Fore! Is That a Golf Ball in My Hash Browns?

mcCain Hash Browwns

Foods get recalled for an assortment of (sometimes odd) reasons – but because they may contain pieces of golf balls? CNN reported Sunday that McCains announced a recall over the weekend of several brands of hash brown potatoes because, as the company put it, “they may contain extraneous golf ball materials” – from balls (or pieces thereof) grabbed along with the spuds during the harvesting process.

It’s not uncommon for farm land to be re-purposed for other uses, but it says something – what, we’re not sure! – when a golf course’s greens are replaced by fields of brown potatoes. If, in fact, that’s what happened in this instance. Or perhaps someone was randomly firing golf balls into a potato field.

A statement on the FDA website says: “McCain Foods USA, Inc. announced today it is voluntarily recalling retail, frozen hash brown products that may be contaminated with extraneous golf ball materials, that despite our stringent supply standards may have been inadvertently harvested with potatoes used to make this product. Consumption of these products may pose a choking hazard or other physical injury to the mouth.

The impacted products include the following: Roundy’s Brand, 2 lb. Bag of Frozen Southern Style Hash Browns (UPC 001115055019) and Harris Teeter Brand, 2 lb. Bag of Frozen Southern Style Hash Browns (UPC 007203649020).

The Roundy’s products were distributed at Marianos, Metro Market, and Pick ‘n Save supermarkets in the states of Illinois and Wisconsin. The Harris Teeter products were distributed in the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia and Maryland. Distribution occurred after the date of January 19, 2017. No other products under the respective brands are impacted by this recall.

The products being recalled were manufactured on January 19, 2017. The production code date is B170119 and can be found on the back of the packaging. Any product with a different production code date is not impacted by this recall.

Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

There have been no reported injuries associated with the consumption of this product.”

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Star Athlete Aubrey Lewis Died 15 Years Ago Yesterday

aubrey-lewis

Yesterday (December 10) was the 15th anniversary of the death of Aubrey Lewis, a star athlete (who may or may not have cheated his way onto his high school football team) and a member, in 1962, of the first Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) class to include blacks.

Wikipedia reports how he may have stretched the truth to get on his high school football team: “When he first tried out for the Montclair (New Jersey) Mounties team, a doctor performing a physical exam detected a rapid heart rate. Lewis, who had had a heart murmur since childhood, said, ‘Oh, I ran all the way here from my house.’ He was allowed to play.”

During his football career there, he scored 49 touchdowns and rushed for nearly 4,900 yards while helping lead his team to two state championships. He also played on undefeated basketball teams, The New York Times noted in his obituary.

It’s no wonder he was offered scholarships by 200 colleges!

He chose Notre Dame, where, after using the same ‘trick’ as he had to get on his high school team (he told the college doc he’d run to the exam all the way from his dorm), he played halfback for two years. He also participated in track and field events, and set state records in three different events – and was the first black to be named captain of a sports team at Notre Dame.

He was chosen to play professionally in the 1958 player draft, but an ankle injury prevented him from pursuing that career path.

Unable to play football any longer, he took up teaching, back in his home state of New Jersey. He taught in his hometown (Montclair) as well as Newark and Patterson before, in 1962, he was recruited by the FBI, becoming a member of that agency’s first class to include African Americans.

Five years later, he was offered a position at Woolworth’s as an executive recruiter. He remained with that company, rising to the rank of senior vice president, until he retired in 1995.

Shortly thereafter, though, that heart murmur caught up with him, and eventually contributed to his death in 2001. He was 66.

Shady Practice Sees ERs, Docs Billing Patients Separately

emergency-room

It’s hard to decide which is worse: The fact that this problem exists, or the fact that Congress seems disinclined to fix it.

The problem, as reported on by The New York Times, is being billed after an emergency room visit by the doctor(s) who treated you because, while the visit itself was covered by your major medical insurance, the service of the doctor(s) was not. Why? Because they aren’t employed by the ER, but work there as contractors not recognized by your health care plan.

I ran into an odd variation on that theme some years ago when I went to a certain hospital in White Plains NY for an x-ray – only to be billed, a few weeks later, for the reading of the x-rays, apparently because the x-ray reader was a contractor not recognized by my health care coverage company. (This actually happened on more than one occasion.)

