SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

December 31, 2011

Cracked nuclear plant – good to go?

DAVIS-BESSE PLANT

New cracks known to regulators

By John Seewer ASSOCIATED PRESS

TOLEDO — Federal regulators confirmed yesterday (12-8-11) that they had been told by operators of a nuclear reactor about additional cracks found in the plant’s concrete shell, which were discovered several weeks after workers initially discovered the concrete was cracked in other spots.   

Details about the cracks near the top of the structure came to light publicly after officials from the office of U.S. Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, D-Cleveland, said they spoke with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.   

Kucinich’s office said it initiated talks with the NRC and investigated the issue, which revealed the cracks were more widespread at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant near Toledo than what was publicly released.

A spokeswoman for FirstEnergy Corp. said on Wednesday that the additional cracks were found in November, and that the company informed regulators right away. It previously had announced that cracks were found near the bottom of a wall designed to protect the reactor from anything that might hit it from the outside, such as storm debris.

The plant along Lake Erie was shut down for maintenance in October when workers found the first 30-foot hairline crack.    Other cracks were found soon after, leading to closer inspections that revealed cracks close to the top of the 224-foot-tall shield structure.    The NRC analyzed those additional cracks before allowing the plant to restart this week, said Viktoria Mitlyng, an agency spokeswoman.

Jan’s Comments

(Sorry folks, my intention is NOT  to spread doom and gloom.  Especially now at our favorite season.  But with the problems the WORLD is having to endure because of the Japanese Nuclear meltdown in which their government openly decries the hesitation with which they took action on their plant’s problems – – I simply cannot find any solace in the fact that the NRC  “knows about” everything.

We are ALL  entitled to know that they have indeed fully analyzed this thing and given specific answers as to why this has happened.  If it is age – – for God’s sake, SHUT IT DOWN.  If it is UNKNOWN – ditto – SHUT IT DOWN.   we are ALL aware that the toxic exposure has spilt all over our world, contaminating dairy farms and  plant farms, destroying much in it’s path.  It can’t be cleaned up.   We can’t allow this kind of thing to go on happening.  Our very lives and our health depend on it.

Those of us who live in the Eastern part of the United States should be actively communicating with Obama and the NRC directly.  The time is now.   We LIVE HERE!

I am posting a 2nd article from today’s newspaper. . it follows.  Essentially, the same stuff.   Setting up a meeting to discuss January 5th.  Pretty cavalier, if you ask me.   NRC allowed First Energy to declare it was “safe” to start up again?    Who the Hell is running the show, anyway?)

COLUMBUS DISPATCH / December 30, 2011

NEWS BRIEFS
TOLEDO

NRC to tell why nuclear plant opened with cracks

Federal regulators will reveal more details next month about cracks found in the concrete shell of a nuclear reactor in Ohio.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has set a public meeting on Jan. 5 at which they’ll also discuss the reasons behind allowing the plant near Toledo to reopen.

The Davis-Besse nuclear plant began producing electricity again in early December, less than two months after the cracks were discovered.

Regulators gave First-Energy Corp. the green light to restart the plant after saying the company provided reasonable assurance that the cracks don’t pose a threat.

Regulators say they also did their own checks.

U.S. Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, D-Cleveland, criticized the decision, saying that it’s still not known what caused the cracks or whether it’s a bigger problem.

— Associated Press

100-Watt’s gone soon

Watt’s up?

U.S. production of 100-watt bulbs is ending, but there are some really bright alternatives

TONY CENICOLA THE NEW YORK TIMES The 2007 law that essentially bans making 100-watt incandescent light bulbs takes effect on Sunday.

By John Funk THE PLAIN DEALER

The old 100-watt light bulb is about to go dark — regardless of what Congress tried to do in recent weeks. The Energy Independence and Securities Act of 2007, supported by both political parties and signed by President George W. Bush in December of that year, created efficiency standards for everything from lighting and appliances to automotive mileage and building energy standards.

The law declared that household light bulbs had to become at least 25 to 30 percent more efficient in five years or they couldn’t be manufactured any longer in the United States.

Beginning on Sunday, the traditional 100-watt incandescent bulb would have to be more efficient or go the way of the old gaslights. The 75-watt would improve or disappear on Jan. 1, 2013; the 60-watt and 40-watt on the first day of 2014.

That schedule apparently remains intact despite maneuvers this month by Republican lawmakers opposed to the federal efficiency standards, especially for light bulbs.

Led by Rep. Joseph Barton, a Texas Republican and former oilman, the group slipped a provision into the 2012 federal spending bill prohibiting the U.S. Department of Energy from enforcing the rule, at least during the time the budget bill is in effect, through September.

Not that G-men doing surprise inspections of plant production lines would have been necessary.

The industry is not going to manufacture 100-watt light bulbs after Saturday. It has invested millions of dollars engineering alternatives — new efficient halogen light bulbs, even more-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs and ultra-efficient LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs.

