Friday, February 1, 2008

Obese Eating Ban Considered In Mississippi

By Charles W. Kim
JACKSON, Miss. – Obese people may soon be banned from public eateries if a new bill sees the light of day.

Three Mississippi state legislators have introduced a bill that would prohibit certain establishments from serving food to obese people.

The House of Representatives bill 282, introduced by members Mayhall, Read and Shows, would prohibit establishments seating four or more from serving people meeting criteria as obese, according to the bill.

The state could revoke the business permits of the establishments that repeatedly violate the law, according to the proposed legislation.

The bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee Jan. 25 and is proposed to become effective July 1 if passed, according to the state’s legislative web site.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines obesity as a person with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater.

BMI is a calculation of a person’s height and weight proportion and is different for each person, according to the CDC.

Obesity is linked to several serious medical conditions including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, sleep apnea and some cancers, according to the CDC.

According to the center, obesity increased in the United States from 15 percent of adults 20-70 in 1976-80 to 32.9 percent from 2000-04.

Increases were also noted among children, adolescents and teens during the period, according to the center.

The center has a goal of addressing the issue nationwide by 2010 and has several programs in several different states.

Twenty-eight states are currently receiving funding from the center to carry out the programs, according to the CDC.

Studies conducted in 1998 found medical costs attributed to being obese to range between $26.8 billion and $47.5 billion, according to the CDC.

For more information:

Quote of the day......

"First they came for the Communists but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists but I was not one of them, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews but I was not Jewish so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me." - Martin Niemoeller

Clinton: Inspectors Led To War Vote

By Charles W. Kim
LOS ANGELES - Putting weapons inspectors into Iraq was the only reason New York Sen. Hillary Clinton voted for military authorization in 2003, according to the candidate.

“I was personally promised by the White House that they would use the resolution to put the inspectors into Iraq,” Clinton said Thursday night during a televised debate with Democratic rival Illinois Sen. Barack Obama on CNN.

The two remaining Democratic candidates faced off in an amiable round of questions and answers in Los Angeles, California.

When asked why she voted in 2003 to authorize the Bush administration to use force in Iraq, Clinton said she only wanted to see inspectors placed in the country to look for weapons of mass destruction, and did not expect Bush to immediately pursue a military option.

“I believe in coercive diplomacy,” Clinton said. “We have used the force of violence to change behavior.”

Obama, on the other hand, said he opposed the war from the beginning and would work on getting the troops home on his first day in office.

While pledging to end the conflict, Obama did say some troops would remain in the region to protect United States assets and people as well as humanitarian aid.

Obama also said he was best suited to represent his party because he did not vote for the resolution and could bring that argument to the American people in the November election.

“(John) McCain and the Republicans want a continuation of George Bush’s policies,” Obama said. “I will offer (the voters) a clear contrast.”

In 2003, however, Clinton met with the anti-war group Code Pink in Washington and told the organization she voted for the resolution because “we have to disarm this man (Saddam Hussein).”

During that address she told the group the United States would have to act unilaterally imposing the will of the world on the Iraqi dictator the same way President Bill Clinton did in Bosnia to end ethnic cleansing.

California student and videographer Kirsten Michel captured the exchange and placed the discussion on YouTube in January 2007.

Michel accompanied the group to Washington in 2003 to document the week of protests and ended up being arrested during a protest in front of the White House with about 20 other members.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Drugs Flushed Weekly-Billon$ Wasted

(Author's note: This story was published Feb. 3, 2006 in the Register Citizen and is still relevant.)

TORRINGTON, CT -- Hundreds of unexpired prescription drugs are literally going down the drain, wasting billions of dollars and possibly contaminating drinking water, officials say.

Federal and state regulations are forcing nursing homes in the United States to flush hundreds of unused blister packs of prescription drugs down the drain each week due to patient deaths and prescription changes.

"The money we are wasting is incredible," Registered Nurse Shari Yard, the director of nursing services at Valerie Manor said. "I’ve had to flush an entire 30-day supply (of medicines) down the toilet."

Valerie Manor is a 151-bed nursing home on 1360 Torringford St. in the city.

"It is sad that many medicines can’t be re-used and have to be destroyed," Administrator Denise Quarles said.

Medicines are distributed to these patients monthly in blister packs, which have to be destroyed if the patient dies or has their medication or dosage changed, Greg Hamley, the administrator for Wolcott Hall for Special Care on Forest Street said.

"They can’t be recycled," Hamley said. "The pharmacy can’t take them back."

Quarles and Yard disposed of hundreds of pills at the home Wednesday night.