Arguing the absurdity of that situation, because an x-ray is useless unless it is read, I simply refused to pay the bill. ‘Never heard from them again! And rightly so.

My point to the hospital and the x-ray reader was, ‘This is between you; Don’t try to drag me into your territorial dispute or whatever it is. With those ‘others,’ I didn’t play well at all, at least not by their rules.

Health-care billing in the U.S. has become ludicrously complicated, with patients being, for the most part, totally unable to comprehend why they are being billed X for Y service. Consequently, I have developed a not-altogether-fair, very cavalier attitude to the original ‘overage’ bills I receive and all the subsequent follow-up bills from the provider organization and, eventually, one, another or a series of bill collectors: I ignore them.

I assume, at this point, one of three things to be the truth: [1] I’m an exception to the rule, and most people simply pay up – or the system could have collapsed by now (as I’ve been ignoring bills for years!); or [2] the bill collecting system truly is broken, and uncompensated hospitals and and doctors are living on borrowed time; or [3] somewhere in the collection system someone came to the realization that I was either unfairly billed – not a likely possibility, from the biller’s perspective – or mine was a bad debt that needed to be written off.

I consider [3], particular the second possibility under it, to represent the least likely scenario of those I’ve listed. The most likely scenario, I fear, is that the collections system truly is broken. But the billing system is, too, with people being charged outrageous sums for the likes of a couple of aspirins, the equivalent of a consumer level ‘Band-Aid’, or a charge for a television one was too ill to watch.

The likelihood that the latter supposition is correct is pointed to, indirectly, in the Times article, which noted that when the subject patient went to one of those billing him and asked for a reduction in the bill, it was halved! Clearly, it was unnecessarily high in the first place.

But now (not a moment too soon, I imagine you’re thinking), on to the second concern: That Congress seems to be totally disinclined to address an issue that, for complicated reasons, is best dealt with at the national level, as opposed to local ones.

Lloyd Doggett, a Democratic Congressman from Texas, last year introduced a bill that would require hospitals and doctors working in them to be ‘related,’ for billing purposes. (As you’d suspect, the legislative proposal is far more complex than that!) But as The Times put it, “he experienced a ‘healthy dose of indifference’ from his colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee” – the elite group responsible for seeing that money-related bills do, or don’t, move forward to the Congress as a whole.

Doggett plans to reintroduce the bill, but he’ll be doing so into a climate probably more, not less, likely to move the issue along – thanks to party and representative shifts created by the just-past (but hardly forgotten!) elections.

As has been noted elsewhere – a lot of elsewheres – lately, members of the American Congress are great at paying lip-service to serving the public, the people who elect them, but the members of that august body tend to vote where the money is. And on issues such as this one and most others, there are few lobbyists for John Q. Public, but a whole lot (with gobs of money) speaking out in favor of the status quo, or, at the least, again any idea that might upset it.

The patient cited in The Times article was seen by a doctor who “gave him some medication and tests, and let him go.” Shortly thereafter, the guy was billed for $1,620. And that, of course, doesn’t have anything do with what the ER billed and was paid.

The guy’s appeal to the doctor’s private practice, the group that had billed him, was successful, but only to a point:

They knocked half off the bill,” he told the paper. “Which is great. It’s like, would you rather get punched four times or two times? I guess two times is better.

But hardly better than being treated fairly in the first place!

 

Worsening Air Pollution In Africa Costs Many Lives, Untold Sums

airpollution

Air pollution in parts of Africa has reached near crisis levels. The Guardian reported recently that between 1990 and 2013, deaths from airborne particulate matter increased 35% across the continent. Deaths from polluted air in houses also increased during that period, but ‘only’ by 18%, a researcher at the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development told the paper.

