Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treating & The Posioned Candy Scare

Trick or treating has a awkward place in my heart. As a young child I didn't get to go Trick or Treating because of the poisoned candy scare and because it being linked to the ancient evils of sorcery and Catholicism. So when I read that it is a strongly American tradition it gave me greater resolve that I will force my kids Trick-or-Treat from the time they can walk until they are in High School.

Trick-or-treating may have developed in America independent of any antecedent. Though some people claim that it is derived from the Irish or British custom of "Souling" where poor folk would go door to door, receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (All Hallows Day). There is no evidence that souling, was ever performed in America.

There is little primary documentation of masking or costuming on Halloween — in Ireland, the UK, or America — before 1900. The earliest reference to ritual begging on Halloween in English speaking America occurs in 1915, with another isolated reference in Chicago in 1920. The thousands of Halloween postcards produced between the turn of the 20th century and the 1920s commonly show children but do not depict trick-or-treating. Ruth Edna Kelley, in her 1919 history of the holiday, The Book of Hallowe'en, makes no mention of such a custom in the chapter "Hallowe'en in America."

It does not seem to have become a widespread practice until the 1930s, with the earliest known uses in print of the term "trick or treat" appearing in 1934, and the first use in a national publication occurring in 1939. Thus, although a quarter million Scots-Irish immigrated to America between 1717 and 1770, the Irish Potato Famine brought almost a million immigrants in 1845–1849, and British and Irish immigration to America peaked in the 1880s, ritualized begging on Halloween was virtually unknown in America until generations later.

Trick-or-treating spread from the western United States eastward, stalled by sugar rationing that began in April 1942 during World War II and did not end until June 1947.[14]

Early national attention to trick-or-treating was given in October 1947 issues of the children's magazines Jack and Jill and Children's Activities, and by Halloween episodes of the network radio programs The Baby Snooks Show in 1946 and The Jack Benny Show and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet in 1948. The custom had become firmly established in popular culture by 1952, when Walt Disney portrayed it in the cartoon Trick or Treat, Ozzie and Harriet were besieged by trick-or-treaters on an episode of their television show, and UNICEF first conducted a national campaign for children to raise funds for the charity while trick-or-treating.

Although some popular histories of Halloween have characterized trick-or-treating as an adult invention to rechannel Halloween activities away from vandalism, nothing in the historical record supports this theory. To the contrary, adults, as reported in newspapers from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s, typically saw it as a form of extortion, with reactions ranging from bemused indulgence to anger. Likewise, as portrayed on radio shows, children would have to explain what trick-or-treating was to puzzled adults, and not the other way around.

Despite the falseness of these claims the news media promoted the story continuously throughout the 1980s, with local news stations featuring frequent coverage. During this time cases of poisoning were repeatedly reported based on unsubstantiated claims or before a full investigation could be completed and often never followed up on. This one sided coverage contributed to the overall panic and caused rival media outlets to issue reports of candy tampering as well.

Over the years various experts have tried to debunk the various candy tampering stories. Among this group is Joel Best, a University of Delaware sociologist who is considered the foremost expert on candy tampering. In his studies he researched newspapers from 1958 on in search of candy tampering. Of these stories fewer than 90 instances might have qualified.

The first event took place in 1964, where an annoyed New York housewife started giving out packages of inedible objects to children whom she believed were too old to be trick-or-treating. The packages contained items such as steel wool, dog biscuits, and ant buttons (which were clearly labeled with the word ”poison”). Though nobody was injured, she was prosecuted and pleaded guilty to endangering children.

Upon closer examination nearly all of these claims were false or hoaxes created by the child. Within the reports of candy tampering Best has only found five child deaths that were initially thought to be caused by homicidal strangers.

In 1970, a 5-year-old boy died after eating his uncle's hidden heroin stash. The family tried to protect the uncle by creating a story about drugs being found in the child's Halloween candy.

