Late-Night Liberty: Random Factoids Edition

Vanity Fair and 60 Minutes recently released a poll with random, but fascinating poll results like how 1 in 10 people thought California should secede from the United States. In second place? Texas, with 8 percent of the vote.

Judging from this month’s 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair Poll, we are a hygiene-conscious nation — made up of anything but tobacco farmers and journalists — that plays it close to the vest and enjoys, in its free time, not reading the memoirs of Republican political figures….

We said “plays it close to the vest.” By and large, Americans are a conservative bunch, in the philosophical if not the political sense. We found no panic about swine flu.

Here were some of the poll’s interesting findings:

It used to be that many parents wanted their children to become doctors, bankers, lawyers, or the president. If they had a choice, WHICH OF THESE PROFESSIONS do you think most parents would want their children to pursue now?

Everyone — both parents and non-parents — said 63 percent of parents want their children to become a doctor, banker, lawyer or president. Another 10 percent said parents wanted their children to become an Internet mogul while 9 percent said humanitarian-aid worker. At the bottom of the list were “athlete” (6 percent) and movie star or rock star (3 percent). Sadly, more parents wanted their children to become a doctor, lawyer, banker or president (65 percent), Internet mogul (13 percent) and athlete (9 percent). Less parents wanted their children to become a humanitarian-aid worker (6 percent) and movie star or athlete (2 percent). Yes, we are in a recession, folks.

Here is the secession question:

Some protesters against the administration’s health-care proposals have been seen carrying signs calling for their states to secede. If you could PICK ONE STATE TO REMOVE from the United States, which one would it be?

Like I mentioned above, 10 percent said California and 8 percent responded with Texas. Alaska and Hawaii garnered 3 percent of the vote each. “None/Not sure” got a whopping 60 percent of the vote.

Here is what we really think of Facebook. “How do you feel about becoming friends with business acquaintances on FACEBOOK?”

Sixty percent of respondents said they don’t use Facebook at all. Another 14 percent said, “Don’t mix business and Facebook,” while another 11 percent said, “Great way to network.” At the bottom of the list, only 4 percent responded with, “Only to avoid hurt feelings” and another 7 percent never even heard of Facebook. I was surprised that 67 percent of people don’t use Facebook or have not heard of it at all. It seems to be ubiquitous with its own vocabulary and even “townhall” type culture. Wow.

By the way, 40 percent of Vanity Fair readers said marijuana should be legalized, but not steroids in pro-sports (10 percent).

What interesting tidbits have you learned lately? This is an open thread so feel free to discuss what you’d like!


When Charity Begins at Home

We had quite a scare late last week when a car ran into my husband’s stopped car while going about 30 miles an hour. Maya was sitting in the back seat.

I got the call just a minute after I had settled into my desk at work. I flew to the accident scene and was relieved to see no blood, no broken glass, just a scared-looking daughter, a shaken-up father and a car in need of $3,000 worth of repairs.

DH stayed behind to finish exchanging information with the other driver and wait for the tow truck. I took Maya to the doctor, where she was given a clean bill of health and a yellow lollipop. “Why did the car crash?” she kept asking. “Why?”

Over the weekend I kept counting my blessings. We have decent health insurance. We have decent car insurance. No one was hurt. We are so very lucky.

I felt even more grateful when I saw this story on 60 Minutes last night. It featured a charity that was founded to provide free medical services to poor, developing countries around the world, airdropping doctors and supplies into remote areas of the Amazon. But recently the charity, Remote Area Medical,or RAM, has changed its mission: 60 percent of its work is now focused on rural and urban America, where nearly 50 million people are uninsured and millions more are underinsured.

During a recent medical “expedition” in Knoxville, Tenn., RAM saw 920 patients, made 500 pairs of glasses, did 94 mammograms, extracted 1,066 teeth and did 567 fillings. But when charity founder Stan Brock called the last number, 400 people were turned away…

Marty Tankersley came with his wife and his daughter, asleep behind the front seats. Tankersley says he drove some 200 miles to get to the clinic and slept in the parking lot for hours.

