Public Health

A Certain Shade of Gray

Detail of frame from Durarara!!!

KING 5 overstates the lede:

Washington health experts say deaths due to fentanyl have roughly doubled in the state in only a year. The drug is cut into heroin and other drugs as a cheaper alternative and often times without people knowing.

A new investigation released Wednesday by the State Department of Health, State Toxicology Laboratory, University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, and Public Health Seattle & King County shows deaths from fentanyl and related drugs rose to 70 in 2016 from 28 in 2015.

The State Toxicology Lab says we can’t compare the numbers directly because halfway through the year, the lab changed its testing methods in order to detect smaller amounts of fentanyl. Had it used the old protocol, the lab would have identified 53 fentanyl-related deaths in 2016.

However, the 70 deaths account for 10 percent of all opioid-related deaths in the state.

Even still, the comparative reality isn’t exactly good news. Nor is there much comfort in not being elsewhere. WUSA, via KING 5:

Knoxville police are keeping their eyes out for a dangerous and deadly drug. It looks like a chunk of concrete, can kill with one dose, and is being called ‘Gray Death.’

So far, it’s been found in Ohio, Georgia, and Kentucky, which are all states connected to Tennessee by an interstate.

According to reports, the drug is 10,000 times more potent than morphine, 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, and includes an elephant tranquilizer called Carfentanil.

That tranquilizer showed up in Tennessee for the first time this year. Since then, it’s been found in five separate cases, including one in East Tennessee.

Remember: You can call it “gray death”, and someone will still want to use it.

At the same time, the joke about the nanovirus doesn’t work; the opioid epidemic is a bit more serious than video game obscurities. Still, of course they called it “gray death”.

(It’s a marketplace thing. See, back when KGB was popular as “killer green buds”, the marijuana didn’t actually kill you. Of course they called it “gray death”. Think about who we’re dealing with, here inasmuch as anyone would actually manufacture and distribute the stuff.)

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Tan, LiLi. “‘Kill pill’ intensifying opioid epidemic”. KING 5. 10 May 2017.

WUSA. “New drug called ‘Gray Death’ can kill with just one dose”. KING 5. 10 May 2017.

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What They Voted For: Why Government Doesn’t Work

#earthquakes | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks to employees in Washington, D.C., 21 February 2017. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

There is that part within that wonders―really, truly, genuinely in all good faith, wonders―who in these United States really thinks they can do that speech in which the audience is supposed to pretend they have no effing clue? Or, to check in with Rebecca Leber of Mother Jones:

If Pruitt’s address was meant to soothe staffers’ concerns about their incoming administrator, they may have come up short.

“Pruitt’s talk [was] as bad as expected,” said a current career EPA staffer of over 20 years, who requested anonymity, following the speech. “Not one word about public health. And talking about the rule of law as if we didn’t do EVERYTHING with the realization that it WILL end up in court. It was condescending and hypocritical.”

Some former EPA officials shared that view. “Trump’s team spent the entire campaign and the last few months railing against EPA’s existence, its staff, and its purpose,” Liz Purchia, an Obama-era communications staffer at the agency, said in an email. “Accomplishing agency priorities was no easy task when the administrator had staff’s back and politicals and careers agreed the majority of the time, so let’s see how well Trump’s EPA does getting staff to follow them when they feel disrespected. These are professionals with years of experience, who have been made to feel like their leader doesn’t trust their judgment. The American people are relying on them to defend the agency, protect its environmental statutes and stand up to Trump’s team to ensure they uphold science and the law.”

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A Hazy Shade of Stupid

File under #No:

Druggie: An eyeshadow from Sephora, by Urban Decay, circa 2017.There are moments when it’s important to marshal as much evidence as possible to back up an argument. And then there are moments like this.

Sephora is selling a new shade of eyeshadow called “Druggie.”

(Grim and Kearns)

There are a few things that go here. Sephora’s non-apology is directed “to anyone who was offended by the name of this shade”, asking people to check in via Twitter direct message for more information. The Huffington Post called, and again Sephora apologized “to anyone who was offended by the name of this shade”, and reiterated that the company “would never seek to do that”. And just to make the point, the company added, “The shade was in a limited edition palette and was not planned to be re-ordered”.

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America (Unthinkable)

Detail of frame from FLCL episode 5, 'Brittle Bullet'.

A grim reminder:

There have been over 200 school shooting incidents―an average of nearly one a week―since the horrifying morning when 20-year-old Adam Lanza marched into Sandy Hook Elementary School and did the unthinkable.

Four years ago today, Lanza shot and killed his mother in her home in Newtown, Connecticut, before making his way to the school and opening fire, leaving 20 children and six staff members dead.

(Miller)

Why do we say unthinkable? One of the interesting questions of once upon a time was the question of killing children onscreen in cinema. You’re not actually supposed to depict such acts; it’s one of those codes that isn’t a law, but still, you know?

