Current Events in August 2006

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    Fruit Juice May Reduce Alzheimer's Risk

    Three or more servings per week netted a 76 percent reduction in risk

    In a large epidemiological study, researchers found that people who drank three or more servings of fruit and vegetable juices per week had a 76 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease than those who drank juice less than once per week.

    The study by Qi Dai, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of Medicine, and colleagues appears in the September issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

    The researchers followed a subset of subjects from a large cross-cultural study of dementia, called the Ni-Hon-Sea Project, which investigated Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia in older Japanese populations living in Japan, Hawaii and Seattle, Wash.

    For the current study, called the Kame Project, the researchers identified 1,836 dementia-free subjects in the Seattle population and collected information on their dietary consumption of fruit and vegetable juices. They then assessed cognitive function every two years for up to 10 years.

    After controlling for possible confounding factors like smoking, education, physical activity and fat intake, the researchers found that those who reported drinking juices three or more times per week were 76 percent less likely to develop signs of Alzheimer's disease than those who drank less than one serving per week.

    The benefit appeared particularly enhanced in subjects who carry a genetic marker linked to late-onset Alzheimer's disease -- the most common form of the disease, which typically occurs after the age of 65.

    The researchers chose to study this group because of the low incidence rate of Alzheimer's disease in the Japanese population. However, the incidence of Alzheimer's in Japanese people living in the United States is higher, approaching the incidence rates in Americans. This pointed to environmental factors like diet and lifestyle as important contributors to disease risk.

    Originally, researchers suspected that high intakes of antioxidant vitamins might provide some protection against Alzheimer's disease, but recent clinical studies have not supported this hypothesis.

    "We thought that the underlying component may not be vitamins, that there was maybe something else," Dai said.

    Dai began to suspect that another class of antioxidant chemicals, known as polyphenols, could play a role. Polyphenols are non-vitamin antioxidants common in the diet and particularly abundant in teas, juices and wines.

    Most polyphenols exist primarily in the skins and peels of fruits and vegetables. Recent studies have shown that polyphenols (like resveratrol in wine) extend maximum lifespan by 59 percent and delay age-dependent decay of cognitive performance in animal models.

    "Also, animal studies and cell culture studies confirmed that some polyphenols from juices showed a stronger neuroprotective effect than antioxidant vitamins. So we are now looking at polyphenols," Dai said.

    The next step, said Dai, is to test the subjects' blood samples to see if elevated levels of polyphenols are related to the reduced risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease. This would provide further evidence of the role of juice polyphenols in Alzheimer's disease risk. It also may point to the types of juice that would be most beneficial.

    "We don't know if it is a specific type of juice (that reduces risk). That information was not collected in the current study," said Dai. "But we can use plasma to narrow down the kinds of juices."

    However promising the study results appear, Dai cautioned, it's important that the general public not jump the gun regarding the value of juice as a preventive measure for Alzheimer's disease.

    "A few years ago, hormone replacement therapy, NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and antioxidant vitamins showed promise (in preventing or slowing Alzheimer's disease), but recent clinical trials indicate that they do not," Dai said. "More study, I think, is needed."

    Fruit Juice May Reduces Alzheimer's Risk...

    MySpace Glitch Gives Hackers Teen Data

    A security breach on MySpace that enabled users to view other users' private pictures and postings went unattended for several months, according to news reports.

    UK-based reported that the hack enabled MySpace users over 18 to view the personal profiles of users under 16.

    MySpace had previously altered its service so that all profiles of users under 16 were private by default, requiring more steps for over-18 users to contact them.

    Technology news site reported links to Web pages describing the hack in detail, as well as other pieces of code that could be used to view MySpace members' private information. Although MySpace claimed to have fixed the hack, many enterprising readers were still finding ways to utilize the code and get around the fixes as of this writing.

    "Thought your "private" MySpace comments were really private? Well, think again! This simple code lets ANYONE view all the comments on ANY private profile," boasted one article. "With a simple variation you can also view 'private' pictures. It's so simple, i dont know why someone didn't figure it out sooner."

    North Carolina high school student Cory Holt, who also hosts a weekly podcast series on teens and technology, posted examples of the hack codes on his blog and noted that MySpace's failure to address it promptly wasn't just technological.

    "This could even be a legal problem for MySpace if this got out," he said. "Because anyone can view someone's 'private content', the victim could say that MySpace was not protecting them, thus opening MySpace to a lawsuit."

    News of the codes turned into a race between MySpace and the blogosphere, as fixes to every hack were matched with news of other ways to get around the blocks on private profiles. editor Struan Robertson said that the vulnerabilities found could be considered a breach of the UK's Data Protection Act. "There is best practice guidance in the UK for sites used by children and, if the allegations are true, it may be that MySpace fell short of the standard expected," he said.

    The MySpace hack is the latest front in the war between the hugely popular social networking site and authorities who have criticized it for enabling easy communication between underage teens and sex offenders.

    In addition to setting up stronger security on underage users' profiles, MySpace responded to the criticism by naming a "security czar" to oversee security and privacy, and better police underage users of the site.

    But Rupert Murdoch's new media cornerstone took another hit when a 14-year-old girl sued MySpace for $30 million after she alleged she was sexually assaulted by a 19-year-old she met on the site. It was after the suit was announced that MySpace instituted the privacy protections for underage users that ended up being hacked.

    Although MySpace could be held culpable for not instituting better security measures in a timely fashion, observers also remarked on how common sense is sorely lacking when it comes to posting private information online. commenter "kevgig" put it best when he said that "This is exactly why I do not have a [MySpace] account ... Just goes to show that if there are parts of your life that you do not want to share with the world, keep it to yourself."

    MySpace Glitch Gives Hackers Teen Data...

    Ethanol Cleaner But Not Cheaper

    Tests and an investigation by Consumer Reports conclude that E85 ethanol will cost consumers more money than gasoline and that there are concerns about whether the government's support of flexible fuel vehicles is really helping the U.S. achieve energy independence.

    Findings from CR's special report include:

    • E85, which is 85 percent ethanol, emits less smog-producing pollutants than gasoline, but provides fewer miles per gallon, costs more, and is hard to find outside the Midwest.

    • Government support for flexible-fuel vehicles, which can run on either E85 or gasoline, is indirectly causing more gasoline consumption rather than less.

    • Blended with gasoline, ethanol has the potential to fill a significant minority of future U.S. transportation fuel needs.

    To see how E85 ethanol stacks up against gasoline, Consumer Reports put one of its test vehicles, a 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe Flexible-Fuel Vehicle (FFV) through an array of fuel economy, acceleration, and emissions tests.

