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Whittle while you work

Researchers at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., have designed a vertical workstation fixed to a treadmill that enables desk jockeys to get a workout during their workday.

The walk-and-work desk is the brainchild of Mayo Clinic researcher Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist who wanted to create an office environment that prevents desk spread and instead transforms obese employees into lean working machines.

In testing the device on 15 overweight people who had sedentary jobs and never exercised, Dr. Levine and his team of researchers found that the workers burned about 100 calories an hour--twice their normal metabolic rate. So walk-working an entire eight-hour shift has the potential of burning an extra 800 calories per day, leading to a weight loss of more than 50 pounds a year.

Surprisingly, none of the participants suffered injuries during the experiment, and most needed only a few minutes to get used to it, researchers said.

The desks are also fairly economical, costing less than $2,000 apiece, plus the cost of a treadmill.

Irate doctor swears off lawmaker patients

One doctor is so irate over Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry's veto of a medical malpractice reform bill that he's vowed to never accept anyone as a patient, unless it's an emergency, who has voted against lawsuit reform. And he's urging other doctors to do the same.

"They can go to Texas for their surgery where doctors are not victimized by the malpractice lawyers," wrote Dr. Peter S. Hedberg in an op-ed piece sent to several newspapers, in an attempt to grab state lawmakers' attention.

The doctor said he pays more than $72,000 a year in medical malpractice premiums, a sixfold increase over the $12,000 he paid when he came to Durant, Okla., more than 10 years ago. Never, he said, has he had a claim.

"We doctors in Oklahoma live in fear of losing everything we own in lawsuits. That's why so many of us are leaving the state," he wrote.

S.B. 507 would have capped noneconomic damages at $300,000, eliminated joint and several liability, and abolished the collateral source rule.

In his recent veto message, Gov. Henry said some provisions were unconstitutional and restricted state ability to seek justice through the court system. He said he would work with sponsors of the bill on a compromise.

In an interview, Dr. Hedberg said that because Durant is a rural area, going on strike would not have gotten the attention of lawmakers. "So I did sort of a targeted strike."

He noted that while he has cared for one family member of a state legislator, he currently is not treating any.

"It certainly has gotten some attention," he said of his pledge. While some responses have been angry, he said he's also heard from two other doctors in the community who plan to follow suit.

Durant Rep. John Carey and Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, both Democrats, voted against S.B. 507.

"I don't really have a comment. I think the letter speaks for itself," Rep. Cary said.

Sen. Gumm declined comment, but reportedly said: "I think it is probably fair to say that at this point it is good that he is not my doctor, nor does he treat any member of my family."

Industry anniversaries ring out at the NYSE

The insurance industry was popular on Wall Street last week, as two top executives were invited to the New York Stock Exchange to ring the closing bell on separate days.

First, Aon Corp. President and Chief Executive Officer Gregory C. Case rang the closing bell May 14 to honor the 20th anniversary of the day that the Chicago-based brokerage's shares started trading under the Aon banner on the NYSE.

Then Chris O'Kane, CEO of Hamilton, Bermuda-based Aspen Insurance Holdings Ltd., rang an end to the NYSE's trading day May 16 to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Aspen's existence.

"It's five years since the foundation of the company, two and a half years since I was last on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (on the day Aspen went public)...and we have done a lot in that time," Mr. O'Kane remarked in an on-air interview after he rang the bell. "We started with 39 staff. Today it's about 440. We started with a very narrow, focused book of business on property catastrophe risk. Today we are a diversified player."

Libel-proof? Not this convicted criminal

Some people have such a bad reputation that they're "libel-proof," but that's not the case for a convicted criminal, the Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled.

The case involved Terry T. Thomas, who sued Telegraph Publishing Co., a reporter and the publisher of the Nashua Telegraph, and police for a 1999 article that said he was suspected of 1,000-plus burglaries since the mid-1970s.

Mr. Thomas' suit claimed 58 of the article's 90 statements were defamatory.

A lower court ruled Mr. Thomas, now imprisoned in New Hampshire on charges of receiving stolen property, was "libel-proof." But a Massachusetts Supreme Court panel disagreed in its May 1 decision in Terry T. Thomas vs. Telegraph Publishing Co.

"A convicted criminal may have such a poor reputation that no further damage to it is possible at the time of an otherwise libelous publication," but Mr. Thomas is not "libel-proof, the state Supreme Court ruled.

Triggering issue-specific libel requires publicity, which the court said "is often the means...and the most effective evidence of that damage." But with one article and no other reportage cited, "no such publicity is present in this case."

The high court reversed the lower court's summary judgment on some points, and said it is up to a jury to determine the "substantial truth" of the newspaper and police characterizations of Mr. Thomas.

The high court did uphold other lower court rulings, including denying Mr. Thomas' motion to amend his complaint to hold police cited in the article personally liable for any potential damages.

Contributing: Judy Greenwald, Rupal Parekh, Sally Roberts, Joanne Wojcik