After passage of the 2012 budget bill, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association quickly issued a statement criticizing the rider. The association noted that Barton’s rider did not change the law, only handcuffed the Energy Department, created regulatory uncertainty and fostered outlaw sales of old-fashioned bulbs made elsewhere.

The law also gives state attorneys general the authority to enforce its provisions, and the association predicted Barton’s funding cutoff to the Energy Department only would create confusion among consumers.

The office of Ohio Attorney General Mike De-Wine had no immediate answer when asked whether it would enforce the federal law.

Meeting the 2012 efficiency challenge was something of a cinch for lighting manufacturers. They turned to time-tested halogen technology.

Halogen bulbs are still incandescent bulbs, but they produce much more light per watt. In other words, they are far more efficient than standard bulbs.

The bulbs look like old-fashioned household bulbs but contain a halogen capsule rather than the standard Edison filament. They contain no mercury like fluorescent bulbs, cost a fraction of what an LED costs and are about 28 percent more efficient than the old-fashioned bulb. For example, the 72-watt halogen lamp bulb provides at least the same light as the old 100-watt bulb. The 42-watt halogen produces as many lumens as the old 60, and so on.

“Halogen technology was, unfortunately, forgotten about,” said Cathy Choi, president of Bulbrite. “And most important for consumers, I think the halogen is the closest relative to what they are accustomed to.”

The three major lighting manufacturers — Osram Sylvania, Philips North American Lighting and General Electric Lighting — all have created new halogen products, along with Bulbrite, a wholesale supplier to lighting stores exclusively.

All of the bulb-makers say they have ramped up the manufacturing of the new halogens for many months, and retailers should be well stocked with them.

Both Lowe’s and Home Depot representatives confirmed that the halogens are available, along with an increasing variety of CFLs and a growing number of LED bulbs.

  • None of the new bulbs is as inexpensive as the old-fashioned Edison lamp, but each of them, including the halogens, uses less electricity and lasts longer than the old bulbs. Philips Eco-Vantage halogens, for example, cost about $1.50 each but give more light at a lower wattage and last a little longer, Philips spokeswoman Silvie Casanova said.

Bulb-makers tend to describe the halogens as “transitional,” meaning the technology won’t meet federal energy standards expected later.

  • CFLs, which are about 75 percent more efficient than Edison light bulbs, and LEDs which are about 90 percent more efficient, are the future, they say.

Philips LEDs ushered in the New Year for the past three years at Times Square. The giant ball contains 32,256 separate LEDs.

  • The new law does not mean the old-style 100-watt bulb cannot be sold after Sunday, only that it cannot be manufactured.

A Home Depot spokeswoman said the old-fashioned bulbs are a best seller, when asked whether there is evidence that consumers might be hoarding them.

Sylvania’s fourth annual consumer “socket survey” this year found that 13 percent of consumers admit to hoarding the bulbs — the same percentage the survey turned up for the past three years.

The survey also found that for the first time a majority of Americans, 55 percent, are aware of the 2007 law. But a third of those surveyed said they planned to just switch to a lower wattage in 2012 when the 100-watt bulb is phased out.

Home Depot sees the transition as a consumer educational process and will have free public clinics every Saturday in January, beginning at 10 a.m., to explain the options that consumers now have.        (very Nice)

Lowe’s is converting store lighting shelves to include educational displays of each of the three technologies. jfunk@plaind.com

Choices to replace incandescent bulbs

HALOGEN BULBS

• This time-tested incandescent technology produces more light per watt than regular incandescent bulbs. The major bulb-makers already are offering them in 72 watts (replacing the 100), 53 watts (replacing the 75), 43 (replacing the 60) and 29 (replacing the 40). You will see them packaged as A19 bulbs, which is the industry code for the standard household bulb. They will cost about $1.50 each. The 72-watt will last about 1,000 hours, or about a year in normal household use. It is actually brighter than the old 100-watt it replaces and will save you nearly $4 in power costs over its lifetime.

COMPACT FLUORESCENT BULBS

• Manufacturers typically offer a 23- to 26-watt to replace the 100, a 13-watt to replace the traditional 60-watt and an 11-or 12-watt to replace the old 40-watt bulb.  Major brand CFL bulbs can cost $2 to $3 each but last 10,000 to 12,000 hours and save you up to $100 in electric bills. Off-brands can be as inexpensive as $1 each but might not last as long. Among the major brands, the squiggly-or spiral-shaped bulbs have gotten a lot smaller, come on instantly,  contain less mercury and give off a warmer light than their ancestors of just a few years ago.  There are also bulbs as large as 39-watts, which rival the traditional 150-watt bulb for brightness.  And GE Lighting is selling a hybrid halogen CFL that turns on seemingly at full brightness, thanks to the halogen, which then turns off as the CFL heats up to maximum brightness.