    Overall fuel economy on the Tahoe dropped from an already low 14 mpg overall to 10. In highway driving, gas mileage decreased from 21 to 15 mpg; in city driving, it dropped from 9 mpg to 7.

    You could expect a similar decrease in gas mileage in any current flex fuel vehicle because ethanol has a lower energy content than gasoline -- 75,670 British thermal units (BTUs) per gallon instead of 115,400 for gasoline, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As a result, you have to burn more fuel to generate the same amount of energy.

    With the retail pump price of E85 averaging $2.91 per gallon in August, according to the Oil Price Information Service, a 27 percent fuel-economy penalty means drivers would have paid an average of $3.99 for the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline.

    When Consumer Reports calculated the Tahoe's driving range, it found that it decreased to about 300 miles on a full tank of E85 compared with about 440 on gasoline. So, motorists using E85 would have to fill up more often.

    Most drivers in the country have no access to E85, even if they want it, because it is primarily sold in the upper Midwest; most of the ethanol in the U.S. is made from corn, and that's where the cornfields and ethanol production facilities are located. There are only about 800 gas stations -- out of 176,000 nationwide -- that sell E85 to the public.

    When Consumer Reports took its Tahoe to a state-certified emissions-test facility in Connecticut and had a standard emissions test performed, it found a significant decrease in smog-forming oxides of nitrogen when using E85.

    Despite the scarcity of E85, the Big Three domestic auto manufacturers have built more than 5 million FFVs since the late '90s, and that number will increase by about 1 million this year.

    A strong motivation for that is that the government credits FFVs that burn E85 with about two-thirds more fuel economy than they actually get using gasoline, even though the vast majority may never run on E85. This allows automakers to build more large, gas-guzzling vehicles than they otherwise could under Corporate Average Fuel Economy rules.

    As a result, these credits have increased annual U.S. gasoline consumption by about 1 percent, or 1.2 billion gallons, according to a 2005 study by the Union for Concerned Scientists.

    These credits have increased annual U.S. gasoline consumption by about 1 percent, or 1.2 billion gallons, according to a 2005 study by the Union for Concer...

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      Verizon Joins BellSouth in Retreat From Unexplained New DSL Fee

      Telcos' Response to Regulatory Relief? A "Regulatory Cost Recovery Fee"

      Like BellSouth, Verizon has retreated from its plan to impose a surcharge for DSL service after the normally compliant Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sharply questioned the fee.

      "We have listened to our customers," said Verizon executive Bob Ingalls, perhaps momentarily overlooking the eight-page letter the FCC sent to Verizon and BellSouth.

      Ingalls said a small number of customers who have already been billed for the surcharge will receive a credit.

      Last year, the federal government changed a rule that had required DSL subscribers to pay into a federal fund that subsidizes phone service in rural and low-income areas, intending to shave a dollar or two off subscribers' broadband bills.

      Instead, just as the federal fee expired, Verizon and BellSouth tacked on a new "supplier surcharge" fee -- Verizon's euphemism -- ranging from $1.20 to $2.70 per month, almost exactly the same as the eliminated fee. BellSouth called its extra take-home pay a "regulatory cost recovery fee."

      Embarrassed and angered by the blatant consumer gouging as the fall election nears, the FCC sent an eight-page "letter of inquiry" to both BellSouth and Verizon asking whether the new fees complied with the FCC's "Truth-In-Billing" requirements for clearly explained and understandable customer charges.

      After chewing on the question for a few days, Verizon and BellSouth apparently couldn't come up with a credible answer.

      "The old-line telco tubbies talk a lot about listening to their customers but they are so accustomed to having their way with Congress and the FCC that they clumsily, stupidly and ineptly embarass their patrons by imposing an outrageous and indefensible fee as the party in power wrings its hands over voter anger at the current Congress' war on consumers," said one longtime D.C. public affairs practitioner.

      Verizon Joins BellSouth in Retreat From Unexplained New DSL Fee...

      Public Citizen Warns of Cipro Dangers

      Asks FDA To Require "Black Box" Warning

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should strongly warn the public about the risk of tendon rupture associated with Cipro and other fluoroquinolone antibiotics, Public Citizen said in a petition to the agency.

      The FDA should do this by requiring a "black box" warning on the drugs' packaging and requiring pharmacists to give patients FDA-approved medication guides that also carry the warning, the group said. Public Citizen joined with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office, which also sent the FDA an addendum to its earlier petition urging the agency to act.

      "The numbers are startling. Tendon ruptures associated with these drugs continue to occur at a disturbing rate but could be prevented if doctors and patients were more aware of early warning signals, such as the onset of tendon pain, and switched to other antibiotics," said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group. "The FDA must act and require black box warnings and patient information guides."

      Public Citizen's review of the FDA's adverse event database shows 262 reported cases of tendon ruptures, 258 cases of tendonitis and 274 cases of other tendon disorders between November 1997 and Dec. 31, 2005, associated with the fluoroquinolone antibiotics, with 175 of those occurring since the beginning of 2003.

      Sixty-one percent of the ruptures were associated with Levaquin, which has accounted for 45 percent of all fluoroquinolone prescriptions in the past four years, while 23 percent of the ruptures were associated with Cipro.

      The tendon that most frequently ruptures is the Achilles tendon, which causes sudden and severe pain, swelling and bruising, and difficulty walking.

      Other tendon ruptures have occurred in the rotator cuff (the shoulder), the biceps, the hand and the thumb. One theory is that fluoroquinolones are toxic to tendon fibers and may decrease blood supply in tendons that already have a limited blood supply.

      These antibiotics, which are widely prescribed for gastrointestinal, respiratory and genitor-urinary tract infections, include Cipro (Ciprofloxacin, made by Bayer), Penetrex (Enoxacin, made by Aventis), Tequin (Gatifloxacin, made by Bristol-Myers Squibb), Levaquin (Levofloxacin, made by Ortho-McNeil), Maxaquin (Lomefloxacin, made by Unimed), Avelox (Moxifloxacin, made by Bayer), Noroxin (Norfloxacin, made by Merck) and Floxin (Ofloxacin, made by Daiichi-Sankyo).

      Public Citizen's petition follows a 1996 petition the nonprofit group filed seeking a warning on the label of fluoroquinolones. The FDA that year granted the petition, but the warning is buried in the list of possible adverse reactions.

      In April 2005, the Illinois Attorney General's office petitioned the FDA to place a black box warning on the drugs, but the FDA has never responded substantively to the petition. A black box warning is in bold type and surrounded by a black box to make it stand out.

      "Consumers and physicians have a right to know the adverse effects associated with prescription medicines," Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said. "We join with Public Citizen in urging the FDA to take prompt action on these petitions."

      Public Citizen Warns of Cipro Dangers...

