Boing Boing 

Bee diarrhea conference underway

An amusing headline, but a serious problem for beleaguered beekeepers in England: "According to committee member David McLarin, nosema is becoming more prevalent in the South West and that is not good news as bees with the problem hardly produce any honey." [Exeter Express via Fortean Times]

Working causes death, warns science

"Get a life," warns the Economist. "Or face the consequences."

Where did all that quack-cure radium end up?


Glenn Fleishman writes, "A responsible dealer of the radioactive element radium, a substance once pushed widely as a quack cure, tried to keep the genie in the bottle. Theresa Everline explains that in the first half of the 20th century, Frank Hartman, known as the Radium Hound, kept track of accidents and incompetence in handling radium. His diaries reveal that radium lingers in forgotten places."

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Silver Ring Splints: stylish custom jewelry/medical appliance for people with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome


Ask-a-Zebra has Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS), which makes her joints and muscles prone to painful dislocation. In a great post, she documents her experience with Silver Ring Splints, custom-made jewelry that stabilizes her hand and helps her write and type -- while looking absolutely awesome.

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BART riders may have been exposed to measles

FYI, Bay Area readers — if you rode BART between February 4 and February 7, you may have been exposed to measles by an unvaccinated student who picked up the disease on a trip to Asia. Symptoms are similar to those of a cold, plus a rash. If this matches anything you (even adults who have been vaccinated could probably use a booster) or your children have been experiencing, call a doctor.

State Department, Duluth hospital attempting to deport man in a coma

Three months ago, Pakistani exchange student Muhammad Shahzaib Bajwa was injured in a car wreck. He's been in a coma ever since, in a hospital in Duluth, Minn. Now, his family fears he will be deported while comatose — stuck on a plane with little medical aide and delivered to an area of Pakistan that doesn't have the medical infrastructure he needs. What's more, this kind of thing apparently happens all the time. UPDATE: There seems to be a lot of miscommunication happening in this case between the hospital, the State Department, and the family of Muhammad Bajwa. Case in point, the State Department has since told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that they are not seeking to deport Bajwa, which seems to go counter to what the hospital understood and, possibly, what they told the Bajwas.

Fax Your GP: quick opt-out from insane NHS plan to sell your medical records


The UK National Health Service has initiated a plan to take the nation's private health records and sell them off to private companies in a process overseen by notorious multinational bumblewads ATOS. If you live in the UK England, your records -- mental health records, prescriptions, records of surgeries including abortions, and other sensitive personal information -- will be handed over to a wide-ranging group of companies all over the world.

Unless you opt out. And opting out isn't easy. There's no central place to opt out. Instead, you have to send a letter to your GP's surgery, which means you have to look up your GP's surgery's address, compose a legally sufficient letter, print it out, find an envelope and a stamp -- etc.

However! There's a better way. A group of volunteers whom I trust implicitly, including the astounding Stef Magdalinski (who made the Faxyourmp service that is the ancestor of Theyworkforyou) have created Fax Your GP, a dead-simple form that will look up your GP's fax number for you, create a form opt-out letter you can fill in in just a few easy steps, and then they'll fax that letter directly to your GP's surgery. I just opted out.

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Giant sponge-filled syringe for plugging gunshot wounds


XStat's Rapid Hemostasis System is a giant syringe filled with pellet-shaped sterile sponges doped with hemostatic agents for squiring directly into shotgun gunshot wounds. Within 15 seconds, the sponges absorb blood and expand, staunching the wound.

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UK set to sell sensitive NHS records to commercial companies with no meaningful privacy protections - UPDATED

The UK government's Health and Social Care Information Centre quietly announced plans to share all patient records held by the National Health Service with private companies, from insurers to pharmaceutical companies. The information sharing is on an opt-out basis, so if you don't want your "clinical records, mental health consultations, drug addiction rehabilitation details, dsexual health clinic attendance and abortion procedures" shared, along with your "GP records, HS numbers, post-codes, gender, date of birth," you need to contact your doctor and opt out of the process.

