Wildfires continue in California

October 22, 2007


There are massive wildfires raging across much of southern California.  I was at a family party yesterday and we literally spend two hours watching the fire spread on CNN.  It was crazy.  Cross California off my list of places to live.  I hope they get it under control today, and that the residents are able to successfully evacuate.

RAMONA, California (CNN) — Residents of about 10,000 homes northeast of San Diego were ordered Monday to flee an out-of-control wildfire, “Witch”, one of several burning across Southern California.
The Witch fire was one of several major wildfires to ignite Sunday around Los Angeles and San Diego, fueled by hot, dry conditions and pushed by fierce Santa Ana winds. Thousands of homes were threatened.  Large fires bore down on Malibu, Santa Clarita and two rural communities east of San Diego on Monday morning as thousands of firefighters battled the blazes.

The Witch fire was moving much faster than expected, and there was “a very high potential” it would enter San Diego early Monday, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders said.

Sanders urged San Diegans in the fire’s potential path to “collect important belongings so they can evacuate immediately.” He said reverse 911 calls would be made by San Diego police to inform residents who should leave their homes.

A larger fire, fueled by wind gusts up to 80 mph, has spread more than 12,500 acres around Santa Clarita about 35 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

At least 400 firefighters were deployed to battle the fire, which officials estimate has destroyed 17 buildings and threatens 3,800 Santa Clarita Valley homes. Mandatory evacuations were ordered for several communities.

Got allergies? Need relief? Thank George

September 30, 2007

For some people allergies and allergic reactions can be terrible. For example Alex is a gross to be near booger-bag for several weeks a year, and Christina has an itch fest when exposed to sulfonamides. I am lucky enough to only be mildly allergic to Tide and tomato plants, but I do seem to be developing an allergy to my basement, or the fluffy cat that lives there. But when your eyes puff up, or hives appear, or your nose is running, or you can’t stop sneezing what do we turn to? Benadryl. I thought a brief mention of the man behind Benadryl would be worth posting. I am not sure if it is all pharmacy schools or just Temple, but antihistamines come up at least 3 times a day. Somehow my professors can work it into any lesson (from anatomy to immunology to pharmaceutics or even medicinal chemistry)

George Rieveschl, a chemical engineer (not a medical doctor) whom millions of sufferers of allergies, colds, rashes, hives and hay fever can thank for the relief they receive by swallowing a capsule of beta-dimethylaminoethylbenzhydryl ether hydrochloride — the antihistamine he invented and renamed Benadryl — died Thursday in Cincinnati. He was 91

Dr. Rieveschl (pronounced REE-va-shell), who had a Ph.D. in chemistry, was an assistant professor researching muscle-relaxing drugs at the University of Cincinnati in the early 1940s when he realized the powerful potential of that 19-syllable antihistamine compound, then being tested as a muscle relaxer.

Histamines are chemicals made in some cells that can damage the tiny blood vessels called capillaries, allowing blood plasma to leak into body tissues and cause swelling, itching and redness. Antihistamines are manufactured compounds that block receptors in the capillaries, preventing those irritating and sometimes even fatal effects.

“What George Rieveschl did was synthesize a compound that is much more tolerable because it causes much less drowsiness,” said Dr. I. Leonard Bernstein, a professor of medicine at the University of Cincinnati and a former president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. “It’s a very benign drug that most people can tolerate.”

The discovery of Benadryl was also significant because it was the first finding that specific receptors in capillaries can be affected by different compounds. “So there are now a whole series of antihistamines that will counter these different histamine receptors,” Dr. Bernstein said. “It was a key discovery.” It was also a profitable one.

Based on sales that rose to about $6 million a year by the early 1960s, that proved quite lucrative for him, Dr. Rieveschl told The Cincinnati Post in 1999. However, he said, he did not benefit from the huge profits Parke-Davis made after the Food and Drug Administration allowed Benadryl to become an over-the-counter drug in the 1980s. Sales then jumped to more than $180 million a year.

“He did this on his own, in the days before we had research teams,” Dr. Bernstein added. “He understood this concept because he was a good organic chemist.”


Published: September 29, 2007

Asthma in minority youth

September 16, 2007

According to the National Center for Health Statistics asthma is a serious problem in inner city youth, specifically minorities. It follows simple logic; children in cities are exposed to a larger number of allergens and therefore have higher chances of respiratory reactions like asthma.  The problem is children in those same environments are less exposed to adequate health care. While the overall rate of asthma related mortality has declined in the last several years, for minority children it hasn’t. This is just another reason why we need to close the income gap between races and enact universal health care. Lack of healthcare coverage plays a large role in problem of disease states that require maintain drugs (high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma). Without insurance, many families are forced to only seek help in emergency situations and are not able to control the disease.

The main points of the article were:

  • In the United States, 20 percent of Puerto Rican children, or one in five, have asthma. Among African-American youngsters, the rate is 13 percent.
  • African-American and Puerto Rican children are six times as likely as white children to die of asthma.
  • Inner-city children are exposed to more indoor and outdoor allergens — triggers for breathing problems — in their homes.
  • Lack of access to quality care, patterns of medication use and genetics play a role in the prevalence of asthma in minority children.
  • Public health programs can change outcomes in children with asthma


Hybrid Taxis

September 15, 2007

“Karambir Sangha used to be an accountant, before he became a cabbie. And so in his head, he ticked off what it means to him to be the first of 10 taxi drivers in the Seattle area to begin driving a hybrid in the past two weeks.

And though he’s been driving the hybrid only since Aug. 31, he figures he’ll save $15 to $20 a day; and since he drives six or seven days a week, that’s more than $100 more for the immigrant from India, his wife and two children, 13 and 9, to live on. Rising gas prices are particularly hard on the cabbies who make airport runs because, unlike Seattle cabbies, they don’t have the benefit of a special fuel surcharge to offset gas prices.

“You give up, I suppose, the things that you have if you have more money,” said Sangha, who’s been driving a cab for seven years. “Eating out, going to the movies, shopping.” Under King County and Seattle rules, cabbies cannot drive cars more than seven years old, and Sangha said that this year it was time to replace his anyway. Though the $24,000 Toyota Prius is expensive, he figured — like a lot of drivers these days — it made more sense in the long run.

When the Port of Seattle, which contracts with the Seattle-Tacoma International Taxi Association to pick up passengers at the airport, agreed to allow up to 25 aging taxis to be replaced with hybrids, Sangha was first to buy his. So far, 10 hybrid STITA taxis are on the road, said Sheila Stickel, the taxi association’s liaison with the port. By the end of the month, all 25 should be running.

And in the taxi business, where the clicking of the meter is a reminder that time is money, not having to wait in line for gas, he said, means having time to pick up another fare very day.

And then, as is often the case, when it comes with new cars, though not necessarily with taxis, there’s the coolness factor. Amrik Singh, 38, was on the taxi line in his new hybrid taxi, showing off how he gets in. A sensor reads a card he carries and opens the door when he approaches. And there’s no ignition — just a button on the console to start the car. Another button puts it in park. A small monitor shows the view from a camera in the back of the car. There have been a few customers, he said, who have thanked him for doing his part for the environment. But ultimately, it’s saving money on gas. He was asked if the hybrid was making a difference in his life.

“$400 a month,” he said.”

Full article: article