      Police Fund-Raisers Accused of Fraud

      The Police Protective Fund denies the allegation

      Officials in Montgomery County, Maryland, a Washington, DC suburb, are accusing a charity allegedly raising money for police officers with fraud. The Police Protective Fund denies the allegation.

      "Just as with every other area of charitable giving, the scam artists have found a way to muddy the waters and divert money away from legitimate law enforcement charities," said Montgomery Executive Douglas M. Duncan.

      Duncan says The Police Protective Fund uses telemarketers to raise money for the charity, which is supposed to help police officers. However, he says the fund's tax filings and other documents show it spent most of its budget on fundraising and salaries.

      Some of its officials made more than $110,000 a year, while the company used telemarketing firms to solicit donations, according to the documents.

      Duncan has asked the State of Maryland to open an investigation into the group.

      Fund officials told the Washington Post they are working to increase the amount of funds actually sent to support police officers. The Police Protective Fund has offices in San Antonio and Los Angeles and raises money through telemarketers nationwide.

      Most professional police and firefighter organizations say they never endorse or benefit from telephone solicitations and most urge consumers not to contribute.

      "Just as with every other area of charitable giving, the scam artists have found a way to muddy the waters and divert money away from legitimate law enforc...

      Mental Health Clinic Loses Laptop Bearing Patient Data

      By Martin H. Bosworth

      August 30, 2006
      A Washington state mental health care provider, Compass Health, has notified authorities that a laptop computer containing data on an undisclosed number of patients was stolen more than a month ago.

      According to a media alert issued by Compass Health, the laptop contained information on clients of the clinic and its partners since October 1st, 2005. The information included Social Security numbers, "along with other clinical and demographic information."

      The theft occurred June 28. Compass did not say why it waited so long to issue the alert.

      Although Compass Health did not specify if the laptop was encrypted or password-protected, it claimed that "the data could only be accessed by a skilled technician." The clinic further claimed that there was no evidence that patient information had been misused.

      Compass Health has set up a toll-free 1-800 number to answer questions about the theft, and is notifying all affected persons with information on setting up fraud alerts on their credit reports.

      The Everett, Wash.-based mental health care provider offers behavioral health, counseling, and crisis assistance for individuals suffering from mental illness and their families.

      The Compass Health incident is the latest in the never-ending series of thefts and disappearances of computers and equipment that contain sensitive identifying information such as names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and medical or financial records.

      Medical and health care providers have not been exempt from the epidemic. Oregon-based Providence Health Care reported the theft of a laptop containing data on 365,000 patients in February.

      The Veterans' Administration (VA) holds the record for biggest data breach, with the loss and recovery of a laptop containing data on 26.5 million veterans, stolen from the home of a data analyst in Maryland. Two teens were charged with the theft, and the breach has led to numerous calls for improving government data security.

      Not long after that, VA contractor Unisys suffered the theft of a desktop computer containing the medical and financial information of thousands of veterans from its main office. Unisys had been contracted to help the VA process insurance claims for military personnel.

      Mental Health Clinic Loses Laptop Bearing Patient Data...

      AT&T; Web Site Hacked; Customer Data Exposed

      AT&T reported late Tuesday that a group of hackers had gained access to a company Web site used to sell equipment for its DSL services, gaining access to the personal information of roughly 19,000 customers.

      Details of the breach were scant, but AT&T said in a statement that the breach was discovered the previous weekend, and the site was shut down "within hours."

      AT&T is notifying potentially affected customers via phone and mail, and has promised to pay for free credit monitoring for anyone affected.

      "We will work closely with law enforcement to bring these data thieves to account," said Priscilla Hill-Ardoin, the company's chief privacy officer.

      AT&T spokesman Walt Sharp said that he could not specify exactly when the breach occurred, but emphasized that no fraudulent activity had been reported and that, "credit card companies usually indemnify the victims in these cases."

      Sharp's view was echoed by stock analyst Todd Rethemeier, who told Bloomberg financial news that, "Nineteen thousand customers is a drop in the bucket for AT&T ... It's bad for public relations but not significant."

      Rethemeier's advice aside, the world's largest telephone company has taken a profound beating in the public perception department, not least due to its ongoing role in the controversy surrounding the NSA's wireless surveillance program. AT&T, along with its future merger partner BellSouth, and Verizon, have been accused of handing over records of thousands of customers to the government.

      AT&T in particular was accused of aiding the NSA in setting up surveillance technology on its phone lines to track customer calls in and out of the United States.

      AT&T recently filed suit against groups of third party data brokers that it accused of posing as customers and purchasing data on individual calling records, which they then resold at profit to law enforcement agents and private buyers. The FCC chastised the company for not having proper privacy safeguards in place to prevent that level of fraud.

      And AT&T remains in the hot seat over the issue of "net neutrality," the principle that access to content on the Internet must be free and equal for all Web users. The company, along with Verizon, is one of the chief opponents of net neutrality, saying that regulations would interfere with its deployment of high-speed broadband networks and Internet-over-TV services to its customer base.

      AT&T's recent acquisition of BellSouth hit a snag when the former Bell sibling imposed and then retracted an unexplained new fee on its DSL customers, after winning relief from having to pay into the Universal Service Fund. Threats of inquiry from the FCC, on which approval of the AT&T-BellSouth merger rests, cajoled BellSouth into withdrawing its "regulatory cost recovery fee."

      Nevertheless, Ma Bell's favorite spawn continues to win huge contracts and business for providing sensitive data services. The company recently won a $250 million contract to provide data and networking services to the Hawaii offices of the Defense Department's Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA).

      AT&T Web Site Hacked; Customer Data Exposed...

      Gamers Say Microsoft Understates Xbox Problems

      Even Microsoft Spokesmen Ask for Anonymity

      An insider from Electronic Arts, Inc. is saying that the failure rateof Microsoft's Xbox 360 gaming console is actually ten times higher than what Microsoft spokespeople have admitted.

      Game Daily BIZ, a gaming industry publication, reported that the anonymous source tallied that of the 300 consoles EA has received, 30-50 percent of them have failed.

      Jason Michael, a spokesperson from Edelman, a public relations company that represents Microsoft told that the failure rate is between 3 and 5 percent. Michael later asked that we not use his name.

      That 3-5 percent would not correspond with the nearly 40 complaints has received and the growing chorus of blogs and forums saturating the Internet on the topic. Even Microsoft's moderated forum has complaints about the system's failure.

      The consumer complaints are mostly about the "three rings of death" that indicate that the Xbox is no longer functional. It seems the system is failing when it overheats.

      When Microsoft released the 360 in November 2005, reports of the power supply generating too much heat and causing the system to crash began circulating on the Internet. Now it appears that certain video games that use all of the system's three CPU's simultaneously might be adding to that heat generated by the power supply and causing an even higher system failure rate.