The air pollution problem has become so bad that it is resulting in more premature deaths than either unsafe water or childhood nutrition issues. A study by a global policy forum has found that at current rates of increase in outdoor and indoor pollution, a number of African countries appear to be headed for crisis conditions not unlike those found in China and India. (Schools were closed for three days earlier this month in Delhi, India, because the air pollution was so bad, the BBC reported on November 6th.)

delhi-air

The worst pollution in Delhi air in 17 years.  Getti Images via The BBC

Exhaust fumes are a large contributor to the problem, as are open cooking fires, power plants and the burning of rubbish – a widespread practice because, as one wag put it a few decades ago, “there’s no such place as ‘away’” when stuff is discarded: Once thrown out, most waste tends to stay ‘there’ for very long periods of time, and as more and more stuff is thrown out, viable storage areas become fewer and fewer.

By one measure, Onitsha, Nigeria, is the world’s most polluted city. By another measure, that dubious title goes to Zabol, in eastern Iran, on that country’s border with Afghanistan.)

For Africa as a whole, the estimated economic cost of premature air pollution deaths in 2013 was roughly $215bn (£175bn) a year for outdoor air pollution, and $232bn for household, or indoor, air pollution.

“This mega-trend is set to continue to unfold throughout this century<, says Rana Roy, the author of one study on the problem. “It suggests that current means of transportation and energy generation in African cities are not sustainable,” said Roy. “Alternative models to those imported from industrialized economies, such as dependence on the individual automobile, are necessary.

“It is striking that air pollution costs in Africa are rising in spite of slow industrialization, and even de-industrialization in many countries. Should this latter trend successfully be reversed, the air pollution challenge would worsen faster, unless radically new approaches and technologies were put to use.

“The ‘new’ problem of outdoor air pollution is too large to be ignored or deferred to tomorrow’s agenda. At the same time, Africa cannot afford to ignore the ‘old’ problem of household pollution or to consider it largely solved: it is only a few high-income countries – Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritius, Morocco, Seychelles and Tunisia – that can afford to view the problem of air pollution as being a problem of outdoor particulate pollution alone.”

The study stresses that there is not nearly enough knowledge of the sources of air pollution and its impact in much of Africa. It quotes UK scientist Mathew Evans, professor of atmospheric chemistry at York University, who is leading a large-scale investigation of air pollution in west Africa.

“London and Lagos have entirely different air quality problems. In cities such as London, it’s mainly due to the burning of hydrocarbons for transport. African pollution isn’t like that. There is the burning of rubbish, cooking indoors with inefficient fuel stoves, millions of steel diesel electricity generators, cars which have had the catalytic converters removed and petrochemical plants, all pushing pollutants into the air over the cities. Compounds such as sulphur dioxide, benzene and carbon monoxide, that haven’t been issues in western cities for decades, may be a significant problem in African cities. We simply don’t know.”

Whereas China has reached a level of development that has allowed it to concentrate on solving air pollution, most African countries must grapple with several major environmental burdens at the same time, said the report.

Wind Poses Threat To Cyclists Hearing

cyclist

BOOM! BANG! Such sounds, and even wind noise, if loud enough, can pose hearing-damage risks to cyclists, a new study says.

While cycling – on bicycles, as opposed to motorcycles – has long been heralded as a good source of exercise and an excellent excuse to dress in funny outfits, often decorated with non-sponsoring sponsors’ badges, it’s never before been cited, to our knowledge, as a potential source of hearing damage.

But there you are: Researchers are going all sorts of strange places these days.

The research was conducted by study co-leader Dr. Anna Wertz and colleagues in, of all places, Detroit, Michigan (home of Henry Ford’s pioneering automobile plant), under the auspices of Henry Ford Hospital, where Dr. Wertz is an otolaryngologist. (That’s a popular one in the ‘list of hard-to-pronounce words’!)

For the cycling-related study, microphones were attached to cyclists’ ears to measure wind noise at various speeds. Wind noise ranged from 85 decibels at 15 mph to 120 decibels at 60 mph.

“These findings are important because noise-induced hearing loss can begin with sounds at or above 85 decibels,” said study co-leader Dr. Anna Wertz. How loud is that? Heavy city traffic registers 85 decibels; an ambulance siren or a clap of thunder from a nearby storm can reach 120 decibels, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

“Short-term exposure to loud sounds isn’t likely to have a lasting effect on hearing, but prolonged or repeated exposure can lead to permanent damage,” Wertz added in a hospital news release.

