Monthly Archives: February 2016

Vesuvio’s Reopens After a Smattering of Violations

After multiple health code violations, Vesuvio’s, a popular late-night downtown South Bend bar and pizza spot, was fined heavily on Feb. 9. On Jan. 20, the St. Joseph County Health Department discovered a staggering 12 violations, two of which being and five of them having been repeated from prior inspections. And on a pre-announced follow-up visit in early February, nine violations were standing, with four of them critical and five of them repeat offenses.

Finally, on Feb. 2, the St. Joseph County Health Department ordered Vesuvio’s to close in order to make the necessary changes to remain up to code. As of Feb. 9, Vesuvio’s has reopened after a 3 p.m. inspection.

At the hearing that preceded the opening, the department fined the restaurant $350 and placed it under probation, adding an additional $200 fine to the bill.

Owned by Sonja Young and managed by Tim Hines, the restaurant opens at 5 p.m. and stays open until the wee hours of the morning, shutting its doors at 4 a.m.

Of the many problems, the health department officials were troubled by two items in particular: firstly, the restaurant doesn’t have a certified food handler present at the business for majority of its hours.

Additionally, the large amount of soot that was present on the ceiling and walls of the kitchen presented serious fire hazards. According to Hines, the soot problems are due to the kitchen’s exhaust fan. Typically, kitchen exhaust fans need to be cleaned once every three months, and if broken, they need to be repaired immediately. Hines believes that the exhaust fan had been damaged by contractors working above the business, and it took the city several contractor visits to fix it.

Work surface and kitchen equipment in professional kitchen

Hines also posited that since the exhaust fan is positioned near the dumpster, some of the grease from the garbage might have created the soot.

However, since exhaust fans only push air out, not in, health department officials claim this is impossible.

UT Dallas Study Finds Energy From Cellphone Towers Amplifies Pain In Amputees

appleProponents of electromagnetic field (EMF) protection have long warned of the potential negative effects things like cellphones and wireless internet can have on a person’s body, but the scientific community remains somewhat ambiguous with not a lot of concrete evidence to support either side. In fact, even the two to six billion cell phone users worldwide don’t realize the dangers that these technologies and electromagnetic fields can hold. However, a recent study from researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas is shedding some new light on the subject, specifically as it pertains to amputee victims.

According to a press release published by eurekalert.org, the study was published in last month’s PLOS ONE academic journal and revealed tangible evidence that supports what many amputees have reported in anecdotal cases for some time.

Retired Maj. David Underwood is one of those amputees and part of the reason behind the study coming about. Although there is little indication that the majority of cell phone users are aware of dangers EMFs poise, Underwood was able to identify warning signs after exposure.

“When roaming on a cellphone in the car kicked in, the pain almost felt like having my arm blown off again,” said Underwood, an Iraq War veteran who was injured by an improvised explosive device (IED). “I didn’t notice the power lines, cellphones on roam or other electromagnetic fields until I first felt them in my arm.”

Dr. Mario Romero-Ortega, senior author of the study and an associate professor of bioengineering in the University’s Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, became interested in the phenomenon after speaking with Underwood. Until now there had been virtually no previous research done into how EMFs may affect people with preexisting injuries.

“Our study provides evidence, for the first time, that subjects exposed to cellphone towers at low, regular levels can actually perceive pain,” said Romero-Ortega. “Our study also points to a specific nerve pathway that may contribute to our main finding.”

The study, which was performed on rats, found that subjects who had some sort of nerve-injury and were exposed to EMFs exhibited behavioral pain response, as opposed to the control group which overall did not. For complete details of the study check out the University’s own summary here.

Chicago Officials Fail to Warn Residents About Water Contamination Risks

Over two years ago, federal researchers discovered that there were high levels of lead in Chicago water mains, which had been replaced replaced when new meters were installed. Although Mayor Rahm Emanuel has ordered work on the system, the contamination poses a number of serious health risks to residents.

Man Digging Out Clogged Sewer Line Closeup

A recent study from the researchers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shows that when construction work disrupts service lines that connect building to the city’s water system, a brain-damaging metal (lead) can flow out of the faucets of homes for years after the initial work is done. The study also shows that almost 80% of the properties in Chicago are attached to service lines that are made of lead.