      Capcom's "Dead Rising" has been the latest source of Xbox grumblings; it uses all three system processors.

      PC enthusiast site Ars Technica, writes, "Dead Rising is making zombies of 360 systems. This game killed my system last night; thankfully, I have a one-year product replacement plan so I already have a replacement, and apparently the demo did the same thing to another member of our forums. This could simply be coincidence, but as always make sure your 360 is well ventilated and nothing is blocking the vents. This game seems to put the hardware through its paces."

      A Capcom spokesperson told Game Daily Biz, "The game works under the specs of the 360 system and was approved by Microsoft. For anyone having issues with hardware, we have referred them to contact Microsoft for hardware support."

      Michael's advice for consumers with faulty Xboxes is to call 1-800-4myxbox (469-9269) where if the machine is past warranty, they will be forced to pay $129 plus shipping for a refurbished machine.

      EA could not be reached for comment.

      Gamers Say Microsoft Understates Xbox Problems...

      Researchers Tout Tea's Health Benefits

      Drinking tea is a healthier choice than almost any beverage

      Tea has long held mystical appeal for its health benefits. Now science agrees. A new study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that drinking tea is a healthier choice than almost any beverage, including pure water.

      "Water is essentially replacing fluid," saiod Dr. Carrie Ruxton, the lead author of the study. "Tea replaces fluids and contains antioxidants, so it's got two things going for it."

      The antioxidants in tea are called polyphenols and they prevent damage to cells.

      The research team concluded that drinking three to four cups of tea per day reduces the risk of heart attack, protects against cancer, strengthens bones and even protects against tooth plaque and decay.

      The study says caffeine in tea is not a health detriment. Despite the widespread belief that the caffeine in tea is dehydrating, Ruxton says that's not the case.

      The British study comes at a time when demographic shifts have knocked tea from its perch as Britain's traditional drink. Younger people in recent years have abandoned tea for sugar-laden soft drinks.

      Researchers Tout Tea's Health Benefits...

      To Miss New Orleans

      The Beat Goes On, The Beaten Just Go

      "The promoter had an odor like a day old floater
      And a pencil with a pad of blue"
      -- Main Street Blues, a song by the Red Stick Ramblers

      One Tuesday in August, from a bench in Jackson Square, we watched a group of restoration experts hovering over a big black parlor grand piano. The lacquered finish was remarkably shiny given that the piano had spent weeks under water, and when retrieved was covered in mud and mold.

      "We are very proud that we got two strings to play," Lynn Harrington, head conservator of the project, told a reporter and a half-dozen tourists, who stopped to watch.

      The Steinway belonged to New Orleans music legend Fats Domino and was taken from his Ninth Ward home after Hurricane Katrina. It was harvested by history and restoration experts to be part of the Louisiana State Museum's permanent collection.

      Fats, himself, was a casualty of the storm, the tourists told us. They had heard it in Chicago, and Minneapolis, and Fargo, North Dakota.

      We assured them he was alive and living in Harvey, Louisiana, on the West Bank, across The River from Jackson Square. Furthermore, he is planning on returning to his Ninth Ward home.

      When Domino's music made him wealthy he built his home a few blocks from where he had grown up in New Orleans' mostly black, mostly poor lower Ninth Ward. His house has since been repainted but some early visitor after The Storm painted, "R. I. P. Fats," on the side facing Caffin Street. That image went around the world on electronic waves of false witness.

      Like Mark Twain -- hell, like New Orleans itself -- reports of Fats Domino's death were greatly exaggerated. Fats turned up alive inside the Superdome, where he had given authorities his legal name, Antoine Domino, rather than his famous nickname. It took a while before those looking for him recognized Antoine Domino was Fats Domino.

      In celebration of the storm's first anniversary (August 29) Domino's piano will be the center piece for an exhibition of Katrina remnants gathered by the National Geographic Society and running through December 31, at the Cabildo.

      Lower Than The Ninth Ward

      The author sips a medicinal red at Tujague's on rue Decatur. Photo credit: Frank Parsley

      Below the Ninth Ward, Orleans Parish ends and Saint Bernard Parish begins. It is a low coastal parish downriver from New Orleans. It is where the Battle of New Orleans was fought, in the War of 1812, America's second war with England.

      The battle might more accurately be called the Battle For-and-Near New Orleans. Ironies aside, had Colonel Andrew Jackson and his pirate allies, from nearby Barataria Sound, lost, the Union Jack would have flown over The Crescent City until someone forced it down.

      Luckily, Old Hickory, his Tennessee Volunteers and the oft-unsung pirates, defeated the bloody British. As later school children sing the story:

      "In eighteen and fourteen we took a little trip
      Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip
      We took a little bacon and we took a little beans
      And we caught the bloody British near the town of New Orleans."

      White Flight, Black Flight

      Saint Bernard grew like kudzu in the post segregation era, but not exactly as classic urban white-flight. True, the parish was always greatly whiter than Orleans, which was seventy-percent black before The Storm.

      Saint Bernard's rapid growth came from economic shifts related to integration -- former poor black folks now had jobs -- and because of newly feasible real-estate development on what had previously been wetlands. These events brought both black and whites, "Down in The Parish," to build their dream homes by the Sea. And lately in it.

      Meet My Ugly Sister

      Rita was a second hurricane three weeks after Katrina. It took landfall a hundred miles to the west of New Orleans, in the state's colorful Cajun Country. It did to "the land of boudin" what Katrina had done to New Orleans. (Boudin is a rice sausage original to the area.)

      Rita was the stronger hurricane. Towns, such as Cameron, simply washed out of existence while in New Orleans, her monstrous swells caused the Gulf of Mexico to reopen levees hastily plugged after Katrina.

      When it was over, much of New Orleans and all of Saint Bernard were under water for a second time. In Saint Bernard virtually no home remained habitable.

      An oddity about New Orleans is that it never had truly segregated neighborhoods. The City had free-black immigrants from its early days. Some of those free blacks, like Madam Rosette Rochon, whose Faubourg Marigny home survived numerous hurricanes (up to and including those of 2005), bought and sold property and people. These black owners of black slaves were sometimes more prosperous than their white neighbors.

      When Rochon died, in 1863, she left an estate worth over a million current U. S. Dollars. (It might make a fitting study to find if New Orleans' free-blacks ever "owned" indentured European whites.)

      Here Comes da Crow

      The Jim Crow laws that followed defeat in the "War Between The States" are regarded here as having been devised by post-war Northern immigrants. The Ku Klux Klan was, after all, founded in Indiana.

      Dick Gregory, a 1960's civil rights comedian, used to put it this way: "Down here they don't care how close you get, long as you don't get too big. Up North they don't care how big you get, long as you don't get too close."

