Archive for the ‘Gambling’ Category

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The croc-infested Daly River was up to 9m deep when this man was tackling the flow on a log.

A fisherman risked his life for what he considered a good cause – a bet. He won two cases of bourbon for jumping on to a log racing down a flooded, crocodile-infested river in the nude, riding the makeshift raft for about three minutes before clambering back into a boat.

“I’d enjoyed a few beers and it seemed a good idea at the time,” he said. “We weren’t catching any fish – because the river was flowing too fast – so I thought, ‘Why not?’ “But when I woke up the next morning, it didn’t seem so clever.”

Witness Billy Innes said his friend thought nothing of the dangers of drowning or being eaten by a crocodile. “It was hilarious,” he said.

The daredevil, who asked not to be named, was camping at the Daly River on Sunday when he accepted the bet.

“Huge trees were hammering down the river,” Mr Innes said. “It was quite a sight. Someone dared him to get on to one of the logs and row across the river. We went out in a boat and he jumped overboard on to a tree. He managed to stay on for quite a while before getting back into the boat. He got two cases of Jack Daniels for it – and thought that made it all worthwhile.”

The Daly is one of the Territory big “croc rivers”.

Keith Parry, 20, was killed while swimming across the Daly River in April 2009. He was crossing the river because he wanted more beer.

http://www.ntnews.com.au/article/2013/04/04/319219_ntnews.html

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Families of terminally ill patients are making bets to predict the date their relatives will die.

The punters are wagering on a macabre game which has sprung up in Taiwan.

According to China Press, senior citizens’ clubs have set up more than 10 gaming houses in Taizhong City as the bizarre trend has taken off.

Gamblers – including cancer patients’ family members and even the doctors – have lodged NT$100m (£2.1m) with bookies.

It is reported that those who want to take part in the game have to pay a membership fee of NT$2,000 (£43) to the bookies.

The bookies then visit hospitals to seek permission from the patients’ family.

Then they take the punters to the hospital on their next visit to observe the patients.

According to the rules, the bookies win if the cancer patients die within a month.

However, if they die between one and six months after the bets were placed, the gamblers would be paid thre times their wager.

Reports said police were investigating the gaming houses.

Taichung is the third largest city in Taiwan.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/taiwan-pensioners-bet-on-when-terminally-ill-1521938

 

How far should doctors go in attempting to cure addiction? In China, some physicians are taking the most extreme measures. By destroying parts of the brain’s “pleasure centers” in heroin addicts and alcoholics, these neurosurgeons hope to stop drug cravings. But damaging the brain region involved in addictive desires risks permanently ending the entire spectrum of natural longings and emotions, including the ability to feel joy.

In 2004, the Ministry of Health in China banned this procedure due to lack of data on long term outcomes and growing outrage in Western media over ethical issues about whether the patients were fully aware of the risks.

However, some doctors were allowed to continue to perform it for research purposes—and recently, a Western medical journal even published a new study of the results. In 2007, The Wall Street Journal detailed the practice of a physician who claimed he performed 1000 such procedures to treat mental illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia and epilepsy, after the ban in 2004; the surgery for addiction has also since been done on at least that many people.

The November publication has generated a passionate debate in the scientific community over whether such research should be published or kept outside the pages of reputable scientific journals, where it may find undeserved legitimacy and only encourage further questionable science to flourish.

The latest study is the third published since 2003 in Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery, which isn’t the only journal chronicling results from the procedure, which is known as ablation of the nucleus accumbens. In October, the journal World Neurosurgery also published results from the same researchers, who are based at Tangdu Hospital in Xi’an.

The authors, led by Guodong Gao, claim that the surgery is “a feasible method for alleviating psychological dependence on opiate drugs.” At the same time, they report that more than half of the 60 patients had lasting side effects, including memory problems and loss of motivation. Within five years, 53% had relapsed and were addicted again to opiates, leaving 47% drug free.

