‘A jury in Florida has awarded the widow of a chain smoker who died of lung cancer 18 years ago record punitive damages of more than $23bn against America’s second-biggest cigarette maker, RJ Reynolds. The judgment, returned on Friday night, was the largest in Florida history in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by a single plaintiff, said Ryan Julison, a spokesman for the woman’s lawyer, Chris Chestnut.
Cynthia Robinson, of Pensacola, sued the cigarette maker in 2008 over the death of her husband, Michael Johnson, claiming the company conspired to conceal the health dangers and addictive nature of its products. Johnson, a hotel shuttle-bus driver who died of lung cancer in 1996 aged 36, smoked between one and three packets a day for more 20 years, starting at age 13, Chestnut said. “He couldn’t quit. He was smoking the day he died,” the lawyer told Reuters on Saturday.’
‘The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been forced to abandon attempts to block a report by government advisers warning that radioactive contamination of military sites across the UK could pose a risk to public health. The report was submitted for publication last October by the 18-member Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (Comare). To the frustration of its authors and the Scottish government, UK ministers have sat on it for the past six months after objections from the MoD. But after the 75-page report was leaked to the Guardian, a decision was taken in Whitehall on Tuesday to publish it early next week. It will reveal that Comare is concerned about radium contamination from the second world war at Dalgety Bay in Fife and at least 25 other sites across the UK.’
‘Kids under 18 can’t buy cigarettes in the U.S., but they can legally work in tobacco fields when they’re as young as 12. One of those kids is Eddie Ramirez, 15, who works the fields in the summer. “It just sticks to my hand,” he says of the plant. “It’s really sticky, you know, and really yellow.” It’s nearly impossible to wash off, he says.
A new report from Human Rights Watch says the practice of children farming tobacco is hazardous and should be stopped. The group interviewed more than 140 kids in 2012 and 2013, including Eddie, who work on tobacco farms in the South. From the sparse mobile home he shares with his mother in Snow Hill, N.C., Eddie describes feeling lightheaded and queasy after a 12-hour day in the tobacco fields.’
A wave of Wall Street stockbrokers and traders are coming down with cancers blamed on the toxic dust and smoke of 9/11. They’re joining ill Ground Zero first-responders in seeking payments from the $2.7 billion federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Of 622 cancer claims approved so far, the fund has awarded $15.5 million to 39 victims, a spokeswoman told The Post.
Officials would not give a breakdown of cancer victims, but 10,800 downtown workers make up the second-largest group of registered claimants after 39,500 Ground Zero responders. There are another 16,600 in smaller categories such as residents, students, child-care and health-care workers. Finance workers engulfed in dust and debris from the Twin Towers’ collapse say the attacks — and returning to Wall Street a week later, when officials insisted it was safe — triggered their diseases.
A December 2013 video that has been picking up attention in medical marijuana advocacy circles points out the benefits of the drug’s active ingredient in cancer treatments.
“We observed that the cannabinoids were very effective in reducing tumor growth,” molecular biologist Christina Sanchez said in the video, first uploaded by Cannabis Planet. “Cells can die in different ways, and after cannabinoid treatment, they were dying in the ‘clean’ way. They were committing suicide, which is something you really want.”
Cannabinoids are a group of natural and man-made chemicals, which include the active ingredients in cannabis, that act upon some receptors within the body. Marijuana.com reported that Sanchez’s work at Compultense University in Madrid, Spain parallels British oncologist Wai Liu’s discovery that THC can “target and switch off” pathways that would otherwise allow tumors to develop.
J. Craig Venter, the man who raced the U.S. government to sequence the first human genome, has a new goal: Help everyone live to 100, in good health. “Our goal is to make 100-years-old the new 60,” said Peter Diamandis, who co-founded with Venter a company that aims to scan the DNA of as many as 100,000 people a year to create a massive database that will lead to new tests and therapies that can help extend healthy human life spans.
Human Longevity Inc. will use machines from Illumina Inc., which has a stake in the company, to decode the DNA of people from children to centenarians. San Diego-based Human Longevity will compile the information into a database that will include information on both the genome and the microbiome, the microbes that live in our gut. The aim is to help researchers understand and address diseases associated with age-related decline. The company, with $70 million in initial funding, will focus first on cancer, according to a statement today.