LED (LIGHT-EMITTING DIODES)

• Costly ($49 plus) spotlights have been around for several years. But in the past two years, the major manufacturers have been racing to engineer LEDs that look almost like traditional bulbs. A 40-watt equivalent uses only 8 or 9 watts; the 60-watt equivalent uses 12 or 13 watts, depending on the brand, and the 75-watt light equivalent, already offered by Philips, uses 17 watts. LED prices range from $25 to $40 but are expected to decrease as production ramps up. LEDs are rated to last between 100,0000 and 250,0000 hours, or more than 20 years in normal household use (operating about three to four hours per day, on average).

Source: Plain Dealer researcher

Vaccines list – 10 most important

Filed under: Mike Adams (NaturalNews.com),vaccine — Jan Turner @ 12:10 am

(Received this email from Mike at Natural News today, and I thought – “What a great list”! Everyone could profit from reading this – – and we owe it to ourselves to be as well-informed as possible in order to make good decisions.  Jan)

NaturalNews Insider Alert ( www.NaturalNews.com ) email newsletter

Dear NaturalNews readers,

First off, I want to personally wish you a Happy New Year’s weekend. And yes, by the way, I do personally write each of these daily emails, as you can probably tell from my total lack of self censorship when it comes to pointing out highly inappropriate things about society. <g>

2011 was a huge year for vaccine news, and I’ve compiled what I believe to be the 10 most important vaccine stories of the year:
http://www.naturalnews.com/034525_vaccines_news_stories.html

December 30, 2011

Preventive care not “free”

Preventive care not always free, despite law

Loophole leaves some patients angry

By Carla K. Johnson ASSOCIATED PRESS

ROSS D. FRANKLIN ASSOCIATED PRESS    Bill Dunphy of Phoenix had to pay $1,100 for a colonoscopy he was told would be completely covered by insurance. 

CHICAGO — Bill Dunphy thought his colonoscopy would be free. His insurance company told him it would be covered 100 percent, with no copayment from him and no charge against his deductible.

The nation’s 1-year-old health law requires most insurance plans to cover all costs for preventive care, including colon-cancer screening.

So Dunphy had the procedure in April. Then, the bill arrived: $1,100.

Dunphy, a 61-year-old small-business owner in Phoenix, angrily paid it out of his own pocket because of what some prevention advocates call a loophole.

His doctor removed two noncancerous polyps during the colonoscopy. So while Dunphy was sedated, his preventive screening turned into a diagnostic procedure. That allowed his insurance company to bill him.

Like many Americans, Dunphy has a high-deductible insurance plan. He hadn’t spent his deductible yet. So, on top of his $400 monthly premium, he had to pay the bill.

“That’s bait and switch,” Dunphy said. “If it isn’t fraud, it’s immoral.”  (Amen!  Jan)

President Barack Obama’s health overhaul encourages prevention by requiring most insurance plans to pay for preventive care. From cancer screenings to flu shots, many services no longer cost patients money.

But there are confusing exceptions. As Dunphy found out, colonoscopies can go from free to pricey while the patient is under anesthesia.

Breast-cancer screenings can cause confusion, too. In Florida, Tampa Bay-area small-business owner Dawn Thomas, 50, went for a screening mammogram. But she was told that her mammogram would be a diagnostic test — not preventive screening — because a previous mammogram had found something suspicious. (It turned out to be nothing.)

Knowing that it would cost her $700, and knowing that her doctor had ordered a screening mammogram, Thomas stood her ground.

“Either I get a screening today or I’m putting my clothes back on and I’m leaving,” she remembers telling the hospital staff. It worked. Her mammogram was counted as preventive, and she got it for free.

For parents with several children, costs can pile up with unexpected copays for kids needing shots. Robin Brassner of Jersey City, N.J., expected her doctor visit to be free. All she wanted was a flu shot. But the doctor charged her a $20 copay.

“He said no one really comes in for just a flu shot. They inevitably mention another ailment, so he charges,” Brassner said.

How confused are doctors?

“Extremely,” said Cheryl Gregg Fahrenholz, an Ohio consultant who works with physicians. It’s common for doctors to deal with 200 insurance plans. And some older plans are exempt.

Should insurance now pay for aspirin? Aspirin to prevent heart disease and stroke is one of the covered services for older patients. But it’s unclear whether insurers are supposed to pay only for doctors to tell older patients about aspirin — or whether they’re supposed to pay for the aspirin itself, said Dr. Jason Spangler, chief medical officer for the nonpartisan Partnership for Prevention.

Stop-smoking interventions also are supposed to be free. “But what does that mean?” Spangler asked. “Does it mean counseling? Nicotine-replacement therapy? What about drugs (that can help smokers quit) like Wellbutrin or Chantix? That hasn’t been clearly laid out.”

Dunphy, the Phoenix businessman, recalled how he felt when he got his colonoscopy bill, like something underhanded was going on.

“It’s the intent of the law to cover this stuff,” Dunphy said. “It really made me angry.”

Landfills testing – pollutants

EPA GROUNDWATER RULES

Landfills may have to test for pollutants

By Spencer Hunt THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Under proposed state rules, landfills that take debris from construction and demolition sites would have to regularly test groundwater for a long list of toxic metals and chemicals.