(MORE: Addicted: Why We Get Hooked)

Conventional treatment only results in significant recovery in about 30-40% of cases, so the procedure apparently improves on that, but experts do not believe that such a small increase in benefit is worth the tremendous risk the surgery poses.  Even the most successful brain surgeries carry risk of infection, disability and death since opening the skull and cutting brain tissue for any reason is both dangerous and unpredictable. And the Chinese researchers report that 21% of the patients they studied experienced memory deficits after the surgery and 18% had “weakened motivation,” including at least one report of lack of sexual desire. The authors claim, however, that “all of these patients reported that their [adverse results] were tolerable.” In addition, 53% of patients had a change in personality, but the authors describe the majority of these changes as “mildness oriented,” presumably meaning that they became more compliant. Around 7%, however, became more impulsive.

The surgery is actually performed while patients are awake in order to minimize the chances of destroying regions necessary for sensation, consciousness or movement.  Surgeons use heat to kill cells in small sections of both sides of the brain’s nucleus accumbens.  That region is saturated with neurons containing dopamine and endogenous opioids, which are involved in pleasure and desire related both to drugs and to ordinary experiences like eating, love and sex.

(MORE: A Drug to End Drug Addiction)

In the U.S. and the U.K., reports the Wall Street Journal, around two dozen stereotactic ablations are performed each year, but only in the most intractable cases of depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder and after extensive review by institutional review boards and intensive discussions with the patient, who must acknowledge the risks. Often, a different brain region is targeted, not the nucleus accumbens. Given the unpredictable and potentially harmful consequences of the procedure, experts are united in their condemnation of using the technique to treat addictions. “To lesion this region that is thought to be involved in all types of motivation and pleasure risks crippling a human being,” says Dr. Charles O’Brien, head of the Center for Studies of Addiction at the University of Pennsylvania.

David Linden, professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins and author of a recent book about the brain’s pleasure systems calls the surgery “horribly misguided.”  He says “This treatment will almost certainly render the subjects unable to feel pleasure from a wide range of experiences, not just drugs of abuse.”

But some neurosurgeons see it differently. Dr. John Adler, professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Stanford University, collaborated with the Chinese researchers on the publication and is listed as a co-author.  While he does not advocate the surgery and did not perform it, he believes it can provide valuable information about how the nucleus accumbens works, and how best to attempt to manipulate it. “I do think it’s worth learning from,” he says. ” As far as I’m concerned, ablation of the nucleus accumbens makes no sense for anyone.  There’s a very high complication rate. [But] reporting it doesn’t mean endorsing it. While we should have legitimate ethical concerns about anything like this, it is a bigger travesty to put our heads in the sand and not be willing to publish it,” he says.

(MORE: Anesthesia Study Opens Window Into Consciousness)

Dr. Casey Halpern, a neurosurgery resident at the University of Pennsylvania makes a similar case. He notes that German surgeons have performed experimental surgery involving placing electrodes in the same region to treat the extreme lack of pleasure and motivation associated with otherwise intractable depression.  “That had a 60% success rate, much better than [drugs like Prozac],” he says. Along with colleagues from the University of Magdeburg in Germany, Halpern has just published a paper in the Proceedings of the New York Academy of Sciences calling for careful experimental use of DBS in the nucleus accumbens to treat addictions, which have failed repeatedly to respond to other approaches. The paper cites the Chinese surgery data and notes that addiction itself carries a high mortality risk.

DBS, however, is quite different from ablation.  Although it involves the risk of any brain surgery, the stimulation itself can be turned off if there are negative side effects, while surgical destruction of brain tissue is irreversible. That permanence—along with several other major concerns — has ethicists and addiction researchers calling for a stop to the ablation surgeries, and for journals to refuse to publish related studies.

Harriet Washington, author of Medical Apartheid:  The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, argues that by publishing the results of unethical studies, scientists are condoning the questionable conditions under which the trials are conducted. “When medical journals publish research that violates the profession’sethical guidelines, this serves not only to sanction such abuses, but to encourage them,” she says. “In doing so, this practice encourages a relaxing of moral standards that threatens all patients and subjects, but especially  the medically vulnerable.”

(MORE: Real-Time Video: First Look at a Brain Losing Consciousness Under Anesthesia)

Shi-Min Fang, a Chinese biochemist who became a freelance journalist and recently won the journal Nature‘s Maddox prize for his exposes of widespread fraud in Chinese research, has revealed some of the subpar scientific practices behind research conducted in China, facing death threats and, as the New York Times reported, a beating with a hammer. He agrees that publishing such research only perpetuates the unethical practices. Asked by TIME to comment on the addiction surgery studies, Fang writes that publishing the research, particularly in western journals, “would encourage further unethical research, particularly in China where rewards for publication in international journals are high.”

