June 21, 2006

The rise of supergerms, particularly among athletes and locker rooms, just seems to get worse. Athletic trainers say it is getting more prevalent and health departments are warning trainers to take even small cuts and abrasions seriously. 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:

virulent bug that’s resistant to the most common antibiotics is racing
through high school and college athletic arenas and is rising
“exponentially” among children, scientists say.

staph infection has been common in hospitals for years, but new
research indicates a new strain is now frequently acquired outside the
hospital in athletic and school settings. Physicians and coaches say
the newer, more virulent version is spreading not just to the athletes,
but to their families and others with whom they come in contact.

The staph that is spreading outside hospitals is known as CA-MRSA or community-acquired methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus. A spate of new research indicates that untold numbers of Americans carry the bug.

The bacteria causes tiny skin irritations that initially look
like spider or mosquito bites, turning into angry sores and abscesses
or apple-sized lumps accompanied by fever. Already, CA-MRSA has benched
amateur and professional athletes and hospitalized many children who
get infected at schools and daycare centers.

for Disease Control and Prevention
spokeswoman Nicole Coffin said
nobody really knows how many people are infected with CA-MRSA, which
emerged in 1999 or 2000 but didn’t start spreading widely until a few
years ago. Doctors and health agencies are not required to report the
infections, so numbers are hard to come by. But anecdotal reports from
coaches and physicians indicate the disease is rampant.

Courson, director of sports medicine at the University of Georgia, one
of many colleges to experience several outbreaks of the infection, said
that CA-MRSA commonly benches players, and if not quickly treated can
cause serious complications, such as bone disease, and in very rare
instances, death.

“We’ve known about this for a few years, but it’s picking up steam,” he said in an interview.

Here are some links to the CDC’s Q-&-A site that you might find helpful:

The Battle Over Little Cigars

general from 39 states and Guam want to change federal regulations that
allow tobacco manufacturers to classify certain cigarettes as “little cigars,”
which they say allows these companies to skirt health restrictions
and taxes. The 39 states that backed the little cigar petition include:
Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia,
Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine,
Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska,
Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma,
Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota,
Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and

The National Association of Attorneys General says:

The Attorneys General want the Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to
change the way its rules and regulations classify these so-called
“little cigars,” and to change its policy of allowing tobacco companies
to classify their own products in a way that avoids public health
restrictions and taxes that are placed on cigarettes.

“While sales of these ‘little cigars’ are still small, this growing
trend places at risk the health and safety of our citizens, especially
our youth,” said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, co-chair of the
National Association of Attorneys General Tobacco Committee. “Attorneys
General and public health organizations have been successful in
lowering cigarette smoking rates among teens, but the growing use of
�little cigars� threatens over time to reverse these gains.”

The current federal policy for classification of cigars and
cigarettes allows products that are actually cigarettes to be marketed,
taxed and sold as cigars. Tobacco companies use this
self-classification loophole to evade state and federal laws aimed at
protecting the public from the harms of cigarettes. It also allows
manufacturers to circumvent the landmark 1998 tobacco Master Settlement
(MSA), which imposes significant additional public health
restrictions on the advertising, promotion and marketing of cigarettes
by tobacco companies, particularly to youth.

Stateline.org reports:

on cigars are significantly lower, which allows tobacco companies to
sell little cigars at about half the price of cigarettes, according to
the attorneys’ general petition. Little cigar manufacturers also don’t
have to report their ingredients to the Centers for Disease Control and
they can avoid putting health-warning labels on cigar packages.

incorrect and inaccurate classification of Little Cigars raises
numerous public health and other public policy concerns for States �
The States therefore petition the TTB to adopt new rules to stop
unscrupulous manufactures from continuing their end run around all the
federal and state laws and regulations designed to tax and regulate
cigarettes,” reads the petition, which is being pushed by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller.

Consumption of little cigars have more than doubled
in the last decade, from about 1.4 billion in 1995 to more than 3.7
billion in 2005, according to Department of Agriculture statistics
cited by the attorneys general. At the same time, sales of cigarettes
reached a 55-year low in 2005 with sales of about 378 billion, according to the National Association of Attorneys General.

The crackdown on the “little cigar” loophole has at least one detractor. Norman E. Kjono, who serves on the board of directors of the consumer advocacy group Forces Inc., said states are pushing to reclassify little cigars primarily as a means to generate tax revenue.

Some more resources you might find useful:

Crude Supplies Hit Eight-Year High

Generally, when supplies of any commodity are high, prices come down (supply-and-demand theory). The Department of Energy said yesterday that the U.S. has a lot of oil on hand. However, we are approaching the peak demand months (summer time) and, depending on which data you use,
fuel consumption is either up nearly one percent from a year ago or
down about 0.3 percent. Either way, it appears that we have settled into
the higher prices of gasoline

Marine Helmets

I was clicking around
the TV dial and happened upon an interesting House Armed Services Committee meeting on C-SPAN.
The testimony was about Marine combat
helmets. The people who were testifying said that the Marines’ helmets
are not as effective as the helmets the Army issues. (Click here to
watch the C-SPAN video.)

those who testified was Dr. Robert Meaders, a former Navy flight surgeon who started Houston based “Operation Helmet”
a couple of years ago to help his grandson’s Marine unit upgrade their
helmets before going to Iraq. The group says it has purchased and sent more
than 8,000 helmet “upgrades” to troops. (Photos

Congressmen wanted to know why the Marines don’t use the same
highly protective helmets that the Army uses. Hollywood stars, including Cher, have joined the efforts. She even testified at the hearing this week. 

Sweatiest Cities

The Top 10 (as determined by Procter & Gamble researchers):

  1. Phoenix
  2. Las Vegas
  3. Tucson, Ariz.
  4. Dallas
  5. Corpus Christi, Texas
  6. San Antonio, Texas
  7. Austin, Texas
  8. Shreveport, La.
  9. Houston
  10. Waco, Texas

Although Phoenix, Las Vegas and Tucson have become fixtures atop
the list, the Procter & Gamble press release says:

While Phoenix tops all other cities
in terms of pure sweat production, you’re likely to find the weather in Miami
a lot less comfortable. The combination of heat and humidity there results in
sweat that doesn’t easily evaporate — which leads to soaked shirts and sweaty

“Heat — and becoming overheated — is what causes people to sweat,” said
Dr. Paul Ruscher, associate professor and associate chair of meteorology at
Florida State University, “but high humidity prevents sweat from evaporating.
When taking both of these factors into consideration, the 10 most
uncomfortable cities in the country are Miami; Corpus Christi, Texas; Orlando,
Fla.; Phoenix; West Palm Beach, Fla.; Houston; San Antonio; New Orleans;
Tampa, Fla. and Fort Myers, Fla.”

The results were
based on the amount of sweat an adult of average height and weight
would produce while walking for an hour in the average high
temperatures, according to NOAA data. See the top 100 cities at the bottom of the page after you click.  I know it is questionable science at say the least-and it is fun conversation. 

The iBelieve iPod

Al’s Morning Meeting reader Regina Schaffer, staff writer at The Press of Atlantic City (N.J.), writes:

The Press of Atlantic City, always on the lookout for the newest thing, found this. You have to see it to understand it. It is a cross with an iPod attachment. BoingBoing explains. Sometimes it is a thin line between tacky and cool.

We are always looking for your great ideas. Send Al a few sentences and hot links.

Editor’s Note: Al’s Morning Meeting is a compendium of ideas,
edited story excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites,
as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes
directly from another source, it will be attributed and a link will be
provided whenever possible. The column is fact-checked, but depends
upon the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited. Errors
and inaccuracies found will be corrected.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

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