potential.
Here from Atrios at Eschaton is an initial on-line responses to the idea.
Responding to various commenters and emailers, as a means of fixing the horrible health care system in this country it is true that a group plan for young people is probably a terrible idea, except to the extent that it could blossom into something for everyone. But as a means of fixing the problem that younger people don't have portable health insurance it's possibly an excellent idea. Lots of 20somethings either don't have jobs with health insurance or have to make life decisions based on having to find a job which will give them health insurance.
You have to scroll down a bit to find the posts (there are two of them "My Life" and "Health Care for the Young Ones" -- I apologize that I could not find a way to link to them directly but some of the comments are interesting).
Here is a request that I recently received:
Hi friends: My friend Nancy Bryant sent this email to me. Please pass it on. And apologies for multiple postings. As World AIDS Day approaches (Dec. 1), we are reminded that millions of people need our help with the AIDS pandemic, but we often think, "What can I do?" Here is one simple way you can help, and it costs you nothing but a moment and a mouse click. Bristol Myers Squibb will donate $1 for every person who goes to their web site and lights a candle to fight AIDS, up to a max of $100,000 (chump change for them, but every little bit helps). We need many more candles lit. Thanks for your help. Please go to this link to light a candle... and help spread the light.
My friend Nancy Bryant sent this email to me. Please pass it on. And apologies for multiple postings.
As World AIDS Day approaches (Dec. 1), we are reminded that millions of people need our help with the AIDS pandemic, but we often think, "What can I do?"
Here is one simple way you can help, and it costs you nothing but a moment and a mouse click.
Bristol Myers Squibb will donate $1 for every person who goes to their web site and lights a candle to fight AIDS, up to a max of $100,000 (chump change for them, but every little bit helps). We need many more candles lit. Thanks for your help.
Please go to this link to light a candle... and help spread the light.https://www.lighttounite.org/
You may have to copy the link to your browser. With best wishes, Nancy Bryant PS I work at CDC in the National Center for HIV/AIDS... Please do this, and pass the email along to your lists. It is important. Thank you.
You may have to copy the link to your browser.
With best wishes, Nancy Bryant
PS I work at CDC in the National Center for HIV/AIDS... Please do this, and pass the email along to your lists. It is important. Thank you.
The researchers spoke with the BBC News about their study and its findings:
Lead researcher Dr Susheela Singh said: "The evidence shows that the health burden of unsafe abortion is large.
"The most effective way of eliminating this highly preventable cause of maternal illness and death, would be to make safe and legal abortion services available and accessible. A second, more immediately achievable, goal is to prevent unintended pregnancies in the first place through improved contraception use."
Also writing in The Lancet, Marge Berer, editor of the journal Reproductive Health Matters, said the study painted a grim picture. "The burden of injury and hospital admission are all the worse for being almost always avoidable. When legal restrictions on abortion are reduced, the rate of deaths and morbidity decreases greatly." . . .
Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said Dr Singh's findings were guesses based on estimates. "The burden of the study is clearly to promote the killing of more unborn babies in poorer countries, regardless of the fact that women do not want abortions," he said.
He also took issue with the notion liberalisation of abortion laws led to a cut in death and disability among pregnant women.
"This is contradicted by hard data from Poland, which imposed new legal restrictions on abortion in the mid 1990s and consequently showed improved maternal and infant health."
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Professor Seth Chandler, Foundation Professor of Law and co-director of the Health Law and Policy Institute at the University of Houston Law Center, has sent along news of an ope Research Faculty Position. Applicants are encouraged to submit applications ASAP. Here is a link to the full job description: http://www.uh.edu/provost/fac_openings/l_law_health04.html
Here is an overview: Health Law & Policy Institute - Research Faculty Position -
The University of Houston Law Center's Health Law & Policy Institute
invites applications for a research faculty position for January 1,
2007 - August 31, 2007.
Applicants should hold the J.D. degree, have an excellent academic
record, and have educational or practical experience with health law
and policy. An additional advanced degree, such as an M.P.H. or
Ph.D., in a health policy-related field or economics is preferred but
not required. Previous experience with grant writing and/or
empirical research methodology is preferred but not required.
Rank and Salary:
The faculty rank (assistant, associate or full professor) will depend
on the applicant's experience and publication record. The salary will
depend on qualifications of up to $41,250 for this time period
(50,000 - 55,000 annually).
Research faculty members work on externally-funded research projects
under the supervision of the Institute Director. Research faculty
positions are not tenure track positions and time in rank does not
apply toward tenure. Reappointment is contingent on performance and
the continued availability of external funding. Research faculty have
no regular teaching responsibilities in the law school but may apply
to teach one course per academic year.
The Health Law & Policy Institute:
The Law Center's Health Law & Policy Institute is recognized as one
of the leading health law programs in the United States. The program
offers over twenty health law courses per year to J.D. and LL.M.
students; students also may participate in interdisciplinary studies
with local universities leading to the M.P.H., M.D., or Ph.D.
(Medical Humanities). Courses are taught by five tenure track faculty
members, one distinguished visiting faculty member, and adjunct
faculty drawn from one of the most sophisticated health law bars in
the United States. The health law program engages in a significant
program of externally sponsored research and currently includes three
research faculty. Houston offers many opportunities for the
successful candidate to engage in interdisciplinary projects. The
Texas Medical Center is the largest medical center in the United
States, with over forty different member institutions. For more
information about the Law Center's health law program, see: http://
The University of Houston and The Law Center:
The University of Houston is a comprehensive research and doctoral
granting public institution, situated on a beautiful 550-acre campus.
The university's diverse student population exceeds 32,500 with over
900 ranked faculty. For more information about the University, see:
The University of Houston Law Center has 52 full-time faculty and
enrolls over 1000 J.D. and over 100 LL.M. students. It is ranked
among the top seventy law schools in the country. For more
information about the Law Center, see: http://www.law.uh.edu/.
Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States with a
vibrant, diverse and growing economy. With an outstanding art museum,
natural history museum, children's museum, health museum, zoo,
professional opera, symphony, and theater, and two major universities
(not to mention at least five professional major league sports
teams), cultural attractions abound. Its ethnic diversity, including
growing Hispanic, and Asian communities, contributes to a
cosmopolitan and international economy, as well as to culinary and
cultural opportunity. The climate during most of the academic year
is sunny and mild. The cost of living is still relatively low, and
attractive housing is available within a short commute. Best Places
to Live places Houston in its top ten.
Interested applicants should submit a current CV and cover letter to:
Nadia Mosqueda, Secretary
Health Law & Policy Institute
University of Houston Law Center
100 Law Center
Houston, TX 77204-6060
Phone: (713) 743-2101.
Fax (713) 743-2117.
Equal Opportunity / Affirmative Action:
The University of Houston is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action
employer. Minorities, women, veterans, and persons with disabilities
are encouraged to apply.