While he doesn’t have the expertise to comment specifically on the ablation data, he says “the results of clinical research in China are very often fabricated. I suspect that the approvals by Ethics Committee mentioned in these papers were made up to meet publication requirement. I also doubt if the patients were really informed in detail about the nature of the study.” Fang also notes that two of the co-authors of the paper are advertising on the internet in Chinese, offering the surgery at a cost of 35,000 renminbi, about $5,600.  That’s more than the average annual income in China, which is about $5,000.

Given the available evidence, in fact, it’s hard to find a scientific justification for even studying the technique in people at all. Carl Hart, associate professor of psychology at Columbia University and author of the leading college textbook on psychoactive drugs, says animal studies suggest the approach may ultimately fail as an effective treatment for addiction; a 1984 experiment, for example, showed that destroying the nucleus accumbens in rats does not permanently stop them from taking opioids like heroin and later research found that it similarly doesn’t work for curbing cocaine cravings. Those results alone should discourage further work in humans. “These data are clear,” he says, “If you are going to take this drastic step, you damn well better know all of the animal literature.” [Disclosure:  Hart and I have worked on a book project together].

(MORE: Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs of 2012)

Moreover, in China, where addiction is so demonized that execution has been seen as an appropriate punishment and where the most effective known treatment for heroin addiction— methadone or buprenorphine maintenance— is illegal, it’s highly unlikely that addicted people could give genuinely informed consent for any brain surgery, let alone one that risks losing the ability to feel pleasure. And even if all of the relevant research suggested that ablating the nucleus accumbens prevented animals from seeking drugs, it would be hard to tell from rats or even primates whether the change was due to an overall reduction in motivation and pleasure or to a beneficial reduction in desiring just the drug itself.

There is no question that addiction can be difficult to treat, and in the most severe cases, where patients have suffered decades of relapses and failed all available treatments multiple times, it may make sense to consider treatments that carry significant risks, just as such dangers are accepted in fighting suicidal depression or cancer.  But in the ablation surgery studies, some of the participants were reportedly as young as 19 years old and had only been addicted for three years.  Addiction research strongly suggests that such patients are likely to recover even without treatment, making the risk-benefit ratio clearly unacceptable.

The controversy highlights the tension between the push for innovation and the reality of risk. Rules on informed consent didn’t arise from fears about theoretical abuses:  they were a response to the real scientific horrors of the Holocaust. And ethical considerations become especially important when treating a condition like addiction, which is still seen by many not as an illness but as a moral problem to be solved by punishment.  Scientific innovation is the goal, but at what price?
Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2012/12/13/controversial-surgery-for-addiction-burns-away-brains-pleasure-center/#ixzz2ExzobWQq

Thanks to Dr. Lutter for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

 

Mirlande Wilson, who this week said she may have hit the record Mega Millions jackpot, told a Washington news station Thursday that she has lost the ticket.
WRC-TV is reporting that Wilson said, “I misplaced it. I cannot tell you where the ticket is for my safety and my kids’ safety, but I wish I could find it and get this thing over [with].”

She could not immediately be reached for comment.

That’s one valuable slip of paper. The record-breaking jackpot in the drawing March 30 reached $656 million, worth $105 million in a cash payout to whomever purchased the winning ticket at a Baltimore County 7-Eleven.

Wilson also told the TV station that a report that she hid the ticket at the McDonald’s in Milford Mills was bogus.

“I don’t know where they get the story from. How am I going to have the ticket and hide it behind the McFlurry machine?” Wilson said.

Thanks to ‘Da Brayn’ for updating this story for the It’s Interesting community.

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-mega-millions-lottery-20120406,0,7808126.story

One of the three Mega Millions jackpot winners says her winning ticket remains stashed away inside the Baltimore McDonald’s where she works. But some of Marlinde Wilson’s co-workers think she is telling a Big Lie.

“I left my ticket there, and it’s somewhere safe that only I know about,” Wilson told the New York Post. “I’m waiting for things to calm down so I can go back to McDonald’s and get it. The people [at McDonald’s] are too excited. I want their heads to cool down before I go back.”