If any of the 77 listed pollutants were detected, companies would have to test groundwater outside landfill boundaries to see if any leaked. If there were leaks, the landfill owner would face Ohio Environmental Protection Agency orders to clean up the pollution.

Heidi Griesmer, an agency spokeswoman, said the regulations meet a 2005 state law that mandates increased groundwater monitoring. The rules also follow a 2009 agency survey that found hazardous pollutants inside 30 landfills.

  • The pollutants, including arsenic, benzene and vinyl chloride, were found in “leachate” — water that bubbles up inside landfills.

Ohio’s debris landfills were unregulated for decades because the materials dumped in them — concrete, drywall and splintered lumber — were deemed harmless. But that’s changed for the 53 operating landfills, including five in central Ohio.

Problems arose after several landfills started taking millions of tons of debris from waste haulers as far away as New Jersey and New York.   One site, Warren Recycling in Trumbull County, became notorious for underground fires and clouds of noxious hydrogen sulfide gas.

That landfill, which was closed in 2004, helped prompt state lawmakers to pass the 2005 water-monitoring law.

The Ohio EPA first proposed regulations in 2006 but withdrew them after industry officials complained that compliance would be too expensive.

The Construction and Demolition Association of Ohio won’t oppose these regulations, said its attorney, Michael Cyphert. He said a key compromise gives companies more time and flexibility to set aside money needed to safely shut down and maintain closed landfills.

The proposed rules would require companies to test water inside the landfill at least once a year. Landfills with water-circulation systems would have to test four times a year.

  • The regulations don’t include other requirements that the Ohio EPA released in a draft document in January. Those would have forced new and expanding landfills to install plastic liners to help keep pollutants from leaking. Cyphert and Griesmer said those requirements are still being discussed.

Richard Sahli, a Columbus environmental attorney and a longstanding critic of the state’s landfill oversight, said the water requirements are long overdue.

“It’s a shame that it’s taken six years since the adoption of the 2005 reform legislation to have this basic safeguard,” Sahli said.

  • The proposed regulations will be discussed during a public hearing at10:30 a.m. on Jan. 3 at the Ohio EPA central offices, located at 50 W. Town St. in Downtown. A final set of rules could be enacted sometime in 2012.

shunt@dispatch.com

December 29, 2011

Working at 60 – try 90

Still working at 60? Try toiling past 90

The number of older Americans who choose to work later and later in life is growing.

By Zlati Meyer DETROIT FREE PRESS

DETROIT — Al Churchill’s first car was a Ford Model T.    These days, he’s driven to work in a 2012 Lincoln Navigator.

Work?                                                                                                Regina H Boone  – – DETROIT FREE PRESS

The 97-year-old Royal Oak, Mich., resident goes to his office every day — and has no plans to stop.    Churchill owns Magnetool, a company based in Troy, Mich., that he founded 60 years ago using training he got at the long-shuttered Henry Ford Trade School.    “It’s more fun to work,” he said. “Do I have a hobby? Yes, magnets.”

The number of older Americans who choose to work later and later in life is growing, and Churchill is one of a handful of nonagenarians still earning paychecks full time. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says 1.2 million Americans age 75 or older were working last year, up from 787,000 in 2001.

“Some of these young people, kids, have a lot more vitality. They can work longer hours than I can, but … all I can do is bring my own experience,” said Robert Halperin, 90, a loan officer at John Adams Mortgage in Southfield, Mich. “It’s important for people to realize they can keep productive for a long time. They don’t have to sit on the stoop and rock.”

Numerous studies have shown that staying on the job later in life has numerous advantages, such as decreased dementia, longer lifespan and greater happiness, said Cathy Lysack, deputy director of Wayne State University’s Institute of Gerontology, whose almost-80-year-old father is a full-time surgeon.    “There’s a small portion of older adults who are amazingly great at what they do. They have the abilities to perform at a very high level in late life, and it’s meaningful for them to work. They’re still rewarded,” she said.

Dick McNeilly, who has worked in the membership office of the Better Business Bureau in Southfield for 35 years, agreed.    Working “takes all my time. I don’t want to have to sit around and watch TV,” the 92-year-old Detroit man said. “I plan to work as long as I can. … The work we do is very important to the community.”

For the senior-senior set, having a sense of purpose, staying busy and keeping cognitive skills sharp are worth it.

“I have no real outside hobbies that would challenge me and keep my gray matter from disintegrating too quickly, because it does go downhill after a certain age,” Halperin said. “People I know who retired who had no real interests, they died earlier. This is a stimulant for me.”    That’s why, at 87, he decided to take the loan-officer licensing exam.    “It’s a sense of accomplishment. They don’t want to be a burden on society, so they work,” the former homebuilder said. “People at these ages, 75 and above, are younger than they used to be.”

Employers see the benefits, too.    “He brings a ton of experience. He’s still very productive, and he brings a lot of joy to people here. People love speaking to him. He’s got a ton of stories,” said Larry Bsharah, president of John Adams Mortgage.