The World Health Organisation published its World Cancer Report… It is a hefty document of 800 pages which warns of a “tidal wave” of cancer facing the world over the next 20 years… The report identifies several major sources of preventable cancer; they include smoking, infections, alcohol, obesity, radiation and air pollution. Of those sources, infections, radiation and air pollution have been set aside and discussion has zeroed in on the narrow subset of what are being described as “lifestyle choices”. Because to talk about air pollution or infections or radiation would require a discussion of wealth inequalities, of living conditions, of asymmetry of information, of destructive environmental choices. And all that is too difficult.
…In an environment where more and more of us are living in tiny hutches within urban environments, breathing in polluted air, working longer and longer hours of sedentary jobs, with poor access to quality information, exercise space or fresh produce, bombarded 24/7 by advertising telling us to eat and drink the wrong thing, it is a ludicrous position to say that multi-billion corporations and the state can wash their hands of all consequences by telling us “you should have been healthier, you know”.
About half of American adults believe in at least one medical conspiracy theory, according to new survey results. Some conspiracy theories have much more traction than others, however. For example, three times as many people believe U.S. regulators prevent people from getting natural cures as believe that a U.S. spy agency infected a large number of African Americans with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
J. Eric Oliver, the study’s lead author from University of Chicago, said people may believe in conspiracy theories because they’re easier to understand than complex medical information… For the new study, he and his colleague used data from 1,351 adults who answered an online survey between August and September 2013. The data were then weighted to represent the U.S. population. The participants read six popular medical conspiracy theories and then indicated whether they had heard of them and whether they agreed or disagreed with them.
[...] What is puzzling is how we – each one of us – should respond to all this persuasively authoritative information. In some ways cohort studies such as Oxford’s Million Women act as a kind of mirror for every older woman. In a million women, there will be one who is going to be just like us, a little ahead on the amble through life, a pattern from whom we can learn. Where she stumbles over an extra glass of wine while stroking her cat and thus succumbs to a cancer, we can say no and live on.
That’s what’s so alluring about all these studies. The beguiling weight of scientific evidence seems to offer both an individualised glimpse of our future selves and an analytic tool for explaining why our present lives are such rubbish. Every “study” becomes a guide to modern life, a teacher who knows us better than we know ourselves, an analyst who can look into our souls. Where our ancestors relied on the Bible or at least a political philosophy, we can write our biography in studies. They become the measure against which we judge ourselves. Worse, they become the measure we hold other people to. Studies define us, and they define otherness. The more we know about the epidemiology of cancer or obesity, the more stringent we can be in our condemnation of those who refuse to live by the rules.
‘World-renowned political dissident, linguist, author and MITProfessor Noam Chomsky traveled to Japan last week ahead of the three-year anniversary of the Fukushima crisis. Chomsky, now 85 years old, met with Fukushima survivors, including families who evacuated the area after the meltdown. “[It's] particularly horrifying that this is happening in Japan with its unique, horrendous experiences with the impact of nuclear explosions, which we don’t have to discuss,” Chomsky says. “And it’s particularly horrifying when happening to children — but unfortunately, this is what happens all the time.”‘ (Democracy Now!)
Are Any Plastics Safe? Industry Tries to Hide Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Containers: Interview with Mariah Blake
‘A new exposé by Mother Jones magazine may shock anyone who drinks out of plastic bottles, gives their children plastic sippy cups, eats out of plastic containers, or stores food with plastic wrap. For years, public campaigns have been waged against plastic containing bisphenol-A (BPA), a controversial plastic additive, due to concerns about adverse human health effects caused by the exposure to synthetic estrogen. But a new investigation by Mother Jones reporter Mariah Blake has revealed that chemicals used to replace BPA may be just as dangerous to your health, if not more. Plastic products being advertised as BPA-free — and sold by companies such as Evenflo, Nalgene and Tupperware — are still releasing synthetic estrogen. The Mother Jones piece also reveals how the plastics industry has used a “Big Tobacco-style campaign” to bury the disturbing scientific evidence about the products you use every day. Blake joins us to discuss her findings.’ (Democracy Now!)
Health advocates were shocked by the direct and appalling statements attributed to Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers. Published in Businessweek on January 21, 2014 and written by Bloomberg reporter Ketaki Gokhale, a news story about disputes over drug patents ended with an account of the India compulsory license on the cancer drug Nexavar, and practically exploded. Dekker is quoted as saying Bayer did not intend the cancer drug to be sold to cancer patients in India, adding “We developed it for western patients who can afford it.”:
Under India’s patent laws, compulsory licenses can be awarded for some products still under patent if the original isn’t available locally at a reasonable price.