This is a complex issue. Large data-sets are the lifeblood of epidemiology and evidence-based care and policy, and the desire to extract useful health information from this data is a legitimate one.

However, it's clear that no one involved in the process gives a damn about privacy. These data-sets -- which will be sold on the open market to commercial operators -- are "anonymized" and "pseudonymized" through processes that don't work, have never worked, and are well-documented to be without any basis in reality.

And that's the thing that brings the whole enterprise out of the realm of legitimate scientific project and into the realm of corporatist hucksterism. Once the architects of this project announced that its privacy protections would be based on junk science, they lost any claim they had to operating in good faith.

Effectively, the managers of this programme have said, "We can't figure out how to protect the most private, potentially damaging facts of your life, so we're not going to try." It is pure cynicism, and it makes me furious. It brings the whole field of evidence-based medicine into disrepute. It is a scandal. And as it goes ahead, it will spectacularly destroy the lives of random people in the UK through the involuntary, totally foreseeable disclosure of health information, in ways that make the general public leery of any participation in this kind of inquiry.

If you set about to discredit the open data movement, you could do no better than this.


Update: As if that wasn't bad enough, Noemi adds, "The contract for handling and managing the care data has been given to ATOS. This is the same company whose disability benefit assessment has been found to be flawed and unacceptable in 40% of cases by the Audit Commission." Here's more.

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Horrific plague causes starfish to tear themselves to pieces

A mysterious plague has manifested in the world's starfish population, quickly spreading to several regions in which starfish (also called "sea stars") are found. Starfish afflicted with the disease tear themselves to pieces, the arms crawling in opposite directions until the animals are literally torn to pieces. Unlike healthy starfish, the affected animals are not able to regenerate after they are torn apart.

The disease is largely a mystery. Researchers who are studying it are asking beach-walkers to photograph any starfish they see to tweet photos of it with the #sickstarfish tag. Starfish are important marine predators; a serious depletion of their numbers will have far-reaching consequences for marine ecosystems.

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Med school students assigned to improve most-used medical Wikipedia entries

Dr. Amin Azzam who teaches at the UCSF school of medicine, has created an elective for his fourth year students in which they are assigned to improve the most-used medical Wikipedia entries. Students are given Wikipedia orientation and taught how to be good participants in the project. This is especially relevant given the fact that Wikipedia is the most-used reference among doctors and medical students. The students prioritize the most-cited, most-visited entries, and they are working with wikipedians to have these entries translated into many other languages, as well as adapting it for the "simple English" version of Wikipedia.

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North Carolina's Lake Norman Regional Medical Center charges patient $81,000 for $750 worth of snakebite medicine

Eric Ferguson of Mooresville, NC was given a bill for $89,000 by Lake Norman Regional Medical Center, which treated him for a venomous snake-bite last August. Included in the itemized bill from the hospital was a $81,000 charge for four doses of anti-venom -- the same anti-venom that can be had on Ebay for $750. The hospital and Ferguson's insurer settled for $20,227, of which Ferguson paid $5,400.

Ferguson does not fault the standard of care at the hospital ("beyond phenomenal"), but he is understandably curious about the $80,000+ markup on the medicine with which he was treated. The hospital itself is already under investigation for overbilling.

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Lighting scars on eyes of man blinded by electric shock

A case study in the New England Journal of Medicine details the tragic story of an electrician who received a shock of 14,000V and was blinded as part of his injuries. Accompanying the article is this striking photo of the scars on his eyes, which resemble the plasma ball effects, the sort of thing you'd expect from a science fiction movie.

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Korean plastic surgeon removes towering jars of excised jawbones after fine

A Gangnam, Seoul plastic surgeon who did a roaring trade in excising womens' jawbones to give them V-shaped chins was forced to remove the towering jars of thousands of jawbone fragments with which he decorated his office. Photos of the jars spread online, resulting in a visit from a local official, who fined the surgeon about $3000 and ordered the display removed.

