Thursday, November 18, 2010

School insurance company prevents parents from testing syringe that poked their son

"[The principal] invited the Kuertens to pick up the needle for possible testing, but George Hills [insurance] Co. claimed the needle first."

I have long thought that insurance companies and their lawyers do a great deal of harm to schools, but in this case, I must admit that there was really nothing to be gained by testing the syringe eight days after the needle stuck the students. Viruses are unlikely to survive that long.

But why didn't the school turn over the needle right away? Who spread the bogus story of the syringe being used to water plants?

Needle poke turns into big problem at L.A. charter school
April 19, 2010
Howard Blume
Los Angeles Times

When 6-year-old Kristopher Kuerten pricked himself with a syringe found at his school, his Redondo Beach parents had no idea they would end up locked in a complicated dispute over the needle.

The school's insurance company seized the needle and won't release it, saying no lab is willing to test it. The family is worried about their son's health and wants the syringe tested.

The incident, which happened at Goethe International Charter School, underscores the unusual problems that can be especially challenging for a school with no support from school district bureaucracy. Charters are independently managed, a freedom considered crucial to their success. But it also means they function outside of long-developed procedures.

Goethe, which shares a Marina del Rey campus with a Los Angeles Unified School District middle school, offers German-language immersion.

Kristopher hasn't experienced any medical problems, and experts say his risk for infection from HIV, hepatitis or other pathogens is low. But his parents are unhappy about how matters were handled.

During a school day in February, a classmate apparently found a syringe in an electrical box and gave it to Kristopher. The prick probably happened when he played with the syringe during the after-school program. A staff member attended to the minor wound.

Jean and Thomas Kuerten said they learned what happened from Kristopher.

School Principal Luci Fowers declined to discuss the matter, but in an earlier e-mail to the Kuertens, she wrote that after-school program workers, who aren't employees of the school, "had been [given] misinformation about the use of the syringe to nourish plants apparently from one of our interns."

Fowers added: "No one from our [permanent] staff was on our campus at that time nor were we informed about the incident until we returned from the weekend."

At a Los Angeles Unified School District school, the nurse or a designated staff member would have provided first aid and notified the parents and the needle would have been placed in a "sharps container," said Connie Moore, the district's director of nursing.

At Goethe, the principal was out ill for a time, and it was not until eight days after the incident that she alerted the parents that the syringe was not for plants, according to e-mails from the school provided by the family.

She invited the Kuertens to pick up the needle for possible testing, but George Hills Co. claimed the needle first.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Former Glaxo Lawyer Indicted

I don't think our Judge Judith Hayes of San Diego is going to be happy about this. The Justice Department has indicted a lawyer, Lauren C. Stevens of Durham, N.C.. Hayes doesn't even want lawyers to be criticized on the Internet, much less indicted for concealing evidence and obstructing justice.

Here's what our Judge Hayes had to say on the subject to a woman who criticized a law firm on the Internet:

"Take this law firm off the yourself some trouble. A lawyer does what a lawyer does in every case, and if we had people putting up websites for every lawyer they didn't like we'd have so many websites the Internet would be boggled, if that is something that can happen electronically."
--Court Reporter's transcript April 6, 2009 Dept. 68 San Diego Superior Court

Note to Judge Hayes: The Internet seems to be doing just fine despite the burden of the millions of people who express their views online. What would happen if every victim decided to expose wrongdoing by lawyers? I think the result would be a more reliable justice system in which lawyers turn over evidence instead of hiding it.

November 9, 2010
Former Glaxo Lawyer Indicted
New York Times

A former vice president and associate general counsel for the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline has been indicted on charges of making false statements and obstructing a federal investigation into illegal drug marketing, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

The criminal charges are part of the government’s long-promised crackdown on individual executives for their roles in pharmaceutical company cases, which have resulted in billions of dollars in fines and payments by the companies.

Lauren C. Stevens of Durham, N.C., is accused of lying to the Food and Drug Administration in a series of letters in 2003 denying the company had promoted a drug for off-label uses, according to federal prosecutors. She had claimed the company did not have promotional slides the F.D.A. had sought during its investigation, the indictment said...