Another example of that kind of added value: Leo Keeps, who, after he sold his hotel-restaurant food business 33 years ago, went to work in sales for Detroit’s Wolverine Packing, one of his former suppliers.    “I’m working with 17 other young salesmen, and I stay in the loop,” explained the 92-year-old Southfield resident. “What keeps me going is getting up every morning and knowing there’s a place to go, a place I enjoy, and the challenge of the sales every day is one I’ve enjoyed every day all my life. Why quit?”

Churchill sure won’t anytime soon.    “I feel sorry for them, because it’s necessary for people to have something important to do or something they think is important to do,” he said about his fellow “oldest old” Americans who gave up commuting decades ago. “If I didn’t work? There’s no such thing. … Work is important, because without work, you’re nothing.”

(This post was put up in the wee hours last night, and I certainly meant to – – but I forgot one of the main things I had on my mind, which is, of course – – a shout out of “Bravo”  to my fellow ‘oldsters’.  I couldn’t agree more with their sentiments.  It indeed is wonderful to be useful, to be able to give back something useful to a life which has been rewarding to you.  Being an octogenarian – – I am 100% with you.   Tho I still flinch with cash flow problems nevertheless,  I am living a good life – thank you Social Security.    I can make my life work (not the full choice thing I have previously been able to achieve),   but a very good life in which I experience much gratitude and genuine happiness.    I have my pursuits and my blog.   What’s not to like?
.
But this is not the same as so many are enduring presently.   It is quite a different thing to be let go  from the security one had assumed would continue to be a part of one’s life.   Many are without any form of  ‘earned income’  and are unable to continue to be contributing participants in the flow of living, happening stuff.  When those of forty and fifty can’t find work of any meaningful kind,  seniors, still valuable and worthy competitors are cut loose from the  stream without a chance – very often.  We are living in a distorted, strange-functioning time.
.
The heroes in the article are enjoying longevity either because of equity positions,  long established service with well recognized proficiency and other equitable win-win situations.  It is wonderful and benevolent.
.
. . . I’m just sayin’ – – there are differences amongst us.  We all have different lessons to deal with.  But with those figuring things out phase, please keep reaching for the happier thought; deliberately choose that which feels good or better.  Never concentrate on comparison stuff – leads to pain.  No one walks in your shoes but you, . . . and vice-versa.   If you see me out here on the path – – hang a wave.   .   .   .    Jan)

Charter Sch win w/White Hat suit

FINANCIAL RECORDS

Charter schools get win in White Hat suit

By Charlie Boss THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

The 19-month fight over whether Ohio’s largest for-profit manager of charter schools must share detailed financial records could be coming to a close.

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge John F. Bender has decided he can rule on the case, and he reiterated an order he made in August that White Hat Management release records showing how the charter-school operator spends the millions of tax dollars it gets each year.

Bender had halted the case last month to determine whether the court had the authority to preside over the lawsuit. On Friday, Bender stated that the court had jurisdiction because “common pleas is a court of general jurisdiction.”

He ordered the 10 charter schools that have sued White Hat to submit their request for financial information by Jan. 6.

“We’re starting over, to some extent,” said Karen S. Hockstad, an attorney for the schools. “It looks like the court is willing to work on an expedited discovery because time is an issue at this point.”

Hockstad said the schools are operating under an agreement with White Hat that maintains the status quo until either a new agreement is reached or the lawsuit is settled. Schools must notify White Hat by the end of February whether they have decided not to negotiate a new contract. The current pact expires June 30.

In June 2010, 10 Hope Academies and Life Skills Centers in Cleveland and Akron filed suit against White Hat, contending that the company has refused to disclose how it spent the money it received.

Under contracts with the company, the schools turned over 96 percent of operating funds they receive from the state to White Hat. In return, the company handled virtually all elements of the schools’ operations, including hiring and firing their administrators and teachers.

The company is owned by Akron businessman and major Republican Party donor David L. Brennan, who pushed for state laws that expanded Ohio’s charter-school movement.

White Hat provided the schools with some financial records, but Hockstad said they are not detailed enough to allow the schools’ governing bodies to evaluate their financial status or White Hat’s performance. For example, White Hat reported spending a certain amount on “building services,” but it was unclear whether that was for facility upkeep, janitorial staff or other expenses.

Bender ruled that the charter schools are entitled to the records because they are legally responsible for taxpayers’ dollars.

“Public funds are allocated to the community school, not the management company,” he wrote. “A community school remains accountable for how public funds are spent, whether it contracts with a management company or not.”

In October, Bender ruled that White Hat is a “public official” when acting as an authorized agent of a charter school. The designation makes White Hat subject to Ohio public-record laws, requiring it to account for the public dollars it receives, information that the company has been unwilling to disclose for years.

Charles R. Saxbe, a Columbus lawyer representing White Hat, said the company wants to see what kind of information the schools are requesting.