“Just to have this done?” Pelley asked.

“Yes, sir. I’ve been in some very excruciating pain,” he replied.

Tankersley had an infected tooth that had been killing him for weeks. Most of the people who filled the lot heard about the clinic on the news or by word of mouth, and they came by the hundreds.

By the time the segment ended I was fighting back tears. It breaks my heart to be reminded of how many people in this country are forced to go without. Tears me up to think of how many people must live in pain, for lack of any other options. Burns me up to think of the money that’s paying for the Iraq War, or the federal bailouts of wayward investment firms, rather than providing health care for Americans.

Since the story on RAM first aired last spring, 60 Minutes viewers have donated $2.5 million to the effort. I was moved to donate as well. Other than that, all I can do is continue to count my blessings and pray that we, as a nation, will make our needs known at the polls in November.

Do you have decent health insurance, no insurance, or are you underinsured? How have you dealt with inadequate health care? What’s the solution to this outrageous problem?  


An Unbelievable Medical Story

I would hate to give people false hope, but this 60 Minutes story almost made me fall out of my chair. John Kanzius, a former businessman and radio technician, may have come up with a cure for cancer by building a radio wave machine out of pots and pans and then testing it on hot dogs.

It was the worst kind of luck that gave Kanzius the idea to use radio waves to kill cancer cells: six years ago, he was diagnosed with terminal leukemia and since then has undergone 36 rounds of toxic chemotherapy. But it wasn’t his own condition that motivated him, it was looking into the hollow eyes of sick children on the cancer ward at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston…

Kanzius told (60 Minutes correspondent Lesley) Stahl the chemotherapy made him very sick and that he couldn’t sleep at night. “And I said, ‘There’s gotta be a better way to treat cancer.'”

It was during one of those sleepless nights that the light bulb went off. When he was young, Kanzius was one of those kids who built radios from scratch, so he knew the hidden power of radio waves. Sick from chemo, he got out of bed, went to the kitchen, and started to build a radio wave machine.

“Started looking in the cupboard and I saw pie pans and I said, ‘These are perfect. I can modify these,'” he recalled.

Stahl checked out Kanzius’s contraption in his garage laboratory in Florida. Since his discovery, he has spent $200,000 of his own money to build a more sophisticated version of his kitchen-made radio wave machine. One box sends radio waves to the other, producing enough energy to activate enough gas in a fluorescent light. He has found that the radio waves are not only safe for humans, but able to break down tumors injected with metal.

He knew that metal heats up when it’s exposed to high-powered radio waves. So what if a tumor was injected with some kind of metal, and zapped with a focused beam of radio waves? Would the metal heat up and kill the cancer cells, but leave the area around them unharmed? He did his first test with hot dogs.

I’m going to inject it with some copper sulfate,” Kanzius explained, demonstrating the machine. “And I’m going to take the probe right at the injection site.”

Kanzius placed the hot dog in his radio wave machine, and Stahl watched to see if the temperature would rise in that one area where the metal solution was and nowhere else.

“And when I saw it start to go up I said, ‘Eureka, I’ve done it,'” Kanzius remembered. “And I said, ‘God, I gotta shut this off and see whether it’s still cold down below.’ So I shut it off, took my probe, went down here where it wasn’t injected. And the temperature dropped back down. And I said, ‘God, maybe I got something here.'”

Kanzius thought he had found a way attack cancer cells without the collateral damage caused by chemotherapy and radiation. Today, his invention is in the laboratories of two major research centers – the University of Pittsburgh and M.D. Anderson, where Dr. Steven Curley, a liver cancer surgeon, is testing it.

“This technology may allow us to treat just about any kind of cancer you can imagine,” Dr. Curley told Stahl. “I’ve gotta tell you, in 20 years of research this is the most exciting thing that I’ve encountered.”

So far, the Kanzius cure has been applied only to animals.  The biggest challenge will be whether it can kill those microscopic cancer cells that spread to other parts of the body, according to 60 Minutes. And as Stahl ended her segment, hopefully it will be available to cure Kanzius who is still battling cancer.