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Join Patrick Costello for a jam session at Johns Hopkins when his hearing implants kick in

Copyfighting banjo teacher Patrick Costello writes, "A few years back you posted about the surgery I had to restore my hearing. Well, doctors at Kohns Hopkins had to replace my original BAHA implant and while they were at it they installed a second BAHA on my left side. On February fourth the devices will be activated and - here is the cool part, given that I'm a musician - I will have something like stereo hearing for the first time since I was a child."

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$1.6M for man who repeatedly anal-probed by NM cops who thought he had drugs

Remember David Eckert, the New Mexico man who got multiple anal probes after a cop decided he must be hiding drugs because a dog "alerted" on him? Well, he's gotten $1.3 million out of the city and county. He's still suing the hospital for its role in his nonconsensual, warrantless enemas, colonoscopy, X-ray, and forced public defecation. If they won't settle, he's prepared to go to a jury trial. You get the impression that Eckert is out to make a point here: if your town cops and/or doctors participate in illegal, sadistic war-on-drugs torture, the victims will take all your money and destroy you, so cut it the fuck out. Techdirt's Tim Cushing has more:

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Health Canada scientists setting up unofficial libraries as national libraries fail

More from the Canadian Harper government's War on Libraries (see also: literally burning the environmental archives). Dave writes, "Health Canada scientists are also facing difficulties with government controlled libraries. It takes an insanely long time for them to receive any materials due to third-party delivery companies; they've started opening up their own unsanctioned libraries and have started taking advantage of external sources (industry and universities). This is turning into an insane story. There's obviously demand for the material within government circles, but policy and cuts are making it impossible to access, resulting in statistics of diminished use, which results in more cuts."

Health Canada used to have 40 librarians. Now it has six.

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Skinless CT scanners are wonderfully science-fictional

It turns out that if you remove the cowling from a CT scanner, you get something that looks like a cross between a Stargate and a whirling Katamari Damacy. It's pretty mesmerizing to watch.

Nostril-wedged maggots of Portsmouth: Otorhinolaryngologist's expert opinion explained

More on yesterday's story about a nasal-wedged maggot scare in Portsmouth, RI's middle school (refresher: the Portsmouth Middle School sent parents a terrifying letter warning of a student Smartie-snorting epidemic and predicting that children would end up with maggots in their noses that feasted upon the sugar residue).

John McDaid, the investigative blogger who broke the story, tracked down Dr. Oren Friedman, Associate Professor, Otorhinolaryngology at the University of Pennsylvania, who was quoted in the letter the school sent home as warning that "frequent snorting could even rarely lead to maggots feeding on the sugary dust wedged inside the nose."

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Medical makers: 3D printed prostheses, junkbot operating theaters, and networked mutual aid


In Paging Dr. MacGyver, Julian Smith profiles a wide range of medical makers, from patients to carers to doctors, each of whom has homebrewed some important piece of medical or therapeutic equipment. From DIY prosthetic limbs to the wonderful Dr Oluyombo Awojobi, whose rural Nigerian clinic is graced with a collection of his brilliant improvised devices built from scrap, Smith makes the case for a networked world where medical needs, ingenuity, and a spirit of mutual aid and collaboration are offering new opportunities for making each other healthy.

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Maker doctor builds his own rural hospital equipment out of scrap

Dr Oluyombo Awojobi founded the hospital at Eruwa, Nigeria, a rural location without consistent access to electricity. Dr Awojobi is an accomplished maker, and over 27 years, he's built a variety of vital medical apparatus out of scrounged materials.

His guiding principles are that devices should be simple and easy to repair, and should not require access to off-site power to run.

He's built an operating table with a foot-pumped jack to raise and lower it, a bike-powered centrifuge, a pedal-powered suction pump made from an inner tube, a corn-cob-powered boiler made from an old propane tank, and more.

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Tremor-correcting steadicam cutlery

Liftlabs makes a $300 cutlery handle that uses stabilization technology to cancel out tremors (such as those arising from Parkinson's disease). It's based on steadicam technology, and in a clinical trial was about 70 percent effective.

