Lobbyists, public interest groups square off over broadband stimulus rules

Lobbyists, public interest groups square off over broadband stimulus rules - FierceTelecom:

"Policy wonks and telecom lobbyists are squaring off in a battle royal over which strings will be attached to broadband stimulus money. The fights aren't seen as a one-time battle, as the precedents set for USDA and NTIA funds are expected to be embraced for larger broadband spending of tens to hundreds of billions of dollars by Congress in the future."

Peugeot Promises A Diesel Hybrid For 2011 Le Mans

For all of us who said, many years ago, diesel hybrids were the way to go, Autopia from Wired.com presents this superb piece of eye candy:

May it kick serious butt in competition and pave the way for passengar cars with all the benefits that diesel hybrids have to offer (click for a sharper image). And check out Peugeot Promises A Diesel Hybrid For 2011

The Broadband Stimulus Papers

The federal economic stimulus bill includes $7.2 billion in grants, loans and loan guarantees to extend broadband Internet to underserved rural areas. There is a good article on the rural aspect here:

Rural areas hope stimulus package includes funds for broadband - JSOnline

Providing true broadband (i.e. fiber optic, cable, DSL, or WiMax but NOT satellite) to rural America would be the single greenest, most productive thing the government could do with the stimulus money. The increased potential for telecommuting alone could save huge amounts of fossil fuel consumption. Not to mention the community benefits of social network, local news coverage, online forums, etc. And the education benefits. Many children in rural America can't use the Internet at home like kids in urban and suburban aras, thus putting them at a big disadvantage.

Why the FCC is Wrong About Broadband

According to this article, the Federal Communications Commission:

1. Assumes that if one house in a ZIP code has broadband access from a certain provider, then everyone in that area has the same access.

2. Defines high-speed Internet as anything that's slightly faster than a basic dial-up connection, including satellite service.

Well, as to item 2, the FCC is obviously has not read my previous post which explains why this is wrong, in so many ways.

I will soon explain why the FCC is wrong-headed on item 1 as well (although it should be obvious to anyone who has spent an hour or "out in the country").

And the Good News is? Apple's iPhone works in my house

phonesAs some readers already know, I've had to abandon my faithful Treo 680 because it wouldn't always work in my house. Sad, because I've had a Treo since they first came out, operating on T-Mobile, then Cingular, now AT&T.

Although it was only GPRS, I was able to read the news on my Treo, do email, Twitter, and write notes pretty darn fast. But the fact is, you can't very well use a cell phone for business if it doesn't work reliably in your house.

I was going to hold out for a new Palm Pre but it looks like that device is anchored to Sprint at the moment (my choice of "anchor" being quite intentional). And current speculation is that the Pre won't be available on AT&T until next year (per the TreoCentral forum). Sprint coverage at my place is zero. Verizon is better and so a Pre on Verizon might be appealing at some point in the future.

But for now, the iPhone 3G is my phone, which means

Crash Team to Oncology Stat: The latest iron overload episode

speakerThe medium may not be the message but it sure shapes it. I need to let a lot of people know what happened on Chey's long-awaited visit to the hematologist (that's haematologist for British readers).

Should I email everyone? Maybe use a bcc with a friends and family list? But then people would feel obliged to respond. Should I blog it and hope people will see it here? Maybe I should Facebook it? How about Twitter? Too late for that. But what the heck, here's how it would have appeared on Twitter if I had tweeted it, starting after lunch on Thursday:

zcobb: Heading over to Cooperstown to the clinic for Chey's hematology consult. Hoping this doctor will OK phlebotomy for her hemochromatosis. 01:50PM

zcobb: Just checked Chey into Oncology. She doesn't have cancer but apparently that's where hematologists hang out. Now headed to 2nd floor for my appt. 02:16PM

zcobb: Waiting for my quarterly checkup. No problems (apart from usual high BP/low depression). We synched up our visits to reduce carbon footprint. 02:23PM

zcobb: Sitting in Room D. Weight not bad (200lbs) BP not so hot. Wonder how Chey is doing. She seemed a bit woozy when I left her in waiting area. 02:28PM

zcobb: OMG, the PA just announced "Crash team to Oncology STAT" and I had this weird flash it could be Chey. But then I'm like "No way." 02:33PM

zcobb: Way. How to tell your day's gone off the rails: A nurse interrupts your meeting with your doctor to say "Your wife's been rushed to the ER." 02:46PM