U.S. doctors still too cozy with drug industry: report

U.S. doctors still too cozy with drug industry: report
By Julie Steenhuysen
Nov 9, 2010

Doctors in the United States are still too cozy with drug companies, although they have managed to break some of those ties, U.S. researchers said on Monday.

The team at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital did a national survey of 1,900 primary care doctors in 2009 about their contacts with drug companies.

They found 84 percent reported some type of relationship with drug companies, compared with 94 percent in 2004.

About two thirds accepted drug samples, 70 percent accepted food or beverages from drug companies and 14 percent accepted payment in exchange for their professional services, they reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

"We found a significant decline overall in the percentage of physicians who have relationships with industry," Eric Campbell of Massachusetts General, who led the study, said in a telephone interview.

In the team's first study of industry ties in 2004, getting drug samples or accepting lunches or other food from drug company salespeople were most common, followed by payments from drug companies for attending medical meetings or continuing education seminars.

Since then, several government and academic groups have pressured doctors to sever their ties to drug companies.

Members of Congress, including Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, have been pushing to limit the influence of drugmakers over the practice of medicine after a probe showed a noted Harvard neuroscientist had failed to disclose payments from drug companies...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Client 9": The Eliot Spitzer case: How we were bamboozled

Did AIG, the insurance company that got over $100 billion in bailouts, play a role in bringing down Eliot Spitzer?

Nov 3, 2010
"Client 9": The Eliot Spitzer case: How we were bamboozled
An intriguing new movie dissects the thicket of money, lies and rumors around the governor's downfall
By Andrew O'Hehir

Perhaps you've noticed this lately: It's remarkably easy to distract people from substantive issues by telling them entertaining stories, whether or not they bear any relationship to the truth. (E.g.: "The Muslim socialist raised your taxes!" may be a lie from beginning to end, but it has a lot more narrative appeal than "We're the people who let the bankers steal your grandkids' money, and we'd like to do it some more.")

Unfortunately for former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the stories his enemies got to tell about him were true, at least in part. But the fact that Spitzer must take the blame for his own misdeeds -- and for his hypocrisy -- should not obscure the more important fact that the media and the public got fatefully bamboozled by the Spitzer story. "Politician caught with pants down" and "White knight has feet of clay" are stories we're all drawn to, almost by primal instinct. They satisfyingly confirm all our worst suspicions about human nature. But that primal satisfaction was used, in this case, to distract our attention from the takedown of one of the few American politicians devoted to fighting corporate power and ruling-class privilege, an act that in retrospect looks an awful lot like a political assassination...

As irresistible as the Ashley and Angelina material may be, that stuff is really the icing on Gibney's cake, which is an elegantly told New York fable about a smart, arrogant guy who made a whole lot of the wrong kinds of enemies. "Client 9" builds a forceful, if circumstantial, case around the disclosures that led to Spitzer's downfall. Avowed Spitzer haters like investment banker Ken Langone, former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg and ex-New York Stock Exchange head Dick Grasso were clearly seeking any opportunity to take the governor down, and Langone has made murky comments to the effect that he knew about the prostitution scandal before the news broke. (See, a friend of his was in line behind Spitzer at the post office ... No, really.)

Notorious right-wing political trickster Roger Stone has claimed to be the initial source who told the FBI about Spitzer's dalliances with hookers (and he's definitely the source of the scurrilous knee-socks allegation). Although Stone was an aide and confidante to state Sen. Joe Bruno, one of Spitzer's biggest Albany foes, Stone says he heard about the whole thing on his own, at random, from a hooker in a Miami nightclub. (Given Stone's background and reputation, that part of the story is strangely believable.) Add up all these billionaires, rogues and past and future indictees -- along with a scandal-plagued Justice Department at the tail end of the George W. Bush era, eager to claim the scalp of a leading Democrat -- and the whole thing looks overdetermined, as the Marxists say.