 

Blast, Fires Hit World’s Largest Chemical Complex; At Least 2 Dead, 6 Injured 2 Missing

basf_fire

The headquarters of the world’s largest chemical company, BASF, was hit earlier today by an explosion and numerous fires — none caused by terrorists. The incidents, at Ludwigshafen, Germany, killed at least two people and injured a number of others, and at 2:55 p.m. EDT, nearly 12 and a half hours after 11:30 a.m. (local time) incident, the situation remained in flux, with fires still burning and some degree of confusion on the ground, according to various wire reports. At the time of the blast, workmen were modifying a pipeline used to carry flammable liquids and liquefied gas to a tank at a harbor near one of the complex’s numerous plants. Chemicals used in the plant to produce the likes of eytylene, propylene and hydrogen are supplied through that harbor.

Residents of several nearby towns were encouraged to close their windows and stay indoors as thick black blanketed the area and fires were still burning.

 

 

Young Footballers’ Head Injury Risk Highest In Practice, Not Games

 

 

Not only are players of American football who are between six and 14 years of age at risk for head injuries, a recent study revealed they are more at risk of high-impact injuries during practice sessions than during actual games.

“High-magnitude head impacts are more likely to result in concussion,” said study co-author Steven Rowson, an assistant professor with Virginia Tech’s Center for Injury Biomechanics.

It’s estimated that up to 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur each year, the study authors said. And, football has been linked to the highest risk of brain injuries in team sports, according to the study.

While most research has focused on high school, college and professional football players, kids 14 and under are estimated to make up 70 percent of all football players in the United States.

And, those youngsters may be more at risk than older players, one expert noted.

“We know that kids in general — particularly adolescents — take longer on average than adults to recover from concussion,” said Anthony Kontos. He’s the research director with the Sports Medicine Concussion Program at the University of Pittsburgh.

“We don’t yet know the effects of concussions on the maturation and developmental processes in the brains of children and adolescents,” he explained.

Rowson noted that research such as this study can help develop better prevention approaches. “And by reducing players’ exposure to these impacts, concussions in youth football can be reduced.”

The new study hoped to understand when football players in the 6-14 age group suffer the most head impacts.

To find the answer, researchers outfitted 34 players on two teams in Blacksburg, Va., with helmet devices that measure the movement of the head in impacts. The average age of the children was 10.

The researchers tracked almost 7,000 impacts. Of those, 408 (6 percent) had the highest accelerations. Tackling and blocking drills accounted for 86 percent of all these high-level impacts, even though they made up just 22 percent of practice time.

“We found that impact rates between practices and games were largely consistent,” said study author Eamon Campolettano. He’s a graduate student at Virginia Tech.

“However, teams practice significantly more than they play games. This means that players are exposed to a greater number of head impacts in practice than in games,” Campolettano said.

A drill called “King of the Circle” produced the most head impacts (25 to 68 per hour).

“In King of the Circle, all players but one stand in a large circle,” Campolettano said. “The remaining player is in the middle of the circle and rushes at a player on the perimeter. Each player gets three opportunities to be the rusher in this drill.”

Should this particular drill be eliminated? The rate of high magnitude impacts,”are very different than what players experience during games, suggesting it may not be necessary to practice this drill,” Rowson added.

What about eliminating other kinds of drills that cause head impacts? Kontos cautioned that concussions can occur at lower magnitudes than the highest level in the study.

“And, there are times when very high magnitudes do not result in concussion,” Kontos said. Indeed, none of the players suffered a concussion during the time of the study.

Instead of eliminating tackling drills, he said, “teams and coaches can use progressive approaches to teach proper tackling technique as advocated by USA Football and other programs.”

“Importantly, we want to teach kids safe tackling technique with limited exposure to impacts to the brain. But it should be in a way that allows kids to then tackle properly when they play games, which are faster and involve a more dynamic environment,” Kontos said.

Another option is to eliminate youth football entirely or encourage parents to take their kids out of the game. But Kontos disagrees with this approach.

“We need to balance concerns about concussion risk in sports with the benefits from playing youth sports including improved cardiovascular health, maintaining a healthy weight, and psychosocial benefits such as teamwork and self-confidence,” Kontos said.

The study appears online Aug. 23 in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics.