Monday, October 20, 2014

Wicked Weather in Panama City Beach.....But Still a Great Time.

I FINALLY convinced The Dom to join me at the condo last week.  He hadn't been there since our Fourth of July festivities.

We had a very pleasant drive there.  Blue skies and sunshine.  That all changed early evening.

We had one helluva storm!  We actually slept on our sofa bed to enjoy the light show.  It was amazing.

When we woke up on Tuesday morning, we were shocked to see the destruction.  The beach was an absolute mess.  There were chaise lounges scattered all over the place.  Double Red Flags were flying.  (STAY OUT OF THE GULF).

It was obviously not going to be a "beach day", so we decided to walk over to Dee's Hangout for their Tuesday lunch of skillet fried chicken.

Much to our shock we saw horrible damage at our favorite hangout across the street.... Beach Bar and Package.

It's amazing that the windows weren't broken!
Local Storm Coverage

Wednesday and Thursday were spent at one of the pools.  The storm had really messed up the water.

Wouldn't you know it.... on Friday morning as we were ready to leave, the water cleared up.

Anyway, it was fun to see the gang, and I was tickled to get Dom to Panama City Beach!


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Diabetes breakthrough: Human stem cells altered to make insulin

In what could be a major breakthrough for diabetes treatment, scientists have discovered a way to drastically alter human embryonic stem cells, transforming them into cells that produce and release insulin.

Developed by researchers at Harvard University, the innovative new technique involves essentially recreating the formation process of beta cells, which are located in the pancreas and secrete insulin. By stimulating certain genes in a certain order, the Boston Globe reports that scientists were able to charm embryonic stem cells – and even altered skin cells – into becoming beta cells.

The whole process took 15 years of work, but now lead researcher Doug Melton says the team can create hundreds of millions of these makeshift beta cells, and they’re hoping to transplant them into humans starting in the next few years.

"We are reporting the ability to make hundreds of millions of cells — the cell that can read the amount of sugar in the blood which appears following a meal and then squirts out or secretes just the right amount of insulin," Melton told NPR.

There are 29.1 million people in the United States believed to have diabetes, according to statistics by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dating back to 2012. That’s 9.3 percent of the entire population.

Currently, diabetes patients must rely on insulin shots to keep their blood-sugar levels stable, a process that involves continual monitoring and attentiveness. Failure to efficiently control these levels can cause some patients to go blind, suffer from nerve damage and heart attacks, and even lose limbs. If Melton’s beta cell creation process can be successfully applied to humans, it could eliminate the need for such constant check-ups, since the cells would be doing all the monitoring.

Already, there are positive signs moving forward: the transplanted cells have worked wonders on mice, quickly stabilizing their insulin levels.

"We can cure their diabetes right away — in less than 10 days," Melton said to NPR. "This finding provides a kind of unprecedented cell source that could be used for cell transplantation therapy in diabetes."

With mice successfully treated, the team is now working with a scientist in Chicago to put cells into primates, the Globe reported.

Even so, significant obstacles remain, particularly for those who have Type 1 diabetes. With this particular form of the disease, the human immune system actually targets and destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, so Melton’s team is looking into encasing cells inside of a protective shell in order to ensure their safety.

Another hurdle is political, since many are against tinkering with human embryonic stem cells on the grounds that research wipes out human embryos. As a result, scientists are also trying to recreate their work on other types of stem cells.

Regardless, the research – formally published in the Cell journal this week – is being welcomed with open arms.

"It's a huge landmark paper. I would say it's bigger than the discovery of insulin," Jose Olberholzer, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Illinois, told NPR. "The discovery of insulin was important and certainly saved millions of people, but it just allowed patients to survive but not really to have a normal life. The finding of Doug Melton would really allow to offer them really something what I would call a functional cure. You know, they really wouldn't feel anymore being diabetic if they got a transplant with those kind of cells."


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Food Companies Using Monsanto's Products. (GMOs)

VA Braces for a New Front in the Agent Orange Battle

A group of post-Vietnam War veterans say their illnesses are tied to the herbicide. So far, Veterans Affairs isn't buying it.

October 7, 2014 In 2011, Wes Carter was talking to a handful of friends when he realized they had something in common: They all flew on the C-123 planes after the Vietnam War, and they were all sick.

During the Vietnam War, C-123s were used to spray the herbicide Agent Orange. Although the planes were being used for cargo and medical flights by the time Carter served after the war, he and his fellow veterans believe their illnesses—which range from diabetes to cancer—are tied to their time on the planes between 1972 and 1982.

"We were physically scraping goop from nooks and crannies trying to get the thing as clean as possible, because there's quite an odor to it," said Carter, 68, who flew on a C-123 plane and believes that his prostate cancer and heart disease are tied to his time in the service.

So far, C-123 veterans have had little luck getting their disability claims granted.

Last year, C-123 pilot Paul Bailey, who died in October 2013 after suffering from prostate cancer, became the first of Carter's group to get his exposure to Agent Orange recognized without having to seek help from the Board of Veterans Appeals.

"I've said that because they've granted one, that becomes the de facto standard, why not grant them all?" said Thomas Bandzul, a lawyer representing the C-123 veterans.