Natco Pharma Ltd. (NTCPH) applied directly to India’s patents office and was awarded the nation’s first compulsory license in March 2012 to make a copy of Bayer’s Nexavar cancer drug at a 97 percent discount to the original product. In March last year, Bayer lost its bid to stop Natco from making the generic drug and is appealing the decision at the Mumbai High Court.
Bayer Chief Executive Officer Marijn Dekkers called the compulsory license “essentially theft.”
“Is this going to have a big effect on our business model?” Dekkers said Dec. 3 at a conference in London. “No, because we did not develop this product for the Indian market, let’s be honest. We developed this product for Western patients who can afford this product, quite honestly. It is an expensive product, being an oncology product.”
Recently, a not-for-profit organization known as Mars One released the list of 1,058 applicants who could be selected for colonization on Mars. Over 200,000 applications were said to have been received by the organization, which aims to “establish human life on Martian soil.”
“We’re extremely appreciative and impressed with the sheer number of people who submitted their applications,” Mars One co-founder Bas Lansdorp was quoted as saying in a press release. “However, the challenge with 200,000 applicants is separating those who we feel are physically and mentally adept to become human ambassadors on Mars from those who are obviously taking the mission much less seriously.”
Those in the former category may want to read a new report regarding the effects of outer space on the human body, however, which states that being in outer space could cause long-term health problems. The report, which was first published in the New York Times, cites multiple negative effects of outer space on the human body, including the swelling that occurs in the human head - due in part to the fact that humans did not evolve outside of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Cenk Uygur’s quote from around two and a half minutes:
I was on MSNBC at the time when this happened, I said, “Don’t trust what the Japanese government is saying, they’ll say trust what the electric power company is saying. Go, go, go, get outta there. Get as far away from that plant as you can. It’s literally a core meltdown.” And they always don’t want people to panic, so they were always like, “Oh it’s going to be okay.” [...] I’m like, “You’re crazy man, don’t be anywhere near that reactor.” And I remember at the time, of course not at The Young Turks, but on cable news, people were like, “Hey Cenk, you know, I don’t know that you want to say that, because the official government position is that it’s safe.” Oh, is that the official government position? Now go explain that to the people who served on the USS Ronald Reagan.
Fifty-one crew members of the USS Ronald Reagan say they are suffering from a variety of cancers as a direct result of their involvement in Operation Tomodachi, a U.S. rescue mission in Fukushima after the nuclear disaster in March 2011. The affected sailors are suing Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), alleging that the utility mishandled the crisis and did not adequately warn the crew of the risk of participating in the earthquake relief efforts.
Crew members, many of whom are in their 20s, have been diagnosed with conditions including thyroid cancer, testicular cancer and leukemia. The Department of Defense says the Navy took “proactive measures” in order to “mitigate the levels of Fukushima-related contamination on U.S. Navy ships and aircraft” and that crew members were not exposed to dangerous radiation levels.
A smoky haze greets customers walking into any of Yangon’s tea shops as patrons light up hand-rolled cigarettes known locally as cheroots.
Elsewhere in Myanmar’s main city, vendors sell cheap cigarettes smuggled from China to drivers stopped at traffic lights. The pavement is painted red with the spit of people chewing tobacco wrapped in betel leaves.
Tobacco is already a problem in this impoverished Southeast Asian country where anti-tobacco legislation is weak. But as Myanmar opens its doors to the world after half a century of military rule, it faces a new threat: Large multinational cigarette companies looking for new markets.
Health leaders from across the Americas have agreed a pledge to cut the number of deaths caused by non-communicable diseases by 25% by the year 2025.
The action plan has been agreed by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). This is a regional body of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the world’s oldest international public health organization, working with all the countries of the Americas to improve health and quality of life.
PAHO says the leading causes of death in the Americas, excluding infections, are preventable. The organization says a common thread runs through the four leading non-communicable diseases: their risks are raised by the same factors.
Common risk factors:
- Tobacco use
- Unhealthy diet
- Physical inactivity
- Excess alcohol.
Member countries from across the Americas have pledged to give priority to non-communicable diseases in their state health and development agendas. PAHO says they have agreed to implement “the necessary policies and programs” to achieve the health organization’s goals.