“If they ask for information we don’t believe we’re obliged to give under the contract, and that information could be proprietary to White Hat, then we’ll object,” Saxbe said. “But we will wait and see what the plaintiffs ask for, and if there is a dispute, we’ll advise the court we’d like to settle the issue as pursuant to the contract.”

White Hat may submit objections to the charter schools’ requests by Jan. 13. cboss@dispatch.com

December 28, 2011

Pain-clinic allegation details

SCIOTO COUNTY ‘PILL MILL’

Pain-clinic allegations detailed

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins ASSOCIATED PRESS

One patient was prescribed painkillers even after she was caught faking a urine test, while others paid a doctor to increase their prescriptions, according to documents related to the shutdown this week of a notorious clinic. It operated in a part of southern Ohio so identified with painkiller addiction that its standard dosage was known as a “Portsmouth cocktail,” named for the county seat.

The Greater Medical Advance clinic in Wheelersburg, an Ohio River city of about 6,000 residents, was a perpetually busy drug house where the owner carried a handgun and tens of thousands of painkiller doses were dispensed at inflated prices, according to charging documents and search warrants that the Associated Press obtained through a public-records request.

Authorities allege that the clinic, the last remaining “pill mill” in painkiller-plagued Scioto County, was a destination well-known among addicts and dealers and had just one purpose: “to make as much money off illegal drug trafficking and the funding of illegal drug trafficking as possible.”

The documents reveal the length to which addicts and dealers will go to get pills, and they illustrate the mechanics of supply and demand at a time when painkiller overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death — more than auto accidents — in more than a dozen states, including Ohio.

  •    Clinics that critics call “pill mills” often operate as pain-management centers and are known for doing cash-only business with scant patient examinations.

Dr. Victor Georgescu, who faces corruption and drug-trafficking charges, told investigators he was scared by goings-on at Greater Medical but needed the work because he had been fired from four previous jobs after suffering a stroke, according to a 2010 request for a search warrant during an investigation of more than two years.

“You don’t like what you were doing here,” Kevin Kineer, an investigator with the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, asked the doctor.

“Right,” Georgescu said.

“You know it’s wrong,” the agent said.

“Yes,” the doctor said.

Columbus defense lawyer Mike Miller, who is temporarily representing Georgescu, 50, but doesn’t expect to take his case, said he hasn’t reviewed the charges yet. Three other people also were charged, including clinic owner George Marshall Adkins, who faces similar charges, plus a count of carrying a gun while involved in drug trafficking.

A lawyer who has represented Adkins in the past said the clinic had safeguards against such-alleged abuse. “To my knowledge, they ran the place in accordance with the way they were supposed to,” said attorney Mike Mearan of Portsmouth.

A judge ordered the clinic temporarily closed as a public nuisance. In a hearing next week, authorities will argue that it should be permanently shuttered.

Billy and Katherine Inmon, the owners of the property operated by Adkins, deny involvement with the clinic or knowledge of what was happening there.       “We’re conservative people, people of faith, and people that don’t stand for anything close to what these people are accused of doing,” said Billy Inmon, who owns several shopping centers in Ohio.

Documents paint a picture of an operation where pills were readily dispensed to about anybody who could pay.

So many patients brought in nonpatients seeking drugs that the clinic had to post a sign limiting the number of visitors, according to a charging document. Husbands and wives often received the same prescriptions, as did people living at the same address, raising suspicions that drugs were prescribed with little or no diagnosis.

Clients could pay extra to have their prescriptions increased, and the “Portsmouth cocktail” was often dispensed to convicted drug dealers and addicts, according to the documents.

Clinic employee Tammy Newman would take a “pill tax” from patients — usually two to five tablets — during the pill counts, the indictment against Adkins says.

Many patients traveled long distances, sometimes from other states, documents said. Many patients appeared stoned while at the clinic, and unsigned prescriptions or prescriptions with stamped signatures were found, a violation of Ohio law.

Georgescu frequently wrote prescriptions that lasted longer and had higher and stronger dosages than other doctors order, according to the search-warrant request. During one nine-month stretch, more than 14,000 prescriptions were written.

“A review of patient records found massive failure to comply with health-care standards and Ohio law,” Adkins’ indictment says.

The “pill mills” in Scioto County — there were once more than a dozen — created regional collateral damage, feeding addiction and crime in that county and its neighbors, and in nearby states. Those places lacked the clinics but not the people they served, said Aaron Haslam, the painkiller drug czar for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Wiping the clinics out in one county was significant, but the painkiller-addiction crisis is still responsible for huge problems that will take years to resolve.

The number of children born addicted to drugs — an increase linked to painkiller abuse — is skyrocketing in Ohio and elsewhere. Last year, nearly 1,200 Ohio babies were born with drug-withdrawal syndrome; the number was 310 in 2005.

  •    More than 1,300 people in Ohio died from accidental drug overdoses in 2009, according to the most-recent data from the state Department of Health. The number of fatal overdoses more than quadrupled from 1999, when the state recorded 327 accidental deaths, according to the department.

