Today is a big day for lovers of the planet Mercury, the closest planet to the sun.
NASA's MESSENGER (Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging) vehicle will start to orbit Mercury today.
Of all the terrestrial planets, Mercury remains one of the most mysterious.
NASA's Mariner 10 took some photos during flybys back in 1974 and 1975. And more recently, MESSENGER took some photos and grabbed some samples on a flyby in 2008.
The New York Times had a piece on what scientists learned about Mercury from the 2008 flyby:
An instrument aboard Messenger sampled Mercury’s surface composition by catching some of the charged atoms that have been knocked into space. Silicon, sodium and sulfur were detected. So was water.
“Which is a real surprise,” said Thomas H. Zurbuchen, an associate professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences at the University of Michigan and lead author of another paper in Science. “The first time we took a whiff of the planet, it’s right there.”
One possibility is that the water exists as ice in the shaded parts of craters in the polar regions.
Today, MESSENGER will begin orbiting the planet every 12 hours. Engineers at the University of Michigan say "an onboard device dubbed FIPS (Fast Imaging Plasma Spectrometer), a soda-can sized sensor designed and built at the University of Michigan will take atmospheric measurements, studying the evolution of rocky planets as it orbits Mercury."
Here, Thomas Zurbuchen, the lead engineer from the University of Michigan, talks about FIPS:
Almost 1400 middle and high school students displayed their projects at Detroit’s Cobo Center. Students from Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb county schools showed off research projects in 13 categories, ranging from computer science to zoology.
Fair organizers say participation in the fair is trending upward, and participation from Detroit Public Schools students shot up dramatically this year.
The state agency charged with monitoring radiation at Michigan’s three nuclear reactors has so far not recorded any increased radiation coming from Japan. Japan’s troubled nuclear reactors might be a half a world away, but it wouldn’t be the first time a nuclear accident overseas had an effect on Michigan.
Rodney Koon was pulled over for speeding a little over a year ago. Officers in Traverse City found a pipe in his pocket so he showed them his medical marijuana card. The Traverse City Eagle-Record says Koon was charged with driving under the influence of a schedule one controlled substance (others include ecstasy, heroin, and LSD) after a drug test revealed he had marijuana in his system.
A county judge ruled the state’s medical marijuana law protects Koon from prosecution. He said prosecutors need to have more solid evidence a driver is impaired while driving. State driving laws say people can’t drive with even a trace amount of schedule one controlled substances in their system.
It’s no secret that air pollution can lead to breathing problems, like asthma. But a new study will look at what else pollutants may be doing to humans.
Michigan State University has been named a Clean Air Research Center by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Scientists will investigate how certain mixtures of air pollutants affect human health.
MSU professor Jack Harkema is leading the study.
He says certain toxins may contribute to or even cause heart disease or diabetes, especially in people with other health issues.
"One of those risk groups are people who are overweight or obese," Harkema says. "And maybe you wouldn't think of that right away, but we have some evidence, just like cigarette smoke, can affect multiple organ systems."
The study will take place primarily in the Detroit area and in rural areas.
University of Michigan and Ohio State University researchers are also taking part.
Interim hospital CEO Patrick Salow says a 10 percent decline in patient numbers over the past year is forcing the staffing cuts. He says the layoffs will affect the hospital’s nursing staff, but the layoffs will also affect other divisions like the finance department.
“If we’ve got fewer patients, so there’s fewer bills to send out, do we need as many people to process bills for example."
The total layoff will be between 100 and 150 hospital employees.
The country is facing a nursing shortage, but schools in our region can’t keep up with the demand for nursing education.
As we reported in our first story, that’s partly because there are a limited number of clinical settings where student nurses can work with patients.
Now, to augment the clinical experience, some nursing programs are enlisting the help of a newfangled dummy, wired with smart technology.
Actually, calling these high tech mannequins “dummies” might be a bit insulting.
Forget those passive plastic torsos you’ve seen in CPR demonstrations. We’re talking about high fidelity mannequins, remotely operated by IT guys with headsets and laptops.