      The Beat Goes On, The Beaten Just Go

      Today, miles and miles of coastal Louisiana still lay in waste, and one year later half the population of New Orleans has not returned for lack of housing.

      Businesses on the sliver of green along The River that went un-flooded are today trading prosperously with workers, volunteers, speculators and bureaucrats who have come to mine the promised flow of repair dollars.

      New Orleans famed cafe cult has resurfaced after months of serving limited meals on paper plates to less than ebullient diners. Restaurant giants that once caused millions to travel to New Orleans are again filled with those noted above, and repatriated New Orleanians. Every cafe in Town is hiring.

      But souvenir shops that once served thousands of daily visitors now stand empty, or worse, closed.

      The promised big bucks from Washington remain promises. Worries bubble up, like water from the many broken water lines. Will those big bucks all end up in the pockets of Entergy and the Saints? Or maybe some politician's freezer? Time will tell.

      In This Corner

      On August 15, insurance lawyers won a major judgement in Gulfport, Mississippi, when U. S. District Judge L. T. Senter, Jr. accepted their twisted argument that flood damage was not caused by the hurricane. The ruling was against Paul and Julie Leonard of Pascagoula but will affect everyone attempting to rebuild after the loss.

      "Almost all the damage to the Leonard residence is attributable to the incursion of water," Senter wrote in a thirteen-page decision, ignoring the role wind played in moving the water out of its usual location and into the Leonards' home..

      Down In The Parish

      Meanwhile, Rocky Vaccarella of Meraux, in Saint Bernard Parish, left to drive across country, with an "honorary" FEMA trailer in tow. It is against the law to hitch up your FEMA trailer and drive off with it. Rocky is taking his mock-up to Washington, D. C., where he hopes to invite no less than George W. Bush to dinner.

      He wants the trip to express thanks to the American people and spur interest in the rebuilding President Bush waxed over during his klieg-lighted Jackson Square visit after the Storm, when everything else in New Orleans was pitch black.

      Keep watching, he should get there about August 29. The rebuilding may take a little longer.

      Another Succulent New Orleans Meal

      We left Fats' piano in front of the Cabildo and walked to Brennan's, on rue Royal. The heat and humidity kept most folks indoors and we were happy to join them for a bloody Mary and a big bowl of oyster soup with a handful of crab.

      This giant of New Orleans Creole gastronomy was shut down much of the year following Katrina and Rita. It only reopened a few weeks ago, and the day it did another overweight angel in Heaven got its wings.

      Pre-K, locals treated Brennan's as something sometimes too precious, or too touristy, or just for breakfast. Friends from Lafayette, Louisiana, where food is also of great importance, have long called it their favorite French Quarter restaurant for lunch.

      Our lunch was like you wish your Mamma could make.

      You simply must try these:

      • The ceviche at The Marigny Brasserie, Frenchmen Street at Royal. Most upscale place in Faubourg Marigny. Great!

      • Bayona, rue 430 Dauphine, in the nearby distant faraway French Quarter. Flagship of Susan Spicer, a magnificent chef and restaurant owner.

      • Tujague's Restaurant, established 1856. The second oldest (second only to Antoine's, the oldest in the US) eatery in New Orleans, for a sandwich available only in the bar. It is their signature boiled brisket on a baguette, dressed and slathered with European remoulade. Serves two small people.

      If you visit nothing else see the magnificently classy New Orleans photographs, without a hint of hurricane pathos, of Louis Sahuc's Photo Works Gallery, at rue 830 Chartres, two blocks off Jackson Square. They emote le bonheur de vivre (the joy of life) that makes charming New Orleans charming once again. You can view his work on line at

      Leonard Earl Johnson is a former cook, merchant seaman, photographer and columnist for Les Amis de Marigny, a New Orleans monthly magazine. Post-Katrina, he has decamped to Lafayette, La. Columns past, present and future are at

      One Tuesday in August, from a bench in Jackson Square, we watched a group of restoration experts hovering over a big black parlor grand piano....

      FCC Nudges BellSouth Into Giving Up New DSL Fees

      Verizon Insists It Has "Added Costs" It Needs to Recover

      Telecom giant BellSouth has agreed to drop its mysterious new service fee for broadband customers after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) threatened to pursue an inquiry into the company's pricing policies.

      BellSouth had been following fellow Verizon's lead by planning to impose a "regulatory cost recovery fee" on its high-speed Internet customers. The new fee was $2.97, exactly the same amount as the old Universal Service Fund (USF) fee which BellSouth had recently won the right to stop paying into.

      Whereas the old USF fee was ostensibly designed to fund development of low-cost telecommunications services in rural areas, the new fee was designed specifically to "recover the costs of regulatory compliance."

      However, the FCC, the chief telecommunications regulatory agency, was skeptical about the new fee.

      The agency said it had sent an eight-page "letter of inquiry" to both BellSouth and Verizon asking whether the new fees complied with the FCC's "Truth-In-Billing" requirements for clearly explained and understandable customer charges.

      BellSouth promptly backed down, stating that it would cancel the fee, and credit any customer charged. The credit would take one to six weeks to appear on customer bills, the company said.

      The FCC is generally regarded as giving the big telephone companies a wide berth but this escapade went a bit too far. Several FCC commissioners, including Chairman Kevin Martin, were outraged.

      "The commission takes its obligation to protect consumers very seriously," said FCC spokesman David Fiske. "Consumers must be provided with clear and nonmisleading information so they may accurately access the services for which they are being charged and the costs associated with those services."

      Last year, the FCC eliminated the Universal Service Fund payments for DSL subscribers. The commissioners calculated the move would cut 10 million DSL subscribers' monthly Internet bills by a dollar or two.

      Verizon said that it had received the letter from the FCC and would publicly respond, noting that it had provided reasons for its own fare hike on its Web site.

      Verizon blamed its new fee on the "increased costs" of providing service to customers who only buy high-speed Internet, without buying basic telephone service.

      BellSouth is currently in the process of being acquired by AT&T;, and requires FCC approval to complete the merger. AT&T; itself had not instituted any new fees on customer services after receiving relief from the USF, and was not, at last word, a target of the FCC inquiry.

      "We want to do what's in the best interest of our customers," said Herschel Abbott, BellSouth's vice president of governmental affairs, attempting to explain the company's about-face.

      Observers and tech analysts were skeptical that the FCC would pursue any serious action against the telcos, given FCC chairman Kevin Martin's generally business-friendly approach to the agency's agenda.

      A commenter at tech news blog TechDirt remarked that " [A] couple more donations in the right places and the FCC will find that these are legitimate charges and maybe even suggest the telcos overlooked a few more that could also be tacked on."