In a 1974 case, an 8-year-old Houston boy died after eating a cyanide-laced package of Pixy Stix. A subsequent police investigation eventually determined that the poisoned candy had been planted in his trick-or-treat pile by the boy's father, who also gave out poisoned candy to other children in an attempt to cover up the murder. The murderer, who had wanted to claim $40,000 in life insurance money, was executed in 1984.

By 1985, the media had driven the hysteria about candy poisonings to such a point that an ABC News/Washington Post poll that found 60% of parents feared that their children would be injured or killed because of Halloween candy sabotage.

Advice columnists entered the fray during the 1980s and 1990s with both Ann Landers and Dear Abby warning parents of the horrors of candy tampering.

"In recent years, there have been reports of people with twisted minds putting razor blades and poison in taffy apples and Halloween candy. It is no longer safe to let your child eat treats that come from strangers." –Ann Landers
"Somebody's child will become violently ill or die after eating poisoned candy or an apple containing a razor blade." –Dear Abby

What is so sad to me about the whole Poisoned Candy conspiracy is that I am just a victim of the times. I was born in 77 so it was just starting to become a frenzy as I was entering prime Trick-Or-Treating years. I only remember going Trick-or-Treating twice as a kid. Both of which I was already in High School.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Maggot Therapy Not Just for the Mayans any More

Records have documented that maggots have been used as wound treatment since antiquity . There are reports of the successful use of maggots for wound healing by Mayan Indians and Aboriginal tribes in Australia. There also have been reports of the use of maggot treatment in the Renaissance times.

Many military physicians observed that soldiers whose wounds had become colonized with maggots experienced significantly less morbidity and mortality than soldiers whose wounds had not become colonized. Dr. Joseph Jones, a ranking Confederate medical officer during the American Civil War, is quoted as follows, "I have frequently seen neglected wounds ... filled with maggots ... as far as my experience extends, these worms only destroy dead tissues, and do not injure specifically the well parts." The first therapeutic use of maggots is credited to a second Confederate medical officer Dr. J.F. Zacharias, who reported during the American Civil War that, "Maggots ... in a single day would clean a wound much better than any agents we had at our command ... I am sure I saved many lives by their use. " He recorded a high survival rate in patients he treated with maggots.

During World War I, Dr. William S. Baer, an orthopedic surgeon, recognized on the battlefield the efficacy of maggot colonization for healing wounds. He observed one soldier left for several days on the battlefield who had sustained compound fractures of the femur and large flesh wounds of the abdomen and scrotum. When the soldier arrived at the hospital, he had no signs of fever despite the serious nature of his injuries and his prolonged exposure to the elements without food or water. When his clothes were removed, it was seen that "thousands and thousands of maggots filled the entire wounded area". To Dr. Baer's surprise, when these maggots were removed "there was practically no bare bone to be seen and the internal structure of the wounded bone as well as the surrounding parts was entirely covered with most beautiful pink tissue that one could imagine". This case took place at a time when the death rate for compound fractures of the femur was about 75-80%.

After the publication of Dr. Baer's results in 1931, maggot therapy for wound care became very common, particularly in the United States. The pharmaceutical company, Lederle, commercially produced in large numbers "Surgical Maggots", larvae of the green bottle fly (Phaenicia sericata), a facultative, necrophagous organism that only consumes necrotic tissue. Between 1930 and 1940, more than 100 medical papers were published on maggot therapy. Medical literature of this time contains many references to the successful use of maggots in chronic or infected wounds including osteomyelitis, abscesses, burns and sub-acute mastoiditis.[4][5]

With the advent of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, Dr. Ronald Sherman, a physician presently at the University of California, Irvine, successfully re-introduced maggot therapy into the armamentarium of modern medical care as a safe and effective therapy. In 1989, he set up fly breeding facilities at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Long Beach, California, in order to use maggots for the treatment of wounds. That year, he initiated the first prospective controlled clinical trial of maggot therapy in spinal cord patients with pressure ulcers using a Paralyzed Veterans of America grant. The successes of this clinical trial in patients who had failed two or more courses of conventional wound care, were published and generated significant international attention to maggot therapy. The therapeutic maggot used by Dr. Ronald Sherman is a strain of the green bottle fly (Phaenicia sericata) and marketed as "Medical Maggots".

