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While You Were Sleeping: August 2012 

The gist of what you may have missed.

click to enlarge Carrots and other root vegetables are actually bad for rabbits because they are high in sugar.
  • Carrots and other root vegetables are actually bad for rabbits because they are high in sugar.
“Carrots are divine, you get a dozen for a dime.” So says Bugs Bunny. But the classic carrot-chomping cartoon character is not a credible source on a rabbit’s dietary needs. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), carrots and other root vegetables are actually bad for rabbits because they are high in sugar. Only eight percent of pet owners know what to feed rabbits. As a result, 11 percent of rabbits suffer from tooth decay and another 11 percent have digestive problems when fed the iconic bunny snack. Hay Fever, a campaign launched by the RSPCA, works to spread the word on how to properly feed rabbits, which should include diets heavy in hay, grass, and dark greens such as cabbage, kale, and broccoli. Though it’s missing the flashy bright orange and cool side-of-the-mouth nibbling capabilities, a bundle of hay will keep your rabbit from having to say, “What’s up, doc?”
Source: Telegraph (UK)

From 1996 to 2008, Countrywide Financial Corp. offered their VIP loan program, which promised lower interest rates and fees and faster service to members of Congress, government officials, and Fannie Mae executives. The former subprime lender acted in response to complaints from legislators and staffers about their loans, and the outreach aimed to boost Congressional influence and deter government regulation of Fannie Mae. According to Slate, “dozens of pieces of legislation that would have reformed Fannie” were overlooked by members of Congress after accepting the VIP program. The company’s subprime lending activities acted as an important case in understanding the causes of the 2008 financial crisis. The cut-rate loan program was stopped after Countrywide was purchased by Bank of America in 2008.
Source: Slate

The federal government recovered three billion dollars from GlaxoSmithKline on July 2 in the largest settlement involving a pharmaceutical company. Prosecuters claimed that the company bribed doctors with paid vacations, made attempts to target children in their marketing, claimed that pills would aid in weight loss and sexual dysfunction without approval, and failed to report heart risks associated with Avandia to the FDA. According to data group IMS Health, the British drugmaker made $10.4 billion in sales from Avandia, $11.6 billion from Paxil, and $5.9 billion from Wellbutrin, their three best-selling antidepressants, between the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, the years covered by the settlement. The settlement still requires court approval. Glaxo has changed some of its policies in response to the fraud settlement such as reducing sales incentives related to prescription drugs, and it has agreed to withdraw bonuses from top executives if it is revealed that they engaged in or supervised illegal behavior. Some worry that large fines aren’t enough to deter illegal behavior because profit margins are so high.
Source: New York Times

“Statutes of limitation exist because witnesses die and memories fade,” says Patrick Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference. Brannigan’s testimony before the New Jersey State Legislature in January presented one side of a controversial debate about proposals to loosen limits that impose deadlines on when victims can file civil suits or prosecutors can press charges against people who are accussed of child abuse. The Catholic Church argues that proposals to abolish such limits, which are set state by state, will encourage accusations, made decades later, motivated by a desire to bankrupt the Church. These limits, though, eliminate the possibility for victims who are unable to confront the abuse until much later in their lives to receive justice. In New York, age 23 is the limit for reporting most serious sexual crimes besides rape committed while the victim was a minor. But problems have arisen in states that have lifted statutes of limitation, such as California, the first state to pass a one-year window law to report abuse, who received 550 lawsuits at one time.
Source: New York Times

A report published by an an expert panel in Japan, one of three looking into the 2011 Fukushima disaster, accused the government, regulators, and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) of collusion in one of the worst nuclear accidents in 25 years. The report notes a reluctance by regulators to adopt global safety standards, lobbying by nuclear power companies, a pervading mentality that nuclear power is safe, and putting cost-cutting steps ahead of safety as causes for the nuclear disaster. The report also noted current safety issues such as Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda approving the restarts of electricity-supplying units to avoid a power shortage—even though an active fault may lie under Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Ohi plant in western Japan. The panel urged strict checks on all reactors against guidelines set in 2006 including 21 of Japan’s oldest reactors whose construction was approved before guidelines set in 1981. TEPCO admitted being insufficiently prepared, but placed blame on the tsunami for the disaster. In response to the report, an independent nuclear watchdog group is being set up by the government that will draft new safety rules.
Source: Reuters

A Mexican vacation: beaches, margaritas, and anesthesia? Cheap medical care in Mexicali, in Baja California, has made it a primary tourist attraction for the uninsured in California and other neighboring states. Last year, more than 150,000 Americans crossed the border looking for affordable health care. This includes low-wage workers who simply cannot afford health care in the US and those looking for care that falls outside of their insurance plans, such as cosmetic surgery and dental work. The influx of tourists is a major economic boost, and Mexicali has responded accordingly by setting up shuttle services across the border and even creating a special lane for medical patients. Health care is not only more affordable in Mexico, but also more accessible. While many patients are required to wait weeks to see doctors in the US, Mexicali doctors are often directly available through text messages. Mexicali hospitals are not certified by American medical accreditation teams, however, and no studies have been published on infection rates or other health statistics.
Source: New York Times

Researchers at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at John Hopkins University have found that maternal mortality could decrease by a third globally if contraception demands by women were fully met. According to the study, financed by the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation, contraception can boost women’s health by decreasing the frequency of risky first pregnancies, closely spaced pregnancies, and unsafe abortions. Contraception has reduced maternal mortalities by 50 percent in the past, but the study asserts that an additional 29 percent of mothers’ deaths could have been prevented if every appeal for contraception was fulfilled. Insufficient provision is likely due to a shift in funding in the past two decades from a focus on contraception to the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. (In 1995, 55 percent of international population assistance funds were devoted to providing contraception and nine percent on the fight against HIV/AIDS. In 2008, allocations changed to six percent and 74 percent, respectively.) Previous to the release of the study results, the British government and the Gates Foundation had already planned for a London conference, hoping to raise $4 billion for contraception for 120 million women through 2020.
Source: New York Times

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