      Critics said the latest "bait and switch" sleight of hand regarding the old and new fees were evidence that "net neutrality" legislation is essential.

      After years of touting their dedication to building nationwide broadband access and elbowing out would-be competitors through regulatory machinations and ferocious lobbying, the major telecom companies are showing their true colors as they ramp up their campaign for "tiered service," where the clients paying the most will have access to the fastest and highest-quality Internet service.

      Proponents of net neutrality believe that if telecom and cable companies start instituting tiered pricing, it will leave lower-income customers -- Internet users and content providers alike -- in the Internet "slow lane," unable to access the best circuits and forced to put up with slower, glitch-prone access.

      "The telephone companies are still in mourning for the good old days when there was something called long-distance service, with rates based on both mileage and time," said one longtime Washington public affairs executive. "The whole concept of the Internet -- unmetered access to the whole wide world -- makes them cry."

      "This change amounts to a price increase, nothing more and nothing less," said Samuel A. Simon, chairman of TRAC, a Washington consumers group.

      FCC Nudges BellSouth Into Giving Up New Fees...

      2006 Jeep Commander Named Worst "Blind Zone" Offender

      Children Most Frequent Victims of "Backover" Accidents

      Consumer Reports' latest examination of vehicle blind zones -- the area behind a car or truck that's hidden from the driver's view -- shows that the 2006 Jeep Commander Limited ranks as the worst vehicle overall.

      CR measured the blind zone behind the Commander at 44 feet for a driver who is five feet, eight inches tall and a stunning 69 feet for a shorter driver (five feet, one inch tall) with all three rows of seats raised. The Commander's blind zone is considerably larger than that for other midsized and large sport-utility vehicles (SUVs).

      Until now, the vehicle with the worst blind zone in Consumer Reports' tests was the 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche 1500, a pickup truck, which had a blind zone of 29 feet for a five-foot, eight-inch driver and 51 feet for a five-foot, one-inch driver.

      But the redesigned, 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche LT has no blind zone when equipped with the optional rearview camera. Without the camera, the vehicle had a 31-foot blind zone for a five-foot, eight-inch driver and 50 feet for a short driver.

      The Commander also offers an optional rearview camera, which CR's test vehicle lacked. This camera can significantly reduce or eliminate the blind zone.

      To help consumers understand how large some blind zones are, Consumer Reports has been measuring the blind zones on vehicles that it tests and rates since 2003. CR's database now covers about 200 vehicles from model years 2002 through 2007.

      To measure the blind zones, a 28-inch traffic cone was positioned behind the vehicle at the point where the driver could just see the top. This cone simulates the height of a small child.

      "Consumer Reports findings illustrate that the danger of vehicle blind zones correlates with the use of large SUVs, minivans and pickups trucks as common family vehicles. Consumers must be cognizant of this danger-and the value of rearview cameras-when going out to purchase a new vehicle," said Don Mays, senior director for product safety and consumer science at Consumer Reports.

      Kids and Cars, the safety group, estimates that more than 100 children were killed by vehicles whose drivers simply could not see them in the blind zone behind the vehicle. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, nearly 7,500 children were treated in United States emergency rooms between 2001 and 2003 for backover injuries.

      Many of these incidents could have been prevented if drivers had a way to see or detect what is behind them while backing up. Every vehicle has blind zones. Side and rearview mirrors are insufficient to combat them. Consumer Reports tests show that, in general, the longer and higher the vehicle, the bigger the blind zone is likely to be.

      There are no federal government requirements for backup warning sensors or rearview cameras on any passenger vehicle sold in the United States

      "Unfortunately, the few vehicles that now come with this technology are higher-end models, and most devices are available as an extra-cost option -- often requiring the purchase of other equipment like an expensive navigation system," said Sally Greenberg, senior product safety counsel for Consumers Union in Washington, D.C.

      "We believe that backup technologies, such as rearview cameras are essential, and should be a requirement by federal law. Their cost is small compared to the cost of a child's life. And once this technology becomes standard equipment in vehicles, systems will become more economical for manufacturers to produce," she added.

      "Without these devices, parents and families will continue to suffer the terrible tragedy of accidentally backing over a child," Greenberg said. "That is why it is critical that Congress pass the Cameron Gulbransen Kids and Cars Safety Act of 2005-to require a rearward visibility standard that will provide drivers with a means of detecting a child behind the vehicle."

      Consumers who wish to improve the safety of their current vehicle can add an aftermarket rearview camera. Consumer Reports tests have shown that most work well. Such cameras typically cost several hundred dollars and are best installed by a professional.

      2006 Jeep Commander Named Worst ...

      Department of Education Site Exposes Data on 21,000 Users

      An online student loan payment service under control of the Department of Education (DOED) leaked personal identifying information on 21,000 students between Sunday and Tuesday of this past week, according to the agency.

      Federal Student Aid recipients who were trying to access information or make payments at DOED's Direct Loan Servicing Online Web site were able to view records of other borrowers while updating their own information.

      Software company Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), which handles the loan processing for the Direct Loan Servicing system, installed a software upgrade on Sunday which caused the glitch.

      When DOED started receiving complaints from users that they could view others' personal data, the online payment system was immediately disabled. The site's online payment system is currently disabled due to problems with "software upgrades," according to a message posted on the home page.

      ACS spokesperson Lesley Pool said the software glitch was fixed on Tuesday and the online payment system would be disabled until it was fully tested. ""It is up to the (Education) Department to say when the code is ready to go," she said, according to CNet News.

      ACS has a large number of profitable contracts to provide software services with companies ranging from government agencies like the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) to companies as diverse as UnumProvident and Burger King.

      The company's press kit boasts that, "It would be hard for you to go through a day without encountering the products or services of our many clients in communications, educationgovernment, healthcare, insurance, manufacturing, retail, travel, and transportation."

      DOED officials said that there were no cases of identity theft reported from the data leak as of today, and that it would provide free credit monitoring for the affected users, to be paid for by ACS.

      Neither the Direct Loan Servicing site or the main DOED site had any notices that borrowers may be vulnerable to identity theft as a result of the leak.

      The Department of Education breach is far from the only example of potential identity fraud resulting from bad data practices in higher education. Student loan company Texas Guaranteed contracted data services out to third-party software company Hummingbird, which exposed the data of millions of borrowers when a contractor for the company misplaced a storage device containing the information.

      Ohio University suffered multiple data breaches over the course of the past year, and was heavily criticized for not installing better network security or letting affected individuals know quickly enough.

      Not to be outdone, many government agencies have suffered as a result of outsourcing data infrastructure work to third-party contractors. Unisys, a technology services firm performing insurance claim processing for the Veterans' Administration, had a desktop computer containing data on thousands of veterans stolen from its Reston, VA headquarters.