In just the last four years, over fifty scientific papers have been published that describe the medical use of maggots. Six thousand maggot therapy patients have been included in case histories or other studies. About 400 patients have been documented within clinical studies. In the medical literature, limb salvage rates with maggot therapy are about 40% to 50%. Some report success rates of 70% to 80%, though definitions of "success" can vary.

In a 2007 preliminary trial maggots were used successfully to treat patients with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureu, a bacterium which has developed resistance to all penicillins.

The current use of maggot therapy is estimated to involve over 3,000 doctors, clinics, and hospitals in over 20 countries. In 2003 approximately 30,000 treatments were administered to an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 patients.

In the United States, Medical Maggots are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration as a prescription only medical device. Medical Maggots represent the first living organism ever allowed by the Food and Drug Administration for production and marketing as a prescription medical device. With acceptance of premarket notification 510(k) 033391 in January of 2004, the Food and Drug Administration granted Dr. Ronald Sherman permission to produce and market maggots for use in humans or other animals as a prescription use medical device for the following indications:

"For debriding non-healing necrotic skin and soft tissue wounds, including pressure ulcers, venous stasis ulcers, neuropathic foot ulcers and non-healing traumatic or post surgical wounds."

Currently, there are over 500 health care centers in the United States that have utilized maggot therapy.

Monarch Labs is the exclusive supplier of Medical Maggots (disinfected Phaenicia sericata larvae) for maggot debridement therapy in the United States. So I am thinking I need to get into the production of Medical Maggots since there is so little competition.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Weekly World News

So I was wandering the internet out side of the safety of Wikipedia and I came across an article about Paulo & Benedetta Cipriani the worlds heaviest couple and how they gave birth to a baby that weighed over 28 lbs. After doing some research, in order to find pictures of this baby, I discovered, to my horror that the internet had lied to me. The story of the Ciprianis is not true it is in fact the product of the great minds at the Weekly World News.

I have never read the Weekly World News but from what I have read about it on Wikipedia it is one fantastic periodical. Unfortunately because of this bad experience of reading non-collaboratively written content I won't be able to read the the actual Weekly World News. But I take solace in the fact that like most other media it is probably better to just read what Wikipedia has to say
about it. It is kind of like why teachers have kids do book reports (so they don't have to read the boring parts themselves.

The Weekly World News (The WWN) was launched in 1979 by American Media as a means to continue using the black and white press that their higher-profile tabloid, The National Enquirer, had been printed on before they switched it over to color. Which to me is an awesome concept, like they say waste not want not. The WWN like many supermarket weeklies in the U.S., was published in Boca Raton, Florida. It was unique as a tabloid because was it printed entirely in black and white.

The WWN has traditionally claimed it always prints the truth (typical slogan: "Nothing but the truth: The Weekly World News!"). Many stories, however, appeared to have comedic intent. While the tabloid's main rival, The Sun, carried a fine print disclaimer, the WWN never publicly questioned the accuracy of its own stories. In recent years, The Sun has moved more toward articles on health, and miracle cures, mostly. This has left the WWN to alone cover it's niche of "news" that the traditional media dared not report, such as sitings of Elvis Presley and the Loch Ness monster. Some people believe that in the 21st century, the tabloid has grown even more farcical.

The article talks about a lot of great stories that The WWN has reported on. Probably the most famous are the fact the Elvis is still alive and the story of Bat Boy. Bat Boy is "half human and half bat". He has done such varied things as graduated with an art degree form a small liberal arts college in upstate New York to attacking a fifth-grader in a park in Orlando, Florida. Another notable event in Bat Boys life is that he was instrumental in the War on Terror when he found and captured Saddam Hussein. I am sure this put a damper on Saddam's relationship with Osama Bin Ladin. Then there is the story of the cannibal food critic, who rates the people he eats, based on their nationalities. He didn't like Mexican or Chinese people as food, because they were "too spicy." Germans, on the other hand, were fattening and "greasy" while the one American he had eaten was rated highly for "taste, texture, and appearance."