“A drug addict is sick; there’s something that is not right, and they need help,” said Angela Hamilton, 40, whose sister died in 2009, one day after getting a prescription from Georgescu, according to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration records.

“They don’t need people to be greedy and look at them as a dollar sign,” said Hamilton, who lives in Greenup County, Ky., across the Ohio River from Scioto County.

 (This article is from December 24, 2011.  .  .  have had some problems with computer, couldn’t get it up sooner.  Of course, this article is extremely sad and discouraging.  Not the sort of thing I am prone to want to have taking up space on my blog.  This is portraying the tragic stuff which does go on in our world.  And perhaps authorities are doing the things which need to be done.    I am in no place where judgement can form.

Had all the fuss and story-telling over the pain-pill docs been presented with some semblance of honest, well- motivated, tell-it-like-it-is facts – – it might have seemed more reasonable and logical and proper.  It would not have come off as vigilantes running amok.  You know – all the throw them under the bus talk.   

We can feel like puppets on a string, subject to whatever information is given in our local newspapers.   Thank goodness for them.  One wishes however for the good ole days of  true investigative reporting.   Newspaper business being what it is, guess, we are lucky to get what we are getting.   One can’t help but wonder.      Jan)

Seek answers Plane crash, deaths

The Columbus Dispatch Tuesday December 27, 2011

Pain-patient advocate among victims of small-plane crash

Woman    in    plane    crash    motivated    by    late    husband’s    struggle

  • Siobhan Reynolds, 50, of Logan, ran the Pain Relief Network from 2003 until a year ago.

By  John Futty

An outspoken advocate for pain patients was among the victims of a Christmas Eve plane crash in Vinton County.

Siobhan Reynolds, 50, who recently moved to Logan, died in the crash that fatally injured Columbus lawyer Kevin Byers, 54, and killed his 78-year-old mother, Eudora Byers of Mansfield. Mr. Byers was piloting the plane.

Reynolds moved to Logan “for the spacious dog-walking opportunities” and to be supportive of Mr. Byers, her fiance and a fellow activist, according to her son, Ronan Morrell Greenwood of Austin, Texas.

The pilot and passengers of the single-engine plane, which crashed near the Vinton County Airport, were on their way to Logan in nearby Hocking County for a Christmas dinner, Greenwood wrote in an email yesterday to The Dispatch.

Reynolds, originally from Santa Fe, N.M., founded her advocacy organization, the Pain Relief Network, in New York in 2003. She was motivated by the struggles of her late husband, Sean Edward Greenwood, to find relief for chronic pain before his death.

  • She folded the organization in December 2010 after battling for the rights of pain patients and being investigated by federal prosecutors for working on behalf of a Kansas couple who were charged with over-prescribing pain pills.
  • “I have decided to shut down (the Pain Relief Network) as an activist organization because pressure from the U.S. Department of Justice has made it impossible for us to function,” Reynolds wrote in an open letter on the organization’s website. “It certainly appears that the legal deck is stacked against pain patients and doctors.”

Byers had a Downtown law office that specialized in defending medical professionals and pain patients, according to his website.

He was a former member of the Liberty Union-Thurston school district’s board in Fairfield County.

Reynolds and Byers were engaged, her son said. Byers’ marriage to Michele Byers ended in a dissolution granted on Oct. 12, Fairfield County Common Pleas Court records show.

The Cardaras Funeral Home in Logan is in charge of arrangements for Reynolds. No calling hours will be held.

Arrangements for Mr. Byers are pending.

jfutty@dispatch.com

The Columbus Dispatch Monday December 26, 2011

Pilot killed in crash was lawyer in Columbus

Mother, friend also died in accident near small airport; cause investigated

  • Kevin P. Byers, 54, was a former member of the Liberty Union- Thurston school board.
  • View Larger

By  Marla Matzer Rose 

                                                                                                            WSAZ-TV (HUNTINGTON, W.VA.)

Kevin Byers’ plane crashed along a road next to the Vinton County Airport as he apparently approached its runway.

Columbus lawyer Kevin Byers, who was killed along with his mother and a friend when his single-engine plane crashed near the Vinton County Airport on Christmas Eve, was remembered by acquaintances yesterday as an involved parent who served the Liberty Union-Thurston school district in Fairfield County.

Byers, 54, died early yesterday after being taken to Ohio State University Medical Center in critical condition on Saturday afternoon.

Killed instantly in the crash were Byers’ mother, 78-year-old Eudora Byers of Mansfield, and 50-year-old Siobhan Reynolds of New Mexico.

Authorities are investigating the cause of the crash; Vinton County coroner’s investigator Steve Huston said the plane apparently was approaching the runway but ended up along a road next to the airport.

Byers had a law office Downtown specializing in medical and health-care-related issues. His law degree was from Capital University, according to the legal website Martindale.com.

Byers stepped down from his appointed position as a school-board member of the 1,300-student Liberty Union-Thurston district after the death of his younger son. Nick Byers, who was a 17-year-old senior at Liberty Union High School at the time, died unexpectedly one week before Easter in April 2009.