      Government agencies have been rushing to lock down data weaknesses and provide stronger privacy protections across the board in the wake of the infamous theft of a laptop containing millions of personal records from the home of a VA analyst, often with mixed results and many problems left unsolved.

      Department of Education Site Exposes Data on 21,000 Users...

      Fake Check Scammers Move Onto craigslist

      Some scammers are taking advantage of the growing popularity of craigslist to victimize people trying to rent their homes or apartments. The scheme is basically the fake check scam, with a twist.

      Darryl, of San Diego, told that he received almost identical replies when he listed a room for rent on both craigslist and The replies claimed to be from "Marie," who called herself "a young humanitarian officer."

      "Marie" said her employer would be sending Darryl her expense check, which would be for several thousand dollars. Darryl was to deposit it in his account, deduct the rent and deposit, and send the balance on to "Marie."

      Fortunately, Darryl saw through the scam. If he had cashed the phony check, it would not have been discovered for a few days. By then he would have sent the scammer a very real check for a $3,000 or more.

      "Most people who use craigslist have great stories to tell about their experiences with buyers, sellers, tenants, landlords and such, but we also receive occasional reports of scams and fraud," craigslist warns on its Web site. "We've found that one of the best ways to avoid this problem is to keep all transactions local -- whenever possible, don't do business with anyone who is not in your local area."

      The site also urges consumers to use caution and common sense when dealing with any financial transaction:

      • Deal only with locals. Most non-local inquiries on craigslist are scams.

      • Never wire funds to a distant person, via Western Union or any other carrier.

      • Be wary if the other party wants to use an escrow service such as BidPay or Squaretrade.

      • Never give out personal financial information (checking account number, SSN, eBay/PayPal info, etc.)

      • Trust your instincts, and always remember that the most important rule -- caveat emptor (buyer beware) -- applies to any transaction on craigslist where money is involved.

      E85, which is 85 percent ethanol, emits less smog-producing pollutants than gasoline, but provides fewer miles per gallon, costs more, and is hard to find ...

      U.S. Military To Be Tagged With Spychips?

      Ex-HHS Chief Thompson Now Peddling Spychips

      If microchip maker VeriChip has its way, the armed forces will soon be trading in their dogtags for radio-frequency identifier (RFID) microchips, implanted under the skin and containing all of their medical and personal information.

      The company is lobbying the Pentagon for the authority to implant RFID tags in virtually all military personnel, according to a series of articles in The Examiner, a Washington, D.C., newspaper.

      VeriChip's plans are meeting opposition from veterans' groups, members of Congress, and privacy advocates, all of whom are concerned about the technology and its potential security risks.

      Leading the company's charge is former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, now a lobbyist. Thompson, who sits on VeriChip's board of directors, insists that the chip is safe and that no one will be forced to have the procedure.

      Thompson has boasted repeatedly that he plans to have a chip inserted in himself to demonstrate its safety. He hasn't yet done so, however.

      Although Thompson and VeriChip have repeatedly claimed that RFID technology is safe and secure against potential hackers and data thieves, a recent investigation by Wired magazine editor Annalee Newitz proved otherwise.

      Newitz, who has a chip embedded in her arm, demonstrated that RFID chips can be "read" by other devices at a hackers' conference in New York on July 22nd.

      Newitz and colleague Jonathan Westhues showed how a laptop could be used to record the data off her RFID chip, and that a standard RFID reader would read the data off the laptop as if it were one and the same. "{The RFID chip} actually has no security devices whatsoever," Newitz said.

      VeriChip contested Newitz's findings, saying it wished to review the data itself.

      With Thompson calling in political favors and cashing in on his years on the public payroll, the Department of Defense isn't the only arm of the government interested in VeriChip's RFID push.

      The Department of Homeland Security issued a request for information on how to find or create stronger RFID readers that could actively sense chips implanted in passports and other traveler information.

      The Homeland Security request was uncovered by privacy advocates Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre, founders of anti-loyalty card organization CASPIAN and largely credited with bringing the issue of RFID chips to the mainstream.

      McIntyre and Albrecht also uncovered a covert move by the Levi Strauss company to quietly test jeans implanted with spychips in the United States. The resulting public furor forced the company to back off from its plans.

      Albrecht and McIntyre have repeatedly challenged the usage of RFID tagging for consumer products, claiming that it gives corporations the ability to track shoppers' buying patterns and build information profiles of them.

      They have also criticized the government for embracing the usage of RFID technology without proper oversight or privacy protections.

      Several members of Congress voiced similar concerns over VeriChip's potential deal with the Pentagon. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) told The Examiner that, "There are many questions that need answers" before the initative can be approved.

      Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), chair of the House Government Reform Committee, told his staff to investigate VeriChip's proposal and examine it for any potential concerns about privacy.

      VeriChip, with an initial public offering for its stock pending, is aggressively pushing as many new markets for its technology as possible. VeriChip chairman Scott Silverman ruffled feathers when he publicly suggested undocumented laborers could be implanted with RFID chips as part of President Bush's "guest worker" proposals.

      Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle recently signed into law a statewide ban on implanting microchips of any sort into humans. The law, introduced by state assemblyman Marlin Schneider and passed unanimously, levies a fine of $10,000 per day on anyone who forces an individual to be implanted without their permission.

      Ironically, Verichip peddler Tommy Thompson was governor of Wisconsin before his tenure as a one-term Secretary of Health and Human Services.

      U.S. Military To Be Tagged With Spychips?...

      Counterfeit Travelers Checks Look Like Real Thing

      The elaborate fakes even have a hologram

      Some amazingly well designed counterfeit travelers checks are making the rounds, and have ensnared at least one consumer in West Virginia. The fakes were so well designed that they even had a silver seal and hologram. Additionally, they contained water marks and micro printing.

      "What the consumer thought she received in the mail were travelers checks that appeared to be issued by Bank of America and American Express," said West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw. "What the consumer actually received were very well-constructed counterfeit documents that looked like the real thing."

      McGraw said the case came to his attention where a consumer in West Virginia "won" an on-line sweepstakes and was sent $3,000 worth of travelers checks in $500 denominations.

      After depositing the travelers checks into her bank account, the consumer proceeded to spend the money. Within fourteen days, the travelers checks were returned as counterfeit and the consumer was responsible for the funds that had been spent.

      McGraw advises that any scenario that sounds too good to be true probably is. Most people do not win on-line sweepstakes and even if the sweepstakes is legitimate, most contests do not give travelers' checks as prizes.

      McGraw said he believed the transaction involved counterfeit documents and originated out of state, so he has referred this specific case to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

      The fake travelers checks were so well designed that they even had a silver seal and hologram. Additionally, they contained water marks and micro printing....