So you wouldn’t show what we see in the movies if it’s a child. Show an airplane full of children crashing, though, and, well, according to the old code that is, quite technically, just fine. And then perhaps we might recall the beginning of T2: Judgment Day, and so much for fretting about traditional codes.

Still, though, there are a lot of things we might think are unthinkable; perhaps what we mean is that actually doing these things is unthinkable.

All of which only reminds how much easier it is to talk about something else.

We’re halfway through December. Let us please, as many as possible, make it through to next year. Sure, that sounds like a grim joke, but come on. This is America, and there just isn’t much left we can call unthinkable. Take care of yourselves; take care of each other. Be well. Stay safe. Live through this.

Please.

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Image note: Detail of frame from FLCL episode 5, “Brittle Bullet”.

Miller, Hayley. “There Have Been Over 200 School Shooting Incidents Since The Sandy Hook Massacre”. The Huffington Post. 14 December 2016.

An Echo of Freedom (Just About Right)

Detail of frame from FLCL episode 5, 'Brittle Bullet'.

Speaking of just another day in America:

A 3-year-old boy is dead after being shot in Ypsilanti Township on Sunday, Nov. 13.

The incident is under investigation, but police believe the incident may have been an accident, said Derrick Jackson of the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office.

Police believe another child was playing with a gun when it went off, fatally striking the 3-year-old boy, he said.

(Moran)

The problem with saying that sounds just about right is that it should be possible―merely possible―to say such a thing.

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Image note: Detail of frame from FLCL episode 5, “Brittle Bullet”.

Moran, Darcie. “3-year-old shot, killed by child playing with gun, police say”. MLive. 13 November 2016.

A Trivial Question About Your Coffee Cup

A coffee cup at Terra Vista. Detail of photo by B. D. Hilling, 2013.

Cari Romm explains, for Science of Us, a few details about why “It’s Okay to Never Wash Your Coffee Mug”:

As Heidi Mitchell wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal column, it’s fine to never wash your mug, as long as you’re not sharing it with anybody else. Better than fine, in fact: It may actually be the most sanitary option.

There are two caveats to that statement, infectious-disease expert Jeffrey Starke, a pediatrics professor at Baylor College of Medicine, told Mitchell: One, it only applies if you’re not sharing the mug with anybody else. And two, “if you leave cream or sugar in your mug over the weekend, that can certainly cause mold to grow”―in which case, wash it out.

The bottom line, Romm suggests, is that “letting your mug live in its own filth may be a safer bet than the alternative: scrubbing it with the disgusting communal sponge in the office kitchen”.

And, yes, there is the bit about putting the sponge in the microwave, but this still begs a question.

Who says you absolutely must use a sponge?

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Romm, Cari. “It’s Okay to Never Wash Your Coffee Mug”. Science of Us. 3 November 2016.

Ominous, or, Your Congressional Forecast

A portion of the U.S. Capitol dome. (Detail of photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images, 2013)

This is what we might call not hopeful; other days we might just call it normal. Either way, Andrew Taylor offers the grim look ahead:

Lawmakers return to Washington this week for an abbreviated election-season session in which they will likely do what they do best: the bare minimum.

All Congress must do this month is keep the government from shutting down on Oct. 1 and, with any luck, finally provide money for the fight against the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Republicans controlling Congress promise they won’t stumble now, but the weeks ahead could prove tricky.

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Vaxxtastic

So …

Health officials in Arizona say the largest current measles outbreak in the United States is in part because some workers at a federal immigration detention center refuse to get vaccinated.

Authorities have confirmed 22 measles cases in Arizona since late May. They all stem from the Eloy Detention Center, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility managed by the private Corrections Corporation of America.

United States Department of Homeland SecurityPinal County health director Thomas Schryer said the outbreak likely began with a migrant but that detainees have since been vaccinated. Convincing employees to get vaccinated or show proof of immunity has proven much tougher, he said.

“And so they’re actually the ones that are passing along the measles among each other and then going out into the community,” Schryer said.

… right. Any questions?

Oh. Wait. The AP report from Astrid Galvan also notes―

The facility includes about 350 CCA employees and an unknown number of ICE staffers, although Schryer estimates it’s about 100. ICE doesn’t publicly release staffing levels, nor does it require employees to be immunized.

―and it seems well enough to start with the obvious. This is, after all, Immigration and Customs Enforcement; given the health advisories in general about international travel, it seems absurd to suggest that the intended front line contact point for so much of that alleged danger coming into the United States should fail to require immunization.

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Galvan, Astrid. “Arizona is site of largest current US measles outbreak”. Associated Press. 8 July 2016.

An American Snapshot (Heritage: Hatred)

Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, DC, December 3, 2015 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

“Yes, a majority of Americans said they were against such measures, but let’s not brush past the obvious point: a third of the country is an alarming number of people.”

Steve Benen

The problem with making a point like Steve Benen’s is not that it is somehow wrong or grotesquely exaggerated. Rather, the problem is that such straightforward, dramatic statements find themselves anywhere near the realm of American reality.

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