Sleep Deprivation and Health Effects

We’ve talked a lot here about sleep, and here is a piece from 60 Minutes talking about just how critical sleep is, and how dangerous sleep deprivation can be:

One thing that’s clear, says Walker, is that sleep is critical. In a series of studies done back in the 1980s, rats were kept awake indefinitely. After just five days, they started dying.

Walker says they started dying from sleep deprivation. “In fact, sleep is as essential as food because they will die just about as quick from food deprivation as sleep deprivation. So, it’s that necessary,” he says.

Sleep isn’t just for the lazy: it’s critical to proper body function. A study restricting sleep to four hours a night had dire effects:

The study’s subjects were on the road to diabetes in just six days, and that’s not all – they were also hungry. Van Cauter has made a radical discovery: that lack of sleep may be contributing to the epidemic of obesity in this country through the work of a hormone called leptin that tells your brain when you’re full.

So, we feed our nation full of High Fructose Corn Syrup, have them work at sedentary jobs near a refrigerator, allow them breaks from work only to eat, and we don’t give anyone time to exercise or sleep. The researchers feel that adding sleep deprivation to the list of key diabetes risk factors may be in order, and that it may even be a factor in many disorders we currently associate with old age.

They found that even a single night of four to five hours of sleep has a distinct and dramatic effect on cognitive ability, and that the accumulation made it worse:

“So, overall, how do you think not having enough sleep for five nights has affected you?” Stahl asked Hacina.

“Well, my – I- I’m quiet – quieter, definitely,” she replied.

“And – and – uh- what else did you ask?” Hacina asked after a long pause, seeming confused.

The testing for alertness and reaction time has real-world relevance. Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute did a study of what causes car crashes. They got 241 volunteers to agree to have their cars wired with five cameras each. Over a year’s time they found that driving drowsy was the riskiest behavior of all.

“You only need two seconds to have a lapse, in driving a car at 60 miles an hour, to drift completely out lane,” Dinges says. “You’re off the road in four seconds. And those kinds of lapses and slowed reaction times begin to appear fairly early.”

Sleep deprivation is associated with many major accidents, including Three Mile Island and the Exxon Valdez.

“Many people want something associated with morals or management or…alcohol,” Dinges remarks. “Those are far more glamorous. But, in reality, many of these disasters involve poor judgments and slowed reactions at a time when people were basically tired and made not complicated mistakes. Simple ones. And that is the hallmark of sleep deprivation.”

Hacina, the sleep-deprived French woman in the Penn study, thought she was maybe alert enough to give Stahl a lift.

“What really struck me is that she didn’t know how impaired she was. It was clear, but she didn’t know,” Stahl remarks.

“That has been a finding in all of our studies. They tell you they’ve adapted. They’re okay,” Dinges says.

Doctors are the worst. For years they’ve insisted that medical training take place with residents on absurdly long shifts. I can’t understand how anyone can feel comfortable about residents on the end of a 24 hour shift attempting to practice medicine on a routine basis. I can’t understand how anyone can be comfortable with them driving home afterwards. You’ll hear older doctors saying they’ve “trained” themselves to function in that state… but frankly, that has never made sense to me.

Dinges says people who are chronically sleep deprived, like people who’ve had too much to drink, often have no sense of their limitations. They believe they’ve trained themselves. “I think it’s a convenient belief. For the millions of people who don’t get enough sleep because their commute to work is too long, or they spend too many hours at work, or they just want this lifestyle of go, go, go, it’s convenient to say, ‘I’ve learned to live without sleep.’ But you bring ‘em into the laboratory – and we have an open challenge to any CEO or anyone in the world, come into the laboratory – we don’t see this adaptation,” he says.

It’s a terrific article, well worth the time to read in full. So how do we change the world from one where sleep is viewed as a frippery, a distraction, to one where everyone understands that sleep is important to proper function and good health? People who have their full quota of sleep are smarter, healthier, and better workers.