Arthur Brate, who served on the school board with Byers from 2007 to 2009, said, “He was very supportive of the school system. His wife was a teacher, and his boys were very good students. … He saw the value of education and wanted his children and other children in the community to have a good education.”

Joseph Farmer, another former Liberty Union board member who now serves on the State Board of Education, said Byers’ legal background was a useful addition to the Liberty Union board. “He brought legal expertise to our board, helping with policies and procedures,” Farmer said.

Farmer recalled Byers’ interest in sports and other extracurricular activities, and he said Byers had done some coaching of the sports his sons were involved in as young boys.

Byers’ wife, Michele (Shelly), is a longtime teacher at Liberty Union Elementary School. Their older son, Nate, graduated from Ohio State University and has been living in Wisconsin, according to neighbors who know the family.

Information from the Associated Press was included in this story.

mrose@dispatch.com

Fannie / Freddie didn’t start it

Fannie and Freddie didn’t start the fire

JOE NOCERA

There is so much about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that we should be angry about.

In their heyday, these strange hybrids — part corporation, part government agency — were the biggest bullies in Washington, quick to bludgeon critics who dared suggest that their dual missions of maximizing profits while making homeownership affordable for low-and moderate-income Americans were incompatible. They steamrolled their regulator and pushed back at any suggestion that their capital was inadequate.

For years, they essentially wrote most of the legislation that affected them. In the mid-2000s, they had giant accounting scandals. Eventually, their quest for profits led them to make a belated, disastrous foray into subprime mortgages, which ended with their collapse, and which has cost taxpayers about $150 billion. Tragically, Fannie and Freddie could have led a housing recovery — if they hadn’t become crippled wards of the state instead.

Yet these real sins have been largely overlooked in favor of imagined ones. Over at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, two resident scholars, Peter Wallison and Edward Pinto, have concocted what has since become a Republican meme: namely, that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were ground zero for the entire crisis, leading the private sector off the cliff with their affordable-housing mandates and massive subprime holdings.

The truth is the opposite: Fannie and Freddie got into subprime mortgages, with great trepidation, only in 2005 and 2006, and only because they were losing so much market share to Wall Street. Among other things, the Wallison-Pinto case relies on inflated data — Pinto classifies just about anything that is not a 30-year-fixed mortgage as “subprime.” The reality is that Fannie and Freddie followed the private sector off the cliff.

Nevertheless, Wallison, who was a member of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission — charged with investigating the root causes of the crisis — wrote a 99-page dissent when the FCIC issued its final report, claiming it was all Fannie and Freddie’s fault. In a column I wrote at the time, I described Wallison’s dissent as a “lonely, loony cri de coeur.” He’s been trying to get me to take it back ever since.

On Friday, the Securities and Exchange Commission waded into the Fannie/Freddie wars by filing a lawsuit against three executives from each company. The complaint charges them with making “materially false” disclosures about the size of the companies’ subprime portfolios.

In unveiling the lawsuit, Robert Khuzami, the agency’s enforcement chief, said that the SEC’s action showed that “all individuals, regardless of their rank or position, will be held accountable.” Not really. What it shows is how desperate the SEC has become to bring a crowd-pleasing case.

The complaint is weak. Taking its cues from the Wallison/Pinto school of inflated data, it claims that Fannie and Freddie failed to reveal to investors the true extent of their subprime portfolios. To make this claim, however, the SEC has included categories of loans, such as so-called Alt-A loans, that may have had a subprime characteristic, such as low documentation, but which were often made to borrowers with high credit scores.

There are no damning internal emails in the complaint, with executives contradicting their public statements, and no examples of sleazy insider stock sales. A quick look at Fannie and Freddie’s financial disclosure statements shows that they clearly laid out the credit characteristics of their mortgage portfolios, even if they didn’t label every non-30-year-fixed loan as subprime. More than a year ago, a federal judge presiding over a shareholder lawsuit against Fannie Mae threw out the allegations surrounding lack of disclosure. Why? Because, he said, the company’s disclosure of its subprime portfolio had been adequate.

There is something else missing from the SEC complaint, which Wallison and Pinto also conveniently ignore: default data. The truth is, for all their mistakes, Fannie and Freddie had some scruples about the nonprime loans they did make — and they have the default numbers to prove it.

For instance, according to David Min, a leading Wallison critic at the Center for American Progress, as of the second quarter of 2010, the delinquency rate on all Fannie and Freddie guaranteed loans was 5.9 percent. By contrast, the national average was 9.11 percent. Fannie and Freddie’s Alt-A default rate is similarly much lower than the national default rate. The only possible explanation for this is that many of the loans being characterized by the SEC and Wallison/Pinto as “subprime” are not, in fact, true subprime mortgages.

After the SEC filed its charges, I received an email from Wallison, suggesting that the complaint proved that he had been right. I now concede that he is half-right. Loony though his theory may be, he’s sure not lonely anymore.

Joe Nocera writes for The New York Times.

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