The following list of objectives has been set for all the health authorities signed up to the Pan American Health Organization’s plan:
- Involve sectors beyond health to promote the prevention of non-communicable diseases, including agriculture, trade, education, labor, finance, the environment, transport and urban development
- Provide universal access to health services for non-communicable diseases
- Reduce tobacco consumption and exposure to second-hand smoke by 30% by the year 2025
- Reduce the impact on children of marketing and advertising of unhealthy foods and sugar-sweetened beverages
- Promote active lifestyles through policies that reduce physical inactivity in adults and adolescents
- Improve access to essential medicines and technologies for detecting, diagnosing, treating and controlling non-communicable diseases and for rehabilitation and palliative care
- Improve surveillance of non-communicable diseases and their risk factors and strengthen research to improve interventions and evaluation of policies and programs.
Member states pledged to work beyond health institutions to “promote dialogue and coordination with other sectors and institutions with a view to ensuring integrated implementation of interventions.” The strategies were approved on October 3rd by the 52nd directing council of PAHO, following a week of deliberations.
- 2011 report on non-communicable diseases (WHO)
- U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health (CPOP)
- American Health Lags Behind Other Countries – Blame the Food! (Natural Society)
- America Has Higher Rate of “Death from All Causes” than 16 Other Developed Nations (Natural Society)
The federal 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund has for the first time paid out cash awards for cancer.
Two claimants — one with bladder cancer, one with urinary-tract cancer — will receive “substantial amounts,” with one award exceeding $1 million, VCF special master Sheila Birnbaum told The Post.
“They are only the first. There are going to be many more,” Birnbaum said.
At least 1,000 cancer claims are in the pipeline, she added.
Here’s a familiar script: medical researchers in the 1950s in a democratic country conduct forgotten experiments which yield no useful data on a vulnerable population. This week’s revelation comes from New York’s skid row, the Bowery. An oncologist from Columbia University recruited alcoholics for his study of prostate cancer by offering them three square meals, a clean bed and free medical treatment if they had cancer. In return they agreed to have a medical biopsy.
What the men were not told was that the biopsy could cause impotence and rectal tears and that treatment would probably involve removal of the prostate and testicles – but would not necessarily prolong their lives. “The failure to provide full informed consent and exposing a vulnerable population to undue risk—are disturbing. Yet the [research was] published in leading medical journals and frequently cited, joining the long list of unethical studies performed in full public view,” says Robert Aronowitz, the author of a highly critical essay in the American Journal of Public Health.
What many commuters choking on smog have long suspected has finally been scientifically validated: air pollution causes lung cancer.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer declared on Thursday that air pollution is a carcinogen, alongside known dangers such as asbestos, tobacco and ultraviolet radiation. The decision came after a consultation by an expert panel organized by IARC, the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, which is based in Lyon, France.
“The air most people breathe has become polluted with a complicated mixture of cancer-causing substances,” said Kurt Straif, head of the IARC department that evaluates carcinogens. He said the agency now considers pollution to be “the most important environmental carcinogen,” ahead of second-hand cigarette and cigar smoke.
IARC had previously deemed some of the components in air pollution such as diesel fumes to be carcinogens, but this is the first time it has classified air pollution in its entirety as cancer causing.
The risk to the individual is low, but Straif said the main sources of pollution are widespread, including transportation, power plants, and industrial and agricultural emissions. Air pollution is a complex mixture that includes gases and particulate matter, and IARC said one of its primary risks is the fine particles that can be deposited deep in the lungs of people.
However, now a top Spanish medical association is saying that users of the e-cigarettes are likely to suffer exactly the same short-term health effects with them as they would with regular tobacco cigarettes.
After his eighth round of chemo, Trai Nguyen is exhausted, his body ravaged. The 60-year-old has a rare and aggressive form of cancer that he believes resulted from his contact with the defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
His doctors believe his cancer may now be in remission, but that is little comfort. “My hands shake violently. I can’t do anything,” he says, sitting on a mattress in the two-bedroom apartment he shares with relatives.
The aftermath of war brought Trai to the United States where he rebuilt his life, but now he’s destitute. His fortunes could have taken a better turn had one thing been different in his past: The uniform he wore during the conflict.
As a soldier in the South Vietnamese army, Trai gathered intelligence that helped American soldiers. He fought alongside the Americans and was exposed to the defoliants that are known to have injured them. But he’s excluded from the compensation and health care afforded to U.S. veterans for the same service-connected disabilities.
At the close of the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was denounced as a ferocious villain for ordering his retreating troops to destroy Kuwaiti oil fields, clotting the air with poisonous clouds of black smoke and saturating the ground with swamps of crude. It was justly called an environmental war crime.