Iron Overload Fallout: Atrial fibrilation and so much more

I promise I am not going to turn this into The Hemochromatosis Blog but blogs tend to follow what's happening and hemochromatosis is what's happening right now to my best friend Chey.

It's happening because it's a progressive and incurable genetic condition. And it's also happening because new stuff keeps cropping up. Like today, I found two new things that generic iron overload can trigger (these are 'new' as in I never knew about them before). The first is arrhythmia, irregular heartbeat. If you've ever experienced arrhythmia, as in atrial fibrilation, you know it can be quite unsettling.

Well today, Chey was experiencing arrhythmia. So, I look it up on Google and what do I find: "arrhythmias are the most common cause of sudden death in hereditary hemochromatosis patients," according to this set of slides on Increasing Physician Awareness of Hereditary Hemochromatosis. (BTW, these slides by Dr. Kristen J. Schwall, from the Department of Internal Medicine at St. Barnabas Medical Center should be required reading for all doctors.)

According to the Journal of Interventional Cardiac Electrophysiology, hemochromatosis has been associated with atrial tachyarrhythmias and congestive heart failure as a consequence of dilated or restrictive cardiomyopathy. Oh that's just great!

Then as a side effect of Googling, I find a study published by the National Cancer Institute in 2003. This suggests that the two genes, C282Y and H63D, which are linked to hereditary hemochromatosis, may lead to an increased risk of developing colon cancer.

Doctors found that subjects with at least one copy of either of the genes were 40% more likely to have colon cancer than those without. (No word on what it means if you have two copies of C282Y, which Chey does, but I doubt that helps things.) They also found that the risk of cancer increased with age and greater iron intake. The researchers believe that at least 15% of the population carries at least one copy of the mutated gene. They think the study could lead to improved colon cancer screening protocols. Wouldn't that be ironic? Hemochromatosis screening gets funded as a colon cancer prevention strategy.

So here's the deal. We are waiting for a doctor's appointment on Thursday at which Chey's iron overload treatment should finally begin (if not, the hills around Cooperstown will probably ring with screams of "Why not?")

The Problem With Bloodletting

bloodchairEric made an interesting comment on my last iron overload post. He wondered why my wife has not pursued phlebotomy as it is a recognized treatment for iron overload. Eric states "Blood banks are happy to see you because they know they will see you many more times than regular donors."

Eric's comment and concern are both appreciated. Unfortunately, we have hit a few bumps in the road on our way to bloodletting. Here is my current understanding of the situation. Please feel free to comment if you think I have got this wrong--we have heard of regional variations in the way some of these things are handled:

1. Around 1996 the US changed the rules for blood donation to exclude all persons who lived in the UK during the time of mad cow disease. That includes us, so we have not been able to give blood since then. In fact, Chey was a regular donor before this ruling and we suspect that stopping the donations at that time contributed to the build up of iron--her iron overload symptoms started to manifest after that.

2. Voluntary donations of blood are not accepted if less than 8 weeks apart. So, according to our doctor, a routine of accelerated phlebotomy to treat hemochromatosis requires a prescription (I know it sounds weird: a prescription to give something as opposed to take something).

3. Some blood banks lack a means of categorizing blood that is 'donated' by iron overload sufferers and so they do not accept it (apparently this varies by region). Strange but true (according to the Iron Disorders Institute Guide to Hemochromatosis).

So, common sense would indicate blood-letting is a simple fix but reality is proving less sensible. We have not yet tried the amateur freelance phlebotomy approach but we have been tempted (I just wish I had paid more attention to how you stop the flow of blood once it's been started).