      Hopkins Researchers Find Better Blood Test for Prostate Cancer

      New studies may change the way men are screened

      New studies of a blood protein recently identified at Johns Hopkins, early prostate cancer antigen-2 (EPCA-2), may change the way men are screened for prostate cancer -- a disease that kills tens of thousands of men every year.

      Current standards of screening and testing for prostate cancer focus on the blood protein prostate-specific antigen (PSA) along with a digital rectal examination. Men who have more than 2.5 nanograms per milliliter of PSA are considered at risk for prostate cancer.

      However, PSA testing often erroneously highlights noncancerous conditions (false positives) and can miss some cases of cancer (false negatives), according to Robert H. Getzenberg, Ph.D., a professor of urology and director of research at the James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

      Due to elevated PSA levels, approximately 1.6 million men undergo prostatic biopsies in the United States annually, and roughly 80 percent of these men have negative results, according to Getzenberg, lead author of the study.

      He says that of the entire population of men in the United States who have been tested for PSA, an estimated 25 million have elevated PSA levels and a biopsy of the prostate that did not reveal any prostate cancer. Conversely, roughly 15 percent of men with prostate cancer go undetected because their PSA levels are below the cutoff level, according to Getzenberg.

      In a study published online in Lancet, Getzenberg and a team of Hopkins researchers introduce evidence in support of EPCA-2 testing as a more accurate way to identify cancer in the prostate.

      "A blood test based on EPCA-2 may greatly improve our ability to accurately detect prostate cancer early and minimize the number of false positives, therefore lowering the number of unnecessary biopsies," says Getzenberg. "In addition, this is the first time we have a test that effectively distinguishes between men with cancer confined to the prostate and those whose disease has spread outside of the gland."

      Getzenberg and his team measured EPCA-2 levels in the blood of 330 Hopkins patients separated into several groups: men with normal PSA levels and no evidence of disease, men with elevated PSA levels but who had negative biopsies, men with a common noncancerous prostate condition known as benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) who did not receive biopsies for prostate cancer, men with prostate cancer but with normal PSA levels, men with prostate cancer confined to the prostate, men with prostate cancer that had invaded outside of the gland at the time of surgery, and a diverse group of patients with benign conditions of other organs as well as individuals with other cancer types.

      Patients with an EPCA-2 cutoff level of 30 nanograms per milliliter or higher were considered to be at risk for prostate cancer. This cutoff value was established in a pilot study of 30 blood samples and was then applied throughout the larger study.

      Results showed that the EPCA-2 test was negative in 97 percent of the patients who did not have prostate cancer. Men with no evidence of disease (regardless of their PSA levels), as well as the control group of patients with other cancer types and benign conditions, all had EPCA-2 levels below the cutoff.

      In contrast, in a multi-institutional study published in 2003 in the Journal of Urology, PSA levels between 4 and 10 nanograms per milliliter were shown to be accurate in identifying patients without prostate cancer only 19 percent of the time.

      In addition, 77 percent of the BPH patients had a level of EPCA-2 lower than the cutoff point. Getzenberg says this is well within the likely percentage range of BPH patients who are prostate-cancer free. He says this result was encouraging since BPH is often associated with elevated PSA levels, leading to misdiagnosis and unnecessary biopsies.

      When it came to correctly identifying patients with prostate cancer, EPCA-2 levels at or above the cutoff were detected in 90 percent of the men with organ-confined prostate cancer and 98 percent of the men with disease outside of the prostate. Overall, in this study, the EPCA-2 test detected 94 percent of the men with prostate cancer.

      The 2003 study showed that PSA levels between 4 and 10 nanograms per milliliter detected 85 percent of the patients with prostate cancer.

      Results of the study also revealed that EPCA-2 levels were significantly higher in patients whose cancers had spread outside of the prostate compared to those with disease confined to the gland. EPCA-2 was dramatically better at separating these groups than were PSA levels, according to Getzenberg.

      "This is important since cancer that has spread outside of the prostate is more deadly, which makes it even more crucial to have a tool that detects it early," says Getzenberg.

      Finally, the EPCA-2 test identified 78 percent of the men with prostate cancer in the group with PSA levels below the accepted cutoff level of 2.5 nanograms per milliliter.

      EPCA-2 is the second prostate-cancer marker identified by Getzenberg and his team that has outperformed PSA. Last year, they discovered an unrelated tissue-based test, EPCA-1, that also proved effective at identifying prostate cancer. The only commonality between these markers is that they were discovered using the same approach. Getzenberg says the efficacy of EPCA-1 as a test of biopsy samples is currently being evaluated.

      Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in American men. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be approximately 234,460 new cases of prostate cancer in the United States in 2006, and 27,350 men will die of this disease.

      Getzenberg says larger clinical trials for EPCA-2 are planned that could make this test available to the public in approximately 18 months.

      Hopkins Researchers Find Better Blood Test for Prostate Cancer...

      Dell Laptop Blamed for House Fire

      Florida man believes his Dell laptop is the cause of his house burning down.

      A man in South Venice, Fla. believes his Dell laptop is the cause of his house burning down.

      Louis Minnear told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that about 5 a.m. Thursday he smelled what he believed to be an electrical fire. He searched the house for the source, didn't find it and went back to sleep. About 45 minutes later he awoke to find his couch engulfed in flames.

      Minnear led his pregnant wife, 9-month-old son and two dogs to safety while scrambling for what belongings he could.

      "It moved fast; it burned hot," Minnear told the Herald-Tribune. "But they got it out quickly."

      In the end, all he could salvage were a few family photos, toys and his wife's purse.

      The Dell was a Latitude D500, equipped with one of the 4.1 million batteries Dell recalled two days before the fire.

      Minnear is "convinced" the Dell, which he said was sitting on a pile of papers, started the blaze.

      The flames took less than 20 minutes to tear through the small home, destroying everything and leaving it uninhabitable.

      Sarasota fire officials have yet to determine a cause but did verify that a laptop was on the remains of a couch. The case currently rests in the hands of the Florida State Fire Marshal.

      "Sometimes the fires are left undetermined," Sarasota Assistant Fire Chief Paul Dezzi said. "Sometimes you cannot figure out what would have caused it."

      Dell and the office of the Florida state fire marshal did not return two phone calls for comment. Dell also did not return phone calls made by the Herald-Tribune.

      Should the fire marshal determine that the laptop was the cause of the fire, this would be the most destruction any Dell laptop has caused. In the first publicized case, in June, only the Dell laptop was destroyed. Then a month later, a Dell laptop in an office in Illinois charred itself and the desk it was sitting on.

      Then, later in July, a truck in Nevada went up in flames sending two men fleeing as the flames reached the gas tank and two boxes of bullets in the glove box.

      Dell Laptop Blamed for House Fire...