Tobacco kills: grim stats on smoking

January 15, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

“If current trends continue, tobacco will cause up to one billion deaths in the 21st century.” – CNN

Tobacco companies sell deadly, addictive poison to the public. Consider these grim stats:

Smoking remains America’s leading cause of disease and preventable death, resulting in more than 443,000 fatalities annually. More than 8 million Americans live with a smoking-related illness or conditions.

There is enough nicotine in four or five cigarettes to kill an average adult if ingested whole. Most smokers take in only one or two milligrams of nicotine per cigarette however, with the remainder being burned off.

The clay found in cat litter is used in cigarettes as filler. This allows tobacco companies to “weigh down” their cigarettes so that they will fall into the “large cigar” category-helping the companies avoid taxes.

Ambergris, otherwise known as whale vomit is one of the hundreds of possible additives used in manufactured cigarettes.

Benzene is a known cause of acute myeloid leukemia, and cigarette smoke is a major source of benzene exposure. Among U.S. smokers, 90 percent of benzene exposures come from cigarettes.

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We are not worthy of you, Zahra Baker

February 21, 2011 by · 4 Comments 

In a post titled The most important person in the world, I argued that we are only as strong, powerful and important as the weakest link in the human chain. When a little girl is gang-raped, when a child wastes away from preventable hunger, when a woman dies needlessly in childbirth, when a little boy suffers from a preventable disease, we are all weakened, our worth diminished. The highest moral calling is to give to others, to extend a hand to those who need one. The most important person in the world is the one who most needs our compassion, care and generosity, the person who enables us to improve ourselves by helping them, who gives us value because we value them.

Which brings me to the soul-shattering story of Zahra Baker, whose time on earth is unlike anything most humans will ever encounter or endure:

A prosthetic leg thought to be that of missing 10-year-old Zahra Baker has been found in a brushy area off a North Carolina road, Chief Tom Adkins of the Hickory, North Carolina, police said Wednesday. Adkins said that the prosthetic leg is “consistent with” that of Zahra, a freckle-faced youngster who lost her leg to bone cancer at age 5 and developed lung cancer a few years later. The disappearance of Zahra, who had persevered through numerous health battles and wore hearing aids, has made international news. … Family members and neighbors have told reporters that Zahra’s stepmother abused her.

The depth of suffering contained in that paragraph defies comprehension. How can such a beautiful soul be put through so much pain? How can we go about our ordinary lives while such mortal agony takes place around us?

I know there’s no answer.

And I know we’re not worthy of you, Zahra Baker.

UPDATE: From CNN-

Elisa Baker, the stepmother of 10-year-old Zahra Baker, was indicted Monday on second-degree murder charges in the girl’s death, a Catawba County, North Carolina, court clerk told CNN.

“The defendant had a history and pattern of physical, verbal and psychological abuse of the victim,” the indictment said. The indictment described Zahra as “very young, physically infirm, or handicapped.” The girl lost part of her left leg at age 5 and lost hearing in both ears while being treated for cancer.

“The defendant took advantage of a position of trust or confidence, including a domestic relationship, to commit the offense,” the indictment said.

Arlen Specter’s amazing number and the myth of “success” in Iraq

August 24, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Let me preface this by distinguishing the many sacrifices by our troops In Iraq and Afghanistan from an assessment of whether the wars are a success or failure. Put differently, putting your life on the line for your nation is noble whether or not the mission is ultimately deemed a success.

That said, I want to delve deeper into the opportunity-cost objection to the Iraq invasion and the Afghan surge.

CostOfWar lets you measure the tradeoffs of the trillion+ spent on those two wars. You can spend hours on the site researching the cops, nurses, teachers and infrastructure we could have paid for with the billions spent on Iraq.

I’d like to focus on one particularly stunning number put forth by Arlen Specter. Granted, he wasn’t doing it in the context of the cost of war, but it’s a perfect example of why we need to be dubious about the growing consensus that Iraq was a success:

It is my opinion that it is scandalous in this country that we haven’t done more by way of combating these illnesses. I requested an estimate from the cancer community of what it would take to make a major attack to virtually cure cancer. We can’t talk about curing cancer, but the kind of a major attack which would reduce cancer vary materially. We got back a figure of $335 billion over 15 years. Well, those are big numbers, but they would pay off in very substantial rewards when you consider the cost of cancer is over $200 billion a year. The cost of heart disease is almost $450 billion a year. There are ways and economies within the Federal budget to deal with those issues.

Specter asked a fundamental question: what would it cost to cure cancer? The number he was given was less than half the cost of the Iraq war. To launch a frontal assault on cancer and save innumerable lives.

It is an unspeakable travesty that we can afford to go to war based on lies and deceptions, causing the death and injury of hundreds of thousands, but we can’t spend the money it takes to embark on an assault against a scourge like cancer.

There are many reasons Iraq is anything but a success. I’ve listed a few here.  But Arlen Specter’s amazing number is one of the most compelling I’ve seen.