But months of bombing of Iraq by US and British planes and cruise missiles has left behind an even more deadly and insidious legacy: tons of shell casings, bullets and bomb fragments laced with depleted uranium. In all, the US hit Iraqi targets with more than 970 radioactive bombs and missiles.
It took less than a decade for the health consequences from this radioactive bombing campaign to begin to coming into focus. And they are dire, indeed. Iraqi physicians call it “the white death”-leukemia. Since 1990, the incident rate of leukemia in Iraq has grown by more than 600 percent. The situation is compounded by Iraq’s forced isolations and the sadistic sanctions regime, recently described by UN secretary general Kofi Annan as “a humanitarian crisis”, that makes detection and treatment of the cancers all the more difficult.
“We have proof of traces of DU in samples taken for analysis and that is really bad for those who assert that cancer cases have grown for other reasons,” said Dr. Umid Mubarak, Iraq’s health minister.
If you have US$50 billion or so in cash lying around, you can afford to spend some of it on out-there projects. Which is what internet search behemoth Google is doing.
It announced this week that it was launching a new project called Calico, which will investigate the possibility of life-extension. CEO Larry Page says, “Illness and aging affect all our families. With some longer term, moonshot thinking around healthcare and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives.”
Google’s interest in health is not new. In 2008 it introduced a medical records service, Google Health, but that sputtered out in 2011. Nothing daunted, it has invested in the gene-sequencing company 23andMe, which was co-founded by the wife of Google co-founder Sergei Brin, Anne Wojcicki. And earlier this year, Apple Chairman and former Genentech CEO Art Levinson and Brin joined Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and a Russian entrepreneur, Yuri Milner, in organizing the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, to “recognize excellence in research aimed at curing intractable diseases and extending human life.” It is the largest science award in the world.
The commission that vets cases of euthanasia in the Netherlands says cases rose by 13 percent in the Netherlands in 2012 from 2011, the sixth consecutive year of increases.
Doctor-administered euthanasia for terminally ill people facing unbearable suffering was legalized in the Netherlands in 2002. For several years, the reported number of cases declined, but since 2006 they have risen steadily. In 2012, 4,188 cases were recorded, or approximately 3 percent of all deaths in the Netherlands — a record, and up from 1,923 in 2006.
Most cases are due to cancer.
The commission said in its annual report published Tuesday the reasons for the increase cannot be determined with certainty. Leading theories include a growing awareness and acceptance of the practice among both Dutch doctors and patients.
Japan is to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into building a frozen wall around the Fukushima nuclear plant to stop leaks of radioactive water.
Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said an estimated 47bn yen ($473m, £304m) would be allocated.
The leaks were getting worse and the government “felt it was essential to become involved to the greatest extent possible”, Mr Suga said.
The plant was crippled by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The disaster knocked out cooling systems to the reactors, three of which melted down.
Water is now being pumped in to cool the reactors, but storing the resultant large quantities of radioactive water has proved a challenge for plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco).
OTHER FUKUSHIMA NEWS:
- Fukushima radiation levels ’18 times higher’ than thought (BBC)
- TEPCO Using Wrong Equipment To Test For Radiation? (BBC)
- Japanese Government Trying To Quiet Fears About Radiation Leaks (BBC)
- TEPCO Is Trying To Reassure People It’s All Under Control (CCTV)
- “Tepco Has Lost Control” – What Is Really Happening At Fukushima In Four Charts (Zero Hedge)
- Fukushima radioactive plume to hit the U.S. by early 2014 (Clean Technica)
- FLASHBACK: Nearly 50 U.S. Nuclear Power Plants Are Leaking Radioactive Tritium (Gizmodo)
- Russia Offers Fukushima Cleanup Help as Tepco Reaches Out (Bloomberg)
- Governor: N-crisis shouldn’t affect Tokyo Olympic bid (Press TV)
- Mr. Yamashita: ‘If you are smiling, you will not have any radiation effect’
- Fukushima operator reveals leak of 300 tonnes of highly contaminated water (Guardian)
- Emergency Level At Fukushima Raised From 1 To 3 (CNN)
- TEPCO Apologizes For Radioactive Water Leaking Into The Pacific (NHK)
- Scientists Call For More Radiation Testing Of Fish Caught Off U.S. West Coast (KONG TV)
- Japan’s nuclear crisis deepens, China expresses ‘shock’ (Reuters)
- Vast Amounts Of Radioactive Water Creeping Towards Sea (TPM)