And I should add that we are beginning to run into the "Dr. No" syndrome. That is the "Dr No. Big Deal" syndrome, when your doctor decides you're making too much fuss about your illness and starts telling you you're exaggerating. You hear things like "lots of people feel tired at your age" and "it's normal to feel depressed this time of year" and "your test results are close enough, nothting to worry about" (when in fact the results are clearly abnormal and frankly worrying). We are seeking to address this problem without alienating the medical profession in our small community.

The Ongoing Impact of Iron Overload

I first posted about iron overload or hemochromatosis around Thanksgiving 2008. That's when my wife Chey learned she had this incurable, degenerative, and potentially fatal genetic condition. Since then we've learned a lot about iron overload (for example, as many as 1 in 300 Americans of Northern European descent may suffer from it, most of them undiagnosed and headed for an early grave).

We've learned that several of Chey's relatives suffer from the condition and others may have died of it. Death from untreated iron overload comes in several forms, two of the most notable being liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver.  (If a relative is diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver but they claim they don't drink much alcohol, they could be telling the truth. It could be iron overload.)*

Iron overload can damage other organs and glands besides the liver, such as the gall bladder, the pituitary and the thyroid. So, if you are diagnosed with hemochromatosis, your doctor will probably order a bunch of tests to check if there has been damage. A referral to an endochronoligist is likely.

In my wife's case the endocrinologist has already confirmed thyroid deficiency which he is now treating. Now he has  found, via a pituitary test, very low growth hormone. Some of the changes associated with GH deficiency are loss of energy, a loss of interest in usual hobbies or activities, and a decrease in sociability referred to as social isolation. "Patients suffering with this symptom do not like to go out and meet with their friends or social acquaintances. Patients may also develop mild depression or decrease in sexual function." All of which fits Chey. Oh, and untreated low growth hormone can spell early mortality in adults.

On the upside, it is possible that Chey's GH levels will increase when the iron overload is treated and all sorts of good things will follow, like more energy, more interest in life, more sociability, and so on. On the down side, we still haven't found a doctor to authorize iron overload treatment (namely phlebotomy, a.k.a. drawing blood).

We are getting closer, but still managing to fall through gaps in a set of health management practices that are clearly not adequate for dealing with this condition. Chey's iron levels are now twice what they were back in November when the original diagnosis was made. Her doctor is still reluctant to authorize phlebotomy, even though the nurse who took Chey's last blood sample said the blood was almost too thick to draw!

After much research we figured that the kind of doctor you probably want in this situation is a hemotologist. Chey has been trying to get an appointment with one for months. Last week she finally got one, for next week. Apparently people who don't have iron overload don't worry too much about the damage it is doing to those who do.

Pardon the cynicism, but I think it's understandable when you've watched the one you love decline physically for years while being told "it's all in her head." Then you've watched her suffer for months with terrible pain from a deadly condition that a dozen doctors missed, only to hear "Sorry, the doctor's are all on vacation this week, she'll have to wait."

So, we will see what next week brings. In the meantime I am researching the fraud cases that led to iron overload testing being dropped from standard blood panels in 1996, about the same time doctors realized hemocromatosis was a genetic condition. Talk about bad timing.
* See the next exciting Iron Overload episode: The Alcoholic Father Who Wasn't.

A LEAP Into the Future?

leap_logoWhat was the most-subscribed non-profit channel on YouTube last month? The answer might surprise you: LEAP, as in Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Click the link and check it out.

And here's another surprise. On February 6, the #1 most-viewed article on the entire Huffington Post site was this article: One Cop To Another: Don't Arrest Phelps for Bong Photo. The author was not just any cop, it was Norm Stamper, Ph.D., who served as a police officer for 34 years, notably as chief of the Seattle Police Department from 1994 to 2000.

Now get this, President Obama's likely choice for drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, was Norm's immediate successor as Seattle's chief of police. You can hear Norm's views on Gil and other subjects on the Fox News "Red Eye" show that airs at 3AM EST, Friday morning, Feb. 20. Yes, I have set my DVR to Record.