Larissa Miller runs the nursing simulation program at Lansing Community College. She can wax poetic about the virtues of the school’s simulated man.
“Our mannequin can shake,” she said, “which is great, we make him have a seizure right in the bed. He can sweat and it starts pouring down his face. He blinks, he breathes, he has pulses…”
He talks. And his female counterpart can even give birth. Miller has been a nurse for 19 years and she says the technology is exploding, "simulation is absolutely one of the fastest paced things I’ve ever watched in education," she said.
A new study says overuse of antibiotics is still a big problem, fifteen years after the Centers for Disease Control began a campaign to stop the practice.
Marianne Udow-Phillips is head of the University of Michigan’s Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation. She says antibiotics do not work for viral infections. And the more physicians over-prescribe antibiotics, the more pathogens will develop resistance to the drugs. But she says patients and doctors alike haven’t gotten the message. Udow-Phillips says:
"We’re just sick for a long time and we just want that magic pill to fix us... But if we have a virus, an antibiotic is not gonna help. And sometimes physicians cave in to the pressure from families who say, 'just do something'."
Udow-Phillips says drug-resistant staph has become a huge problem. In fact, more Americans die every year from antibiotic-resistant staph infections than AIDS.
The practice of overprescribing the drugs is a bigger problem in some parts of Michigan than others, the study found. In Holland, only about 10% of children who saw a doctor for an upper respiratory viral infection were given a prescription for antibiotics.
But in West Branch, nearly 68% of children with upper respiratory infections were given a prescription for an antibiotic.
Udow-Phillips thinks the differences in prescription rates is most likely because the CDC campaign focused on pediatricians rather than family physicians or internal medicine specialists. She says more children may be seeing family physicians in areas like West Branch.
Udow-Phillips says the worst part of it is, physicians are often over-prescribing so-called "broad spectrum" antibiotics, when "narrow spectrum" antibiotics would, at least, do less harm.
The Michigan House could vote on a bill this week that protects doctors who say “I’m sorry” from having the comment used against them in a lawsuit.
Rick Boothman is the chief risk officer for the University of Michigan Health System. The U-of-M adopted a policy 10 years ago to encourage doctors to show compassion and sympathy when a medical procedure goes wrong.
“The practice of medicine is inherently very risky and when things go badly, it can feel very punitive. Historically, we have chilled the communication between patients and physicians because physicians are afraid of saying anything that’s going to get them into trouble.”
Boothman says it’s impossible to tell if the policy is the cause, but the number of malpractice lawsuits against his hospital has gone down in the past decade.
The bill before the Legislature would not shield doctors from liability if they admit a mistake.
Fewer than 200 people have signed up for Michigan’s federally subsidized health coverage pool. The pool was created for people with pre-existing medical conditions but no insurance.
The managers of the program say there are thousands of openings. But some prospective buyers appear to be put off by the cost.
Even at a reduced rate, the premiums can run as high as $650 a month for people in their 50s and their 60s. Younger people get a lower rate – as little as $180 a month, but it can still be difficult for some people to come up with that much money.
Some hospitals are offering to split the cost of premiums with patients, or to direct people to foundations that can help with payments.
Kevin Downey, who is with the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, thinks there are dangers to avoiding insurance.
“Those without coverage are in situations where their conditions worsen and by the time they are actually seen at a hospital in the emergency room there are fewer options and the costs are higher.”
Eric Schneidewind is with AARP of Michigan. He says providing treatment for people with chronic conditions is a bargain for everyone.
“People who do not have insurance who show up at a hospital are costing the rest of us a thousand dollars a year to pay for this, so it’s in our interest to get these people coverage and have them pay what they can afford to pay rather than nothing and have no coverage.”
The pre-existing conditions pool won’t be necessary after 2013 under the new federal healthcare law. After that, everyone will be required to carry coverage through healthcare exchanges, and people can’t be turned down for a medical condition.
Michiganders might get a glimpse of nature's greatest light show tonight and tomorrow. Recent solar flares are expected to create a spectacular aurora borealis.