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As kids' accidental ODs rise, FDA still won't mandate flow restrictors in medicine bottles


In America, more under-6 kids go to the emergency room from accidental overdose than from car-accidents -- they get hold of medicine and drink the whole bottle. Since 2007, epidemiologist Dr Daniel Budnitz has campaigned for the use of flow-restrictors in children's medicine bottles, which dramatically reduce the likelihood of an OD; manufacturers started adding restrictors to acetaminophen in 2011, but stopped there.

Flow restrictors have not been added to bottles of antihistamines, ibuprofen, and cough and cold preparations -- even where they contain the same concentration of acetaminophen as plain acetaminophen tinctures. These other medicines account for about half of all overdoses by small children.

In a long, investigative piece, Pro Publica and Consumer Reports exhaustively document the effectiveness of restrictors, the intransigence of bottom-line-focused pharmaceutical manufacturers, and the real risks of children's medicine overdoses.

An FDA mandate would solve the problem of liquid overdose at the stroke of a pen, but the FDA refuses, preferring a voluntary approach that is demonstrably not working -- and putting kids at risk. The incidence of overdose in small children is not only widespread -- it's rising. Flow-restrictors are cheap, effective low-hanging fruit. Restrictors were invented to improve dosing and reduce spills in adult medicine, and are thus of benefit to everyone, not just parents.

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Laughter is the worst medicine


A paper in the British Medical Journal reviewed the literature on harms arising from laughter and produced a wide-ranging list of laughing-related dangers, from asthma attacks to cerebral tumors. The authors concluded "Laughter is not purely beneficial. The harms it can cause are immediate and dose related, the risks being highest for Homeric (uncontrollable) laughter."

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Severed hand grafted to ankle, reattached to wrist a month later


When Xiao Wei's right hand was severed in an industrial accident, doctors at a hospital in Changde, China, grafted it to his ankle. The blood supply from his ankle kept the hand alive and viable on the seven-hour journey to a larger hospital with better facilities, where it was removed a month later from his ankle and reattached to his wrist. It's not clear whether he'll regain the use of his hand, but doctors are hopeful.

Severed hand saved after being attached to man’s ankle [Metro]

(via JWZ)

(Image: Rex)

Carjackers doomed to die in petty theft gone horribly wrong

Two days ago, a truck carrying a container of radioactive cobalt-60 (enough to make a dirty bomb) was stolen by carjackers off a highway near Tijuana. Today, authorities found the truck. The thieves probably aren't terrorists, just some guys who wanted a truck with a crane attached to it. But, at some point, they opened the container of cobalt-60 and will now almost certainly die from radiation exposure.

Incredibly Interesting Authors 003: Paleo Manifesto author John Durant

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John Durant is a leader of the growing ancestral health movement. Durant studied evolutionary psychology at Harvard prior to founding Paleo NYC and Barefoot Runners NYC, the largest Paleo and barefoot running groups in the world. In his new book The Paleo Manifesto: Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health, Durant argues for an evolutionary – and revolutionary – approach to health. Blending science and culture, anthropology and philosophy, Durant distills the lessons from his adventures and shows how apply them to day-to-day life. He blogs at HunterGatherer.com.

Here's my interview with John in the third episode of my new podcast, Incredibly Interesting Authors.

Incredibly Interesting Authors: RSS | iTunes | Download this episode

Health Canada outs 40,000 medical marijuana users


Due to an "administrative error," Health Canada sent letters to 40,000 medical marijuana users whose return address was "Medical Marijuana Access Program." In so doing, they outed tens of thousands of Canadians as medical marijuana users to their postal delivery people, people with whom they share their mailboxes, and others.

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Microbes and health: The debate continues

Last week, I linked you to a piece pointing out that three New York Times op-ed pieces linking bacterial exposure (or lack thereof) to autism, celiac disease, and allergies were all written by the same guy, Moises Velasquez-Manoff. His ideas are interesting, but there's also good reason to be skeptical. If you want to get a better idea of the arguments for and against Velasquez-Manoff's thesis, I'd recommend checking out this post at the Knight Science Journalism Tracker, which links to several critical stories and to Velasquez-Manoff's response to them.