The Veterans Affairs Department said in a July 2013 letter to Bailey that the "preponderance of the evidence suggests that you were exposed to herbicide onboard the U.S. Air Force C-123K aircraft." But the claims are considered on a case-by-case basis, meaning the decision isn't factored in when VA staff look at other disability requests.

The C-123 crew isn't the first group of veterans to accuse the VA of being unwilling to recognize that their illnesses are tied to Agent Orange exposure. For decades, veterans who served in the Vietnam War tried to get disability compensation, to no avail. It wasn't until almost 20 years after the war that the VA began to link certain illnesses in Vietnam veterans to Agent Orange. They are still pressing the department to cover more illnesses, with former Secretary Eric Shinseki in 2010 tying four more diseases to Agent Orange for Vietnam veterans.

And, as before, the VA and the C-123 veterans each believe they have science on their side.

The VA said in an email that any Agent Orange the C-123 veterans were exposed to would have been solidified, which wouldn't lead to "adverse long-term health effects."

And that's because dried Agent Orange does not "readily penetrate into human skin," meaning it would be difficult for C-123 veterans to absorb Agent Orange into their systems, according to a separate 1991 study cited by the VA.

The VA reviewed that report, and more than a dozen others, throughout 2011 and 2012 and determined that it's unlikely that C-123 veterans were exposed to Agent Orange, and if they were, it was at levels small enough that it wouldn't impact their health.

But there's also a swath of scientific evidence that disagrees with the VA.

Most notably, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the Health and Human Services Department, said in 2013 that it could not "exclude inhalation [or ingestion] exposure to TCDD [commonly referred to as dioxin, a chemical included in Agent Orange] while working on contaminated aircraft." It concluded that "aircrew operating in this, and similar, environments were exposed to TCDD."

The military stopped using the C-123 planes in 1982. In the late '90s, Air Force officials at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio realized that a number of C-123 planes sold to other countries "may have been contaminated by residual pesticides/herbicides" including Agent Orange, according to a 1997 Air Force Security Assistance Center memo.

The memo notes that Air Force Security Assistance Center headquarters staff become aware of the problem after the General Services Administration tried to sell some of the planes in Arizona. One of the planes was determined to be contaminated, and so the Air Force presumed that—unless they had evidence to suggest otherwise—all of the C-123 planes were contaminated.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Republican Sen. Richard Burr and Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, have pressed for the VA to recognize C-123 veterans exposure. But their efforts are largely on hold as Congress grapples with the larger department scandal, and a government agency studies the Agent Orange claims.

The deciding factor could come later this month. The Institute of Medicine is expected to release a report determining if there is "an excess risk of adverse health" for the C-123 crew members.

But if the institute says that the C-123 crews were exposed to harmful levels, it could create more headaches for the VA.

Bandzul said that Alison Hickey, the VA under secretary for benefits, has promised to follow the findings of the institute's report.

But the roughly 2,000 members of the C-123 crews are a small fraction of the more than 22 million total in the veterans community. And granting benefits to the post-Vietnam veterans could give new life to ongoing fights over Agent Orange exposure between the VA and Vietnam veterans who served at sea, also known as blue-water veterans, or those who served on bases where the chemical was stored.

"You could smell the stuff in the air, every time that they fueled a plane. It was unbelievable," Bandzul said. "... So we're wondering if that group [who served on bases where it was stored] is going to be next."

In the meantime, Carter hopes the Institute of Medicine will be fair, but is hesitant to believe that things will improve. "We feel that the deck had been stacked against us," he said. "VA took an adversarial position instead of a neutral position against us"

But Carter argues that if he was able to change his mind on the harms of Agent Orange exposure, the VA should, too. He said he didn't believe exposure was harmful until his father, a Vietnam War veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange, died from prostate cancer.

"The VA even said, 'You have a family history of prostate cancer,' " Carter said. "No, we have a history of being warriors, there's a difference."

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Precious Cat Litter, Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation Team Up to Dust Cancer

Precious Cat Litter and the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) have partnered on a campaign to raise awareness and find a cure for multiple myeloma, a rare form of blood cancer. Kathy Elsey, cofounder of the Englewood, Colo.-based Precious Cat Litter, was diagnosed with the disease in 2009. Since then, she and her husband, Dr. Bruce Elsey, have donated nearly $7 million to the Norwalk, Conn.-based organization.

"This is an opportunity for us to raise awareness for an organization that is making great strides toward finding a cure and advancing treatments for multiple myeloma,” said Dr. Elsey, cofounder of Precious Cat Products.

The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, established in 1998 by twin sisters Karen Andrews and Kathy Giusti after Kathy’s multiple myeloma diagnosis, aims to relentlessly pursue innovative means that accelerate the development of next-generation multiple myeloma treatments to extend the lives of patients and lead to a cure.

The campaign, #CatsAgainstCancer, spans Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the Photala photo sharing platform to enable users to share their individual experiences and support the campaign’s mission.

As part of the campaign, users can download a coupon from the campaign landing page that allows them to save $3 on their next purchase of a 40-pound bag of Precious Cat Ultra Litter. For every $3 saved, Precious Cat will donate $3 to MMRF.

To find out more about the campaign and how you can participate, visit /redirect.aspx?