May 26, 2015

Need to lose a few pounds? It’s time to “Rethink Your Drink”

Rethink Your DrinkAlmost one in every three Nebraskans is obese, according to the latest rankings, and what we’re drinking can be just as fattening as what we’re eating.

Carol Voss, a registered dietician and a nutritionist says just one 12-ounce soda contains around 150 calories and 40 grams of sugar, which in itself is more than the daily recommendation. It’s much worse for the 20-ounce pops.

“If you were thinking of opening those sugar packets you find at a restaurant table, the 20-ounce bottle would be 16 of those dumped into that plastic bottle,” Voss says. “So, you can see how that might exceed what we’re supposed to be consuming.”

Voss says a campaign called “Rethink Your Drink” is urging Nebraskans to consider cutting out at least some of those sweet drinks and trading them for water or a non-sweetened tea.

“It’s just a way of being a little more realistic about the calories we’re taking in,” Voss says. “When people are looking at ways to balance your calories, we look at the food we eat rather than the beverages we take in and beverages can be a very easy thing to modify.”

Drinking one soda a day can equal an extra 25 pounds of weight per year. The latest “State of Obesity” report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds 29% of all Nebraskans are obese, the 23rd highest rate in the country.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest source of added sugar in the American diet, and that contributes to things like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.


“Sham” cancer charities now subject of massive lawsuit

Better Business Bureau logoNebraskans are warned to do their research before contributing to a charity.

The advice from Chris Coleman, at the Better Business Bureau, is in response to a federal lawsuit involving all 50 states against four phony cancer charities.

The complaint says the organizations collected $187 million in donations over five years and only about five-precent of the money actually went to help cancer victims.

“It gives all of us real heartache because of all of us know family members or friends who are victims of cancer or have suffered through that disease,” Coleman said.

The defendants in the lawsuit include Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, Children’s Cancer Fund of America, and the Breast Cancer Society. Most donors in Nebraska, upon hearing the charities’ names, probably felt comfortable making a donation.

“They borrowed a name of a good charity, I’d say they hijacked it,” Coleman said. “They steal the good reputation of many charities.”

The complaint claims a large majority of the contributions to the sham charities benefited only the defendants, their families and friends, and professional fundraising groups.

“If this causes consumers to do more research to verify the legitimacy of charities before they make a contribution, that will help all good charities and we feel confident about that,” Coleman said. “We want our information to spotlight the best charities so people know where to contribute and where their gift can make the most difference.”

Charities can be checked out at the Better Business Bureau’s “Wise Giving” website.


Unicameral advances another medical marijuana bill

Sen. Sue Crawford

Sen. Sue Crawford

A second medical marijuana bill has advanced in the Unicameral.

Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue sponsors Legislative Bill 390 which would authorize a pilot program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center to use a marijuana oil to treat intractable epileptic seizures.

“Under this bill, the only allowed substance is cannabidiol or CBD that contains .03% THC or less,” Crawford explained in her opening remarks to legislative floor debate. “This is the same amount of THC that can be found in industrial hemp and with this low THC level, the substance does not create a high. Thus, there’s not recreational use for minors or adults.”

Earlier, the legislature advanced LB 643 sponsored by Sen. Tommy Garrett of Bellevue. Patterned after a Minnesota law, LB 643 would allow marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes if taken in pill or oil form or through vapor. It prohibits marijuana to be smoked.

Crawford said the two medical marijuana bills can be consider compatible and not in competition with each other.

Still, Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion questioned why legislators should approve a second medical marijuana measure.

“With Sen. Garrett’s bill moving forward, why is there still a need for this bill?” Kintner asked Crawford.

Crawford replied that LB 643 would not become effective until July of next year at the earliest while her bill would be effective immediately upon passage.

“And we actually do have product now that is actually pharmaceutical-grade product so we can get it up and running now and provide help to these patients right now,” Crawford told Kintner.

Crawford stressed that her legislation complies with federal law, giving access to children and other patients who have seizures that do not respond to conventional treatment.

Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins said many have questioned how the success of the program would be measured.

“Colleagues, this would be my opinion of success: one child having one less seizure,” Bloomfield stated. “That is success.”

Yet, later in the legislative floor debate Sen. Lydia Brasch of Bancroft was a bit more cautious.

“While Sen. Bloomfield wants to make sure that one child is better, I want to make sure that one child does not get worse,” Brasch said.

LB 390 advanced on a 34-to-1 vote with nine senators not voting.

DHHS to monitor closure of nursing homes in Ainsworth & Lyons

DeseretTwo Nebraska nursing homes are closing, after an announcement last month from Utah-based Deseret Health Groups. Ainsworth Care Center in Ainsworth and Logan Valley Manor in Lyons combined have 36 remaining residents.

Leah Bucco-White, at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, says the agency stepped into help.

“Our role here at the Department of Health and Human Services is to closely monitor the situation and the safety and care of the residents,” Bucco-White says, “as well as a smooth transition.”

That transition, Bucco-White says, is the receivership that was granted to Klaasmeyer and Associates, a Nebraska company that will have temporary responsibility of the employees and residents at the two facilities.

“That company doesn’t own the home but they’re taking over the management and operation of the homes,” she says.

Bucco-White says the receivership ensures the safety of the residents and the department is making sure the residents are taken care of during the process.

She says the department does not know why the Utah company decided to close the facilities, but she says they also own two other homes in Nebraska that no longer have residents living in them.

“We became aware there wasn’t an adequate plan in place to transition residents out of the facilities or the financial ability to maintain operation and care after closure was announced,” Bucco-White says. “That’s where we stepped in and started working on the receivership.”

The DHHS is working with the Attorney General’s office to address concerns of back wages and future employment opportunities for the employees.

Anyone with questions or concerns is encouraged to call the DHHS at (402) 471-3324.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


Medical marijuana advances in Unicameral

Sen. Tommy Garrett makes notes during debate on his medical marijuana bill

Sen. Tommy Garrett makes notes during debate on his medical marijuana bill

A bill legalizing medical marijuana has advanced in the Unicameral.

LB 643 is patterned after the Minnesota law enacted last year that allows marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes if taken in pill or oil form or through vapor. It prohibits marijuana to be smoked.

Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins asked colleagues during legislative floor debate not to get hung up on the plant in question.

“We’re referring to this as medical marijuana. I wonder how it would be received if it were made out of corn oil?” Bloomfield asked.

The bill advanced on a 27-to-12 vote with eight senators abstaining.

Still, some senators remain skeptical.

Sen. Robert Hilkemann of Omaha said too many questions remain unanswered.

“How is it going to be regulated? What are the qualifications of the people who are going to do it?” Hilkemann asked. “This could get real messy real soon.”

Sen. Jim Scheer of Norfolk opposed the measure, arguing that medical marijuana is untested, comparing it to other drugs touted to be effective, only to fall short.

“It didn’t do what it was supposed to do and it had side-effects that were worse than the solution that it presented,” Scheer stated. “Don’t feel like we are abandoning those people who need help simply because you do not support this bill.”

Sen. Tommy Garrett of Bellevue said he sponsored the medical marijuana bill after parents pleaded with him to approve a method of pain relief for ailments resistant to conventional medication.

“Colleagues, here’s an opportunity for us in this legislature to really affect the quality of life of sick and ailing and vulnerable Nebraskans,” Garrett said in his closing on the bill. “And we can do this. We can do this. We can make a difference in the life of Nebraskans.”

Minnesota became the 22nd state to approve medicinal marijuana. The bill signed into law last year prohibited smoking marijuana.

LB 643 would guide manufacturers on production of medical marijuana and set restrictions on its use. Medical cannabis could be taken in liquid form, through vapor, or by pill. Patients would have to be certified to use medical marijuana. The Department of Health and Human Services would write specific rules and regulations.