Wilson claims to have purchased one of the three winning Mega Millions lottery tickets. The three winners will each receive a share of the record-breaking $640 million jackpot. If Wilson’s story is true, that would mean a $105 million ticket (after taxes) is stashed away somewhere inside the fast food restaurant.

Wilson’s co-workers appear to be split in their opinion of her but all who have spoken to the media seem to share some animosity toward the Haiti native. Some of Wilson’s colleagues say she is attempting to cheat them out of what should be shared winnings from a pool of lotto tickets 14 of the McDonald’s employees purchased together.

And Wilson’s manager, identified only as “Layla” by the Post, says she thinks Wilson isn’t telling the truth about hiding the ticket inside the McDonald’s. “That’s impossible. She didn’t come back here” after she purchased the ticket, Layla said.

 

CBS News has also raised questions about whether or not Wilson actually purchased one of the three winning tickets. Mega Millions officials say they do not know who actually purchased the ticket. They have only been able to confirm that the winning ticket was in fact purchased at a Baltimore 7-Eleven just four hours before the winning numbers were announced.

The Post also raises some question’s about Wilson’s character, noting she has a Facebook page under the alias Sheila Paraison, on which she says she will donate her winnings to relief efforts in Haiti.

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/mega-millions-winners-says-ticket-still-hidden-inside-160453864.html;_ylt=Av0bxgEA2k7kk7bfHcbI8_ASH9EA;_ylu=X3oDMTFobWc1czNjBG1pdANCbG9nIEJvZHkEcG9zAzcEc2VjA01lZGlhQmxvZ0JvZHlUZW1wQXNzZW1ibHk-;_ylg=X3oDMTNlbzM5NnQwBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDMTBjYTU3ZDktZmU0OS0zZDNiLTlkNTctMjI2ZTU5YTNkNTc2BHBzdGNhdANvcmlnaW5hbHN8dGhlc2lkZXNob3cEcHQDc3RvcnlwYWdlBHRlc3QD;_ylv=3

 

A Kansas man was struck by lightning hours after buying three Mega Millions lottery tickets, proving in real life the old saying that a gambler is more likely to be struck down from the sky than win the jackpot.

Bill Isles, 48, bought three tickets in the record $656 million lottery Thursday at a Wichita, Kan., grocery store.

On the way to his car, Isles said he commented to a friend: “I’ve got a better chance of getting struck by lightning” than winning the lottery.

Later at about 9:30 p.m., Isles was standing in the back yard of his Wichita duplex, when he saw a flash and heard a boom — lightning.

“It threw me to the ground quivering,” Isles said in a telephone interview on Saturday. “It kind of scrambled my brain and gave me an irregular heartbeat.”

Isles, a volunteer weather spotter for the National Weather Service, had his portable ham radio with him because he was checking the skies for storm activity. He crawled on the ground to get the radio, which had been thrown from his hand.

Isles had been talking to other spotters on the radio and called in about the lightning strike. One of the spotters, a local television station intern, called 911. Isles was taken by ambulance to a hospital and kept overnight for observation.

Isles said doctors wanted to make sure his heartbeat was back to normal. He suffered no burns or other physical effects from the strike, which he said could have been worse because his yard has a power line pole and wires overhead.

“But for the grace of God, I would have been dead,” Isles said. “It was not a direct strike.”

Isles said he had someone buy him 10 more tickets to the Mega Millions lottery on Friday night. While one of the three winning tickets was sold in Kansas, Isles was not a winner.

Officials of the Mega Millions lottery, which had the largest prize in U.S. history, said that the odds of winning lottery were about 176 million to one. Americans have a much higher chance of being struck by lightning, at 775,000 to one over the course of a year, depending on the part of the country and the season, according to the National Weather Service.

Isles, who is out of work after being laid off last June by a furniture store, said he did once win $2,000 in the lottery and will keep playing.

“The next time I will use the radio while sitting in the car,” he said.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46915119/ns/us_news-weird_news/

Read how Mohan Srivastava, a geological statistician in Toronto, has broken the code to pick winning scratch lottery tickets.

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/01/ff_lottery/all/1

Thanks to kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the Its-Interesting community.