The most detailed account from the Weekly World News, recorded a mermaid being caught in a fishing net off of the coast of Florida on April 17, 2004. She was at least half-human, very sociable, and extremely intelligent. The mermaid measured five feet from the tip of her upturned nose to the end of her spiny, translucent tail. Experts which talked with WWN reporters say she was able to talk in a sophisticated "three dimensional language" that depends heavily on noises that could possibly be connected to the "click languages" prevalent in parts of Africa and on hand movements that look like sign language instructed to deaf people around the globe. A linguist who had spent several hours with the mermaid at an undisclosed marine study facility in Florida declared that once they are able to establish communication, everything known about human evolution, the specialness of human intelligence, everything thought about fish - "It's all going out the door".

The location of the research facility where the mermaid was being studied was never released to the public, but some 'sources' have led to an abandoned seafood-processing plant as an assumed location. DNA testing taking shortly after her capture proved that the mermaid's genes are split between both humans and fish; specifically, Homo Sapiens and a sea bass species that has been extinct for over forty thousand years.

U.S. Customs agents labeled the creature "an exotic fish not cleared for importation into the United States". Within hours of the exotic find, she was airlifted to the unknown marine research facility where the government scientists are said to be giving a complete medical check-up to see how closely connected to man is to the bizarre creature. One expert was quoted thusly: "If it can be recognized that humans share a substantial amount of genetic coding with the mermaid, the understanding of our origins may change. Instead of looking for missing links between man and monkeys in the jungles of Africa, we'll have to start searching for the missing link between humans and fish, and between humans and merpeople — the mermaids and the mermen."

Since she was so strong, two crewmen had to pin down the mermaid to the deck by putting their knees on her shoulders while a third blew marijuana smoke in her face to sedate her. President George W. Bush took a keen interest in the mermaid and her well-being. He felt so deeply about the mermaid that he ordered two personal chefs to help with the creature's dietary needs. The dishes which he believed would benefit the half-human, half-fish were "two of his favorite comfort foods — Texas catfish and hush puppies with jalapeño bits. Details were released claiming the mermaid had a hearty appetite, thoroughly enjoying the food. In latest reports, she seems happy, broods when she's left alone, and perks up when she sees a human.

Freeze-dried baby

A series of several articles dealt with a couple whose doctor told them they could not have more children, and whose only son, Christer, climbed out of his crib one night and drank chemicals under the kitchen sink. They decided to take his remains to a taxidermist and freeze dry him so he could stand in the corner, his hand grabbing the waistline of his diaper. The next story had them going to prison because it is illegal to dispose of a corpse in any manner other than burial or cremation without a statement in writing from the deceased. The parents eventually died in a boating accident. The final story had a billionaire collector of weird things buy Christer's remains in the couple's neighbors' garage sale for ten cents.

Miss Adventure

Miss Adventure is the"The Gayest American Hero". He is a homosexual man and worked as a hairdresser in his hometown of Teaneck, New Jersey. He has climbed Mount Everest in mink and high heels ("The mountain was gorgeous, the snowmen abominable"), journeyed to the center of the earth ("When I go down, honey, I go down"), was shot off in a space shuttle ("I'd wish they'd find another way to describe that"), infiltrated the Mafia ("The FBI has a noble drag queen tradition"), discovered the Lost City of Atlantis ("Not much different from a trailer park, really"), traveled out West ("When they call a guy a cowpoke they really mean it"), and survived an overturned cruise ship ("Trust me, it's not the first time I've seen that many sailors with their legs in the air").

So it seems like the Weekly World News is truly a page turner. My only fear is that they are part of some conspiracy to throw us of the track of the real conspiracies.