And due to the nature of the city’s testing protocols — which are based on federal rules — city residents are wont to miss high concentrations of lead in drinking water supply.

As shown in recent media coverage of the situation in Flint, MI, the aftermath of a lead-contaminated water supply can be beyond devastating.

Despite the grim details from the report, city officials failed to warn residents about the potential lead hazards in the letters sent to notify the homeowners of the new water mains beings installed. Instead, residents were merely advised to flush all faucets and taps for several minutes after work is complete. Meanwhile, the EPA feels that this solution is “grossly inadequate.”

Chicago’s current predicament serves as an example of an even broader problem that a number of U.S. cities are inevitably facing, after spending more than a century installing lead pipes in order to deliver drinking water. There are an estimated 700 water main breaks every single day in the U.S. Currently, 30% of water pipes in some of the biggest plumbing systems are up to 80 years old.

Yet instead of cautioning Chicagoans, city officials are adamantly telling residents that they have nothing to worry about.

Electric Buses Coming to Chicago

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) plans to spend between $30 million and $40 million to buy up to 30 new all-electric buses over the next several years.

The CTA already runs two 40-foot electric buses, powered by lithium-ion batteries. These buses have carried about 100,000 passengers on 13 routes since October 2014.

Officials say that the buses have so far reduced emissions an amount that is equal to removing 14 automobiles from the road. The smooth, quiet ride is also cited as an advantage of the electric vehicles.

The CTA is hopeful that the electric buses will save $25,000 in fuel a year, which comes out to about $300,000 over the 12-year lifespan of a single bus. The byproduct of the reduced emissions is also projected to create $55,000 a year in “health benefit saving” by reducing respiratory disease.

ABC 7 News in Chicago reports that the CTA is the first major public transit agency to incorporate all-electric buses into the daily service of their transit systems. It is reported that the funding for the buses will come from the use of federal grants.

As the environmental movement continues to grow, and city and state governments embrace more green initiatives, electric vehicles and energy sources are finding a more open market for their wares. This could mean good news for the 371,700 employees of the nation’s 7,791 electric equipment, appliance, and component manufacturing establishments as of 2015.

The buses can travel an impressive 80 miles on one charge; an average CTA bus travels about 100 miles a day. The CTA hopes to install en-route charging stations, so buses won’t have to deviate from their routes to recharge.

Chicago’s Public Schools are in Serious Financial Trouble

Chicago’s public schools are in dire financial straits after the district dissolved its financial woes by borrowing over $700 million at startlingly high interest rates. Now Chicago’s schools are paying for it.

This week, Chicago’s public schools (CPS) made a $725 million bond deal in order to save the district from running out of money. At first, the bond was presented with an interest of 7%. However, a lack of investors forced CPS to drop the face, leaving the interest rate at a whopping 8.5%, a rate the Chicago Tribune calls “simply staggering.”

Currently, CPS is barred by the state of Illinois from declaring bankruptcy. Yet despite that barring placed on CPS, investors have little to no confidence that the debts will ever be fully repaid.

To put these interest rates into perspective, the Daily Caller likens CPS’s financial crisis to that of Puerto Rico’s — except the district’s is far worse.

 

School

In an article for the Daily Caller, Blake Neff wrote that “…8.5 percent interest is even higher than the interest rate on federal student loans (which currently tops out at 6.84 percent), and according to Bloomberg it’s also higher than the rates currently being paid by Puerto Rico, which is currently in a state of total financial collapse.”

The borrowed money will cost CPS tens of millions of dollars to pay off annually, which only adds to $538 million the district was spending each year to finance its existing $6.2 billion in debt.

The district has already attempted to deal with the lack of funding by closing schools, laying off thousands of employees, and relocating students to even more crowded classrooms. Typically, private schools are on average less than half the size of public schools, yet at this rate, that figure will likely increase.

Last month, however, legislation was introduced that would allow Chicago’s public schools to declare bankruptcy.