Two of the prescriptions alone cost $1,200, Yard said.

A registered nurse and a supervisor must be present as the pills are popped out of the blister packs into a container, which is then flushed down the toilet, Yard said.

"I couldn’t make an educated guess how much is flushed," Yard said. "It is still good medicine."

Various federal agencies denied direct jurisdiction in the issue, but said interagency policies leave the homes little choice in disposing the medicines.

"There is no direct U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulation," EPA spokesman Suzanne Ackerman said. "It is a complicated issue."

Various regulations prohibit the drugs from being thrown in the trash or given to another individual, severely limiting what can be done with them.

"It leaves the nursing homes in a quandary," Ackerman said.

Ackerman said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, however, provided "guidance" to nursing home facilities by approving flushing the medicines.

DEA officials did not respond to questions by press time.

Using the amount flushed this week at Valerie Manor, the home will destroy a minimum of $5,200 per month in medicines, or $62,400 a year.

There were 18,000 nursing homes with 1.9 million beds in the United States as of 1999, according to a Center for Disease Control report.

If all the homes destroy a similar amount to the Valerie Manor total, the national total would reach more than $1.2 billion annually.

"There is no excuse for flushing it down," former presidential candidate and consumer advocate Ralph Nader said Thursday night. "There are ways of getting rid of things using proper procedures."

Hospitals, like Charlotte Hungerford in Torrington, do not deal with these issues because they have a pharmacy on site, Hungerford spokesman Tim LeBouthillier said.

"We have our own medicines (to distribute to patients)," LeBouthillier said. "They are dispensed internally."

The hospitals have their own stringent policies regarding drug monitoring and only destroy drugs after they expire, LeBouthillier said.

Some states, including New York and Oklahoma, have passed laws to allow the drugs to be re-used.

State Sen. Chris Murphy, D-16, said Thursday the state passed a law three years ago allowing the top 50 medicines at nursing facilities to be re-packaged and re-used.

"It saved the state about $3.8 million," Murphy said. "It is a serious issue."

Murphy, who chairs the state Senate public health committee, said he hopes to add to the list of medicines this year.

The money lost is not the only concern. Recent studies and reports are showing traces of these pharmaceuticals and other personal care chemicals showing up in water supplies throughout the nation, including drinking water supplies, Ackerman said.

"These chemicals are being found in rivers and lakes, which can serve as sources of drinking water," Ackerman said. "The EPA is examining data from the U.S. Geological Survey to determine which emerging contaminants are occurring in public water systems."

Ackerman said the agency would study the issue to see if the "incredibly small" amounts of these chemicals will impact the environment.

"We don’t know if it is a hazard," Ackerman said. "The EPA is funding research into this issue."

Nader said he was concerned that the practice is being allowed.

"These(chemicals) are toxic," Nader said. "This is contributing to the toxicity of the ground."

Several pharmaceutical companies contacted did not return calls seeking comment.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hillary's Iraq About-Face

