Letter from America 20th November

Hi Guys and Gals,

Rain at last! Thursday evening it started raining at about 8.30pm and stopped just before we retired for the night. We had one very short shower one evening back at the end of October which must have got below the radar as it was not reported anywhere. Since then nothing until this week. With the low humidity the danger of brush and forest fires are a constant danger. They try to limit this with controlled burns but on Tuesday a controlled burn forced authorities to close Interstate 95 while US Highway 1 was closed temporarily, both due to the extensive smoke. It began as a quarter acre controlled burn at a property owned by the Miami Corporation, which occupies more than 60,000 acres of timber land in Brevard and Volusia counties and finally consumed 600 acres. The Division of Forestry had issued the burn authorisation Tuesday morning when conditions were favorable, but the winds picked up and sent embers north of Scottsmoor. By Wednesday 85% of the fire had been controlled and it was finally extinguished by the end of the day Thursday. Forecasters say that the wildfire that burned for two days in Brevard and Volusia counties is an omen of things to come and fires will continue to scorch Central Florida’s parched landscape. A moderate to strong La Nina weather pattern is predicted to bring abnormally dry weather to parts of the United States especially Florida. Just hope that nothing more serious than the water shortage getting worse happens.

Florida has a reputation as a gun crazy state but at least the public are not allowed to walk around with their arms on display, they have to be concealed to avoid offence. However some 43 states have what is referred to as “open carry”. This means that like the wild west you can openly carry a hand gun but instead of the old fashioned six shooter it is more likely to be a Glock hand gun clipped to their belt. Advocates are now pushing for legislation to allow it in Florida and it was being promoted by the Republican Candidate Rick Scott in the Mid Term elections. The gun lobby claim this as their right under the Second Amendment and conduct open carry demonstrations maintaining that open carry will deter crime. It is to be hoped that common sense prevails and that this never becomes law here in Florida.

A database detailing doctors’ financial ties with drug companies was published recently. A Dr Daniel Carlat decided to check on the potentially compromising relationships with the pharmaceutical industry. He was surprised to find that several colleagues he had considered to be very “ethical people” had received thousands of dollars in payment from pharmaceutical companies. Research has shown that small payments can sway doctors, even subconsciously, influencing the medications they prescribe to patients. Many doctors discredit the research; others say the evidence is clear and convincing. The ProPublica database examined payments in 2009 and the first half of 2010 from drug companies to doctors for lectures, consulting or advisory services and other types of activity. The information was assembled from public reports posted online by Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Merck, Johnson & Johnson and Cephalon. A law has now been passed that all drug and medical device companies will be required to publicly disclose payments to physicians by 2013 under new federal legislation. I would have like to have ended “Only in America” but I have my doubts!

For all of you going to the Ghent Six have a great time, for those left behind have a good weekend.

Bryan Staples

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