Food Addiction Finally Gaining the Attention It Deserves

On Feb. 1, 2016, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (NCASA) released a report announcing the organization’s intent to focus on issues beyond substance abuse to more behavioral addictions — specifically, the often murky realm of food addictions.

Although not yet a recognizable disorder, according to the Diagnostic Statistical manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), food addiction and drug addiction share many of the same symptoms: dangerously intense cravings, role obligation avoidance, creation of interpersonal issues, and health risks. People suffering from food addiction also report suffering from hangover-like symptoms after food binges.

The Daily Beast interviewed Dr. Julie Friedman, assistant professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, who commented on how food addiction is not treated as seriously as other substance abuse issues are. “If you go to your primary care doctor and say, ‘I’m binging three to four times per week,’ they’ll tell you to go to Weight Watchers,” says Friedman.

The report from the NCASA perhaps signals the dawning of a new era when it comes to addressing food-related addiction. It was prompted by the rising interest in the obesity epidemic and unhealthy eating habits within the scientific and medical community.

Called Understanding and Addressing Food Addiction: A Science-Based Approach to Policy, Practice and Research , the report aims to apply the knowledge and experience gained from extensive research and practice treating substance abuse to preventing, treating and controlling food addiction. Considering their many similarities when it comes to their expressions, the idea is that there is crossover value in approach.

Education and research in this largely unexplored field could reduce the existing stigma and help to re-frame public perception of food addiction from a moral failure or lack of willpower to a real, treatable medical condition.

Substance abuse and food addiction share more than just symptoms and possible treatment methods. Both engage the brain’s reward system and are considered coping mechanisms. In the heavily ad-saturated world of today, where salty and sugary treats are posted on billboards and featured on commercials, the only mystery is why a scientific inquiry into food addictions is so long overdue.

As more and more information comes out about food addiction, researchers can study the correlations between these different compulsive behaviors, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia, orthorexia, and other eating disorders not specified (ED-NOS). For instance, the link between mental illness and substance abuse is well-established; those with mental illnesses have twice the risk for addiction compared with the rest of the general population, and 20% of people with mental illnesses also have substance abuse problems.

Swiss Scientist Introduces Low-Cost Filter in the Wake of Flint Water Crisis

The water crisis in Flint, MI, is far from being resolved, but one scientist has developed an inexpensive filter that could help residents obtain clean water once again.

According to NBC News, Swiss scientist Raffaele Mezzenga recently published the results of a groundbreaking water filter project. As part of the study, he created a low-cost filtration device that could help Flint residents who cannot afford store-bought filters.

The scientist has been testing the new filter for two years in his lab at ETH Zurich, a university in Switzerland. The timing of his invention is quite convenient, coming just as the crisis in Flint reaches a boiling point.

Mezzenga published his research in the journal Nature Nanotechnology on Monday, the same day Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced he was seeking ways to provide emergency relief to Flint residents.

The filter is composed of a paper-like membrane, packed with carbon and processed milk proteins, that grabs heavy metals and other harmful contaminants as polluted water passes through.

While many have high hopes for the new filter, Mezzenga is now tasked with reproducing the prototype at a low cost. If successful, he believes his new method could be part of the solution for Flint and other regions whose residents suffer from unclean water.

Currently, over 147 million people around the world do not have access to clean, potable water. The Flint water crisis has inspired many Americans to take a stand against unclean water, including some superstar athletes.

According to MLive.com, a group of nearly two dozen NFL players recently donated $100,000 of anti-microbial baby wipes and bottled water to the United Water of Genesee County in Flint, which distributed the supplies to local residents.

In another act of charity, Detroit Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah personally delivered 94,000 cases of bottled water to Flint. In total, more than 13 former and current NFL players have made financial contributions to Flint residents thus far.

Though Mezzenga may not have the fame and notoriety of these players, his invention has gotten some major buzz in the scientific community. Flint’s primary water issue is lead contamination, and Mezzenga claims his new filter removes more than 99% of lead from water.

It may be a while before Mezzenga’s new invention is being used in Flint, but the research is being seen as a positive step in the right direction for affordable home water treatment.