The weather forecast tonight calls for potentially ideal conditions with clear skies (though with temperatures falling through the 20's you might want to bundle up). There's a chance for more clouds Saturday night ( It should also be colder). Don't miss your chance to see the "Dance of the Spirits".
There are still some open questions about how the state will implement its two year old Medical Marijuana law.
The state has not said how dispensaries of the drug should be regulated so some cities allow the dispensaries and others do not.
These differences have put a few cities in court. Advocates say the state is missing an opportunity by not regulating the dispensaries.
Karen O’Keefe is with the Marijuana Policy Project, a supporter of the original law.
"States that have regulated dispensing, a lot of them subject medical marijuana to sales tax. Some of them also have modest business taxes and there are fees. So in addition to helping patients have access and clearing up some of the confusion that localities are facing it would help the state financially."
Groups on both sides of the issue plan to continue to push the state to weigh in on the issue this year.
Joseph Cassias once stocked shelves at the Walmart in Battle Creek. He was fired after he tested positive for marijuana. Cassias has an inoperable brain tumor and qualifies as a patient under Michigan’s medical marijuana act.
Michigan Radio's Laura Weber reports that the Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled against growing medical marijuana plants in partially-exposed outdoor enclosures, setting a new precedent in Michigan’s medical marijuana debate. From the news spot:
A lower court had dismissed charges against an Owasso resident and medical marijuana card holder. But the Court of Appeals overturned that dismissal, and two of the three judges say the enclosure did not meet the standards set in the new law.
The medical marijuana law was approved by voters in 2008. Many lawmakers have said the law is too unrestricted and needs further clarification.
Clarification--and clarity--is an ongoing problem for medical marijuana advocates and critics in Michigan. John McKenna Rosevear wrote an article in November for arborweb.com which looks at some of the uncertainties surrounding medical marijuana. He describes Ann Arbor as a "Wild West" of in-plain-sight dispencaries and access:
The new frontier opened when voters passed the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act in 2008 (earlier laws enshrined the alternative spelling). The act protects people with "debilitating medical conditions" from prosecution for possessing or using marijuana, and sets what looked like tight controls on its production and distribution: "patients" can raise up to twelve hemp plants for their own use, or delegate the growing to a designated "caregiver."
The law says nothing about buying or selling. Yet by the time the Ann Arbor City Council hastily enacted a moratorium in August, eight businesses dispensing marijuana had already opened in the city. Anyone with a physician's recommendation can now walk in, join a "club," and walk out with up to 2.5 ounces of Blueberry Haze or White Widow--or "medibles" like marijuana brownies and rainbow-colored lollipops dosed with marijuana extract.
Roseyear's article goes on to describe how medical marijuana works--what the rules are, what kind of people are buying and who (he gets pretty specific) is selling--in Ann Arbor.
How is it affecting the rest of Michigan? What do these issues look like where you live?
A federal judge in Mississippi tossed out a lawsuit aimed at challenging the health care reform law. The dismissal comes the same week a federal judge in Florida ruled that the whole law was unconstitutional.
Ten individuals without health insurance argued that the law’s requirement to buy insurance violated their rights. One of the plaintiffs is Mississippi Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant. Judge Keith Starrett said the individuals didn’t prove they have proper standing to challenge the law because they didn’t prove the mandate would apply to them. The suit was thrown out on procedural grounds.
It's not the first time lawsuits challenging the health care law have been tossed. Politico writes, "about two dozen lawsuits have been filed against the health care reform law since it was passed in March. Thirteen have now been thrown out over procedural matters such as a right to bring the suit."
NPR's Health blog went to their "go-to overhaul scorekeeper" Julie Rover for a tally on how challenges to the health care law have fared in court. The bloggers on "Shots" wrote:
The judicial scorecard on the law has pretty much followed party lines. Two judges who found the law constitutional were appointed by Democrats. Two who found the requirement for most people to have health insurance unconstitutional were appointed by Republicans.
The several dismissals issued for the health care court challenges, like the one today, have not followed any party ties.