By Charles W. Kim
This is a tale of two presidential candidates, both named Hillary Clinton.
“We have to disarm this man (Saddam Hussein),” a confident, almost defiant Sen. Hillary Clinton tells the ant-war group Code Pink in Washington D.C., March 6, 2003.
Clinton explained to representatives from the organization that she voted for a resolution allowing President George W. Bush to use military force in Iraq because “he (Hussein) has an obsession with weapons of mass destruction.”
Those comments and others captured in a video by Kirsten Michel of California, and displayed on, seem all but forgotten now as the Democratic presidential campaign rhetoric between Clinton and nomination rival Sen. Barack Obama heats up.
Michel, a 40-year old videographer and student, accompanied the group to Washington to protest the war and was even in a group of some 20 people arrested in front of the White House during one of the protests.
Clinton and Obama are locked in a tight battle through the Democratic primaries with Clinton enjoying three early victories in Nevada, New Hampshire and Michigan. Obama won a major victory in South Carolina Jan. 26, beating the former First Lady by a 2-1 margin.
Obama, who has staunchly opposed the war in Iraq, also won the Iowa caucuses, but has finished a close second in the three other polls.
A key issue between these contenders is the war and the record of votes each have cast while representing their respective states in the nation’s capital.
During this war of words, Clinton has questioned Obama’s intention of bringing troops home while supporting bills that fund the war.
Even Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton called Obama’s record on the war “a fairy tale” compared to his campaign speeches.
Sen. Clinton, however, talked a much different game in 2003 when confronted by the Code Pink group.
“I (voted for the resolution) based on my own assessment and understanding of the situation,” Clinton said in the 15-minute video which can be seen on “I relied on the opinion of people I trusted, regardless of their political background.”
Clinton compared the United States role in Iraq to the unilateral use of military force used by Bill Clinton in Bosnia to end ethnic cleansing.
“The US had to do it alone,” Clinton said.
Videographer Michel, 40, said she was just in the right place at the right time and now realizes the importance of what her camera captured during that meeting.
Michel placed the video on the fledgling Internet site in January 2007. After several people misused her video, she disabled its download to protect her copyright. She, however, removed the restrictions on YouTube recently because she feels voters should see it and know Clinton’s reasoning for her 2003 vote.
Watching and listening to the video some five years later, it seems like a tale of two different candidates.
Clinton is now very vocal opposing the conflict as polls show the war becoming increasingly unpopular.
The question that bears asking from these two seemingly divergent messages is where the New York Senator really stands on Iraq and why.
If she was duped during her total time in Washington as First Lady and later as a U.S. Senator by people she said she “trusted,” then where will that leave the nation with her as president?
Much of what she said in 2003 sounds like what Bush told the country time and again during the same period.
Clinton’s video did criticize the administration harshly for several things, but the reasoning to use military force in disarming the Iraqi dictator was not among them.
If we, as a nation, are to believe that the war was “Bush’s lie,” how do we reconcile the explanation of the Democratic Senator as being different philosophically?
The Clinton and Obama campaigns would not respond to several attempts seeking comment on the video.
While more than 100,000 people have viewed the video on YouTube, millions will likely never see this candid discussion and the honest questions it raises during this campaign.
It is not a Democratic or Republican issue, but an issue of sincerity, honesty and integrity. It is an issue about character and how a possible future president may handle foreign affairs.
The bottom line, it seems, is that politicians speak not from the heart, but from the latest poll results. It seems votes are more important than standing by one’s convictions and judgments’.
Maybe we are seeking someone perfect for the job and have expectations that no person can live up to consistently.
Perhaps videographer Michel sums it up the best.
“Clinton is a politician like everyone else,” Michel said. “They say anything to get elected.”

President Bill Clinton's 1998 State of the Union Address.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Clinton's '03 Iraq War Video

Video Is Smoking Gun For Clinton On Iraq
By Charles W. Kim
While the Hillary Clinton campaign hammered at Democratic rival Barack Obama’s Iraq voting record recently, a candid 2003 video of Clinton explaining her favorable vote to use military force against Saddam Hussein seems at odds with her current stand on the issue.

“We have to disarm this man (Hussein),” Clinton tells members of the anti-war organization Code Pink in a video captured in Washington March 6, 2003.

Videographer and student Kirsten Michel, 40, of Modesto, Calif. recorded Clinton addressing the group during a week of protesting in Washington.

Michel said she put the more than 15-minute unedited video on in January 2007 after she failed trying to make DVD copies on her computer.

“It is a valuable video,” Michel said in a telephone interview. “It was not related to the fact that she (is now) running (for president).”

During an explanation of the New York Senator’s vote supporting a resolution allowing for military force in disarming the Iraqi dictator, Clinton said she studied the issue for 10 years and relied on “people she trusted” to make her decision.

“(The decision) was based on my own assessment and understanding of the situation,” Clinton said in the video.

Clinton compared taking such action to what her husband, former President Bill Clinton, had to do to end ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.

“I do not believe, with the given attitudes in the world, (other nations) would take on the situation without U.S. leadership,” Clinton said in the video. “(In Bosnia) the U.S. had to do it alone.”

The video now seems at odds with Clinton’s promise to end the war in Iraq during several televised debates.

The Clinton and Obama campaigns did not return several calls seeking comment on the video.

“Her position has shifted since the war became more and more unpopular,” Code Pink spokesman Nancy Kricorian said. “Of course (the video) is troubling (to us).”

According to Kricorian, the organization is “bird dogging” Clinton by attending campaign events and fundraisers to bring attention to its cause and to elicit a promise to end the conflict.

“(Clinton) didn’t even read the (2002) 90-page report (on Iraq) before voting,” Kricorian said. “She is getting more money from the defense industry than any other candidate (in either party).”

Michel, who was only loosely attached to the organization during the 2003 protest in Washington, said the video was being in the right place at the right time.

“I take documentary footage,” Michel said. “I capture life as it happens.”

She said that she recently allowed the video to be taken from YouTube and embedded on other web sites because she feels the information is important and should be made available to voters now.

“(Clinton) is a politician like everyone else, she will say anything to get elected,” Michel said.